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Survivors Recount the Harrowing ‘Black Hawk Down’ Story

The harrowing story of Black Hawk Down  has been told in books and film—but National Geographic Channel brings the survivors together to tell their story.

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Survivors Share the Real Story Behind 'Black Hawk Down' on National Geographic Channel's new Series No Man Left Behind, premiering Tuesday, June 28th at 9/8c. In this special premiere, members of the mission share their first-hand account of what happened that day.

“Eighteen hours out of one day defined us.”

A team of U.S. Rangers surrounds a building in the heart of rebel-held Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993. Under rebel fire, the Rangers have captured two of Mohamed Farrah Aidid’s top lieutenants and are about to head back to their base camp when they hear over the radio: “Black Hawk down.”

Just then, they watch as the helicopter barrels toward the ground, falling behind the horizon. “A moment later I could hear the impact,” U.S. Ranger Randy Ramaglia says, “and that changed the entire mission.”

What was supposed to be a one-hour “snatch-and-grab” job has now turned into a rescue mission. Seconds after the crash, their squad leader is shot in the neck and is bleeding badly. Ranger Keni Thomas is immediately thrust into the leadership role and has to guide his team to the crash site. They know from past experience that the only chance their comrades have to stay alive depends on reaching them before the rebels do.

It’s 120 American soldiers against an entire city. Gunfire surrounds them on all sides. “The places we were being shot at from grew and grew and grew,” Ramaglia says. “We realized they were gonna get there before us.” That’s when explosions began to erupt around them, and they had to accept the fact that they wouldn’t be able to save the pilots. “We were surrounded.”

Flying above the fighting is pilot Mike Durant. “There’s a battle going on down there, and we’re going right into the middle of it,” he says of him and his co-pilot. “Our mission is to take care of those folks, and if that means putting my life on the line to do it, I’m gonna do it.” As Durant and his co-pilot hover above the battlefield, their Black Hawk is gunned down. “I was pretty certain we were gonna die,” Durant says.

“The word came down that there was another helicopter lost,” Ramaglia said. “This mission had gone in a direction that no one could’ve ever anticipated.” That’s when they made the decision to pull inside, as they’d already taken too many causalities in the streets.

A few buildings over, Durant lay unconscious in his Black Hawk, having miraculously survived the impact of the crash. When he wakes, he attempts to run, but is too weak, and is quickly captured by rebels. After being brutally beaten, he’s chained up in a building not far from where his team is grouped.

Soon, the U.S. Army arrives with armored cars, but have only enough room for the causalities, and ask that the rest of the soldiers escape the city on foot. Unaware that Durant is alive and held captive nearby, the men fight their way out of Mogadishu without him.

Once the soldiers make it back to the base, the rebels release tapes of Durant. “The first time I saw Mike Durant’s face on TV, I was mortified,” Ramaglia says, “because that was one of our guys. The Ranger creed states, ‘You never leave a fallen comrade.’”

The soldiers immediately return to the city for him and with the help of negotiators successfully secure Durant’s release.

On National Geographic Channel's new series No Man Left Behind, premiering Tuesday, June 28, at 9/8c, Durant, Ramaglia, and Thomas are reunited, 23 years after the most memorable mission of their lives. Each of them shares their first-hand account of what happened that day, from the intense fear on the battlefield to the deep bonds between their comrades.

No Man Left Behind provides an in-depth look at real-life war heroes and combat survivors who defied insurmountable odds, and who fought to protect others at the risk of their own safety.

Each episode includes gritty, dramatic scenes and archival footage to place the viewer in the heat of the moment of the most memorable and tragic war stories of our time. The series also offers a glimpse into the survivor's current lives, showing how these battle stories stay with them forever. Traumatic memories from the events are triggered in seemingly innocuous ways--the sound of a car door slamming, for instance, can instantaneously transport the survivor to the gunfire of battle, or the whirring of a ceiling fan can put them in the seat of a crashing helicoper.

Through first-person testimonies and vivid recreations of the events, each episode thrusts the viewer into the heart of the conflict—whether it’s a soldier escaping a Vietnamese prison camp or a DEA agent fighting against Colombian drug lords—and highlights the grit and bravery of real-life heroes who refused to give up.

New series of No Man Left Behind premieres Tuesday, June 28th at 9/8c on the National Geographic Channel.