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CNN LARRY KING WEEKEND

Encore Presentation: 1993 Interview With Michael Durant

Aired January 27, 2002 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Mogadishu, Somalia, America's bloodiest battle since Vietnam. Eighteen soldiers dead, one prisoner of war. Michael Durant for the hour, next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

Thanks for joining us. In 1992, the United States forces entered Somalia. They were part of a U.N. effort to relieve famine caused by civil war. One of the main antagonists: Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. And as tensions rose between Aidid and U.N. forces, he became a marked man. And on October 3, 1993, U.S. Army Rangers launched a mission to get Aidid's top lieutenants. The mission went terribly wrong, and the ensuing battle, the subject of the hit movie "Black Hawk Down." A best selling book as well. Amazing tales of courage and heroism.

That day, Michael Durant was taken captive by Aidid's forces. He was released after 11 days. A month later, we talked to Michael at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. It was his first television interview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, 1993)

KING: What happened that October day?

C.W.O. MICHAEL DURANT, HELD CAPTIVE IN SOMALIA: Well, it started out as a normal day. We -- it was a Sunday and we were doing some planning for some training the following day, when some intelligence sources reported the possible -- or a potential mission. So we began to plan based on the locations that we were given, and things became a little more firm and it got to the point where we were pretty confident that the individuals that we were trying to go after were at that location and the word was given to launch.

KING: It was after Aidid?

M. DURANT: No, not that day.

KING: Other individuals?

M. DURANT: Yes.

KING: And so launch means off we go?

M. DURANT: Yes.

KING: How soon after that did what happened to you happen? M. DURANT: Really, for the first 45 minutes to an hour of the mission, it went as briefed. That was our seventh mission, things had gone smooth up to that point. And, again, things were going fairly smooth. There was...

KING: Were you given confirmation?

M. DURANT: Really, we were. The plan was for us to put the Rangers in on the ground using the helicopters and then for them to return to the air base via ground transportation. So, actually, my perception was my job is over. The Rangers are in, I'm basically in standby for a contingency, and I thought, basically, my part in the mission was over.

KING: So you're whirling around with how many men in the plane?

M. DURANT: None. Just the crew, four.

KING: Four and you?

M. DURANT: Right.

KING: Then what?

M. DURANT: Then it began to escalate. There was a lot more resistance down there than I think we anticipated. There was a lot of RPGs being fired.

KING: That's what?

M. DURANT: Rocket-propelled grenade, which is what we assume knocked down the first aircraft, which was over the target area -- another Black Hawk.

KING: Did you see it go down?

M. DURANT: I did not. I heard the radio transmission from one of the pilots that they were hit and they were going down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "BLACK HAWK DOWN")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three guys with RPGs coming up on your side now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we're hit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay with them!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, DEFENSE DEPARTMENT AUDIO)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 61 going down. We got a Black Hawk going down. We got a Black Hawk going down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got a Black Hawk crashed in the city. That's 61...62. 62, he took an RPG. 62, copy we got one injured.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

M. DURANT: We had a contingency plan for that. We had an aircraft with a load of Rangers on board, and their mission was to go in and secure that site in the even an aircraft did go down. And we went -- we executed that contingency. That group of Rangers went in, secured the site, treated the wounded and, basically, went as planned.

KING: And then what happened?

M. DURANT: Well, I was called forward to replace the aircraft...

KING: That was hit.

M. DURANT: ... that was hit. And, again, as I said, there was a lot more resistance down there. The Rangers were really engaged in pretty heavy fire fight at this point.

KING: At this point, were you a little nervous?

M. DURANT: I certainly was, and I know the whole crew was. And I recall as we went in there I said, you know, "This may get a little hairy. We need to keep our heads in the game." And it makes me proud to say that not a word was spoken. Nobody said, "Hey, do you really think we should go in there?" They all knew what their job was and went in there without a word.

KING: What was the first -- how do you -- when you get hit, what does that feel like?

M. DURANT: I had -- I had made some notes later on in my captivity to try to remind me of what had happened. And I wrote down a speed bump.

KING: Speed bump?

M. DURANT: It's really what it felt like. A Black Hawk is a fairly large helicopter, and the RPG hit the tail. And it felt like a speed bump. We knew we had been hit, but had no idea where. And, really, at first the aircraft flew normally. So it still felt fairly comfortable. I thought that I could make it to the airfield. But that changed rather quickly.

What had happened was it hit a small transmission which drives the tail rotor and because...

KING: Down you went.

M. DURANT: And down we went.

KING: How high up were you?

M. DURANT: We were about 75 to 100 feet when the tail -- about three feet of the tail came off, including the tail rotor.

KING: Michael, do you remember what it was like that -- those 75 feet?

M. DURANT: It was pretty terrifying. It -- what happens is the aircraft starts to spin, because the tail rotor is on there to counter the torque effect of the engine. And the aircraft was spinning so fast, and I -- the only thing I could see was a blur of the land and the horizon in contrast. And...

KING: Does a conscious thought enter your mind, like I bought it?

M. DURANT: No, not really. The things -- what I was thinking was, if I can get the aircraft on the wheels, then we've got a chance of surviving. Because helicopters are designed to absorb fairly...

KING: And you were thinking that while spinning?

M. DURANT: Right. I've been flying for over 10 years, and it just -- you know what you've got to do, and really your priority at that point is to try to save your life and the lives of the crew.

KING: All right. When it hit, where did it hit, how did it hit?

M. DURANT: It landed on the wheels, and that's the only reason...

KING: So you were OK?

M. DURANT: Right. That's...

KING: Were you jarred?

M. DURANT: Yes, severely. We landed very hard. I believe I was unconscious for possibly two to three minutes. My first recollection on the ground is a sense of being confused, not really realizing what had happened. And then things began to clear up and I realized that we had crashed. I started to clear -- there was debris in the cockpit --a tin -- a piece of tin from a roof. And the windshield was broken and I tried to clear that stuff out and I began to assess my injuries.

KING: Which were?

M. DURANT: I realized, at that point, I had broken my right femur, because my leg was gone off at a strange angle. My back -- I actually had more pain in my back at the time. I thought I had broken my back. I really couldn't move very well without a lot of pain. And that was it. I don't believe at the time that I had a compound fracture. I don't think the bone had broken the skin.

KING: What about the other men?

M. DURANT: I looked over at Ray, who was to my left -- the other pilot -- I asked if he was OK, and it appeared to me that he had suffered the same sense of confusion as I did. He began to really -- things began to clear up for him and he said that his back was injured also. And then he began to try to get out of the cockpit and he succeeded. He was able to get out on his own power. I could not, because of the fact that I had the combination of the back and the leg.

KING: And the other two?

M. DURANT: Tommy Fields (ph), one of the crew chiefs on the left, I did not hear speak and I did not see. Bill Cleveland (ph), on the right, was talking, but I could tell that he was injured pretty badly.

KING: They both died?

M. DURANT: Yes.

KING: There?

M. DURANT: Yes.

KING: Did you see them die?

M. DURANT: No.

KING: Who took you then? How were you taken?

M. DURANT: Well, it's a series of events that lasted about 20 to 30 minutes. Another aircraft came down to assist. This aircraft had the only ground forces remaining airborne on board. There were three guys. And they tried to land near the site and there was too much debris. They had to shift to the south about 100 meters. And they got down to about a two-foot hover, and two of the individuals jumped out of the aircraft and made their way to the crash site to try to assist us and secure the site.

I was -- I did not know this was taking place until they actually showed up at the cockpit. And...

KING: Did you feel relieved?

M. DURANT: Very. I really felt confident, at that point. I knew we had assistance. We were about a mile away from the main battle. And I thought we really had a good chance of getting out of there without being captured.

KING: And what happened?

M. DURANT: They -- I explained my injuries, they helped me out of the cockpit and set me to the right side of the aircraft, about 15 feet. And then I'm pretty sure they went to assist the other members of the crew. Bill Cleveland (ph), one of the crew chiefs, was placed about 10 feet to my left face down. And, again, he was still talking, but I could tell he was hurt pretty bad. They gave me my weapon and then -- I'm assuming this -- it appeared that they began to look for ways out of the immediate area to a potential pickup zone large enough for a helicopter to land.

KING: And you -- what happened?

M. DURANT: Well, the Somalis were trying to come into the site. At first, everyone ran away because of the violence of the crash. But then they began to try to come back in to the site. And where I was, access was pretty limited. We were right there up next to a tree and a building, and the tail blocked access to the rear. The left side was pretty wide open. So I was able, really, to cover the whole right side, even though I was injured.

They placed me where I had fields of fire to keep the Somalis away. And I fired two magazines worth of ammunition and was successfully keeping them away from the site. In the meantime, one of the guys who had been dropped off by the other helicopter was hit. I heard him cry out that he had been hit and he went down.

So at this point, there's me and then the one other guy that came into the site, and he came back around the aircraft and explained to me that he was also running out of ammunition. I was out at the time. He asked if there were any more weapons. I told him that the crew chiefs had some M-16s in the aircraft. He went, searched the aircraft, found them, and when he came back he gave me another weapon with a full magazine. He made a radio call to any aircraft in the air, asking what the status was of any ground force. And we were told that a ground reaction force was in route.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, DEFENSE DEPARTMENT AUDIO)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 64, are you OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going in hard, going down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ray!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just lost another Black Hawk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are taking a lot of RPG fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We lost it south of the Olympic Hotel, south of National.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "BLACK HAWK DOWN")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three guys with RPGs coming up on your side now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this is 61, we're hit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay with it. 61, I'm coming down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 61 is going down. He's hit. He is hit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) those CPOs (ph) outside or what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). 61 going down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is hit -- is hit. 61 is going down. He's hit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 61 is going down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 61 is hit. 61 is going down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got a Black Hawk down. We've got a Black Hawk down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE from Fort Campbell with Chief Warrant Officer Michael Durant. We have added this to the set -- if we can get a close-up of it. This is what, Michael?

M. DURANT: That's an RPG 7, which we suspect is what hit the aircraft and caused us to crash.

KING: This fired the grenade that hit the helicopter?

M. DURANT: Yes.

KING: Or one just like it, right?

M. DURANT: Yeah.

KING: But we assume this was...

M. DURANT: We're pretty sure that's what it was.

KING: All right. Now you're on the ground. You're feeling up, you're feeling down, you're feeling confident, less confident. The Ranger is there with you. What happened?

M. DURANT: The next significant event, somebody throws some type of hand grenade into the site. There are individuals on the other side of the aircraft at this time, and it lands -- I don't know how far away, but fairly close to me. I pretty much panicked, flailed my weapon around in an attempt to knock it away and then turned and it exploded. And I don't know what it was, but nothing hit me. Whether it went into a hole or just rolled away. So now I'm back to not feeling so confident anymore.

KING: All this is happening in quick...

M. DURANT: Right.

KING: ... transformations of ups and downs, right?

M. DURANT: Right. And Somalis are continuing to try to come into the site. Some have weapons, some don't. But I'm treating them all as hostile. And, once again, I run out of ammunition. Then things got quiet and I thought either that ground reaction force is getting close and they're backing away, or they're just giving up. Unfortunately, what I think they were doing at this point now is regrouping and coming up with a plan to attack the site. What happened next was, the other guys on the left side of the aircraft trying to keep them away over there, and there's a huge volume of fire from the left side. So I'm assuming either the militia showed up and attacked or the people that were trying to come in individually decided to consolidate and make an attack.

KING: But now you know you're in big trouble.

M. DURANT: Right. This firing went on for about 30 seconds, and then I heard him cry out that he was hit also and he went down.

KING: He died, too?

M. DURANT: He did die.

KING: Right there?

M. DURANT: Again, I have no idea. I couldn't see him. I know he was hit because I heard him cry out.

KING: Do you have any idea why they didn't shoot you?

M. DURANT: They tried. I think the reason I never was hit was because I was laying flat on my back with my leg propped up. And I was firing basically from the hip, and I just happened to be in the right spot where no rounds hit me.

KING: But, eventually, they did take you prisoner, they could have killed you then.

M. DURANT: Yes.

KING: Were you shocked? What is it like to be taken? I mean, you know people are dead around you, the mission's gone -- something's gone amuck. And here you are taken by what might be termed fanatics -- or you don't know what they are. How do you deal with that?

M. DURANT: I was terrified, there's no doubt about it. I was sure they were going to kill me. When they came on the site, it was a crazed mob. They were yelling and screaming and throwing stuff out of the way. And, again, I had no ammunition left, and I just placed that weapon across my chest and put my hands on it and looked up at the sky and...

KING: And?

M. DURANT: It was out of my hands at that point. And the first guy came around, I think it took him by surprise that I was laying there. And then he backed up and then he came again and then the rest of the mob came. And as far as how many there were, I have no idea. There was enough around me that I could not see past my immediate area. And they were pretty much divided between those that were hitting me and those that were stealing my stuff.

I still had all my flight gear on and my boots and they immediately started to...

KING: Were you saying anything or just...

M. DURANT: I tried to be as non-aggressive as possible. I knew there was no chance of winning that fight. And I felt like if I just remained passive, there's a chance that they might feel I was more valuable as a prisoner. My only consideration at that point was staying alive.

KING: And who made the decision prison? How did you know you would be taken prisoner?

M. DURANT: I didn't. And, again, they were hitting me and I thought they were just going to beat me. And then I have to assume that somebody there took control of the situation and tried to stop the beating and say that I was more valuable as a prisoner. Because when people would hit me, others would push them away. So it became evident at that point they wanted to keep me alive.

KING: And they took you where?

M. DURANT: They wrapped -- well, one guy threw dirt in my eyes and in my mouth, and then they wrapped a rag around my head and they hoisted me up in the air and they carried me out into the street and they would parade me around for a few minutes. And, again, people would come out of the crowd and hit me, and they'd get pushed away.

And I really don't know how long this went on. That was -- of the entire experience, that particular phase was absolutely the worst. My leg was being manipulated all over the place. My back was really, really hurting me bad. And, again, I thought there was a pretty good chance they'd still end up killing me.

KING: So you're at a constant pitch of fear?

M. DURANT: Yes.

KING: Did you ever get calm? Did you ever say...

M. DURANT: Not until they threw me in a room and I really started thinking then, OK, they're going to take me prisoner. And although that's an unpleasant experience...

KING: It's living.

M. DURANT: ... it's better than death. And I just started -- you know, I did calm down once -- once that happened.

KING: And you were held 12 days?

M. DURANT: Eleven.

KING: Eleven. Treated...

M. DURANT: Medical treatment? The doctor first came just before they filmed the video. He didn't have anything. He had sterile four by fours and benadine (ph) and...

KING: He had not treated a broken leg?

M. DURANT: No.

KING: Nothing on the back?

M. DURANT: He cleaned the opened wound, and obviously that helped, because I have not had an infection. And he gave me antibiotics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We also have to recognize that we cannot leave now and still have all our troops present and accounted for. And I want you to know that I am determined to work for the security of those Americans missing or held captive. Anyone holding an American right now should understand above all else, that we will hold them strictly responsible for our soldiers' well being. We expect them to be well treated, and we expect them to be released.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MOGADISHU, SOMALIA)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think of this approach?

M. DURANT: I'm a soldier. I have to do what I'm told.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people innocent.

M. DURANT: Innocent people being killed is not good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now when you look at that, that horror, what was that like?

M. DURANT: The -- I guess the worst part was the pain. I had asked them to film it with me laying down, and they insisted that I sit up. And that -- that's why I'm supporting my weight with my hands.

KING: They forced you to film it like that?

M. DURANT: Yes.

KING: So you're in constant pain there?

M. DURANT: Yes.

KING: And scared, too. You look scared. Was this the time you thought that maybe they wouldn't let you go? M. DURANT: Well, that was about 30 hours after the capture when they filmed that. And I still really didn't feel like I was going to get out of there alive. I knew that the people in the neighborhood, if they discovered that I was there, I had been told that they would come in and kill me. And, again, I really didn't feel like I would make it out of there at that point.

KING: There was a drive-by shooting, right?

M. DURANT: That's the term I use for it. It was the morning before the video, so I had been in captivity about 12 hours at this point. I was chained up and...

KING: Chained?

M. DURANT: Yes, in the corner of the room. The room had one door.

KING: No treatment for the leg?

M. DURANT: None yet. And I could hear the guards when they'd come. They'd come every hour or so to check on me. And someone walked towards the door, I was awake, I looked over, the door opened and some type of weapon was stuck in the door and then somebody fired a round. And the bullet hit the floor somewhere between me and the door and then ended up in my left arm. And any thoughts I had of surviving the situation were pretty well gone at that point.

KING: So, obviously, you now know that some people want to keep you alive, but there are potential assassins out there who want to cut you down.

M. DURANT: Right.

KING: I don't want to breeze through anything, and the next 11 days had to go by. Were you -- did you hear from anyone? Were you aware of anything from the other side at all?

M. DURANT: No. I asked a lot of questions. I asked what the status was of the rest of the guys at the site, and they said they didn't know anything. You know, they claimed that they had no one else in captivity other than the Nigerian soldier who had been captured on a previous...

KING: Was anyone kind to you?

M. DURANT: Yes.

KING: Many?

M. DURANT: People are people, even in that situation. And there were some who would come in there to check on me, that it looked to me like if they were in charge, I would be dead. And yet there were others who would come in there, try to almost comfort me and say -- they're all Muslim -- say, you know, "If Allah wills it, you'll go home." It was -- and that helped. KING: Did they feed you OK?

M. DURANT: Yes. And that's when I began to realize, OK, they want to keep me alive. They asked me what I wanted to eat and I tried not to be too demanding, so I said, "Well, how about spaghetti? That happens to be my favorite food anyway."

KING: Did they have it?

M. DURANT: Yes. They went out and made me...

KING: Was it good?

M. DURANT: It was pretty good.

KING: Tomato sauce?

M. DURANT: No. I guess they don't eat it with tomato sauce. I'm not sure what it had on it, but it was good.

KING: How did you find out you were going home?

M. DURANT: Well, there was an individual named Mr. Abdi (ph),who was General Aidid's minister of internal affairs. And he had been coming almost every day to talk to me. No question, the guy was in charge. Well educated...

KING: Talked to you about what?

M. DURANT: He'd come and explain what was going on, and explain the developments, check on how I was doing. And he certainly was reporting back to General Aidid. And 48 hours before my release, he told me that I would be released within the next 24 to 48 hours.

KING: You believed him?

M. DURANT: And I believed him. Everything he had told me prior to that...

KING: Boy, that time must have been terrific.

M. DURANT: Well, the thing was, as anyone who's ever been in captivity, it's a psychological battle. And I tried not to get my hopes up too high, because...

KING: Even though you believed him?

M. DURANT: Well, I believed him, but anything can happen. And I really tried not to get focused too much on that 48 hours. Because if that went by and I wasn't released, I really felt like I'd be so down that I'd kind of defeat myself. So I said, "OK, if that happens that's great, but let's prepare for the long haul." And I tried to really -- almost assume it wouldn't happen.

KING: And when they took you out, did they just come and say, "You're going home?" M. DURANT: Well he came back the next day and, you know, he had said 24 to 48, so I said, "Well, is today the day?"

KING: It's 24.

M. DURANT: And he said, "No," that the following day General Aidid would do a press conference. And once he announced that I would be released unconditionally, then the Red Cross would be notified and they'd come get me. And that is what happened. He had the press conference at eleven o'clock local time, and at about 12:15, the Nigerian soldier was brought to my room, and it became evident right there that we were going to for sure be released. And then...

KING: Did you see the press conference?

M. DURANT: No. I had a radio at that time, but it was not on -- aired on the radio. And I didn't...

KING: Lorrie Durant is here. Did you see the press conference of General Aidid?

LORRIE DURANT, MICHAEL DURANT'S WIFE: Yes, I did.

KING: So you knew then. Where were you?

L. DURANT: Well, someone from the military called me at 4:00 in the morning, and I was in bed. But I got up quickly and turned the television on and it was pretty unbelievable.

KING: Did you always have faith he'd come home?

L. DURANT: To be honest, no.

KING: You thought he'd be killed?

L. DURANT: Well, when I was notified that he was shot down and missing in action, that's not a good sign, you know. And I had initially thought that he was dead. I didn't want to set myself up for a large disappointment.

KING: What did you see when you saw the picture and that hostage video?

L. DURANT: Fear. I saw my husband looking with the look of fear in his eyes. And that terrified me because he's always the strong one.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: General Keen (ph) told us before that not only are you a great, great pilot, but you're a genuine American hero. Do you feel that way?

M. DURANT: It -- it's taken me a while to really understand the scope of that term. As you know, I was just released from the hospital today, so I've kind of been isolated. And I'll try to live up to that name. It's -- basically, I did my job as best as I could.

KING: Are you enjoying the attention, the people around, the status you're being given here at the -- for the way the people are toward you, the photographers and the like? Are you liking that?

M. DURANT: Well, it's fantastic to see the American people come together and show so much support. I like that portion of it.

KING: What don't you like?

M. DURANT: But to be honest -- to be honest, I'll be glad when all this is over and my life gets back to normal.

KING: When you were -- when you were going to Somalia, how did you feel about going to Somalia?

M. DURANT: Well, I...

KING: You (UNINTELLIGIBLE) job you're in, you can tell us honestly how you felt.

M. DURANT: There's some reservations. I mean, anytime you go somewhere where there's a conflict, I think thoughts cross your mind that you may not come back. And I recall the last drive in the United States looking at the trees, just wondering, you know, will I see this scene again. It crosses your mind.

KING: So you thought that you might not come back?

M. DURANT: Well, I think everybody does, you know. Some people may not, but, you know, your mind wanders and there's always the possibility anything can happen.

KING: Do you ever have that feeling when others died around you that, "Why me? Why am I alive and they didn't make it?"

M. DURANT: All the time. It's -- to me, the experience is kind of like a series of miracles. There were so many times when I was sure that I was going to die, and then somehow I didn't.

KING: To Cairo, Egypt, for Michael Durant -- hello.

CALLER: Hello, Michael.

M. DURANT: Hi.

CALLER: Well, first of all, we want you to know that we all were supporting you during your capture in Somalia. And we all congratulate you for your freedoms. The first question I would like to ask you is, do you have any bad feelings against the Somalian people? We know that you went for a good mission, and you received bad treatment from them. So, what's your feelings about Somalia right now?

KING: Yeah, what are your feelings -- thank you, good question. What are your feelings about Somalians? M. DURANT: Well, I think that the Somali people have survived a lot of hardship. They had the -- they lived under the dictator and they had the civil war and the famine. And then a lot of innocent people have been killed during this conflict. General Aidid's and the Ali Mali (ph) forces continue to fight to this day, and I think they just took out their aggressions on us.

KING: You have no bitterness toward them?

M. DURANT: There's bitterness. They -- they...

KING: But not as a group?

M. DURANT: Well, again, they're not all General Aidid's supporters. Some of them are still pro U.S. The people out in the outlying areas are definitely pro U.S. The -- I mean, they killed my -- my...

KING: They killed your friends.

M. DURANT: ... friends. So there is some bitterness, but they've had a pretty hard road and...

KING: Do you feel -- by the way, today, the Red Cross declared that the famine in Somalia is over. Present circumstances aside, did we do the right thing in going?

M. DURANT: Well, I think we did some good. The pictures that we see today of Somalia are certainly different than a year ago. So, obviously, some good was accomplished. If somebody else could have done it, I don't know. The -- on that -- for that aspect, the mission was successful.

KING: As a member of the armed forces and its -- we are the only superpower left now. Do you think we have a mission to help where help is needed and go where we must go and...

M. DURANT: I think there's going to be cases where -- where that is true. However, there's others where we have no business there.

KING: Pick and choose.

M. DURANT: And that's not for me to decide. It's certainly a decision to be made in Washington.

KING: This "go where you're sent," do you learn -- is that easy to -- I mean, you're a New Hampshire boy, a French background, right?

M. DURANT: Right.

KING: That's independent. If you know anything about the French in New Hampshire, they're independent. It is hard to when they say go, go?

M. DURANT: It isn't for me. A military force would be ineffective if you allowed the members of it to choose what they wanted to do. You have to follow the orders of your superiors.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: When we come back, we'll be joined by some of the men Michael Durant says saved his life. Among them, Sergeant Matt Eversmann. He's played by Josh Hartnett in the movie "Black Hawk Down." Stay with us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "BLACK HAWK DOWN")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that really true, lieutenant?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ask Sgt. Eversmann, he likes the skinnies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sgt. Eversmann, you really like the skinnies?

JOSH HARTNETT, ACTOR: It's not that I like them or I don't like them. I respect them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you see, what you guys fail to realize is the sergeant here is a bit of an idealist. He believes in this mission down to his very bones, don't you sergeant?

HARTNETT: Look, these people, they have no jobs, no food, no education, no future. I just figure that -- you know, I mean, we have two things that we can do, we can either help or we can sit back and watch a country destroy itself on CNN.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "BLACK HAWK DOWN")

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go. Let's go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh yeah, right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ranger securing perimeter, four corners.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're shooting us. Tell them they're shooting at us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, shoot back!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Welcome back. After the two Black Hawks went down over Mogadishu, U.S. Army Rangers moved in to rescue survivors and recover the dead. Here are some of those courageous men.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, 1993) LT. TOM DI TOMASSO, RANGER, FOUGHT IN SOMALIA: I was the second Ranger Chock (ph) Commander. And what that means is I was the chock (ph) leader -- the leader on bird number two that was going into the objective that day.

I was -- the most familiar part of it that you'll probably recognize is crash site number one, where the first aircraft went down. I was at that site for about 17 hours. And...

KING: Where were you, Matt?

SSGT. MATT EVERSMANN, RANGER, FOUGHT IN SOMALIA: I was a chock (ph) leader on the chock (ph) number four. And we were going to be in a blocking position, basically opposite of Lieutenant Di Tomasso's position on the target.

Basically, the same thing, I -- although, I was -- excuse me, I wound up being expelled (ph) prior to them being moved. We were -- you know, without getting into the long and short of it, we were trying to move by ground -- excuse me, by vehicle over to the crash site. And through a series of ambushes, wind up taking casualties. You know, ultimately, had to get our (UNINTELLIGIBLE) back there.

KING: How many Rangers were lost?

DI TOMASSO: I had three wounded in my group.

KING: How many wounded did you have?

EVERSMANN: By the time we got back to the airfield, the camp was like six -- six and 29, I believe. Six killed and 29 wounded.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Your friends?

EVERSMANN: Yes.

KING: Did you know about what happened to Michael?

DI TOMASSO: I heard it on the radio as -- when I moved to chock (ph) -- when I moved to the first crash site, I heard that another bird had gone down and it was Super 64, and I knew who 64 was.

KING: What's your thoughts on the Rangers?

M. DURANT: I can't say enough about them. They're very professional, absolutely -- you know, super training that they go through and it's always great to work with them.

KING: Ever regret -- did that -- did the events of that day make you regret joining?

EVERSMANN: No.

KING: Not at all? EVERSMANN: I mean, it certainly -- you know, when you're in a true black and white, life and death, you know, this is not a good idea -- what am I doing. That certainly, I'm sure, comes through anybody's mind. But I can honestly say, though, Larry that the people that we were over -- that I was over there with, surrounded day in and day out, you know, words can't describe what great people they are -- what great Americans, what great soldiers. And Chief Durant and Lieutenant Di Tomasso, you know, that's just a small sample of everyone that was over there. So, you know, I wouldn't hesitate to go back with that same group, not in a hundred years.

KING: Any regrets?

DI TOMASSO: None at all.

KING: None at all?

DI TOMASSO: Colonel Matthews and Specialist Richie, sitting right over there. Colonel Matthews, the commander of 160th. I wish I could go into great detail of what they did for us that night, because we couldn't move from that crash site. Those pilots saved our lives numerous times.

Specialist Richie's platoon -- third platoon Bravo company -- came after us, tried to get to myself and the rest of the guys on the crash site one on three separate occasions. And I knew that they would keep trying until either they made it or they were all dead.

KING: Do you live over that day a lot?

DI TOMASSO: Every day.

KING: How do you live it? Are you -- does it -- forget the questions being asked. Do you dream?

M. DURANT: I was having quite a few dreams initially, and they have kind of tapered off. Your mind heals as well as your body. And I've told this story just about every day for a month now, and it gets easier and it's helping me a lot.

KING: The toughest adjustment?

M. DURANT: I think dealing with the attention. Again, being in captivity, I did not realize the magnitude or the worldwide exposure. And it's been a constant learning process. Even in the hospital I did not really have a grasp of it, and I was just released today, so...

KING: And you've been telling this story then to people in the Army, officers. Did psychologists talk to you, too?

M. DURANT: Yes.

KING: Is that helpful?

M. DURANT: Certainly.

KING: Yeah? First moments with your wife, difficult, awkward?

M. DURANT: Fantastic. I mean, that's -- that's one of the things that I was looking forward to. And it was really well orchestrated. We were alone and we had plenty of time, as you can -- as you can imagine, very emotional, but...

KING: You were able to hold each other a little?

M. DURANT: Yes.

KING: Lorrie, where did you first see Michael?

L. DURANT: In Landstill (ph).

KING: In a hospital room?

L. DURANT: Yes. They put him in the bed and got...

KING: You walked in alone?

L. DURANT: Yeah.

KING: That was very nice that they were that thoughtful to do that.

L. DURANT: Very thoughtful. We had our own wing.

KING: And I'm told you got the purple heart, of course, right?

M. DURANT: Yes.

KING: You also got the Armed Forces' expeditionary medal?

M. DURANT: Yes.

KING: What is that?

M. DURANT: It's when you are deployed overseas as part of an expeditionary force, you'll receive that medal. So everyone that went to Somalia will get one.

KING: Everyone that went got it?

M. DURANT: Yes.

KING: You both got it?

EVERSMANN: Yes.

KING: OK. To Denver, Colorado, hello?

CALLER: Hello. Yes, I'd like to ask the gentlemen whether they think the media -- the media acted responsibly from the time the Seals landed in Somalia to the showing of the dragging of American bodies through the streets without first notifying the next of kin?

KING: Tom?

DI TOMASSO: That was a big problem. If you look at what happened in Vietnam and what happened here, we have a lot more technology nowadays and the capability to produce and to get real-time footage of what is actually happening in the city and then broadcast it within hours back to the states. Especially, since we didn't get all our guys back. And we came back the next day -- and I'm talking about the guys from Mike's bird -- he was there about a mile from us. That was really hard and it hurt the soldiers, the Rangers, like you wouldn't believe. To see what was going on through the -- the news.

KING: But what does that -- what do you do? I mean, it's like saying, well, should we show the fires? Does that...

DI TOMASSO: Well, when they say that there are -- when they say people are missing and stuff like that, all that does is help out the enemy. Now they can search for the missing, as opposed to just waiting and...

KING: Did you take (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with it, Matt?

EVERSMANN: I tell you, it was difficult to, you know, actually be making history, whether it was on the third or any of the previous missions. Ten hours later, coming back and seeing what we just did reported and, you know, knowing that there are a lot of inaccuracies, that really -- you know, in addition to the things that Lieutenant Di Tomasso spoke about, you know, that really -- it's so frustrating, because you want your parents to know and you want your wife and you want everybody back in the states to know that...

KING: You're all right.

EVERSMANN: ... you know, we're doing the right thing and we're doing it well.

KING: So what would you say to the media?

EVERSMANN: You know, compassion is one word that I think some...

(INTERRUPTED FOR CNN'S COVERAGE OF BREAKING NEWS)

KING: It doesn't come up front? If I were looking at you, you wouldn't look frightened?

SPEC. DAVID RICHIE, FOUGHT IN SOMALIA: Well some -- you look frightened, but you overcome that because you're fearing for your lives and the lives of your comrades.

KING: But to the laymen, this is amazing. What do you do with fright, Michael?

M. DURANT: Well, it depends on the situation. If there's a task that has to be accomplished, as Specialist Richie said, you have to put it aside. You're trained to do your job and you revert back to that training, and it really...

KING: And the training takes over?

M. DURANT: Right. It has no effect on your performance.

KING: No effect on performance?

M. DURANT: No.

KING: Tom?

DI TOMASSO: Same thing.

KING: No effect?

DI TOMASSO: It affects you, especially when the man next to you gets hit and -- for example, my radio telephone operator, Specialist Coleman (ph), was hit in the head. And a grenade had bounced off his back and rolled on the other side of a vehicle and exploded. And I can tell you there were some -- a lot of exhibit of fear. You know, a lot of people showed some fear and fright. But just like what Mike was saying, you've got to put that aside, because if you don't, you can't stay in one spot too long.

KING: How do you get over -- if you ever get over -- friends dying?

EVERSMANN: That's a -- I don't think you can ever get over a friend dying. I don't think you can ever get over one of your team leaders dying or one of your men getting hurt. And we don't need to get over them; we don't want to get over them. We need to always remember them, because, you know, the success -- the future success of the regimen and for soldiers like Chief Durant, you know, depends on their memory.

So I would say, you know, we don't -- we don't need to get over them. We need to always remember that -- we need to remember that hurt.

KING: Tough for you, Specialist Richie?

RICHIE: Yes.

KING: Important to remember them?

RICHIE: Yeah, it's important to remember them to keep their memory alive.

KING: Are you going to stay in service?

RICHIE: Yes.

KING: How long you been in?

RICHIE: Two and a half years.

KING: Are you going to stay? Are you going to stay?

KING: For 20, Mike?

EVERSMANN: Well, we take it four years at a time.

KING: Well, can a -- can a Ranger go past a certain age, or do they try to get you out after you're over 30 or something?

EVERSMANN: No, you can stay in. You can stay as long as you're doing -- as long as you're able to ranger and do your job well.

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: An update now on some of the men you've met tonight. Matt Eversmann is currently an operations sergeant at the U.S. Army War College. Michael Durant has left the military, and we wish them all well.

We'd also like to thank the producers of the CNN PRESENTS special "Black Hawk Down" for giving us some of the amazing video and audio used in tonight's show. By the way, you can purchase an uncut version of that documentary. Just go to www.blackhawkdown.com. Thanks for watching.

Tomorrow night, Mike Tyson and Connie Chung. Until then, good night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "BLACK HAWK DOWN")

ERIC BANA, ACTOR: When I go home, people ask me, hey, Hoot, why do you do it, man? Why? Are you some kind of war junkie? I don't say a damn word. Why? They won't understand. They won't understand why we do it. They won't understand it's about the men next to you. And that's it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


 
 
 
 


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