(WASHINGTON) — Twenty years after retired U.S. Army Ranger Jeff Struecker led a squad of elite forces into Mogadishu on a failed rescue mission that inspired the film Black Hawk Down, he returned to the site of the battle in Somalia and said the memories of the 17-hour-long firefight came rushing back.
“When I went back there this spring and turned the corner into the Bakaara Market, immediately the emotions, the smells, the thoughts from Mogadishu came flooding back like I was just there yesterday,” Struecker said.
Struecker sat down with the ABC News/Yahoo! News series Power Players to discuss a new documentary, Return to Mogadishu: Remembering Black Hawk Down, that follows his trip back to Somalia.
Struecker recalled that the mission — which took place 20 years ago and began as an effort to seize key Somali military lieutenants loyal to the self-proclaimed Somali president at the time, Mohamed Farrah Hassan Aidid — quickly spiraled out of control.
“The original mission actually, for the first 30 minutes, goes well until the first helicopter gets shot down,” Struecker said. “Basically, within an hour, it becomes ‘salvage whatever human lives at the crash site’ for the next 17 hours — fighting for our lives.”
Struecker described the battle as “the most intense gunfight I’ve ever been in,” and recalled that “a number of our vehicles were completely shot to pieces…in a matter of seconds.”
The elite forces were greatly outnumbered in the battle — a factor that hadn’t been foreseen.
“Most of us anticipated…a couple of hundred — but, in reality, those couple of hundred were probably more than 5,000 to 10,000 armed Somalis,” Struecker said. “We went in there with just 100 or 200 people on the ground, so we were totally outnumbered and totally overwhelmed.”
Despite the intensity of the fight, Struecker made several trips back into the battle to rescue fellow comrades and said he thought to himself, “I know I am going to die.”
To hear more of his memories of that day 20 years ago, including how Struecker said the battle transformed his faith and led him to become a pastor, check out this episode of Power Players.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Hope King, CNN
Lindsay Isaac, CNN
Story by John Branch, CNN Video by Nick Scott
Jackie Wattles and Rene Marsh, CNN