Originally created 02/15/02

Augustans hear soldier's story



The book Black Hawk Down has sold thousands of copies and was a finalist for the National Book Award. To date, moviegoers have spent more than $85 million to see the movie of the same name.

Lt. Col. Bruce Adams lived through the very battle that inspired the book and movie, and on Thursday, he told some local residents his personal tale of the Battle of the Black Sea.

"It was something I had never seen and never thought I would see in my life," Lt. Col. Adams told the Augusta chapter of American Business Clubs during a luncheon at the Partridge Inn.

The Army doctor was a flight surgeon responsible for treating the wounded and dying during the Oct. 3, 1993, battle in Mogadishu, Somalia. Eighteen U.S. soldiers died and more than 70 were wounded in the mission to capture the top assistants of Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid.

Despite the casualties, the mission was a success, Lt. Col. Adams said Thursday. He noted that Mr. Aidid's lieutenants were captured as planned, and that an estimated 500 Somalis were killed in the 15-hour battle.

"Not that that's a good thing, but if you ask any soldier, that's a victory," Lt. Col. Adams said. "We won the battle. We accomplished our mission."

But the victory came at a cost. Lt. Col. Adams recounted seeing fellow soldiers, men with whom he lived and trained, suffering and dying.

The doctor, a captain at the time of the battle, described how two friends and veteran soldiers died from bullet wounds to their pelvis. Another perished when an undetonated rocket-propelled grenade lodged in his torso, he recalled.

Feats of heroism emerged from the carnage, Lt. Col. Adams said.

Chief Warrant Officer Cliff Wolcott was crushed as he crash-landed his Black Hawk helicopter, but his crew survived because of his ability to land the crippled bird, Lt. Col. Adams said.

Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and Sgt. 1st Class Randy Shugart were awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for saving the life of the pilot of a second downed helicopter, Lt. Col. Adams said.

The two snipers were able to hold off a mob advancing toward the pilot before being killed. The pilot was captured by the mob but was later released alive, Lt. Col. Adams said.

"We had a lot of moments of heroism that day, but it didn't always pan out," the doctor said.

It was wrenching to treat his fellow soldiers, in some cases having to decide who could be saved and who couldn't, Lt. Col. Adams said.

"You train with these men, day in and day out," he said. "They come to know and trust you, and you come to trust them.

"It breaks your heart to do those things, but in the front of your mind you know that you have to do the right thing for everybody. You have to make a decision and go on."

"We had a lot of moments of heroism that day..." - Lt. Col. Bruce Adams, on the Oct. 3, 1993, battle in Mogadishu, Somalia

Reach Brandon Haddock at (706) 823-3409 or bhaddock@augustachronicle.com.