Author Shares Firsthand Account of Battle of Mogadishu

Author Shares Firsthand Account of Battle of Mogadishu

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Despite recent humanitarian pauses, the fight in Gaza against Hamas promises to be long and difficult. The challenges of urban operations are greatly exacerbated by an enemy that hides among civilians and civilian infrastructure. These complications led retired Gen. David Petraeus to predict last month that the offensive “could be Mogadishu on steroids.”

AUSA author Lt. Col. (retired) James Lechner has first-hand knowledge of the operation that Petraeus referenced. Thirty years ago, Lechner was a young infantry officer on the raid that became known as the Black Hawk Down incident. In With My Shield: An Army Ranger in Somalia, he offers a ground-level perspective of fighting deep in insurgent territory, surrounded and outnumbered, to protect each other and complete the mission.

Lechner recovered from the severe wounds he sustained that day, going on to serve in multiple operational deployments over the course of his 27-year Army career. He currently serves as a freelance war correspondent in Ukraine. The Book Program sat down with him to talk about Mogadishu and the new book.


AUSA: We recently passed the 30th anniversary of the Black Hawk Down raid in Somalia. What led you to finally share your experiences with this book?

Lechner: Prior to writing the book I had been deployed to various conflicts and served in Iraq and Afghanistan until 2018. I had been focused on those duties, but at the conclusion of my service I felt I could dedicate the time to adequately address the story. With the approach of the anniversary, I sat down to the task of writing and researching the story, which included contacting a number of my fellow veterans. 

AUSA: How did working on the book affect your understanding of the battle?

Lechner: Taking the time to research the events, especially discussing them with other veterans and getting their perspective along with confirming details, allowed me to fill in some gaps and put together some parts of the story that had previously not been widely known or understood.

AUSA: What is your most vivid memory of that day?

Lechner: When the battle reached its climax in our fire-swept portion of the street and the intensity of the fighting all around me. Also when I was able to bring in the Little Bird attack helicopters, with the overwhelming firepower they brought to bear to break the massed Somali assault.

AUSA: How did the fighting in Mogadishu compare to combat you faced in other deployments?

Lechner: Nothing compared to Somalia for the amount of fighting and intensity during a short period of time. I learned that we as US soldiers could not always rely on our technology, firepower, or a numeric advantage. However, with leadership, proper training, and discipline, we would always prevail.

AUSA: What lesson from With My Shield would you like to share with the soldiers of today’s Army? 

Lechner: Today's socio-political environment creates a tough situation for soldiers, especially for combat units. I would like soldiers and especially Army leaders to remember that many of the old aspects — tough, often brutal training, selecting the right men, and maintaining high standards based upon combat requirements — are absolutely essential for creating unit cohesion and developing the warrior spirit. Those bonds of brotherhood allow a combat unit to weather the shock of combat and keep on fighting.


Please visit to order a copy of With My Shield.