Somalia, 1992: Navy SEALs save a bunch of journalists from being obliterated by naval gun fire

Water cascades down the front of the Navy SEAL’s diver mask as he breaks the surface of the dark coastal waters just off the coast of Mogadishu, Somalia. It’s December 9, 1992, and this SEAL is the point man of a six-man beach recce team. He and his teammates swim towards the beach just below the International Airport in Mogadishu.

The moon is full, shining brightly in the pitch-black sky like a bright spotlight. It’s a short low crawl to the beachhead. Just as the team begins to gather together on the beach a wall of light and flashbulbs going off comes over the crest of the dune. A hoard of news cameramen descends upon the SEALs with cameras filming and reporters bending over to ask them how they feel about invading a foreign country.  

It is said that the press corps had been camped out on the Airport grounds for most of the night. Hundreds of journalists, cameramen, and support staff had descended on the Somali coast in hopes of catching the impending invasion “ LIVE.” Normally the location and time of such a military operation is a closely-held secret. How is it possible then this hoard of journalists could know where the evasion landing would take place? As my father, a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy and veteran of World War II used to tell me “ loose lips sink ships.” Well, that’s exactly what happened in this case.

Lieutenant General Frank Libutti, acting commanding General of Task Force Provide Relief, was giving a press briefing to reporters of the international press corps the day before the invasion. When asked if the expected invasion was imminent? He answered, “ well it is coming in the next few days.” Mo Amin, a cameraman asked “ Should we go to bed as normal tonight? To which General Libutti answered, “ I think if you go to bed tonight you might just miss something.” It was this last statement which led to over 400 journalists camping out on top of the Mogadishu International Airport and its environs.

Just as the SEALs were exiting the surf zone they were met by arc lamps and flashbulbs flashing. This light and bright flashes looked like the SEALs were engaging in a large firefight to the ships of the task force just off the coast. Preparations were made by the task force to lay down a line of suppressive fire. It is a credit to the quick-thinking SEALs who quickly called in a Check Fire call, which saved the international journalist horde from being completely obliterated.

Those journalists to this day make fun of the most publically covered invasion of all time. Little do they know how close they came to becoming a story in and of themselves.