The streets of Somalia, Mogadishu, were filling with armed insurgents, American troops were pinned down, and a Black Hawk helicopter was just shot out of the sky. Yet Gordon and Shughart volunteered for what would be a suicide mission to rescue the doomed helicopter pilot.
Gordon and Shughart, Army Delta Force snipers, were circling over the Black Hawk crash site when they saw a growing mob of armed militia troops getting closer. After three frantic requests back to headquarters, their mission to rescue the helicopter pilot was approved. Gordon and Shughart knew there was no backup. There was no one who would be able to save them.
The plan was to maneuver Gordon and Shughart’s helicopter onto the crash site, but that was quickly scratched. A barrage of insurgent gunfire and rockets hit their own helicopter. Gordon and Shughart were forced to jump out 100 meters away from the downed Black Hawk while their helicopter pilot flew the injured bird back to base. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Durant, the severely injured helicopter pilot, recounts his experience saying, “I never saw where they came from … it was a surreal feeling. I mean it was like this awful situation that you just realized you’re in is now suddenly over.”
As the militia mob encompassed them, Gordon and Shughart shot in every direction. It is unclear who died first, but Durant recalls a Delta operator “sounding almost irritated” when he was hit. The remaining operator had no option but to continue clearing the streets of the militia. He went to the downed helicopter, found extra ammunition, and took to the streets. For as long as he could, the remaining operator did everything possible to overcome the mob. Eventually, the opposition was too much and the remaining Delta operator was killed.
According to Durant, “Without a doubt, I owe my life to those two men and their bravery. Those guys came in when they had to know it was a losing battle. If they had not come in, I wouldn’t have survived.” Gordon and Shughart were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on May 23, 1994.