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The Mountaineer Online



‘We didn’t leave anybody behind’: 10th Mountain Division veterans reflect on Mogadishu rescue mission 20 years later


Soldiers of B Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, watch helicopter activity over Mogadishu on Oct. 3, 1993. Later the same day and throughout the night, the battalion’s A and C Companies were part of a rescue convoy assembled for nearly 100 Rangers who had become trapped in the city after two Black Hawks were shot down.
Soldiers of B Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, watch helicopter activity over Mogadishu on Oct. 3, 1993. Later the same day and throughout the night, the battalion’s A and C Companies were part of a rescue convoy assembled for nearly 100 Rangers who had become trapped in the city after two Black Hawks were shot down.

Steve Ghiringhelli

Staff Writer

This article completes a two-part series about the 10th Mountain Division’s involvement in the Battle of Mogadishu (Oct. 3-4, 1993).  To read part one, CLICK HERE. The story picks up near the Olympic Hotel, where elements of the Quick Reaction Force dismounted.

After the Malaysian armored personnel carriers turned north off National Street, Soldiers with A Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division (LI), dismounted roughly five blocks south of the Olympic Hotel.

The hotel was near Task Force Ranger’s original objective in downtown Mogadishu, where the task force had seized top lieutenants of Somali warlord General Mohamed Farrah Aidid earlier in the day.
Although initially a success, the operation fell apart when Somalis shot down two of TFR’s Black Hawks and pinned down nearly 100 service members on Mogadishu’s deadly streets by dark.
Soldiers with 2-14 Infantry, the ground component of the U.N.’s QRF, were called upon to rescue them.
 
Olympic Hotel
It was a moving gun battle for A Company, 2-14 Infantry, with leftover elements of 2nd Platoon taking lead, then 1st Platoon, followed by 3rd Platoon.
The fighting was most intense at the front of the column, but it made its way down the line.
One squad leader with 1st Platoon said he would never forget the moments after the Soldiers stepped out of the APCs.
“It was probably the most intense 15 minutes of my life,” said Clyde Glenn, a sergeant who would later lead 2-14 Infantry as the battalion’s command sergeant major in Iraq.
At one point, a lieutenant came through saying 2nd Platoon was hung up at the front. Spec. Steven Whittredge heard chatter on his radio calling for a medevac.
It was for Pfc. James Henry Martin Jr.
Whittredge told his platoon leader; the lieutenant told him to keep it to himself for now.
The Soldiers exchanged heavy gunfire with the enemy to the north, down alleyways and in surrounding buildings. They also began rendering aid as the company took more casualties.
The fighting grew especially fierce as they approached the Olympic Hotel.
At one point, despite the concentrated crossfire, an M-60 gunner began firing his weapon from the hip towards the hotel.
Whittredge said that after hearing about Martin, the company commander was in no mood for reckless behavior. He said Capt. Drew Meyerowich grabbed the gunner and, in a flurry of expletives, explained that he should not do it again.
Glenn said with the Soldiers severely pinned down short of the hotel, 1st Lt. Charles Ferry, A Company’s executive officer, called for the MK-19 grenade launcher to come forward. Ferry then spotted with tracer rounds as the gunner fired on the hotel.
“I remember seeing the entire facade of the hotel begin to explode,” Whittredge said, “with clouds of smoke and chunks of concrete falling everywhere.”
With devastating effect, the MK-19 was then directed at other enemy targets.
The explosions and the din from small-arms fire caused some Soldiers to temporarily lose their hearing.
Enemy fire quieted to almost nothing. With 1st Platoon taking point, the company was able to begin moving again.
Once 1st Platoon’s lead element linked up with the Rangers, a defensive perimeter was established to suppress the constant rocket, mortar and small-arms fire on their position.
 
‘Mogadishu Mile’
U.S. forces, combined with the strafing close-fire support of AH-1 Cobra and AH-6 Little Bird attack helicopters, defended the crash site through the night while other elements worked to free Black Hawk pilot Chief Warrant Officer Cliff Wolcott’s remains from the wreckage.
Whittredge said at one point, his company leaders rolled out tow cable attached to the side of an APC with plans to pull the helicopter apart.
Dawn approached, and word came that Wolcott’s body had been extracted.
The dead and wounded were quickly loaded in APCs bound for a rallying point on National Street, where the main element of the convoy would depart to a soccer stadium held by Pakistani troops.
With little room left, Soldiers who could still fight were forced to follow on foot with the APCs providing rolling cover.
Meyerowich and other Soldiers of A Company were last in the order of movement; Rangers brought up the rear.
Lead elements pulled ahead. The Soldiers on foot, taking indiscriminate fire, began running. Whittredge remembers a building exploding behind him, most likely from Little Bird cover.
Near the Olympic Hotel, some Soldiers began falling behind.
Whittredge, weighted down by his radio and encryption equipment, said as members of his platoon disappeared around a corner a burst of rifle fire impacted on the ground in front of him. He turned around and dove behind a pile of debris. Peeking over the top, he tried to locate the source.
After encountering the same resistance minutes later, Soldiers from another squad jumped on top of Whittredge. He said the squad leader was hit in the shoulder.
They tried to return fire, but not until a nearby gunner cleared out the enemy could they move again.
“By this time, we were well behind the rest of the company,” Whittredge said, “and running at full speed.”
To catch up to the platoon, one Soldier replaced another at each intersection, each one putting down suppressive fire on an enemy firing blindly up roads and alleyways, until everyone reached the rendezvous point on National Street.
 
‘There's no way to understand that feeling’
Everyone was in a state of shock and confusion at the stadium. Triage personnel sifted through at least 100 litters spread across the field. Some casualties were immediately airlifted to hospitals behind the fence line or on ships off the Somali coast.
Back at the airport, B Company Soldiers had stayed awake through the night, receiving bits and pieces of information, feeling helpless, sidelined.
Jeffrey Kienlen, who served as an M-60 gunner for 2nd Platoon, B Company, said the site where they were planning live-fire training the day before was close to the battle. With Little Birds making passes overhead, diving into the city, mini-guns blazing, the whole company was full of adrenaline, he said, especially since they had tons of ammo on them.
But as evening approached, their orders were to move to the airport.
Medevac helicopters began appearing the next morning. B Company was sent to secure the port. When the Soldiers returned to the university compound, they learned that one of their comrades had been killed.
Kienlen, who knew Martin, said everyone was frustrated that they were not able to join the fight. “(And) we were now ashamed that our brothers were out there fighting, dying and getting wounded, while we did nothing,” he lamented.
J.T. Cooper, then an M-60 gunner with 2nd Platoon, A Company, counted Martin as one of his best friends. He said he will never forget the images and the huge silence at the stadium the next day.
“Out across that field of litters, and at one end of the soccer stadium, they got black bags lined up,” he said. “You know that somewhere in those black bags is your best friend in the world. There’s no way to understand that feeling.”
Cooper met Martin in boot camp at Fort Benning, Ga. During their second week there, Cooper got word that his brother had died in a tragic accident. Members of the platoon, including Martin, took up a collection to fly him home.
When he returned to the platoon, Cooper said he would sit in the showers after lights out holding a photo of his little brother, mourning his loss.
“Martin came in and sat on the other side of the showers,” Cooper said, “just so I wouldn’t cry by myself. He never would say anything. He’d just come in there and sit.”
Cooper and Martin became roommates and best friends when they checked into 2-14 Infantry at Fort Drum.
In Somalia, a memorial ceremony was held in Martin’s honor at the university compound three days after the battle. Cooper, who today is a country music artist living near Nashville, wrote the eulogy for his friend.
 
Into the valley we led the way. Fighting on we earned our pay. For the life we choose there’s no regret. And when winning the battles even better yet. Stories come and stories go. But the only ones who will ever know. Have walked the path and met a man. Then stolen their life from his dying hand. With each victory there is a cost. For something gained there’s something lost. Should this be my final breath. Lord may I die a Warrior’s Death.
 
The Right of the Line
The Battle of Mogadishu was the U.S. military’s costliest firefight since Vietnam until Marines fought in the Second Battle of Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004.
Task Force Ranger lost 16 Soldiers and saw 57 wounded. In addition to Martin, 2-14 Infantry suffered the loss of Sgt. Cornell L. Houston, a combat engineer with 41st Engineer Battalion attached to the battalion, and more than 20 wounded.
Retired Brig. Gen. William C. David, then a lieutenant colonel who commanded 2-14 Infantry, said he has always been extremely proud of the Soldiers he served with that night.
The Golden Dragons accomplished their mission, he said, with a minimum loss of life and minimum casualties.
“We took some pretty tough shots that night,” David said. “But I would like to think that we gave better than we took.
“Tactically,” he added, “we executed exactly as we had planned it, even though it was a very hasty plan.
“There were no fratricides; we didn’t run out of ammo; we didn’t leave anybody behind.”
Soldiers who served in Mogadishu under David and battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Gerard “Jerry” Counts said 2-14 Infantry was an extraordinary unit because of their leadership.
“When I served as a new Soldier with 2-14 Infantry, I thought every unit in the Army was that good,” said Whittredge, who fought in Iraq more than 10 years after Somalia. “As I actually began to serve with other units, it became apparent to me that we were a part of something very special.
“It is my opinion that our battalion was exactly the right group of Soldiers, with the right training and the right leadership, in the right place at the right time,” he added.
In his 25-year Army career, Glenn said he never observed a better battalion command team than the one led by David and Counts.
“The Golden Dragons represent what is great about our Army,” Glenn said. “The thing that made (David and Counts) great was that they were always there. They were there at training; they were there at PT; and they were there in combat.
“They are the leaders I always aspired to be.”
Fighting through to the crash sites under the constant threat of death earned each Golden Dragon a place of honor at the “right of the line” — 2-14 Infantry’s regimental motto that denotes the unit’s frontline bravery during the Civil War.
The battalion’s actions significantly impacted not only the 10th Mountain Division’s proud history but the Army’s as well.
Matthew P. Eversmann, then a chalk leader with B Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, said the 10th Mountain Division lived up to the Army’s warrior ethos of never leaving a fallen comrade.
“When I think back on the battle in Mogadishu 20 years ago, I am still amazed that any of us made it out of that city,” the former Ranger said. “The combined efforts of Task Force Ranger and the 2-14 Soldiers under fire were remarkable.
“(And) when I think about (2-14 Infantry’s) virtually ‘no notice’ mission to head out to support us, I am thankful that those warriors were there to answer the call,” Eversmann added. “God bless them always.”
Meyerowich, writing just days after the battle, told the loved ones of A Company that his men fought bravely, for nearly eight hours, ensuring that no man was left behind.
“Leaving American Soldiers to die behind enemy lines has never been (nor) ever will be acceptable to our armed forces,” Meyerowich wrote. “Your sons or husbands fought without question, just as they would expect the Rangers to do for us.
“You should be proud of your son or husband,” he said. “Almost 100 Rangers will forever be in their debt.”





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