Somalia and the Battle of Mogadishu, 1992-1994 on VBC Happy Hour

Date: October 2, 2023
Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Location: Zoom, Facebook, YouTube
All Events | Online Events | VBC Happy Hour
As Somali civilians watch, US Marines walk single file toward the camera, down a small ally in Somalia's Bakara Market. The Marines sweep the market looking for arms and munitions as part of Operation Nutcracker. This mission is in direct support of Operation Restore Hope.

As Somali civilians watch, US Marines walk single file toward the camera, down a small ally in Somalia’s Bakara Market. The Marines sweep the market looking for arms and munitions as part of Operation Nutcracker. This mission is in direct support of Operation Restore Hope.

Thirty years ago this week, US forces in Mogadishu, Somalia, suffered their worst casualties in battle since Vietnam. Eighteen Americans were killed, and 73 wounded. But what most remember are the grim images of these dead Americans being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. The disaster and the public outcry over it drew the US into a kind of mini-Isolationism which only ended on September 11, 2001.

The horror of “Black Hawk Down,” as the Battle of Mogadishu became known, was part of the larger Operation Restore Hope, a humanitarian mission to save Somalis from starvation.

On VBC Happy Hour, we talk with two veterans of Somalia: Marine Brad Graft, who landed with the first wave of Restore Hope in December 1992, and Eddie Helphenstine, who served as a platoon leader with the 2nd Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division in Somalia from January through March of 1993 (first from the Army on the ground).

Brad and Eddie will give us a first-hand view of history about the complex and controversial US intervention in Somalia during its chaos and famine in 1992-1994.

The ousting of the authoritarian ruler, Major General Muhammad Siad Barre, in 1991 created a power vacuum filled by various warlords, including the infamous Muhammed Farah Aidid. Somalia descended into a devastating civil war. The strife fanned the flames of humanitarian crisis. Millions of Somalis were on the brink of starvation.

In response to the deteriorating situation, the United Nations (UN) launched Operation Provide Relief in April 1992. But armed militias hampered efforts to deliver humanitarian aid by hijacking aid convoys and stealing supplies.

The situation prompted then-US President George H.W. Bush to propose sending American combat troops to Somalia to protect aid workers and ensure the safe distribution of humanitarian assistance. In December 1992, approximately 1,800 US Marines arrived in Mogadishu to spearhead the multinational force in what became known as Operation Restore Hope. With US military support, international aid workers were now able to restore food distribution and other operations.

But the interventions didn’t solve the underlying violence and anarchy that ruled Somalia, especially its capital of Mogadishu. The prime culprit was the warlord Aidid.

On October 3, 1993, US forces attempted to capture top lieutenants of Aidid at the Olympic Hotel in Mogadishu. Two US Black Hawk helicopters went down, leading to a firefight in which 18 US soldiers were killed, as were hundreds of Somalis.

In the wake of the Battle of Mogadishu and the widespread public outrage it generated, President Clinton made the decision to withdraw all US troops from Somalia by March 31, 1994. Other Western nations followed suit, and the United Nations eventually withdrew its peacekeeping forces by 1995.

Somalia today remains an unstable, fragile, and poor nation, split along religious and ethnic lines and governed largely by violence.

Thank you to Tobacco Free Adagio Health for sponsoring this event!

IN-PERSON Veterans Breakfast Club Beaver, PA, Seven Oaks Country Club I Wednesday, October 4 @ 8:30am

Date: October 4, 2023
Time: 8:30 am - 10:30 am
Location: Seven Oaks Country Club (132 Lisbon Rd, Beaver, 15009)
All Events | In-Person Events
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Come to our live, in-person breakfast in Beaver, PA. We’ll have 6th grade students from a nearby elementary school in attendance, asking the veterans questions and getting an education from those who’ve served from WWII to the present. On the left is Thomas Sizemore, who served as a radioman on a B-17 in World War II. At a recent Seven Oaks breakfast, he shared this story:

In December 3rd, 1944, during training at Drew Field in Tampa, Florida, our crew stood out. Chosen from B-17 crews nationwide, we were assigned a unique task: fly a brand new B-17 bomber to Stewart Air Force Base in West Point, New York for an upcoming air show.

We picked up our shiny new B-17 at Hunter Field in Savannah, Georgia and flew it to Stewart Air Force Base for the weekend’s show. After the successful event, on December 11th, we initiated the return journey.

Leaving Stewart Air Force Base, we encountered harsh weather along the east coast—torrential rain, gusty winds, and thick clouds. Navigating through these challenges, visibility dropped as we approached Philadelphia.

Amid the adverse conditions, our pilot focused on visual navigation, turning to instruments when necessary. We contacted Air Traffic Control and were directed to ascend to 6,000 feet for a landing plan in Washington, D.C. However, worsening weather led to an airspace closure south of Washington, forcing us to divert and prepare for an overnight halt.

Approaching the Washington area, intermittent breaks in the cloud cover revealed familiar landmarks to me, a native of the region. Through these openings, I saw was the Washington Monument just off our left wing tip. The top of the monument was just above our altitude. We flew at just 500 feet over the Capitol and right down the Mall between the White House and the Washington Monument, restricted air space. I guess because of the low clouds, no one on the ground saw us. But they definitely heard our engines roaring.

Our pilot was ordered to report to the operations office immediately after we landed. It turns out that National was closed to military aircraft, and we were in serious violation. Our pilot got a real chewing out and was told to “get that B-17 off the airport before some General sees it.”

Undeterred by the challenging conditions, we departed National Airport despite heavy rain, strong winds, and low visibility. Without retracting the landing gear, we made an unconventional landing at Bolling Field across the Potomac River. Spending the night there, we resumed our journey the following day, en route to Hunter Field, Savannah.

We meet at Seven Oaks Country Club (132 Lisbon Rd, Beaver, 15009). You’ll walk in, pick up your name badge, pay $15 if you plan to eat (no cost for those who don’t), and meet others who are there to hear and share the stories. Breakfast is served at 8:30am. At 9:00am, we start the program. For the next 90 minutes, we circulate the room with the microphone and have veterans share a slice of their service experience. You never know what you’re going to hear, and there’s always new people with new memories to offer.

RSVP by calling 412-623-9029 or emailing betty@veteransbreakfastclub.org. Please make sure to RSVP for events at least two days in advance. We understand that your schedule can change quickly, but advance notice of attendance always helps us and our venues prepare the program. Thank you!

Thank you to our Event Sponsor, Advocate Health Advisors




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The mission of the Veterans Breakfast Club is to create communities of listening around veterans and their stories to ensure that this living history will never be forgotten.  We believe that through our work, people will be connected, educated, healed, and inspired.


Preserving veterans’ stories so that this living history is never forgotten.

We pair passionate VBC volunteers with military veterans for one-on-one oral history interviews over Zoom. If you are a veteran, or you know a veteran, who would be interested in sharing his or her story with us, let us know. If you are someone interested in conducting these interviews, please reach out!


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