Black Hawk Down is a familiar title from the movies and the books written. But the names of MOH recipients in that battle are not. They are legendary among Special Forces Members, but not well known in the general population. Delta Force Operatives MSG Gary Gordon and SFC Randy Shughart saved the life of a Blackhawk Pilot in the infamous Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. For their bravery at volunteering to insert themselves into an extremely dangerous situation, they were both awarded the Medal of Honor.
“Without a doubt, I owe my life to these two men and their bravery. Those guys came in when they had to know it was a losing battle. There was nobody else left to back them up. If they had not come in, I wouldn’t have survived.” Michael Durant, Black Hawk Pilot
Mogadishu October 3, 1993 Operation Gothic Serpent
SFC Randy Shughart and MSG Gary Gordon were attached to the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D) as snipers. The mission of Operation Gothic Serpent originally was to capture the leaders of a clan in an operation that was to last only an hour. Even with 19 aircraft, 160 men, and 12 vehicles including Humvees, it devolved quickly. The battle lasted overnight and into the next day with 18 Americans killed, 73 wounded.
Two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down by RPGs and three others damaged in the attack by Somali militia and armed civilians. The pilot of the second one shot down, Michael Durant, was the only survivor of the crash. What he has to say about the two men who saved him is amazing.
Black Hawk Down
When the second Black Hawk, Call Sign Super 64, was shot down, three Rangers volunteered to be inserted to the crash site to hold off the Somalis until help could arrive. Mission control denied the request. There were no ground forces available to help secure the crash site. They felt that providing cover from the air was more effective.
Two of them, Shughart and Gordon, finally received permission for insertion after insisting three times. Just two men, armed with sniper rifles and a handgun against a mob of Somalis intent on murder. There would be no backup.
Defend the helicopter crew. Never leave a man behind.
“So they got me out of the aircraft, laid me on the ground, put my weapon across my chest, and uh, the way I described their actions were professional and deliberate to the point that they looked like they were planning a parking lot. I mean they, they were, they didn’t seem alarmed the situation that we were in. It was just focused on the task, doing what they needed to do to improve our situation, and get through it, get us rescued. Whatever it is they needed to do. Just moments after this, Gary Gordon is shot. I hear Gary say, damn, I’m hit. And what always struck me was the way he said it. I mean it was almost like he nicked himself with a knife. Just very matter-of-factly.
And apparently it was a mortal wound, and evidence of that was the fact that Randy Shughart came around and gave me Gary’s weapon. Now obviously I’m increasingly concerned about our chances of survival. The only two soldiers I’ve seen, one’s down, I’m out of ammunition, the Somalis appear to be getting more aggressive. Randy comes back around the aircraft, and he makes a radio call and then he just makes his way back around the nose of the helicopter to the other side, and I never see him again.” Michael Durant in an interview with PBS.
Both men died in that battle, but both men killed as many Somalis as they could as their position was overrun. When they ran out of ammunition, they died. Durant was briefly captured, but eventually released.
Many military medals were awarded for actions during that battle. There are many heroes. From Purple Hearts to Silver Stars and Bronze Stars, there were numerous heroic actions.
For their professionalism, their bravery that day, both MSG Gary Gordon and SFC Randall Shughart were awarded the Medal of Honor. It takes “balls of steel” to volunteer for something you know in your guts will probably take your life.
“…a feeling of I’m not fighting for my country anymore, I’m not fighting for my paycheck, I’m not fighting for the flag, I’m fighting for the guy next to me. I’m fighting for my comrades. I’m gonna do whatever it takes so that we get out of this alive.” Michael Durant, pilot of Black Hawk – Call Sign Super 64
Featured photo: (left) SFC Randall Shughart, (right) MSG Gary Gordon