And did Aidid have a code name?|
Yeah, everybody called him Elvis, "Elvis sightings." It was common every time
somebody saw Aidid it would come across that, "We've seen Elvis," as the joke
goes, "Elvis has left the building."
Were you given the sense that the US had any kind of edge in this whole
thing? Were you just hoping to pick him out of a crowd, or did you have
No, we definitely had an informant, one that was nicknamed Abe Lincoln because
he was supposed to resemble Abraham Lincoln. He was supposedly the one
informant on Aidid's team that was gonna tell us when he was at a meeting, what
time he got there, and set up a strobe light on the roof to alert us, and then
we could go in and take down the building.
What were you briefed about Lincoln?
We were told that Lincoln was close to Aidid, one of his lieutenants.
Supposedly he was giving us information; other than that we didn't know who he
was. We were the lowest on the information chain over there, they basically
told us what we needed to know and that was it. People were wondering "OK, is
he giving us the correct information, or is he giving us bogus information,
we're not really sure." We didn't hear anything like who he was, was he on our
side, we really didn't know.
Who do you think it was ?
I don't know. To this day, I really don't, I'm not sure.
Who was giving these briefings?
Our chain of command, the Ranger battalion chain of command, at my level, were
coming out and giving us briefings.
And what they were telling was that intelligence sources had developed this
Exactly, exactly. We had what they called the war room, and every time some new
intelligence would come out and they deemed it necessary that we know, each
squad or each platoon at a time would go into this war room with all the maps
and the pictures of Aidid and all his henchmen and all the targets that we were
after and they would brief us on all the updates in intel and everything that
they wanted us to know.
Did they ever tell you how highly placed Lincoln was?
No, I knew he was in the hierarchy, very well placed, but as exactly what his
relationship to Aidid was I have no idea. From what I understand he was [a]
financier, he dealt with finances. We had what was called tiers, Tier 1 was
obviously Aidid, he was the main target, and Tier 2 included [Aidid'd more
important advisors]; there was probably 30 different individuals in all that we
were actually targeting. I know that Lincoln was definitely in the second tier,
although he wasn't one of our targets, he was definitely a second tier.
Exactly how was Lincoln supposedly helping the Rangers in this
Well, after about the third mission, once we were briefed on him, basically
what he was gonna do was when he was in proximity to Aidid, he was gonna alert
us somehow, [I'm not sure] whether it was an infrared strobe that you could
only see at night, [or] whether it was some [other] type of signal that was
pre-arranged with whoever his handler was. From that it would trickle down
through the Ranger battalion to us, and then we would take off and target the
building. There was supposed to be an infrared strobe on top of the building,
and that would be our target building. I know that he was supposed to sprinkle
himself with juice out of a infrared chem light, because we all go in with
night vision devices and he was really, really petrified of being shot by the
US forces, so he sprinkled himself in this juice so that [when we] went in with
our night vision devices, he would glow, and hopefully not be shot. He was
extremely scared about that; we were told, four or five times that he was real
apprehensive and that to make sure that if anybody was glowing in the room when
you came in not to shoot him.
Did you actually personally see one of these strobe lights?
I did. On our fourth mission we were circling Mogadishu for about five or eight
minutes, and I was in the door of the helicopter, our feet are hanging over the
edge. And as we're flying through the town you can look out over the whole
town, and with the night vision devices you can see this infrared strobe
flashing on and off like a beacon, on top of this one building. I definitely
saw [one] on that mission in particular.
So your intelligence had developed an ace card, hadn't they?
Well, that was the theory. The night that we did go on that mission that the
strobe light was there, obviously we didn't capture him. So that leaves some
room to wonder how much of an ace card it really was.
To the best of your knowledge did Lincoln actually provide accurate
intelligence or not?
No, as far as I know Lincoln didn't give us very good information at all. We
never captured Aidid, not on any of the trips that he was supposed to be
providing intelligence on, to my knowledge we never came close. It was a lot of
dry leads; we went in and there was nothing there, so it was hard to believe in
a source like that after two or three missions go by, and you're going in
thinking Aidid's gonna be there and he's just not there.
So a certain amount of cynicism developed in the Rangers?
I don't know so much cynicism but I know it was almost a joke amongst the
Rangers at our level; Keni Thomas had made that picture with Abraham Lincoln
standing on top of a building with a light bulb on his head, and Elvis, an
actual picture of Elvis running down the road with a guitar, and I think there
was a machine gun in the other hand, and a bunch of Rangers chasing him. There
was a lot of levity about the whole thing.
So at a basic level the Rangers, ordinary soldiers, were pretty skeptical
about Lincoln as a genuine informant?
I think everybody was really excited because we hadn't heard about him until
the third or fourth mission, and at that point there had been some intelligence
problems where we didn't get the intelligence and then as things started to
come out, and as they started to brief us more and more and then this
information about Lincoln came out, we were really excited because we knew we
could capture him if we could find him. That was the biggest thing; we didn't
have any problem with confidence in our skills or completing the mission, it
was finding Aidid [that was the problem.] And so everybody was really excited
when this information first came out. And after, I don't know, three or four
more missions, and still every single time a dry hole it was, [we were]
definitely a little bit cynical, and we did not trust his information at
Has it occurred to you the possibility that Lincoln was actually a sort of
double agent? That the whole operation on the October 3rd could have been a
baiting a trap?
Not at the time, but after October 3rd, we were still over there for a few
days, and that definitely occurred to me, because of the amount of force that
we encountered on October 3rd and 4th and how quickly it was there. It
definitely crossed your mind that maybe he was a double agent or at least led
us into the into the lions' den.
The Italians -- what was going on here, what did you see yourself?
After we were there a few days, we started up profile flights, which was we
would [take] four or five people up in the helicopters at all hours of the day
and night to fly around the city, just so people [wouldn't] know whether it was
an actual mission or [not when] the helicopters went up. So, we started these
profile flights, and we'd fly around four or five, six times day. And after a
couple of weeks, I noticed, and other people in the unit noticed, that every
time the profile flights would take off -- the Italian compound was on the far
end of the airfield from us -- you would see lights flash and there would be a
lot more activity. A pattern continued to develop over the course of the next
three, four, five weeks where you would see every time the helicopters went up
little blinking lights at the Italian compound and a flurry of activity and
then it would stop. There was definitely something going on with the Italians.
We were even briefed on that by some of our commanders. We were never given any
absolute facts but it was, "Here's what we think. We don't want to cause an
international incident, we can't prove it, but this is what we think so try to
be careful around the Italians."
Be careful in what way?
Well, there was another incident; we used to run around Mogadishu airport and
the whole airfield a couple of times a week, and there was an incident where as
we were running by the Italian compound, a shot was fired, and noone knows
whether it was an accidental discharge or somebody was actually firing at us or
exactly what the cause was, but it just created a lot more tension.
What else did you perceive to be going on in there apart from the
That was the only thing that we know of for sure, that's what we saw and what
we perceived to be going on was that they were signaling the Somalis that we
were coming, and we heard that the Italians had been in Somalia for a long
time, there's a lot of economic ties, and things like that, so it definitely
left you wondering which side they were actually on.
October 3rd was a kind of quiet sort of day; what were you doing?
We were actually getting ready to go on a run; every Sunday morning we had this
thing called the "airport marathon" and our squad had to run a complete length
around the airport, I think it's like three miles, and so we were getting ready
to go on our regular Sunday run.
And then what happened?
Well, the call came down that Elvis has been spotted, another Elvis sighting.
At that point we've already done seven missions, and it was not commonplace but
it was starting to become a routine. And so you didn't get nearly as hyped up
as you did the first few times you went out; it wasn't the same level of
adrenaline, it was like "OK, we're gonna go out in the city again." So we
loaded up all our gear, radio, the fast rope gloves, all the things we need,
and proceeded to take the helicopter into the city.
Just describe the feeling of lifting off and flying over the city.
It was almost fun. We had a new sergeant, Sergeant Galantine and it was, I
believe, his first mission, he had just come over -- he'd graduated a school or
he'd been away -- and so he was dying to get over there. He caught the next
flight over. It was his first mission on our bird and I remember looking over
to him and saying, "Scottie, are you ready?" and you [could tell] he was a
little nervous, the same way we were on our first flight, and everybody was
giving him the thumbs up and "don't worry about it." There was almost a joking
atmosphere, a real light joking atmosphere.
Could you see up the side of the bird or were you hanging out?
Well I was the RTO for that whole chalk, Super-67, and so I sat up a little bit
higher on the little bench, right next to the chalk leader, which is the leader
for the whole helicopter. We both had a little raised seat, and he would give
me the signals whether we were gonna land or fast rope and that way I could get
those out to everybody else that was sitting there. So although I wasn't right
at the door I could see out both doors.
And as you looked out of the doors what were you seeing as you approached
There was a lot of activity, a lot more than normal, nothing extremely out of
the ordinary, but as we actually approached the target, the Little Birds had
already come in and done their insertion, and there was a brown-out; you
couldn't see anything at all. The rotor wash from the helicopter kicked up so
much sand that there was zero visibility, and what we do when we fast rope [is
that] the person sitting in the door -- you actually sit hanging out of the
helicopter -- throws the rope down, and he has to see that it's laying parallel
to the ground before he goes out, that's his job, and [on] a night fast rope we
got our chem lights on the rope and when the red and green one are parallel,
[you know] that the rope has hit ground and therefore you can rope out. It's
his job not to leave the bird until he can guarantee that rope is actually on
the ground, but because of the brown-out, you couldn't see the ground, you
couldn't see five feet away from you, so he was waiting and waiting and
waiting, and we heard a loud explosion and the whole helicopter shook, and the
2-door gunners just started screaming, "Go, go, go! We're taking fire! Get out
of the bird!" so everybody, without being able to see the ground or know if the
rope was even on the ground, just started bailing out of the bird onto this
fast rope and heading to the ground.
What had happened? Were you hit?
The helicopter was not hit, it was an airburst RPG that had exploded near the
helicopter, and I guess the shockwave of that explosion just shook the
helicopter in the air a little bit.
Did you have a nasty feeling?
Yeah, very nasty. That was the first time that we realized it was probably not
gonna be like the other missions, and that was the first time we had taken fire
before we'd even gotten on the ground; it was definitely a completely different
And so right from the first seconds of the mission they fired RPGs at your
Yeah, again we were not the first in; the Little Birds were the initial
insertion and so we were probably there maybe 30 seconds, 45 seconds later, and
if you count the time that we hovered because we had to, hoping to wait for the
brown-out to clear, maybe a minute later. So, yeah, it was, maybe not from the
first seconds but definitely the first minutes of the mission.
Sounds like the guy was waiting there.
It does. I mean at the time, on October 3rd, the thought never crossed my mind,
but over the past few years I've definitely thought about it, that someone was
waiting, that they were waiting for us to come to that location that day, at
OK, so you slide down the ropes, you can't see a thing, What happens as you
hit the ground?
The first thing I see is Blackburn, who was another person on our bird, laying
in the road. Goode, our chalk medic, was working on him, and we had no idea
what happened. It was really disorientating, because it was the first time
anyone of us, at least from our bird, had been injured, and to see him laying
there and Goode working on him, it was definitely a scary time.
He looked bad.
He did; his eyes were rolled back in his head. I didn't spend a lot of time
actually with him, we just dragged him to some cover and then Goode started to
work on him there, but in the initial insertion, when I was sliding down the
rope, it was so funny -- Murphy's Law, anything [that] can go wrong will --
when I slid down the rope I had a radio with an earpiece and a mouthpiece and I
pushed the talk button that was mounted on my weapon, so I was all set and when
I grabbed the fast rope the wire leading from the radio to the earpiece was
attached, it was inside my hands, as we went down the rope the friction had
completely burned that off. I had another extension with me so the first few
minutes of the battle I spent changing over from the headset mike to a hand
So you hit the ground, but you're under fire almost immediately, and you're
somewhere with your radio. Where are you holed up at this point, where are you
I was at an intersection with the rest of the chalk. We had split; it was weird
because when you come out of a helicopter, obviously, you come out each side,
and some of us had gone to one side of the street and some of us to the other
side of the street, so we were at this intersection and I was on the left side
of the intersection on the far side of the road, and I'm messing with the radio
and I just remember Sergeant Eversmann telling me, "Moore, find some cover,"
because I was out in the open. And it still didn't register what was going on,
until people in that chalk started getting hit, [that] we were taking enemy
fire. I didn't even realize it because I was taken with Blackburn, and then as
soon as that happened I realized I'd lost the earpiece, so I was frantically
trying to [fix it]. The radio's sort of like your lifeline because all your
information flows through the radio; that's your connection to the outside
world. I was so concerned with that that I didn't realize that we had already
begun taking ground fire.
In fact, Galantine lost his thumb almost immediately. Did you see
I did. Sergeant Galantine was on the opposite side of the street from me, with
Sergeant Telsa. His injury was the first one that sort of brought me back to
where I was and what I was doing because I'm standing out in the middle of the
road, trying to fix this radio, and I heard Sergeant Galantine scream, and at
that point I didn't know what happened, and Sergeant Telsa was right there with
him, so Sergeant Telsa came up to him and took care of him, he dressed his
wound as best he could and he was just holding his thumb. I remember Sergeant
Eversmann wanted us to consolidate on our side of the street, so he told
Sergeant Telsa and Sergeant Galantine to run over to our side of the street.
And I remember seeing Sergeant Galantine running, and his weapon was just
mangled, it was bent and didn't even look like a weapon anymore, and as he's
running, his other hand, his left hand, I believe, was shot, but as he's
running you can see his thumb flipping back and forth all the way up his arm,
because it was almost severed, and so it was still attached, but just by a
small portion so you could see it just flopping as he ran across the road, and
it was just amazing. First of all, because I had told him maybe ten minutes
before in the bird, "Don't worry about anything. Hey, it's gonna be good. Your
first mission, glad to have you here, don't stress out," and it was almost like
a joke and then ten minutes later, he was wounded. And it definitely woke you
He'd only been in Mogadishu about a day.
Yeah, exactly. He's only been in about 24 hours, he got in, I believe, the
afternoon before that.
So you're being shot at, you've taken instant casualties, in the meantime
the operators are going through the building; do you see any of that?
I didn't see any of that. From what I understand after looking at maps and
reading different things about it after the fact, we were dropped off about a
block shy of where we were actually supposed to have been dropped, so we didn't
get to see the actual mission going down.
And did you see Anton get hit?
I did. I was right next to Anton when he got hit. He was our 203 gunner. We
were taking fire down the street, just past this one tree, and we're now
consolidated on the same side of the street, and I remember Anton trying to
fire, but a 203 is an indirect fired weapon at anything over about 15 meters,
so you have to angle it and let the trajectory hit the ground, but this tree
was in the way so he couldn't hit this target; every time he'd shoot a round it
would end up exploding in the tree, and it was very frustrating. If you tried
to shoot it directly, it would fall way short of the target, so it was a
difficult position to be in. He kept moving, inching up further and further to
take this shot at the vehicle, and that's when Anton took I guess some shrapnel
or a bullet in the shoulder, and First Sergeant Harris took his 203 from him
and just continued to try to take out the one place we were taking fire from.
And Anton moved back and started to take care of his wounds.
Could you actually see the people who were shooting at you? Could you
actually see the enemy?
We could see individuals. They were far enough away from us initially that you
couldn't make out any features, it was very difficult even to make out the
weapons, but you could hear the gunshot and see the little flash, so, although
it wasn't a detailed picture, you could definitely at that point make out who
was shooting and where they were shooting from.
Were you engaging these people, were you shooting at them?
Initially I wasn't really engaging. My radio was still working at this point,
and as an RTO your mission is for communications and that's it. And as they say
with FOs and RTOs, if you're shooting then something's gone wrong. Obviously
later in the day I ended up shooting, and I remember thinking because so often
that's told to the RTO if an RTO is actually firing his weapon that means
something must have gone wrong, that's not their job, and so I remember
thinking that something must have gone terribly wrong when I started firing the
What did you hear on the radio at this point?
A little bit of everything. Again, at this point, I missed a lot of the radio
communication because when I fast roped in, my head mike was destroyed, so I
had to download that one and put a new handmike on. And by the time I got it up
and running, we were in the middle of it. Berendsen was still hurt, Sergeant
Galantine had just got shot, so it was pretty crazy. I heard some broken
transmissions from Captain Steele and Lieutenant Perino and different things;
at that point, we still didn't know exactly what happened, we knew that they
hit the target building, we knew that there were prisoners coming out, and we
knew that we had wounded, and so at that point we thought everybody was gonna
either load up in the trucks and we were gonna get out of there, or the
helicopters would find a place to land and we would walk to them.
But what happens next is one of the birds goes down. Did you see
I didn't see the bird go down, I heard it. From where we were, even over the
drone of everything else, you heard the crash. David Deimer was facing the
exact opposite [from me], [he] watched it go down, and he tapped me on the leg
and he said, "A bird just went down." And at that point, I still don't think
that anybody had a real bad feeling. We had wounded, but nobody to my knowledge
at that point was critical. Blackburn was the most critical. And we just
thought we were gonna get on the convoy and head back, mission over, we had our
prisoners, let's get outta here. And then when Deimer told me the helicopter
had got shot down, that's when things got taken to a new level. The chaos over
the radio traffic increased. I think some of the leaders were finally starting
to realize that this wasn't the surgical mission everybody had planned.
What exactly did you guys do next? There's the convoy which is supposed to
be leaving with the prisoners, and I think it was meant to pick you up and take
you back to base, wasn't it? What actually happened?
I'm not sure exactly what they wanted to do because we had done it so many
different ways, sometimes a helicopter would land right there and pick us up,
sometimes we would meet them somewhere, sometimes we had to walk numerous
blocks back to the to the compound where they could land, so I don't think we
expected to actually ride on this convoy back, I think we expected that all the
helicopters would land somewhere close, that was the standard operating
procedure at that point, and we were all gonna load everybody up and just take
off and fly back to the airport.
Can you just explain in detail what the mission plan originally was? What
was supposed to have happened?
There was actually three different parts to the mission, there was obviously
one part [where] Task Force Ranger would go in on the Little Birds and hit the
target building and then, as it was worked out, although it didn't always
follow this order, we would fast rope in and set up a perimeter around [the
building] that [let] nobody in, nobody out, so that anybody that they flushed
out of the building would be stopped and crowds could be kept from taking over
the much smaller unit. And then there was also this convoy, which was for
prisoners, for wounded and possibly even to pick us up. The convoy was waiting
up several blocks away for the mission to be over and they were just gonna roll
in, pick up the prisoners, any wounded that we wanted to take that we couldn't
get on the helicopters, and they were just gonna go back to the airport.
After the bird goes down, what changes? What actually happens to your
Our major concern right there -- because, again, we still didn't realize how
out of control the situation was actually getting -- our main concern was
taking care of Blackburn, who looked critical at that point. And so we sent
some people up to the convoy and said, "Look we gotta get this soldier back,
we're gonna load him up with you and take him back on your convoy," and that's
about the same time that the helicopter went down, so that changes all the
plans right there. This information didn't get to even to me and I was an RTO,
but more so through word of mouth, what was said was, "We're gonna hop on this
convoy, we've already got Sergeant Galantine down, Anton Berendsen down,
Blackburn down, all our position is gonna hop on with the convoy, and take all
the wounded back," and that was gonna be the new mission for this convoy, just
to get all the wounded back, and they were gonna send the other two chalks that
were much closer to the downed helicopter, because again they were on the
opposite side of the building and a lot closer than we were, to secure that
crash site, and so that's how it worked out, we were now split into two
elements. We were gonna provide security for the convoy on the way back with
the wounded, and they were gonna go secure the downed helicopter.
So the ground convoy pulls up and all the wounded were loaded into this one
cutvee which is a sort of like a military pick-up truck. It's not a humvee, it
doesn't have a back, it's almost exactly like a military pick-up truck. We had
sand bagged the walls, and most of the wounded that were with us were loaded
right in the bottom of it. Deimer, I believe, was up front and I was in the
back, kneeling on all the guys that were already wounded. They were piled
actually so high that I was up above everything that was going on. And then
once we loaded up, it still hadn't hit me exactly what we'd stepped into. The
convoy started, and we made a right hand turn to start heading back to the
airport compound, and I saw someone peek out from behind a corner of a building
and fire an RPG. And it went right over the front of our cutvee, literally
right over the hood at about chest level for me but about eight to ten feet in
front of me, and it exploded on the wall on the opposite side of the street,
and the noise was deafening, and you could smell the burning gunpowder. That
was when it all became real for me. That was the first time I was scared in any
way. I was just petrified. It was just so loud and so intense and unexpected.
And right there, that's when I decided I was gonna just lay down in the back of
this humvee with all these wounded guys and forget about it. This whole process
[took a] matter of one or two seconds, but I just thought to myself, "Well, the
next time we go round a corner like that maybe I can shoot the guy with this
RPG, and I'm a lot safer actually, believe it or not, sitting up here and
shooting at people, and maybe I can pick somebody off before they get me. I
don't have any control if I'm down there, over my own destiny." And so all this
is going through my mind, this overwhelming urge just to curl up and hide under
everybody that I could, and at the same time this self-preservation, just
wanting to stop that from happening again. And so I came to the conclusion that
I was much safer and better off if I was up firing at the enemy rather than
hiding in the humvee. So it was not a fear thing, but sort of a
So this convoy becomes like a nightmare; what memories do you have of it?
Could you actually see the people shooting at you?
At this point, we could actually tell features of people. They were at most one
and a half blocks away, and in Mogadishu a block is maybe 30 feet, 40 feet, 50
feet on the outside. So you could actually identify exactly who was shooting at
you. The convoy, like you said, turned into a nightmare as we would go from
block to block to block, you could look down the sidestreets and see a group of
Somalis with weapons running to set up an ambush a block ahead of you. And then
as you went by that ambush they would run another two blocks ahead of you,
because the convoy was going so slow, and there were so many vehicles that when
the first vehicle stopped everybody else behind it would have to in turn stop
and somebody would get stuck in an alleyway and just take fire from all
directions. And so they would have to literally ram into the vehicle in front
of them, or ram into the vehicle behind them to get out of the alleyway.
Because if you stopped on an intersection...
You got field of fire from all directions. Between the buildings, at least you
could see the windows and doors and you had cover on both sides, but in the
middle of an intersection you're just taking fire from everywhere.
Were you shooting back?
Yes, and at this point, once we got on the convoy, I continued to fire the
whole time. That's when things really, for me, came into focus, after that RPG
hit the wall next to us. And I was continuing to fire at all the Somalis. I
think I didn't have a fear to fire, but you would see a person just hanging out
at the street corner and he didn't have a weapon, and so the first couple of
times I passed someone like that, I didn't shoot them -- that was our rules of
engagement, unless they have a weapon, you don't shoot -- and then as soon as
we pass them, I'd see a weapon come up, and we were fired upon by the same
individual, and then it sunk in that [this] isn't a spectator sport, these
people aren't coming out to just take a look and see what's going on, if you're
in this area right now, you're a bad guy, and so that's when things went to a
new level. I think a lot of the soldiers were, I won't say shooting
indiscriminately, but they were more apt to fire now. I think there was a huge
amount of selective fire. There wasn't just random shooting, and as the day
progressed, it got more and more towards random shooting and less and less
towards selective, well-placed shots at a known enemy with a known weapon.
You were talking about this extraordinary sort of intensity, the clarity of
vision you have in the immediate surroundings and everything else is sort of
bit of a blur....
After the RPG went over the front of our vehicle, everything became so clear
and there was such a focus, the adrenaline level went up a thousandfold. I
could focus on exactly one thing, and it was absolutely clear, but everything
else around me was sort of like a fog, like people that were with me telling me
things that I did or said and I don't even remember who they are, that they
were even on our vehicle, but I have these snapshots of certain things were
just absolutely crystal clear. I tell everybody that asks me what Somalia was
like, when I came back, that it's sort of like football, and you always want to
go to the big game, you've been practicing for years and years but you never
made first string, and all of a sudden you get sent in to play, and now what
you've been practicing for years and years, now you get to use it, and it's a
great feeling, it's just an intense adrenaline rush. The downside is, once
you've experienced it, that focus of vision and that clarity and that amount of
adrenaline, nothing else compares to it, so it's hard to go back to a regular
life because you always want to reach that level again. It's the most
incredible feeling in the world, it's just that the price is so high and the
risks are so high to attain that, it's a real balancing act.
You say you had these snapshots in your mind; can you tell me a couple of
We had stopped at some point, because as this convoy's making its way through
the town, it's been told now instead of going back to base to secure Crash Site
1, so it sort of turns around, or meanders a little towards Crash Site 1, and
then as we get in closer to Crash Site 1 and we can actually see the downed
helicopter and start to be within range, they tell us they decide no, there's
another downed helicopter, we want you to go to Crash Site 2. And so we'd left
that area and we started going towards Crash Site 2, and then finally it came
over, "There's too many wounded, turn back around, and go back to plan A,"
which was just to go back right to the airfield, and so at this point we had
wound our way all through Mogadishu. And I remember one stop in particular, we
were at an intersection and when we stopped everybody that was still combat
capable would get off the vehicle and go to the corners, that way you could
protect the flanks of the vehicle.
So I got off this vehicle, and just as I stepped out, from a side street a hand
grenade came flying out, and it was almost surreal, because it looked like a
soup can with a wooden handle on it. And I was pretty inexperienced, I'd only
been in a battalion about a year, and I didn't know, I mean, I've seen those
grenades before, but it didn't click, and so I'm standing there staring at it
for about two or three seconds, and then it came to me that I'm actually in
combat and that is a grenade, so I yelled, "Grenade!" and dove back, tried to
cover all the wounded guys that were on the thing and then cover myself at the
same time. So I dived back onto this humvee and covered everybody up, and it
doesn't go off. And now I feel like the biggest idiot, because I'm thinking
that it is a soup can and you know, I scared everybody into thinking that they
were gonna have a grenade go off in their lap, and so I'm sitting there,
sorting through it, "Is it a prop? Did it [just] not go [off]? What's going
on?" and about the time I got it all sorted out and realized it probably was
just a dud grenade, another one comes flying out, and this time I'm a little
bit more on track of things, so again I yelled, "Grenade!" and dove back into
the truck, on top of Anton and the other wounded, and this one went off. It was
only about six or eight feet from us and none of us were injured, but it was
almost surreal, because after the first time, I don't know if everybody took me
seriously the second time or what. It was a weird time.
Do you remember shooting anybody?
The first one I remember, we were stopped and I was dismounted and you could
see three or four Somalis running across the street about a block away. Like I
said, they would go a block at a time or two blocks at a time to set up
ambushes. I just started picking them out as they were running across the
intersection two blocks away, and it was weird because it was so much easier
than you would think. You hear all these stories about "the first time you kill
somebody is very hard." And it was so much like basic training, they were just
targets out there, and I don't know if it was the training that we had
ingrained in us, but it seemed to me it was just like a moving target range,
and you could just hit the target and watch it fall and hit the target and
watch it fall, and it wasn't real. They were far enough away so that you didn't
see, or I didn't see, all the guts and the gore and things like that, but you
would just see this target running across in your sight picture, you pull the
trigger and the target would fall, so it was a lot easier then than it is now,
as far as that goes.
Well, that day, I had absolutely no ethical or moral problems with pulling the
trigger and taking out as many people as I could. And being back here, years
later, I think that they had wives, children, mothers, sons, just like I have a
mother and a dog, and all these things. Our government sent us there to do a
mission, and I'm sure somebody was paying him to do a mission. [I just]
reali[zed] that he was another human being, just like I am. And so that's hard
to deal with, but that day it was too easy. That upsets me more than anything
else, how easy it was to pull the trigger over and over again.
Any idea how many people you killed?
I don't know that I killed anyone for absolutely sure. Because, again, we
didn't run out there to inspect the body and that type of thing, we were
continuing to move this convoy on and on. But four or five, that I shot, that I
saw drop, and didn't see him move after that in the four or five seconds before
we moved again. And at least 15 or 20 others that were wounded.
What sort of things did you see the Somalis doing?
I saw one mother with an RPG, and again, the chronology of the whole thing sort
of blends together, but I know this was very early on, this was while we were
still at the corner. And you see maybe 75 meters away this woman walking and
you can tell she's got a weapon, I didn't know it was an RPG at the time, but I
saw a four- or five-year-old kid carrying a plastic shopping bag that you get
from the grocery store and inside it you can see the heads to RPG rounds
sticking out of this plastic bag. It was amazing, I mean absolutely amazing.
Just like I couldn't believe some of the people were actually just watching, it
was sort of like their TV or their entertainment. Some people actually didn't
have weapons and they were just coming out to check out what was going on.
Absolutely [the] most amazing thing I've ever seen, [was when] we were going
down one of the few paved roads in Mogadishu. We'd just gone through this one
ambush and just up the road as we're going by and still taking fire from both
sides there's a woman carrying two bags, and she's just walking down the middle
of the road, and as we go by her, she put her bags down, put her fingers in her
ears and just kept walking. And we're shooting at the people on both sides of
us, they're shooting at us, and this lady walked right down the center of the
street, and absolutely nothing happened to her, and then we got the call that
we had to go to this helicopter crash site, so this whole convoy does a K-turn.
It absolutely just turns around in the middle of a circle and has to go back
through the same ambush that we just went [through], and it's absolutely
amazing to see all the vehicles in front of you just suddenly turn around, and
you knew you were going the right way back towards the airfield, and you're
wondering why is this vehicle doing a turn, and then your vehicle starts
turning and in turn everybody goes up and turns around. And we went back by
this one older woman, and at this point she [had] gone back and gotten her bags
and as we go back by she put her bags down again, put her fingers in her ear,
and just kept right on walking, didn't get down on the ground, [it] didn't even
phase her, and we went by again and the most amazing thing is, to my knowledge
she was never hit, she never was wounded in any way.
Were you aware of how badly your own convoy was getting shot up? Did you
hear the screaming from the prisoners?
They were behind us a good ways, and I was so focused that I didn't hear the
prisoners at all. I knew our convoy was getting shot up badly because of the
radio contact that I had. One of vehicles would become disabled [every] three
or four miles [we traveled], and they would bring people up to your vehicle and
add them to yours. As more and more people ended up on the back of our cutvee,
I realized that obviously we were getting shot up really, really bad.
Right after the grenade incident, I still had good radio reception, and I'd
been speaking to different people, but it was real intermittent. I felt like
somebody had grabbed me by my left shoulder and pulled me, and so I looked
around. I thought somebody was probably trying to get my attention or to tell
me something, so I looked over my shoulder and was looking around, and there
was nobody there. And it was weird, I couldn't figure out exactly what had
happened, but a few seconds [later] we were taking more fire so I didn't think
anything else of it, and continued to return fire. And from that point on I
didn't have radio communications at all.
When we finally got back, a few days later we were going out to do some
training missions, and I did a radio check, and the radio worked fine. And I
couldn't understand it. We got out to do this training mission, just flew down
the coast to practice another helicopter down situation, so that we'd be better
able to handle it if it happened again, and as soon as we got there, the radio
wouldn't work. And nobody could figure out why. And I was taking a lot of heat
from different people to make sure this radio worked before we go out again, so
I took it to the [communications] guys, and they took it off its pack and they
said, "You're never gonna believe this, Moore, come back over here," and when I
went over [I saw that] a bullet had entered from the front of me over this
shoulder and into the radio. And it actually severed the antenna wire, so I
could get comms from me to you, or and real close relations, but anything over
25 feet I couldn't get any communications whatsoever. The bullet had never
exited the radio. But for days nobody even knew that the radio was damaged, or
that it was shot.
Were you there when Sergeant Joyce was shot?
I was not there; he spent a lot of time on my humvee having some medics work on
him, but I wasn't there when he was originally shot.
What did you see?
I couldn't really see too much because casualties were piling up in our
vehicles and there were two medics working on them, and I just remember the
medics saying three or four times, "This man's critical, we've gotta get back."
And just as he would say that we'd make another wrong turn or try to go to a
different crash site. The information wasn't flowing down to everybody exactly
what was going on, so we were just wondering; [in our] estimation we were just
wandering around Mogadishu and I just remember the medics saying over and over
again that, "This guy's critical, this guy's critical, you have to get him
back." I remember looking at him one time after the medic said that to see if
there was anything I could do, and at that point he was already extremely pale,
eyes rolled back in his head. To me he looked dead already.
Do you actually have to drive through big piles of burning tires?
That was at the very end; everybody continued to pile on the vehicles that were
left working, and at some point John Burns had come onto our vehicle because he
was wounded. He had linked up with our convoy and was ready to go back; he had
some shrapnel in his shoulder. But the only room left was sort of the tail gate
portion of this pick-up; he could just sit at the edge and let his legs hang
over. And he was still had his weapon, he was still firing, even though he was
wounded. And I just remember him screaming, "They shot me in the leg, they shot
me in the leg!" And so I pulled him up into the humvee and I ripped his BDUs
open and there was just a huge hole in his leg. It was really calming to me,
because it didn't phase him at all. He wasn't scared, he wasn't upset, he was
totally calm; he said, "Bandage it up." And so I bandaged up the best I could.
I said, "Do you want me to put a tourniquet on?" and he said, "No, no, I don't
want to lose my leg!" But he asked me to tighten up as tight as I could the
little stretch cinches on his knee pads. And so I did that, and the next thing
he wanted was another magazine so he could shoot the guy that shot him; he
thought he still saw him down the street and the one thing that he wanted to do
was kill that person that shot him, and so he was asking me for magazines and
telling me to leave him alone. Sure enough he was back to hanging off the edge
of this thing and firing and shooting, now wounded twice. And what would happen
was every time we would go over a bump or a some type of roadblock that they
had set up, John Burns would bounce off and he would fly way out of this
humvee. We weren't going that fast, so with his one good leg he would push
along to try to stay with us, and every time I'd grab him by his vest and [pull
him back on]. We had a rhythm going by the fourth or fifth time; he would wait
two or three seconds and get a good push off with the one leg that wasn't
wounded and I'd haul him back in with the one arm. After about the third or
fourth time this happened I was hauling him back in and he'd jumped just as we
gone over another bump, and I ended up smashing my face on the back of his
k-pot. That was my only injury in Somalia, a chipped tooth, on John Burn's
But so after I pulled him back in, I just remember I was focused on the back of
the humvee outside and seeing where we were going and I just remember starting
to feel this heat on the back of my neck. And then when I turned my head, there
were flames rolling over the side of the cutvee on both sides. It just engulfed
this whole cutvee for about two or three seconds, and then we came out on the
other side. I had no idea what had happened, and Deimer was yelling that we had
just gone through a wall of fire. They had set fire to a bunch of tires and
different debris in the road, and our driver -- who was phenomenal the whole
time he was there -- just drove right through this huge wall of flame. It was
wild. It was almost surreal.
At last you get back to base. Describe the scene as you unload the dead and
We pulled into base, and the first hour or so I spent guarding the detainees
inside -- we had a little POW camp set up inside. After that, they told us that
we were going to be going back out and so we needed to clean up everything and
get ready to go back out. And so we went over to the humvees and you could just
see blood all over everything, and the bullet holes through all the humvees. It
was really scary because they're telling us as soon as we get things cleaned up
we've gotta go back out there, and some of the people hadn't been out yet, and
so they didn't really know what we had just been through, and I know the people
that were already out there were just absolutely in shock. At the same time,
we're hearing reports of who had died, and who was wounded, who was killed, and
then seeing the remains of that actual battle on the back of these cutvees, it
was horrible. It was horrible.
All through this interview you've been very... almost high, capturing the
excitement of it. When it all wore off, how did you find yourself then?
It took a long time to wear off, a real long time, because we were still there
for a little while, and then when we came back you were still sort of riding
the waves of what happened. And I know for me, the hardest thing to live with
is knowing that you took another human life, for no other reason than your
government told you to. That's hard. I mean, I'm sure it's been said before but
here I would have [gone] to jail for exactly what I did over there and got
It's really hard to deal with, knowing when we were over there, I wasn't
fighting the political war. I was fighting for the guys around me and for
myself, just trying to stay alive and keep everybody that was anywhere near me
alive. After we came back, it was a long time before you could let it all down.
It was a couple of months before I even cried about anything that happened over
there. It was hard, and now you look back at those guys, I mean all the guys
that I saw here this weekend, and you just know how special they are, and that
special bond that you have, and it's touching. It's nice to be close to that
special caliber of people; without saying anything when you see each other, you
can see it in their eyes, [there's] just this connection. And their pain, and
the things that are tearing them apart, and you can just hug them and not feel
weird about it. It's definitely a good feeling to have that type of support
Since you're the only guys who quite know what each other have been through,
nobody else really knows that.
Exactly. Especially with some of the stuff that came out right afterwards in
the newspaper reporting. We used to sit in the hangar a lot, and we would go
out and do a mission and come back and we'd watch it on CNN and they'd give the
brief of what's going on, and we're like, "That's not what happened. I was
there, I just did that. Like eight minutes ago I was out there doing this that
you're filming and that's not how it happened at all." So, it's nice to have
people that, without even having to talk to them, can just relate to what it is
and where you've been. I used to say when you're in Ranger battalion you don't
realize how special you are, jumping out of a plane. Everybody that you live
with, go out with, drink with, hang out with, they all jump out of planes. They
all do everything you do every day. It becomes so commonplace that you start to
take it for granted. You start to assume that this is just everybody. And then
after you get out, you realize what you actually did while you were there, and
how special it was and what level you were actually at. It's amazing.
What do you think the American public remembers about Somalia? Do you think
they know any of this?
Based on the people I've talked to, not really. There's been a couple halfway
decent stories that are starting to come out now, and hopefully this will clear
it up a little bit more. Originally, the newspaper articles back home that I
have from when it actually happened were extremely inaccurate. I think it was
downplayed a lot. I don't think anybody in America really knew exactly how
crazy and chaotic and intense the fire was over there. Some people that were
doing a historical record of it had talked about it being the most intense
urban combat definitely since Vietnam, but possibly since World War II.
Some people when they saw just a few weeks later Aidid being escorted by
Marines to a peace conference in an American plane, they were really sick. Did
you see the story?
I did see the story and I was so angry. We were sent over there to do a
mission, and that mission was capture Aidid. To lose American lives, guys that
I was best friends with, just did everything together, to see it be totally
wasted, useless, it made me so angry to think that if we could have done it
this way, why did we have to lose these American lives to force the issue? If
this was what we wanted to happen, why couldn't we make it happen from the
start? Some people say that maybe we pushed him into it, or forced his hand
with the Rangers, but I just think it's an awfully high price to pay.
Do you think in the final analysis that the lives of your friends were
wasted, thrown away?
They were definitely not wasted because a lot of the guys were doing what they
loved. They absolutely enjoyed being a Ranger, and they knew what came along
with that. I would never call anything that they did a waste, but it seems
unjust. I always remember hearing over the radio on a number of occasions --
whether it was true or not I don't know -- but that Aidid was spotted and that
somebody had a rifle scope on him, and that they could pull the trigger, and
they were told [that] the American government does not assassinate anyone,
we're gonna have to capture him. It's hard to understand at our level, if we're
gonna lose all these American lives just so we can capture someone and detain
him instead of killing him, it's crazy. It's crazy.
Do you in any sense feel that you were betrayed by Washington?
I do. Not at any one level, but between no armor being OK'd to come to Somalia,
not having access to the AC130 gunship, to not allowing us to complete our
mission, with all the questions that have come up about Lincoln and the
different things that were going on at that level. And then weeks later to see
Aidid being escorted by some of the same guys that were actually hunting him.
It wasn't the same guys but the same units that were actually hunting him down,
I don't understand it. It's amazing, and it makes you bitter and angry.