Alone at dawn
In the predawn hours of March 4, 2002, just below the 10,000-foot peak of a mountain in eastern Afghanistan, a fierce battle raged. Outnumbered by Al Qaeda fighters, Air Force Combat Controller John Chapman and a handful of SEALs struggled to take the summit in a desperate bid to find a lost teammate. Chapman, leading the charge, was gravely wounded in the initial assault. Believing he was dead, his SEAL leader ordered a retreat. Chapman regained consciousness, finding himself alone with the enemy who was closing in on three sides. Thus began the most difficult and exceptional fight of his life.
John Chapman's incredible display of valor—first by saving the lives of his SEAL teammates and then, aware that he was mortally wounded, single-handedly engaging two dozen hardened Chechen and Uzbek fighters to save the lives of an incoming rescue squad—posthumously earned him the Medal of Honor, a distinction reserved for America's greatest heroes, becoming the first airman in nearly fifty years to do so.
Alone at Dawn is also a behind the scenes look at the Air Force Combat Controllers: the world’s deadliest and most versatile special operations force, whose members must not only exceed the qualifications of Navy SEAL and Army Delta Force teams, but also act with sharp decisiveness and deft precision—even in the face of life-threatening danger.
Drawing from firsthand accounts, classified documents, dramatic video footage, and extensive interviews with leaders and survivors of the operation, Alone at Dawn is the story of an extraordinary man's brave last stand and the brotherhood that forged him.
Battle of Mogadishu
“No matter how skilled the writer of nonfiction, you are always getting the story secondhand. Here’s a chance to go right to the source. . . . These men were there.”
–MARK BOWDEN (from the Foreword)
It started as a mission to capture a Somali warlord. It turned into a disastrous urban firefight and death-defying rescue operation that shocked the world and rattled a great nation. Now the 1993 battle for Mogadishu, Somalia–the incident that was the basis of the book and film Black Hawk Down–is remembered by the men who fought and survived it. Six of the best in our military recall their brutal experiences and brave contributions in these never-before-published, firstperson accounts.
“Operation Gothic Serpent,” by Matt Eversmann: As a “chalk” leader, Eversmann was part of the first group of Rangers to “fast rope” from the Black Hawk helicopters. It was his chalk that suffered the first casualty of the battle.
“Sua Sponte: Of Their Own Accord,” by Raleigh Cash: Responsible for controlling and directing fire support for the platoon, Cash entered the raging battle in the ground convoy sent to rescue his besieged brothers in arms.
“Through My Eyes,” by Mike Kurth: One of only two African Americans in the battle, Kurth confronted his buddies’ deaths, realizing that “the only people whom I had let get anywhere near me since I was a child were gone.”
“What Was Left Behind,” by John Belman: He roped into the biggest firefight of the battle and considers some of the mistakes that were made, such as using Black Hawk helicopters to provide sniper cover.
“Be Careful What You Wish For,” by Tim Wilkinson: He was one of the Air Force pararescuemen or PJs–the highly trained specialists for whom “That Others May Live” is no catchphrase but a credo–and sums up his incomprehensible courage as “just holding up my end of the deal on a bad day.”
“On Friendship and Firefights,” by Dan Schilling: As a combat controller, he was one of the original planners for the deployment of SOF forces to Mogadishu in the spring of 1993. During the battle, he survived the initial assault and carnage of the vehicle convoys only to return to the city to rescue his two closest friends, becoming, literally, “Last Out.”
With America’s withdrawal from Somalia an oft-cited incitement to Osama bin Laden, it is imperative to revisit this seminal military mission and learn its lessons from the men who were there and, amazingly, are still here.