Encore Presentation: Black Hawk Down
Aired January 1, 2002 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Now, if America does expand the war on terror, some experts are saying that Somalia could be the next target, and that would mean, in the marketing sense, timing is perfect for director Ridley Scott's new war epic, "Black Hawk Down." This film is Hollywood's take on the events of the 1993 U.S. commando raid at Mogadishu, Somalia, based on reporter Mark Bowden's book by the same name.
His work provides the foundation for this CNN PRESENTS documentary.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what the other guys were thinking, but I was kind of thinking well, you know, we're pretty much invincible.
SHAWN NELSON, ARMY RANGER: Up until October 3 and 4, every mission we did went exactly the way it was supposed to go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He walked up to me and he told me had a really bad feeling about today, meaning October 3, and he tried to hand me his little packet to send off to his parents, and I said, I said: "I said no, Keith (ph), but I said, I'm going to see you about half an hour anyway." I said, "nothing is going to happen," and that was the last time that I saw him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And when our helicopter came in; we immediately started taking fire from the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 61 going down -- we got a black hawk going down. We got a black hawk crashed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And all of a sudden, they're already shooting at us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I would just shoot at everything that moved. Didn't matter to me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just started yelling, "hit, hit."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was one nasty gunfight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow, I actually killed a person. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His eyes were wide open, and his mouth was open like he was screaming, but he had already died. He was already dead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt so alive, because I was literally that close to death.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are we doing here? How could we muck up so badly? How could this possibly have happened?
BRUCE GORDON, NARRATOR (voice-over): It's the closest thing to a national holiday in a country without a national government. On the Day of the Ranger, Somalia remembers America's bloodiest battle since the Vietnam War, when the world's greatest military power collided with one that was nearly good enough. New world order descended into chaos as the most ambitious humanitarian mission in modern history ended in bullets, missiles and death.
GEORGE BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're able to ease suffering. We must help them live. We must give them hope. America must act.
GORDON: They came from the richest nations on earth to help one of the poorest. Somalia, an East African country of some six million, was being decimated by famine and civil war. Three hundred thousand people, including a quarter of all children under the age of five, were already dead, with another one-and-a-half million, roughly a quarter of the population, at risk. For as long as it took to feed the starving, might would make right.
BUSH: We come to your country for one reason only -- to enable the starving to be fed.
GORDON: Throughout 1991 and '92, relief groups had tried to help, but where factional fighting hadn't stopped the flow of food, bandits had. Somalis were dying at an estimated rate of 1,000 per day. Some relief workers were murdered. Cargo ships were shelled in port. Trucks were hijacked on the road.
ROBERT OAKLEY, FORMER SPECIAL ENVOY TO SOMALIA: From my point- of-view, I felt very strongly that the United States should not become the godfather of Somalia.
GORDON: Robert Oakley was one to know. The U.S. Ambassador to Somalia in the 1980s, he had learned firsthand the risks of attempting to solve other people's conflicts, first as a diplomat in Vietnam and later in Lebanon, where U.S. Marines incanted Ground Zero in a seven- year-old civil war, were killed by a truck bomber as they slept.
In 1992, President Bush asked him to become special envoy to Somalia.
Though pleased by Bush's call to action, hte U.N. was lobbying for a more ambitious plan of nation building. To end starvation for the long term, the U.N. believed Somalia needed a stable government. Mogadishu's most powerful faction leader, Mohamed Farrah Aidid, would have to abandon his goal of ruling Somalia himself and govern in a coalition with his rivals.
The U.N. wanted the U.S. military to clamp down on Aidid and the other factions, and force them to work together. But the Bush administration remained adamantly opposed.
If the mission ended up paving the way for long-term change, fine, but Bush was a short-timer. It would be up to Presidnet Clinton to decide whether to go deeper.
GORDON (voice-over): D-Day in Normandy it wasn't: 1,800 U.S. Marines and Navy SEALS stormed the beaches in Somalia and are confronted by legions of reporters and press photographers. If it seemed comical, the Marines weren't laughing.
MALE U.S. MARINE: Put that down and keep your hands on your head.
MALE U.S. MARINE: Put your hands on your head.
GORDON: They knew that beneath the outward calm, Mogadishu could be deadly dangerous: A place where everyone it seemed had a gun. As they began daily patrols, envoy Robert Oakley began daily meetings with clan leaders -- especially this Somali, General Mohamed Farrah Aidid, who had originally opposed the intervention. An ambassador in the Barre regime he helped overthrow, Aidid was a charismatic and mercurial leader of the clan that controlled south Mogadishu, a man whose unpredictability was of grave concern to the U.S. and U.N.
OAKLEY: We treated Aidid, as I say, as a man with a tremendous amount of power, for better or for worse. Sort of like a vial of nitroglycerine, he could go off on you. So we didn't want him to explode. And we worked very, very hard to figure out his moods and to deal with him appropriately.
GORDON: For Oakley, the key was communication.
OAKLEY: And so we were working constantly with Somalis to reduce suspicions and to make them understand we were there to help them, not to hurt them.
GORDON: And the U.S. intervention did help. It was such a success that when Bush visited at Christmastime, he was perceived like the nation's savior.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... the office of president of the United States...
GORDON: Just weeks later, Bill Clinton was president. He had criticized Bush in the campaign for failing to work more closely with the U.N. in solving global conflicts. An expanded commitment to Somalia seemed certain.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher, National Security Adviser Tony Lake and U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright -- she's now secretary of state -- supported the passage of U.N. resolution 814, expanding the mandate of U.N. involvement in Somalia.
OAKLEY: Everyone's enthusiasm got the better of their common sense.
RET. ADMIRAL JONATHAN HOWE, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: They were going for a longer-term, more lasting kind of solution.
GORDON: Admiral Jonathan Howe had recently retired after 35 years of military service to become President Bush's deputy national security adviser. When Clinton took over and with the relief effort going well, the new president nominated Howe to administer the U.N. nation-building effort in Somalia. U.S. forces would later step aside that spring and be replaced by U.N.troops, with Howe effectively taking over Bob Oakley's job as head peacekeeper.
HOWE: And after I got there, I realized how very large the odds were that we would be able to do the job that we were sent to do.
GORDON: The transition of power was completed on May 4th as the U.S.-led force marched into history, replaced by a poorly equipped brigade of 4,000 Pakistanis.
OAKLEY: In this case, the United States did not have any fighting troops in the U.N. force. We had what was called a "quick- reaction force" that was under U.S. command the whole way.
GORDON: But the quick reaction force was soon drawn into conflict, blasting Aidid's weapons' dumps. The escalation began after June 5, when Somalis killed 25 Pakistani soldiers flying the U.N. flag. The U.N. decided to go after Aidid.
HOWE: Well, first of all, we got a very strong resolution from the Security Council on June 6th, which essentially said arrest the perpetrators, get rid of the illegal arms in Mogadishu and stop the vitriolic propaganda that is coming out of the radio station, which happens to be Aidid's radio station.
In addition, it asked for armor and other equipment to be provided, since clearly the U.N. faced a new and difficult situation.
GORDON: Admiral Howe also pressed Washington for another kind of weapon, one that could arrest those responsible with minimum casualties on both sides.
That special unit was the Army's Delta Force, the secret counterterrorism troops that grabbed Manuel Noriega in the 1989 invasion of Panama. Delta's three 130-man squadrons are the best- trained and fittest soldiers in the Army, specializing in getting into and out of dangerous places quickly.
In the Gulf War, they had destroyed strategic targets hundreds of miles inside Iraq.
Admiral Howe wanted them to snatch Aidid off the streets of Mogadishu to face charges in the ambush of the Pakistanis, essentially removing him from the political picture.
But Joint Chief's Chairman Colin Powell denied Howe's request for the Delta force. Even though Delta commanders felt Aidid would be a fairly easy target, Powell did not want elite U.S. troops involved in an obscure country's civil war halfway around the world.
But the U.S. was hardly absent. Throughout June, U.N. forces led by U.S. helicopters continued their attacks on weapons depots. Aidid's forces struck back, shooting U.S., Pakistani, French and Italian troops, and massacring Somali civilians working for the U.N.
CLINTON: We cannot have a situation where one of these warlords, while everybody else is cooperating, decides that he can go out and slaughter 20 peacekeepers.
GORDON: A military response seemed certain.
Abdi Hassan Awale was Aidid's minister of internal affairs. On July 12th, CIA operatives believed that more attacks were being planned at his office. If the intelligence was correct, an attack could wipe out many of the general's top lieutenants.
HOWE: So the whole idea of this particular raid was to destroy, disrupt -- at least for a time -- the command-and-control mechanism that was causing these attacks against us.
GORDON: The U.S., acting alone, launched a missile attack.
ABDULLAHI OSSOBLE BARRE, FORMER MINISTER OF JUSTICE FOR MOHAMED FARRAH AIDID (through translator): Some people died instant. Some were injured. When the bombs made holes in the walls, some people mistook them for the doorways and fell to the ground from the second floor.
The Red Cross says more than 70 people died in the attack. Admiral Howe puts the number closer to 20.
Regardless, the building has been in ruins ever since. And on that July afternoon in 1993, so were the prospects of compromise. It was later learned that Aidid's leaders had actually convened not to plan more acts of war, but to consider other ways to resolve the confrontation.
OAKLEY: Wasn't the kind of nation building had in mind. By that time, the nation building had essentially gone to the background and the battle for Mogadishu had begun.
HOWE: It was successful and unsuccessful. It was executed very well militarily. Politically, it was not very successful.
OAKLEY: As the summer went on and this sort of tit for tat, although we were killing a lot more Somalis than they were Americans, nevertheless Americans were being killed. So the decision was made something bigger has to be done. So we'll send out Task Force Ranger.
GORDON: After four more American soldiers were killed in Mogadishu in August by a remote-controlled mine, General Powell relented, recommending the dispatch of the elite Army Rangers, including Delta Force commandos.
DALE SIZEMORE, ARMY RANGER: The Rangers weren't there to feed. We had a totally different mission in mind when we went there.
NELSON: It was pretty clear-cut from my point of view what we were there to do.
GORDON: Shawn Nelson and Dale Sizemore were among the 150 men of Bravo Company, the 75th Ranger regiment out of Fort Benning. The Rangers, average age 19, had just finished training in the U.S. with the more experienced Delta commandos, on average 10 years older.
The Rangers had gotten into the act because Aidid now knew he was a marked man, and grabbing him or destroying his ability to make trouble would require more than the small Delta unite envisioned two months earlier.
So the entire 130-man Delta C squadron along with the Rangers and an elite air unit called the Nightstalkers had been airlifted to the base in Mogadishu.
The mission? Chopper into wherever Aidid was hiding, fast rope to the building, burst inside commando-style, and then hustle Aidid and his top lieutenants onto waiting trucks that had arrived on the scene: Quite different from what the Pentagon was telling the world, that the Rangers role was limited, that Aidid would not be a specific target.
The Rangers, of course, knew better.
MIKE GOODALE, ARMY RANGER: There was even actually a book with photographs of that warlord and all of his top aides.
HOWE: Our strategy was much broader. It didn't depend on arresting Aidid. But we all felt, if we could, this would be the shortcut to a quick resolution of these tensions, and we can get on with what we came here to do.
GORDON (voice-over): The target is a three-story building in the heart of Aidid's neighborhood, across from the Olympic Hotel. Several of Aidid's top lieutenants are supposedly inside.
3:42 in the afternoon. Delta commandos who have choppered in take positions along the outside wall as someone from inside the target building steps out onto the roof to see what's going on. Moments later, the Blackhawks pass overhead, preparing to offload the Rangers.
GOODALE: As we were sliding down the ropes, we could hear bullets snapping by, and I kind of thought then that was kind of weird because before for the other missions we had been shot at, but it took awhile for that to start up once the Somalis realize, oh, yes, they're over there.
Abdulkarim Gelle owned the target house.
ABDULKARIM GELLE, OWNED TARGET HOUSE (through translator): They came from everywhere. They were breaking the windows, the doors. And as soon as I heard the noise, I came out and realized they were American soldiers. I tried to tell them we all were civilians. No militia or military men in here, but they started shooting anyway.
STEVE: You always expect someone's going to shoot at you or be in that room.
GORDON: Call him Steve, an eight-year Delta Force veteran who insisted on being interviewed in silhouette. He was among the first troops into the target site.
STEVE: So at that point, I moved my team upstairs. We cleared a low roof, and they moved -- the team moving up the stairs and started clearing rooms up on the top floor.
GORDON: Two blocks away, the convoy waits for word to move in after the commandos take their prisoners. The Rangers crouch for cover outside the target building, keeping Somalis at a distance.
Up in the command helicopter, high above the convoy, a Delta commander keeps things moving.
COMMAND CHOPPER: Roger, I want to get everybody loaded and out of there ASAP.
Advise me if you need to use the roof.
GORDON: 40 seconds later, disaster. The Blackhawk, piloted by Cliff Walcott (ph) -- code name, 61 -- gets hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, disabling the rear rotor.
BLACKHAWK 61: ... 61 going down. We got a Blackhawk going down. We got a Blackhawk going down.
BLACKHAWK 61: We got a Blackhawk crashed in the city.
BLACKHAWK 62: He took an RPG.
BLACKHAWK 62: Copy, we got one injured.
SAYID SIRAAT BARRE, WITNESSED CHOPPER CRASH (through translator): There was a big explosion after an RPG hit it.
NELSON: Then the helicopter really slowly started to rotate upside-down. BARRE (through translator): It hit the tail and the helicopter turned and immediately fell down.
NELSON: I remember hearing this -- this horrendous crashing.
COMMAND CHOPPER: We got a bird down, northeast of the target. I need you to move on out to secure that location.
NELSON: I knew I had to get there. At any cost, I just had to get to that helicopter and get those guys out of there.
STEVE: What you need to do is move fast: basically move like your hair is on fire from position to position.
GORDON: Somalis ignite a tire as a signal. This is where the action is, as both Somalis and U.S. troops race for the crash site.
ASSAULT CHOPPER: The ground forces are coming in now and trying to secure their own position. Have many survivors climbing out of the wreckage right now.
STEVE: ... approaching the alley, and I looked to the right and saw the helicopter. I could see it upside down. I was looking at the tail basically upside down. And the nose looked like it was still impacted on a brick wall.
BARRE (through translator): Soon the soldiers arrived, and when they did, we surrounded them.
ASSAULT CHOPPER: There is a large group moving toward them from southeast along the North-South road.
ALI SHEIK HASSAN, AIDID MILITIA (through translator): They had helicopters, good training, good organization. But the minute we saw one of their helicopters came down, we became confident that we could defend ourselves.
GOODALE: You know, all this dust starts getting kicked up around our feet. And I started thinking to myself, what in hell -- what is all this going on?
And I thought, wait a minute, he is shooting at us. Oh God. All of a sudden, we saw this AK-47. And all three of us just unloaded on this guy, and it was really frightening for me because it's not something that -- it's not something you do. You don't shoot people. Wow, I've actually killed a person.
NELSON: And I remember hearing rounds hit the building behind me and kind of tear against the building and continue on past.
STEVE: A street is a kill zone. It basically channels the enemy's bullets and funnels them down a one-way corridor.
GOODALE: And then all of a sudden my leg just seized up, and I started falling backwards. GORDON: As attack choppers provide cover, Goodale is pulled to a nearby building where his buddies give him first aid and he first shows the sense of humor that would make him legendary in the firefight.
GOODALE: Actually, as it turns out, I did get shot in the leg. But the first place I felt the pain was in my left butt cheek. So I, of course, had to make some jokes about getting shot in the butt.
GORDON: Goodale was the jokester in a 15-man unit assigned to this Blackhawk chopper, codenamed Super 64, piloted by Mike Durant. With Blackhawk 61 now crashed, Blackhawk 64, which had been orbiting over the desert after the Rangers roped in, joined smaller attack choppers called AH-6, "Little Birds," that are swooping down on attacking Somalis, their miniguns firing 6,000 rounds per minute. Somalis fire back.
MALE ON BLACKHAWK 62: 62 is taking fairly regular RPG fire, and they're all close.
GORDON: Minutes later, during a gun run over the crash site, a Somali RPG -- rocket propelled grenade -- slams into the Blackhawk 64's tale rotor.
COMMANDER CHOPPER: 64, you OK?
BLACKHAWK 64: Going in hard, going down. Ray!
COMMAND CHOPPER: We just lost another Blackhawk. We are taking a lot of RPG fire. We lost it south of the Olympic Hotel, south of National.
YUSEF TAHIR MOLEEN, FORMER AIDID MILITIA COMMANDER (through translator): As soon as we saw the aircraft coming down, we ran toward the crash site and cordoned it off.
GORDON: Yusef Tahir Moleen commanded a small group of Aidid militia man.
MOLEEN (through translator): People started to arrive from all directions. They all knew they were some survivors in the aircraft. Those survivors started shooting at people. So we told people to stay away from the plane as far as possible.
GORDON (voice-over): So now there are two battlefields. Up at Crash Ste One, Delta Steve and his team set up a line of fire.
"STEVE": So I would basically just shoot rounds real slow, accurate. About two blocks up, I would have people that would try and run across the street, "darters" what I would call them and they would be spraying across the street with weapons. And I would shoot at them. A lot of times you don't know if you hit them or not because they'll run out of view. And if you hit them, they'll probably die somewhere out of view, but you don't get that -- it's not like in the movies -- the people just drop.
COMMAND CHOPPER: We are going to try to get everyone consolidated at the northern site and then move to the southern site. We can use more ground transportation if you get it out here. Over.
GORDON: Ground transportation, the commander wants Humvees, Jeeps and 5-ton trucks to move out from base and head for Crash Site No. 2.
COMMAND CHOPPER: To the best of my knowledge, those vehicles have not departed base yet. We're trying to get them to you. They're coming up on the southern crash site and then they're coming to your location. I would estimate it's probably at least 30 minutes before they're going to meet you, over.
ASSAULT CHOPPER: Roger.
GORDON: Meanwhile, the convoy of vehicles from the target site still hasn't gotten to Crash Site No. 1. Even with aerial guidance, the narrow streets are just too confusing.
ASSAULT CHOPPER: Take position on the right, the next right. Roger, next right, next right. Other way, other way. Turn right. They just missed their turn. Roger. Take the next available right.
GORDON: The situation is getting worse. The commander needs those reinforcements fast.
COMMAND CHOPPER: I say again, I have urgent causalities at the northern crash site. I need to get that ground reaction force up there ASAP. I have people still alive in the wreckage at the southern crashj site. I need a ground reaction force, one to go straight to the northern site and one to go straight to the southern site. See if you can make that happen, over.
GORDON: Back at base, Dale Sizemore heeds the call. He'd been ordered to stay behind because his arm was in a cast, but now jumps aboard a convoy of humvees headed for crash site number two. They are pounded by enemy fire.
SIZEMORE: It was war, us against them. Our survival against theirs. And if it was up to us, then it was going to be ours.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this traffic circle they run into the convoy that's given up trying to get to crash site number one and begin battling their way back to base. Sizemore's friend, Casey Joyce (ph) is one of the casualties.
SIZEMORE: His eyes were wide open and his mouth was open like he was screaming, but he had already died.
GORDON: A medic then ushers Sizemore over behind a MASH tent. SIZEMORE: He pulled the tarp back and he asked me-he said is that Kowalewski. And I looked down and I couldn't see anything because he had been shot with an RPG, and it went in one side and it just stopped right here where the head of the RPG was sticking out this side of his chest and the fins were sticking out on this side. It looked like Kowalewski, but I just -- I couldn't believe that that was him, you know, lying there.
GORDON: Back at crash site number two, where they are shielded by the wreckage pilot Mike Durant, his leg broken in the crash and three others fight off hundreds of Somalis firing at them from behind walls and trees. For more than an hour their machine guns keep attackers at bay.
ABDULLAH HASAN FIRIMBI, AIDID CLAN ELDER: Here these men fought bravely. They were told to surrender. They refused.
GORDON: Two of those men are Delta Commandos Randy Schugart (ph) and Gary Gordon (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't surrender, you don't give up. If you look at Randy and Gordy, they didn't do that, either one of those. They fought to the end.
GORDON: For them the end comes after deafening two-minute barrage of fire directed at the chopper. In the silence that follows, Durant knows that the other Americans are dead. Out of bullets, he lays down his weapon, holds his hands across his chest and waits for death at the hands of an onrushing mob of furious Somalis.
Usef Moline (ph) finds Durant leaning against this tree. Recognizing that Durant is more valuable alive than dead, he struggles to remove Durant while the crowd and its wrath is diverted.
USEF MOLINE (through translator): There were some dead Americans at the crash site, bodies. So instead of running toward Michael Durant, people rushed into the aircraft itself and this deferred most of the angry mob.
ABDIAZIZ ABDIKADIR, AIDID MILITIAMAN (through translator): I kill (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for one reason, to defend our (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and national interest. We don't kill captured soldiers, but the ones that kill (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and that figure comes out of them, which is why they would drag you through the street. They prove that among themselves.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Before October 3, the people in that neighborhood were subjected to severe punishment from the American forces. The houses were destroyed by helicopters. Their property was completely destroyed by helicopters. And on this day those angry men and women were trying to destroy whatever they saw of the Americans. So Americans were killed and their bodies dragged through the town, and that was very unfortunate.
GORDON: While crowds begin to mill around the wreckage Moline and his friends carry Durant from the crash site to deliver him to Aidid (ph) clan leaders. Half a mile away the battle still rages.
NELSON: That night seemed to literally be a week long.
AHMED JAMAH: It seemed like a month.
GORDON: Like many Somalis we interviewed, Ahmed Jamah fears an American reprisal, and did not want his face shown.
JAMAH: I have never seen a body like that. Not even in all the Somalian wars that I have been through.
NELSON: And I remember it seemed like several hours where the Little Bird pilots -- the AH-6 pilots were making just gun run after gun run after gun run. And it literally seemed to be raining spent machine gun cartridges and machine gun links down on our position.
ASSAULT CHOPPER: About three RPGs off that corner behind us. If you tuck it in tight or lay back about halfway, maybe you'll pick that sucker out and we'll bust him.
"STEVE": They were bringing the people on trucks and they'd have certain intersections where they'd get their people organized so to speak, like assembly areas, if you could call them that. And they would (UNINTELLIGIBLE) prepare to come down to attack us. Well, they'd just start to come down and a helicopter would come in and just rake them with machine gun fire and kill probably 20, 30, 40 people at a time. They basically put them in a meat grinder, and we kept turning the handle.
GOODALE: I said hey, you know, when is this relief convoy supposed to get here? He said, they'll be here at 8:00. I said OK, no problem, 8:00. 8:00 rolls by and nobody. And then maybe 8:30. And finally I said hey, you know, are they getting here? Yeah, they're having some trouble rounding up some more vehicles.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clearly this hadn't been rehearsed and practiced and with language difficulties and all kinds of problems. And it took a little while to get this well organized so that going into a very dangerous area in the middle of the night would not turn out to be another disaster on top of the first one.
RANGER COMMAND: We're taking heavy small arms fire. We need relief now!
COMMAND CHOPPER: I understand you need to be extracted. I'm doing everything I can to get those vehicles to you, over.
RANGER COMMAND: Roger, understand. Be advised command element just hit. Have more casualties, over.
COMMAND CHOPPER: We gotta have that ground reaction force. I'm unable to see them anywhere on the ground. Can you give me status? We're running out of medical supplies and ammo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a Somali saying: If you corner a cat it will kill you. So when they cornered us, we had to defend ourselves and fight against them.
GORDON: Finally, at 11:00, soldiers like Phil Lepre begin moving from base in the rescue convoy.
PHIL LEPRE, ARMY RESCUE CONVOY: All I hear is bullets bouncing off the -- off the tank. Boom boom boom boom boom boom -- explosions all over the place. I'm like, where the hell am I going into? After I said a little prayer, took off my helmet, looked at my daughter's picture; I said, babe, I hope you have a wonderful life.
GORDON: Three hours later, at 2:00 a.m., they reached the crash sites and the three block area where soldiers like Delta Steve and Mike Goodale are holed up. Goodale is promptly loaded into an armored personnel carrier, but the convoy does not leave because Pilot Wilcott's (ph) body had not been extricated from the wreckage.
LEPRE: We weren't going to leave no one behind. If it would have taken 12 hours to get his body out, we would have got his body out that night. Because it's just like a creed. It's unwritten law that we will get your body out and we will bring you home.
GORDON: With the body finally recovered, the survivors get a rude shock.
"STEVE": They told us that basically we had to walk out on foot, that there was no room inside the vehicles. And again I thought, this is going to be fun. We've survived, you know, I don't know, what 10, 12 hours of firefight and now we're going to have to walk out and fight our way out on foot while all the other folks ride. I said well, not much more they can do to us here.
NELSON: I don't think I've ever run any faster in my life.
GORDON: It was a bullet-riddled mad dash up to the Pakistani sector that the troops would later call the Mogadishu mile.
NELSON: Every nook and cranny, every window and every doorway and building, home and hotel or structure we ran by we took fire from or were returning fire on combatants.
GORDON: Incredibly, only one soldier is injured, and notably there were no roadblocks. Aidid's minister of defense says that was deliberate.
AHMED OMAR JESS, AIDID'S MINISTER OF DEFENSE (through translator): This decision was taken to leave them alone, otherwise -- that was enough we thought, to show them that we can fight.
GORDON: At half past 6:00, the convoy reaches the safety of the Pakistani-controlled stadium, where morning sun reveals the horror. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then it kind of started sinking in that -- wow, you know, we've -- a lot of people are hurt. A lot of people are dead. I felt so alive because I was literally that close to death.
SIZEMORE: I look back to the side of the Jeep where I was mostly sitting all night, and it was just -- it looked like Swiss cheese. It was amazing to think that I never got shot.
GORDON: Eighteen Americans died in the firefight. Somalis: Estimates run well over 1,000 wounded and 500 dead, many of them women and children.
SIZEMORE: The men were hiding behind women and shooting underneath their arms, and it got to the point where you just have to shoot the woman, and then shoot the man behind her. And it's, you know, a bad deal for her, but she was helping him. So in actuality, it was her own fault. And there was -- I felt no remorse about any of it.
STEVE: Kids would carry rocket propelled grenades, so it was a family affair. It's not like they were innocent civilians. We did what we needed to do to keep people away from our crash sites. If you're coming to a gunfight, you're wrong. There's only one reason to come to where people are shooting, and that's to fight. People don't come there to dance. So you treat them accordingly.
GOODALE: I know -- I guess it's unethical to shoot women and children, but is it unethical when they're trying to kill you?
REP. CURT WELDON (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Enough is enough. We've done our part. We've fed the starving masses; we've stopped starvation and saved thousands of lives. It's time to bring our troops home.
GORDON: But simply pulling up and leaving would not be so simple.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a soldier, I have to do what I'm told.
GORDON: After Mike Durant was captured by Moalin and delivered to Firimbi, he was kidnapped by bandits who demanded a ransom from Aidid for Durant's return. They got their money, but not before making this video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not a Ranger?
MIKE DURANT: No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORDON: Returned to the relative safety of the Aidid clan, he was guarded by Firimbi.
FIRIMBI (through translator): The first night I met him, I was very angry, but I respected him out of our religion, our dignity. And later on, before he left, he became a sort of brother. He even requested a Bible, and we got that for him.
GORDON: Jonathan Howe saw an opportunity in the aftermath.
HOWE: This was a devastating blow to the Aidid community. And in fact, the word that we got very shortly afterwards from that faction was, we've paid any debts we had to Aidid, we want peace; we're through with this; this has gone too far.
GORDON: Robert Oakley, still on the sidelines, was overcome when he heard about the firefight on the radio.
OAKLEY: I had the feeling of, what are we doing here? How have we mucked up so badly? How could this possibly have happened?
GORDON: Oakley was asked to come to the White HOuse by national Security Adviser Tony Lake and attend a strategy session with the president and his top advisers.
OAKLEY: At the end of it, we came up with what I thought was a sensible approach, which was to gradually pull the Americans out, because it was quite clear to me that public and political opinion would not stand for our lingering in Somalia any more than they had for our lingering in Beirut after the Marine barracks was blown up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DURANT: Innocent people being killed is not good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORDON: With marching orders to recover Durant, Oakley backed his bags for Mogadishu where, after five days, Ethiopian diplomats were able to arrange a meeting with Aidid staffers. And consistent with the seemingly the schizoid nature of all dealings with Aidid, the message of conciliation that had been sent to Admiral Howe was very different when Oakley demanded Durant's immediate release -- no strings attached.
OAKLEY: And they said, but we Somalis never do that. It's an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. We cannot do that. Look at all the blood that has been shed. Look at all the people that you are still holding.
I said, well, you've got to. And I said, let me be honest. If you don't -- this is not a threat -- but if you don't, I'll tell you what I think will happen. After some weeks, the United States will be very, very frustrated. You'll be asking for things. This will be seen as a hostage situation. And we'll say we won't give into hostages. And you'll say, but we have to have a price.
By the time the shooting is over, given the tanks and the aircraft carrier with aircraft and the gunships and everything else that's going to be here, there won't be anything left in south Mogadishu. Cats, dogs, goats, people, women, children, you name it -- everything is going to be gone because the amount of firepower is so great and the amount of hatred and anger behind it is so great. So don't create this sort of a situation. I beg of you.
GORDON: Twenty-four hours after Robert Oakley's ultimatum and against the advice of many in his clan, Aidid released Durant. The search for Aidid was over, and American troops would soon begin coming home.
Admiral Howe, virtually shut out of the decision-making, felt the Clinton administration's sudden turnabout was a big mistake.
HOWE: You know, we were at a point where that battle and the sacrifice made there perhaps could have been the catalyst that led to a situation.
GORDON: Attempts to talk Aidid into an agreement resumed, but Howe successors at the U.N. got predictable results.
HOWE: They would get very close, and think, gee, we're going to get another agreement we're going to be able to sign. And then at the last minute, Aidid would pull out.
LEPRE: We went into someone's backyard and tried to tell them what to do and how to do things. And they basically -- if we didn't have the firepower and training we had, you know, they would have kicked our butts.
NELSON: I think we should have stayed committed and continued the mission and completed the mission instead of withdrawing the way we did.
OAKLEY: This is the warrior mentality. And once you get into a war, you want to win. And if you have your people killed, you want to win even more. You want to kill even more of the enemy.
Well, in this case, we killed -- I don't know -- a 1,000, maybe more Somalis that one day, the 3rd and 4th of October. And all and all, we killed 4,000, 5,000 or 6,000 Somalis. And so far as I was concerned, this had been the wrong course to take.
HOWE: We tried to work on the margins. And if you are going to be there and are going to be involved, you need to provide the muscle and the resources and the people to make something that you undertake successful.
LEPRE: There were 18 American soldiers over there that died. For what?
HOWE: Most Somali people -- and I think this is one of the misunderstood things about the whole U.S. and U.N. effort, really appreciated what the U.S. and the United Nations and the countries that went in with us did for them.
SIZEMORE: Give them the food and let them deal with it. Don't put my friends at stake. Or me at stake.
We have got plenty of starving people in the United States, you know, that won't shoot at us when we're trying to do it. I wouldn't trade one American life for 10,000 Somalis.
It just wasn't worth it at all.
FIRIMBI (through translator): You can't blame the Somali people. Use force to try to make things the way you want them. Somails learned that they can govern themselves and they don't need anybody from the outside to lead or give them assistance.
LEPRE: There's not a day that goes by that I don't think of Somalis.
GORDON: Somalia still has no national government, and the clans continue their civil wars. The northern part of the country is recovering, but then it never saw the kind of strife that tore Mogadishu apart.
Washington's quest for blame led to Defense Secretary Les Aspin, who resigned in December 1993 amid second-guessing of his decision not to send heavy equipment, like the AC-130 gunship, to Somalia. He died of a stroke in 1995.
Mohamed Farrah Aidid died of a reported heart attack in August 1996 after being shot in Mogadishu. Army General William Garisson, who commanded Task Force Ranger, retired the very same day. Sources say he winks at the coincidence.
One week after the battle of Mogadishu, Bill Clinton ordered Navy ships to turn back from a peacekeeping mission in Haiti when an anti- American mob assembled on the docks of Port-au-Prince. And although U.S. forces would later keep the peace in Bosnia, they would be part of a NATO force numbering 60,000; troops that were not deployed until after the warring factions had committed themselves to the Dayton peace accords.
President Clinton was re-elected in a landslide 10 months later.
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