To be trapped behind enemy lines is every soldier’s worst nightmare: a situation they all train for, few experience, and even fewer survive. National Geographic Channel’s new mini-series No Man Left Behind reveals the stories of real-life heroes whose missions took unexpected turns to become a pure battle for survival. These are stories of loyalty, courage, and overcoming incredible odds in some of the most hostile environments on earth.
Tonight, on the series premiere of No Man Left Behind: The Real Black Hawk Down, famine, drought, and violence grip Somalia after a bloody revolution has left the country in disarray. Since the fall of the Somalian government in 1991, clan leader Mohamed Aidid has been waging a civil war and is hampering the United Nations efforts to deliver relief supplies to a civilian population facing starvation. But for U.S. troops, what begins as a peacekeeping mission to provide relief will soon descend into chaos.
WATCH: INSIDE THE REAL BLACK HAWK DOWN
Three brave U.S. soldiers who fought against desperate odds in the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu tell their heroic story of survival in the Real Black Hawk Down.
In October 1993, a special ops team is sent into Mogadishu to capture two top lieutenants of Aidid, who control the city. Estimating that it will take an hour to accomplish the mission, the designated crews of Super 6-1 and Super 6-4 prepare themselves for a day like any other. But, from the very beginning, things do not go to plan.
Elite units of the U.S. Army’s Rangers and Delta Force penetrate deep behind enemy lines to conduct their kidnap mission. Rangers Keni Thomas and Randy Ramaglia rope into the city from Black Hawk helicopters to secure the target building.
The minute their boots hit the ground, they are under fire. The mission is immediately transformed into a fierce gunfight. With the local area in pandemonium and men, women and children taking arms, the streets are at once ablaze. Once the targets are captured, it’s time to retreat. But the layout of the sprawling shanty town means there is no way for the men to get out fast. The longer the Delta Force and Rangers stay deep in this hostile territory, the more casualties they are taking as the intensity of enemy fire increases.
About 40 minutes into the gunfight, Super 6-1, one of the Black Hawk helicopters circling overheard, is hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. It violently flails and spins out of control, crashing into the tin houses below and erupting into flames.
This is now a rescue mission. Randy and Keni race to the crash site with their squads. But hordes of heavily-armed Somali insurgents are ahead of them.
In an attempt to help support the crew on the ground, super 6-4 pilot Mike Durant flies his Black Hawk into the line of fire. Then, he too, is hit. The damage knocks the tail rotor out and sends them into a violent spin. The rotation of the aircraft is so rapid that they slam into the ground just 15 seconds later.
Surviving the crash, Mike Durant, a veteran of The Gulf War, looks down to discover he’s broken his femur and injured his back severely. But worse, it’s not long before he’s overrun, in the wreckage of his craft, by an enemy mob.
WATCH: SURVIVING BLACK HAWK DOWN
Black Hawk pilot Mike Durant and U.S. Rangers Randy Ramaglia and Keni Thomas share their thoughts on what it takes to survive combat.
Meanwhile the Rangers are setting up a Casualty Collection Point (CCP) in one of the abandoned buildings. They need to wait for an evacuation convoy but that too is under heavy fire and cannot get into the battle ravaged city.
Mike’s beaten body is near to broken. A Somali gunman recognizes his value as a live hostage and he works to ensure that Durant is kept alive. Whisked away to a secure location, Durant is left alone in horrendous conditions.
Finally, the convoy reaches the CCP, but there’s no room on the vehicles for any but the most severely wounded. Randy and Keni must run out of the city on foot—back down the same streets, now occupied by the enemy. They are under heavy fire all the way. Randy takes a bullet to the shoulder but presses on, the smell of his own blood in his nostrils. Finally, he and Keni make it to safety, horrified at how many of their comrades haven’t made it.
Mike Durant is released after 11 days, but his ordeal, the deaths of so many of his compatriots, and the shocking TV pictures of the battered corpses have a sobering effect on public-backing for continued U.S. involvement in Somalia. The 15-hour Battle of Mogadishu left 18 Americans dead and 73 injured, plus hundreds of Somalis killed.
WATCH: RANGER MENTALITY
Former U.S. Army Rangers Randy Ramaglia and Keni Thomas talk about the Ranger Creed and how it guided their actions during the Battle of Mogadishu.
Tonight, hear the story from those who lived it. Don’t miss No Man Left Behind: Black Hawk Down at 9/8c on the National Geographic Channel.