We came to the intersection and that's exactly where we dropped the ropes.
...You're trying to get out of the bird as quickly as possible, because the
longer the bird's there, the more attention you're attracting. That's what
makes that method so fast, you can get people out, quick. |
It seemed like everything went slow motion... I was in my own little world,
regardless of the noise and the rudders and the engines and the
helicopter....and you're grabbing the rope and you're going down and it's not,
it's eerie but it's an adrenaline type feeling. Like you can hear your heart
beating in your ears. By the time your feet hit the ground you're wide open.
You know what you need to do.
Down on the ground where did you run to?
To the wall... up against the building on my side of the road, and
then back up the street towards the objective building where we were put
When did shooting start?
Just a few moments after we hit the ground, about the time that the
birds flew off. The noise of the rudders and the helicopters kind of died
down, we knew we were taking fire. I didn't really know exactly where it was
coming from at first, but within a few minutes people were picking out targets.
What weapons did the Somalis have?
Mostly what I saw were AK47 style weapons, and RPGs, a rocket
propelled grenade, that's just a launcher.
Were they firing the RPGs at you?
Usually the RPGs got fired at vehicles and helicopters, but yes,
they fired them at personnel. I mean, an RPG hits a wall near you and you're
going to take shrapnel from it.
When did you start firing yourself?
Once we moved up the road to the objective building. I might have
had the opportunity before that, but I'd had no targets. There was firing
going on and other people were engaging the Somalis but I had no targets...they
were unarmed at that point and I did not engage. Of course other people were
engaging on some unarmed Somalis, I didn't start firing until we were sitting
in a perimeter or blocking position around the objective building.
Did you actually see the people you were shooting at, did you
actually shoot anybody?
A lot of times you'd see people who were in the road or crossing
intersections. You're usually not the only person firing in their direction,
there's usually several people firing in their direction, a lot of times
several people would shoot or you would shoot at an individual and they would
go down right there, depending on what weapon they were hit with. A lot of
times you'd get them crossing roads or intersections and you'd see the rounds
hit 'em and then they'd just disappear around behind the building or the
alley. You knew that they were wounded. It would depend, some weapons have
different effects on one another.
What were the helicopters doing all this time?
The gun birds were providing air support. They were calling in
targets. We had several around us that were supporting us at our location at
the objective and basically they were just surpressing any targets. 'Cos they
could see a whole lot more from the air. As far as people running around, or
where RPG fire came from, they could track them a little better, 'cos we might
not see where the round came from. [It] might just come screaming down the road
and detonate, you know we wouldn't see which alley it came out of.
What did you actually see and hear when it started firing?
I relate it to a hornet. It's a little bird that flies real
fast, and it's real maneuverable, and when it comes in to fire it, if it
launches rockets, that's got its own distinct sound, it's not really a boom when
the rockets are launched but you hear the whoosh of them being released and
then the explosion when they hit the ground or detonate. When it fires the two
high rate machine guns on its sides, I guess I'd relate it to canvas ripping, a
burr, a burr or a belch type sound.... it fires so fast it's not like you can
hear the actual break between each rounds. They just all blend together in a
long ripping type sound, and it's amazing the amount of rounds that are put out
What's the impact look like? Does it kick up a lot of
If he's shooting with the machine guns, or the mini guns it
depends on what he's hitting. If he's hitting in the ground or around
personnel, that's going to kick up a wall of dust and bullets are going to be
kicking up off the ground and hitting walls and everything else. If it's a
vehicle, you're going to see the vehicle get eaten with holes, I mean, when the
shield windows blow out, tires go flat. Holes just appear all over within a
matter of a second or two.
So you were saying almost straight away you start getting fired
at, and pretty soon you start firing back. And now you actually see what
happens to one of the helicopters over head. Can you describe the shoot
Yeah, we were firing down the road, I think it was to the east of
the objective building. We were taking a lot of fire from this road. The
Blackhawk Super 61 was firing over head, giving covering fire. What prompted
me to look up at the bird was when this door gunner opened up with the mini
gun, and that's when I noticed that the RPG, or saw the RPG hit him in the
tail. Boom! and immediately you know the bird began to spin, and we watched it
go down over to our north, north east behind the buildings. It didn't explode.
It was more of a crash or a loud thump sound; almost like a car crash.
What crossed your mind when that happened?
We're going to get the pilots and the bird crew. We're going to
that location, I didn't know at that time that there was two other people on
the bird also, in the back, there was a total of six on that aircraft.
So, did you get an order or did you just immediately start to
move that way?
No, we didn't immediately jump up and move in that direction 'cos
you'd lose control. You can't have everybody jump up on their own, and just
start running off in that direction. One of you have to make sure that the
mission is completed at the objective building. If it's not, then you can't
send every body to the crash site. If it is, then, OK, we'll all go, but that's
something that the higher up has to decide and you know if you're in charge of
ten guys, like, say, my platoon sergeant was, he wants to know where all his men
are. He doesn't want five running off on their own to head for a crash site that
they don't even know where it is yet. When we did move out to the crash site
we tried to move as fast as you can, I think some people would have liked to
move faster, some people thought we moved at a good rate. I think the reason we
didn't move any faster than we did was to keep control of that element so
nobody got left behind.
You were attracting a lot of fire at the time?
Yes, we were moving down the streets, now we're up from behind our
covered positions. We're moving. We're running. We're moving toward them ...
Well, actually we're moving to the crash site, but we' re not sitting still or
stagnant. We're aggressing on them. That kind of threw them off but not to
the point where they broke contact.
They kept shooting
When you got to a street corner ... was that dangerous?
Yes, the thing about an open environment is, you're constantly
exposed ... in one direction or another. It's not a conventional battlefield
where the enemy is to your front. When you're in an urban environment, your
enemy's all around you. Every alley was a potential threat, every window,
every doorway. So if I take cover behind this corner, or this wall, well I'm
still exposed to my rear, to my right, you know to my left and so on. But when
you cross the intersection you're really exposed, no cover.
So now describe then, coming on the crash site, how you actually
got there, what did you see when you got there?
OK, when we were moving down the road to the east, headed toward
the crash site, we came to a point where we had to make a sharp left turn. We
got held up when we made that sharp left, some of them were already up to the
crash site before my chalk group got there. We stayed up right there for a
good while, and it wasn't that we couldn't go any further, it was that if we'd
gone any further we'd have just been standing on top of each other, because
there were already people up in the crash site. We were just kinda an
expansion of the perimeter, if you know what I mean. That's where we started
taking a lot of casualties. Most of them at the objective building or on the
movement to. First one I noticed was took a fatal hit and one of his teammates was trying to
drag him backwards into the building who also took a
round, to I think the shoulder or collar bone area. And I was afraid that he
had gotten wounded more seriously in the head. Shortly after our M60 gunner
went down.... We were starting to pile them up then. I can't even
remember how many people went down but Lieutenant Lechner was shot at that
Are these wounds fatal?
At this point we didn't know. You know somebody screams, you know
yells out that they're hit, rolls off a weapon. Lieutenant Lechner took a
real hard hit to the lower leg. This is where we, like I say we took a lot
of casualties and did a lot of fighting at this location.
What were your feelings at this point?
Hard to explain, my feelings...you know you'd be lying to say you
weren't scared. I was scared but I knew that I had to do my job or I was only
going to be worse off. I think any body had that sense of fright in them, but
everybody handled that situation differently. There was such an adrenaline
rush, whether that sounds like a good thing or a bad thing that's kind of
what's fueling you and seeing your friends and your comrades get wounded and
killed is also an angering emotion. So this is kind of a roller coaster at
this point of emotion, you're going from fright to anger to just adrenaline and
also reverting to your training. We had excellent leadership, I think, all
the way around. Sergeant Watson was in charge of my chalk, and I don't think
there was a doubt, when it comes to that I think good leadership has a lot to
do with it.... I know we'd have followed Sergeant Watson into the gates of
hell. He kept us calm and kept us focused.
I think it was his whole mentality and his control, which was the
way he was all the time. Whether it be in training or when we ended going
into combat like this. We knew he was in command or in charge of us and he had
instilled enough confidence and faith in him.
Was the firing building up all the time? You're all now in a
fixed position, presumably they've got time to gather.
Yes, this was a heavy volume of fire here. A lot of ammo was shot
up. Some Somalis would get confused, you know occasionally we'd have someone
run right out at the road intersection, they wouldn't even know we were there
until ......Bamm! They ran right up on us...or they'd run up on four or five
guys. That's what you would get, but then you were also getting you know
crowds of people... RPGs, were being launched from
You think they would be running away.
You would think they would.
Were the crowds friendly?
They were aggressive... their willingness to fight, I don't know
if you would call it bravado as much as insanity. I guess they felt as if
they were defending their area, or their turf, but they were very willing to
fight...even the unarmed ones. You'd have instances were individual would go
down, a Somali would be shot with a weapon and another would run out and try to
pick the weapon up off the ground, and the same thing would happen to him. It
was like they were wanting the weapon so bad they were willing to die. The
longer it went on in the late afternoon, the more people came to it, which was
just kind of unbelievable. You'd think with the amount of fire they would be
moving in a different direction. [But] they were everywhere...willing to fight
at this point. I think, a lot of them didn't know exactly where we were and
they would run right up on us...though right up at the crash site there was a
big eye catcher for them. They saw that bird go down, and they wanted to get
to it, just like we did...though for two different reasons.
Why do you think they wanted to get to it?
Because these were the birds that were inflicting all this on them,
I mean we were pulling missions on them. We were going into the city and doing
all this stuff. And now all of a sudden, they got a chance to get their hands
on us. This bird's crashed and they want revenge. They wanted to get hold of
that bird crew.
What do you think they would have done with the bird crew if
they could have got it?
Exactly what they did to the second bird that crashed. That's
why we wouldn't, we wouldn't leave the bodies. It's a shame and I regret that
we had people fall into their hands. That there was nothing we could do.
There was no way anybody could get to it. But the two people, or the two men
who did and that was two men who were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Nothing but deserved.
What was in your mind and others in going to defend the crash
... When Wolcott's bird went down we didn't know if they were
alive, if they were dead, wounded. So you have no choice but to go. Regardless
of the fact that even if they are all dead you are going to recover that body.
I don't say that you don't think about it, because you don't want it to fall
into enemy hands for whatever reason. Whether they're going to safely return
the body...That's the knowledge that everybody carries in their mind. That if
I go down in combat that these guys are going to bring my body out, at all
costs, and they know the same, if they go down, I will bring their body out at
all costs, you know, all of us will. And when you let that fall, or the first
time that you don't do that you know it's not going to mean anything any more.
And you won't have that level of confidence or respect. As it is now, people
know that at all costs, we know we won't leave someone behind.
Did you actually personally see somebody hit? What did you see?
Yes...They kind of let out a yell or a yelp and it'll spin them
around. You hear they were shot and they take a round. Whereas for all those
like Sergeant Goodale, Mike Goodale,the round entered his thigh area and came
out of his buttocks, his tin and went through his canteen. He was on a knee and
he just kinda, got a look about him and he didn't yell or anything, he was like,
"Ow,"and he just kinda rolls right over. Where the other guys you could tell
that it really hit them with more of a punch you know or a hard hit as far as
the concussion around hit him.
Did you see any of your comrades actually killed?
Um, yes...yeah, come back to that one, Fillmore, I saw Fillmore get
shot.... when the round actually hit him and he died. The other people were
really already wounded by the time I saw 'em or got to 'em 'cos I wasn't in a
position to you know to...
Where was Fillmore hit?
In the head.
You went into the casualty collection point, where the
casualties are being moved to--describe what you saw. Was this day or night by
It was day, late afternoon, day time when I moved into the casualty
collection point...or the CCP. The wounded were in there. They were trying
to treat and work on 'em, and we moved in there just to kinda re-group and
figure when we were going to move back out into the street and set up our
perimeter. Yeah, there were a lot of casualties and a lot of work being done
on people...IV bags, bandages....
So, it's getting near twilight. What do you do next?
We moved back out from the casualty collection point and tried to
set up a perimeter in front of it. We ended up in a courtyard which was
directly beside the casualty area.... [where] my specific
group stayed for most of the night. I had a couple of guys standing on 55
gallon drums who were trying to fire out over the walls of the little courtyard
and would try to mark targets for the little bird helicopters to engage. I
still had an alley I could see both ways up and down that I put security on and
had to keep my eyes on it.
Were you actually worried that they might not ever get there to
get you out?
I knew they'd get there one day, and I knew they were trying their
hardest to get there. It was just a matter of what condition we were going to
be in by the time they got there. I won't say the thought didn't cross my
mind. I knew they were running into their own resistance.
Now, at some point in the night you can hear people speaking
English...Describe exactly what happened.
The early part of the morning, some troops came up the road, which
is the same road we had stayed so long on after we had made our left turn. I
remember calling out to them, and I think someone else had already called out
to them also, like "Ranger, Ranger" so that they would know our
location...where we were 'cos we were kinda at the outer edge of the vicinity
of the crash site. And they were coming right up on us and, there was a '10th
Mountain' -- the Quick Reaction Force that had come in with the Malaysian [and]
Pakistani APCs to try to help get us out, and they just kinda stayed out there
in the road. We didn't really intermingle too much, but it was good to know at
least... Wow, they found us. APCs were here. We're going to get
out...they're going to drive us out of here [when] we get through getting
the people freed from the crashed helicopter. We had so many casualties, by
the time they were loaded, the 30 or so of us who weren't wounded..there was no
room for us. So now we were going to leave out on foot, following these
That must have been a bad feeling.
Well there was...a little discouragement that there wasn't a seat,
but there is no choice. The wounded, definitely they're going to come first.
You must have had this greatest sense of relief--you're getting
onto an APC and drive out--and now, you've got to walk or run all the way back
Yes, it was a change in feeling but you had to think...so many
things had changed by now, you've got to have a wide open mind to say, anything
can go wrong. I mean we could have been driving out and the engines blown up
and the APCs and we had been stuck with all these casualties. So you've got
to be willing for change. You can't get flustered and too upset that you can't
get in a ride. But yes it was, a feeling...thinking all night, there's no room
for us and now we've got to run out beside them. But I think everybody handled
that with no problem. We were ready to get out of there. Once we had the
casualties loaded, we were ready to move.
So now the convoy moves out at what, walking speed?
They were attempting to, yes. The thing about the APCs they had
were the big white armored personnel carriers and UN painted on the side. It
was like a bullet magnet, I mean it attracted fire. It's a big white thing and
it drew a lot of fire so I don't really enjoy standing too close to it. I
would rather be away from them up against the wall. I didn't enjoy taking a
knee beside it or running along beside it, because you know it's armored and
the bullets will bounce off it. If I'm standing beside it, the bullets that
are bouncing off are just going to hit me.
So you walked or jogged out of town, a lot of shooting coming
Describe the scene when you got back to base. What did you have
We kind of downloaded and we were in a secure type area we walked
in the stadium. There was casualties... there was a lot. We didn't stay there
long before they told us what exactly had happened. Who wasn't accounted for.
Who had been killed. That hit a lot of guys hard, 'cos a lot of guys didn't
know that their buddy in another platoon that was in the convoy had been
killed. And then they said they didn't even know how many other people were
killed. There were several guys that I had no idea about until I saw them
later and I said, "Wow I didn't know what happened to you."
We stayed there for just a little while and my whole platoon, which once took
two helicopters to fly, we all got on one Blackhawk and flew back to the air
field. I don't remember--out of close to 25 to 30 there was about 12 maybe
that weren't wounded. It was a very eerie time but it was a time you're not
relaxed but you're in an area where you're not being shot at right at this
moment. But we all come back into a hanger like that and there's so many empty
boxes with the guys' stuff still out. Just like we left...a card game had been
started 17 or so hours before. The hands are still laid face down, half-drunk
sodas. Pads of paper with half a letter written...
Looking back on the whole thing, what are your feelings about it
I don't think I'm in a position to say if the mission wasn't worth
it. That's for other people to decide. If the mission was a success I would
say in my mind yes. We concluded the mission we went in to do at the objective.
Without a doubt, that mission was completed and done. Once the helicopter was
shot down, we completed a mission in the fact that we did recover all the
bodies from that first crash site. The downfall as far as we not completing
the missions was not being able to recover the bodies immediately from that
second crash site which we had no control over, nobody could get to them...
In the end yes, I feel that the mission was a success, not only from
completing the initial mission, but with the number of us that were on the
ground as actual shooters to the number of the resistance we were up
against...which was in the thousands and we're talking about 130 people on the
ground. Yes, we had helicopters, you know. [But] you're talking about
thousands of people in a city closing in on just over 100.