A new documentary/war movie about Operation Gothic Serpent, also known as the Black Hawk Down incident, offers a fresh perspective on the battle that cost 19 Americans their lives.
Retired Air Force Colonel Randall Larsen worked with retired Brigadier General Bill David, who fought in the battle, to produce “Black Hawk Down: The Untold Story.” The documentary showcases the actions of the 10th Mountain Division. The 10th Mountain Division, alongside Marines, were the first to deploy to the war-torn country in 1992 as part of Operation Restore Hope, meant to ensure that humanitarian aid sent by the U.S. and the United Nations was distributed to the starving Somali civilians and not stolen by the warring factions. They failed to accomplish this, which is why Task Force Ranger deployed.
The operation took place on October 3-4, 1993 in Mogadishu, Somalia. The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) was hunting down Mohamed Farrah Aidid—a Somali warlord responsible for much of the chaos and bloodshed in the country’s civil war—and his key lieutenants. JSOC’s Task Force Ranger was comprised of Delta Force’s C Squadron, B Company; 3rd Ranger Battalion; Air Force pararescuemen and combat controllers; a small sniper element from SEAL Team 6; and a helicopter detachment that included MH-60 Black Hawks and AH-6 Little Birds from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR).
Although not a part of Task Force Ranger, the 2nd Battalion, 10th Mountain Division was also deployed to Somalia to provide conventional support and serve as the quick reaction force (QRF) to the American commandos in case they ran into trouble. The 10th Mountain QRF was sent in alongside Pakistani and Malaysian U.N. peacekeepers (the force was accompanied by a number of Delta operators). According to Delta Force operators, the QRF was pivotal in the rescue of the stranded Task Force Ranger, but neither the book nor the movie acknowledged its role.
Colonel Larsen told the Army Times in an interview, “As I started peeling the onion and looking into this thing I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is an incredible story and I didn’t know it.’ I’d read the book when it came out. I’d seen the movie. I’d sat in bars with Bill and kind of heard it a little bit.”
Operation Gothic Serpent has been dubbed a debacle of great proportions. And politically, it was. But the military portion of the operation should be considered a success. Task Force Ranger did accomplish its objectives (capturing a number of high-value targets), and in the process killed more than 1,000 enemy combatants. NEWSREP’s own George Hand and his Delta squadron deployed to Mogadishu immediately after the battle to assist their comrades.
Colonel Larsen, who also served in the Army during his 32-year military service and fought in Vietnam, has also produced a documentary. It’s titled “Operation Whitecoat” and focuses on conscientious objectors who volunteered for military biological experiments from the 1950s to 1970s.
Earlier in March, “Black Hawk Down: The Untold Story” was screened at the International Spy Museum and the Army-Navy Club. You can pre-order it on Amazon.