Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War

Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War

by Mark Bowden


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Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War by Mark Bowden

Already a classic of war reporting and now reissued as a Grove Press paperback, Black Hawk Down is Mark Bowden’s brilliant account of the longest sustained firefight involving American troops since the Vietnam War. On October 3, 1993, about a hundred elite U.S. soldiers were dropped by helicopter into the teeming market in the heart of Mogadishu, Somalia. Their mission was to abduct two top lieutenants of a Somali warlord and return to base. It was supposed to take an hour. Instead, they found themselves pinned down through a long and terrible night fighting against thousands of heavily armed Somalis. The following morning, eighteen Americans were dead and more than seventy had been badly wounded.
Drawing on interviews from both sides, army records, audiotapes, and videos (some of the material is still classified), Bowden’s minute-by-minute narrative is one of the most exciting accounts of modern combat ever written—a riveting story that captures the heroism, courage, and brutality of battle.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802144737
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 04/13/2010
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 50,777
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Mark Bowden is the award-winning author of Bringing the Heat and Doctor Dealer. He has been a reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer for nineteen years. He also writes for Men's Journal, Sports Illustrated, Playboy, Rolling Stone, Parade, and other magazines.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

At liftoff, Matt Eversmann said a Hail Mary. He was curled into a seat between two helicopter crew chiefs, the knees of his long legs up to his shoulders. Before him, jammed on both sides of the Black Hawk helicopter, was his "chalk," twelve young men in flak vests over tan desert camouflage fatigues.

    He knew their faces so well they were like brothers. The older guys on this crew, like Eversmann, a staff sergeant with five years in at age twenty-six, had lived and trained together for years. Some had come up together through basic training, jump school, and Ranger school. They had traveled the world, to Korea, Thailand, Central America ... they knew each other better than most brothers did. They'd been drunk together, gotten into fights, slept on forest floors, jumped out of airplanes, climbed mountains, shot down foaming rivers with their hearts in their throats, baked and frozen and starved together, passed countless bored hours, teased one another endlessly about girlfriends or lack of same, driven out in the middle of the night from Fort Benning to retrieve each other from some diner or strip club out on Victory Drive after getting drunk and falling asleep or pissing off some barkeep. Through all those things, they had been training for a moment like this. It was the first time the lanky sergeant had been put in charge, and he was nervous about it.

    Pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death, amen.

    It was midafternoon, October 3, 1993. Eversmann's Chalk Four was part of a force of U.S. Army Rangers and Delta Force operators who were about to drop in uninvited on a gathering of Habr Gidr clan leaders in the heart of Mogadishu, Somalia. This ragged clan, led by warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid, had picked a fight with the United States of America, and it was, without a doubt, going down. Today's targets were two of Aidid's lieutenants. They would be arrested and imprisoned with a growing number of the belligerent clan's bosses on an island off the southern Somali coast city of Kismayo. Chalk Four's piece of this snatch-and-grab was simple. Each of the four Ranger chalks had a corner of the block around the target house. Eversmann's would rope down to the northwest corner and set up a blocking position. With Rangers on all four corners, no one would enter the zone where Delta was working, and no one would leave.

    They had done this dozens of times without difficulty, in practice and on the task force's six previous missions. The pattern was clear in Eversmann's mind. He knew which way to move when he hit the ground, where his soldiers would be. Those out of the left side of the bird would assemble on the left side of the street. Those out of the right side would assemble right. Then they would peel off in both directions, with the medics and the youngest guys in the middle. Private First Class Todd Blackburn was the baby on Eversmann's bird, a kid fresh out of Florida high school who had not yet even been to Ranger school. He'd need watching. Sergeant Scott Galentine was older but also inexperienced here in Mog. He was a replacement, just in from Benning. The burden of responsibility for these young Rangers weighed heavily on Eversmann. This time out they were his.

    As chalk leader, he was handed headphones when he took his front seat. They were bulky and had a mouthpiece and were connected by a long black cord to a plug on the ceiling. He took his helmet off and settled the phones over his ears.

    One of the crew chiefs tapped his shoulder.

    "Matt, be sure you remember to take those off before you leave," he said, pointing to the cord.

    Then they had stewed on the hot tarmac for what seemed an hour, breathing the pungent diesel fumes and oozing sweat under their body armor and gear, fingering their weapons anxiously, every man figuring this mission would probably be scratched before they got off the ground. That's how it usually went. There were twenty false alarms for every real mission. Back when they'd arrived in Mog five weeks earlier, they were so flush with excitement that cheers went up from Black Hawk to Black Hawk every time they boarded the birds. Now spin-ups like this were routine and usually amounted to nothing.

    Waiting for the code word for launch, which today was "Irene," they were a formidable sum of men and machines. There were four of the amazing AH-6 Little Birds, two-seat bubble-front attack helicopters that could fly just about anywhere. The Little Birds were loaded with rockets this time, a first. Two would make the initial sweep over the target and two more would help with rear security. There were four MH-6 Little Birds with benches mounted on both sides for delivering the spearhead of the assault force, Delta's C Squadron, one of three operational elements in the army's top secret commando unit. Following this strike force were eight of the elongated troop-carrying Black Hawks: two carrying Delta assaulters and their ground command, four for delivering the Rangers (Company B, 3rd Battalion of the army's 75th Infantry, the Ranger Regiment out of Fort Benning, Georgia), one carrying a crack CSAR (Combat Search and Rescue) team, and one to fly the two mission commanders — Lieutenant Colonel Tom Matthews, who was coordinating the pilots of the 160th SOAR (Special Operations Aviation Regiment out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky); and Delta Lieutenant Colonel Gary Harrell, who had responsibility for the men on the ground. The ground convoy, which was lined up and idling out by the front gate, consisted of nine wide-body Humvees and three five-ton trucks. The trucks would be used to haul the prisoners and assault forces out. The Humvees were filled with Rangers, Delta operators, and four members of SEAL (Sea, Air, Land) Team Six, part of the navy's special forces branch. Counting the three surveillance birds and the spy plane high overhead, there were nineteen aircraft, twelve vehicles, and about 160 men. It was an eager armada on a taut rope.

    There were signs this one would go. The commander of Task Force Ranger, Major General William F. Garrison, had come out to see them off. He had never done that before. A tall, slender, gray-haired man in desert fatigues with half an unlit cigar jutting from the corner of his mouth, Garrison had walked from chopper to chopper and then stooped down by each Humvee.

    "Be careful," he said in his Texas drawl.

    Then he'd move on to the next man.

    "Good luck."

    Then the next.

    "Be careful."

    The swell of all those revving engines made the earth tremble and their pulses race. It was stirring to be part of it, the cocked fist of America's military might. Woe to whatever stood in their way. Bristling with grenades and ammo, gripping the steel of their automatic weapons, their hearts pounding under their flak vests, they waited with a heady mix of hope and dread. They ran through last-minute mental checklists, saying prayers, triple-checking weapons, rehearsing their precise tactical choreography, performing little rituals ... whatever it was that prepared them for battle. They all knew this mission might get hairy. It was an audacious daylight thrust into the "Black Sea," the very heart of Habr Gidr territory in central Mogadishu and warlord Aidid's stronghold. Their target was a three-story house of whitewashed stone with a flat roof, a modern modular home in one of the city's few remaining clusters of intact large buildings, surrounded by blocks and blocks of tin-roofed dwellings of muddy stone. Hundreds of thousands of clan members lived in this labyrinth of irregular dirt streets and cactus-lined paths. There were no decent maps. Pure Indian country.

    The men had watched the rockets being loaded on the AH-6s. Garrison hadn't done that on any of their earlier missions. It meant they were expecting trouble. The men had girded themselves with extra ammo, stuffing magazines and grenades into every available pocket and pouch of their load-bearing harnesses, leaving behind canteens, bayonets, night-vision goggles, and any other gear they felt would be deadweight on a fast daylight raid. The prospect of getting into a scrape didn't worry them. Not at all. They welcomed it. They were predators, heavy metal avengers, unstoppable, invincible. The feeling was, after six weeks of diddling around they were finally going in to kick some serious Somali ass.

    It was 3:32 P.M. when the chalk leader inside the lead Black Hawk, Super Six Four, heard over the intercom the soft voice of the pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Mike Durant, clearly pleased.

    Durant announced, "Fuckin' Irene."

    And the armada launched, lifting off from the shabby airport by the sea into an embracing blue vista of sky and Indian Ocean. They eased out across a littered strip of white sand and moved low and fast over running breakers that formed faint crests parallel to the shore. In close formation they banked and flew down the coastline southwest. From each bird the booted legs of the eager soldiers dangled from the benches and open doors.

    Unrolling toward a hazy desert horizon, Mogadishu in midafternoon sun was so bright it was as if the aperture on the world's lens was stuck one click wide. From a distance the ancient port city had an auburn hue, with its streets of ocher sand and its rooftops of Spanish tile and rusted tin. The only tall structures still standing after years of civil war were the ornate white towers of mosques — Islam being the only thing all Somalia held sacred. There were many scrub trees, the tallest just over the low rooftops, and between them high stone walls with pale traces of yellow and pink and gray, fading remnants of pre-civil war civility. Set there along the coast, framed to the west by desert and the east by gleaming teal ocean, it might have been some sleepy Mediterranean resort.

    As the helicopter force swept in over it, gliding back in from the ocean and then banking right and sprinting northeast along the city's western edge, Mogadishu spread beneath them in its awful reality, a catastrophe, the world capital of things-gone-completely-to-hell. It was as if the city had been ravaged by some fatal urban disease. The few paved avenues were crumbling and littered with mountains of trash, debris, and the rusted hulks of burned-out vehicles. Those walls and buildings that had not been reduced to heaps of gray rubble were pockmarked with bullet scars. Telephone poles leaned at ominous angles like voodoo totems topped by stiff sprays of dreadlocks — the stubs of their severed wires (long since stripped for sale on the thriving black market). Public spaces displayed the hulking stone platforms that once held statuary from the heroic old days of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, the national memory stripped bare not out of revolutionary fervor, but to sell the bronze and copper for scrap. The few proud old government and university buildings that still stood were inhabited now by refugees. Everything of value had been looted, right down to metal window frames, doorknobs, and hinges. At night, campfires glowed from third- and fourth-story windows of the old Polytechnic Institute. Every open space was clotted with the dense makeshift villages of the disinherited, round stick huts covered with layers of rags and shacks made of scavenged scraps of wood and patches of rusted tin. From above they looked like an advanced stage of some festering urban rot.

    In his bird, Super Six Seven, Eversmann rehearsed the plan in his mind. By the time they reached the street, the D-boys would already be taking down the target house, rounding up Somali prisoners and shooting anyone foolish enough to fight back. Word was there were two big boys in this house, men whom the task force had identified as "Tier One Personalities," Aidid's top men. As the D-boys did their work and the Rangers kept the curious at bay, the ground convoy of trucks and Humvees would roll in through the city, right up to the target house. The prisoners would be herded into the trucks. The assault team and blocking force would jump in behind them and they would all drive back to finish out a nice Sunday afternoon on the beach. It would take about an hour.

    To make room for the Rangers in the Black Hawks, the seats in back had been removed. The men who were not in the doorways were squatting on ammo cans or seated on the flak-proof Kevlar panels laid out on the floor. They all wore desert camouflage fatigues, with Kevlar vests and helmets and about fifty pounds of equipment and ammo strapped to their load-bearing harnesses, which fit on over the vests. All had goggles and thick leather gloves. Those layers of gear made even the slightest of them look bulky, robotic, and intimidating. Stripped down to their dirt-brown T-shirts and shorts, which is how they spent most of their time in the hangar, most looked like the pimply teenagers they were (average age nineteen). They were immensely proud of their Ranger status. It spared them most of the numbing noncombat-related routine that drove many an army enlistee nuts. The Rangers trained for war full-time. They were fitter, faster, and first — "Rangers lead the way!" was their motto. Each had volunteered at least three times to get where they were, for the army, for airborne, and for the Rangers. They were the cream, the most highly motivated young soldiers of their generation, selected to fit the army's ideal — they were all male and, revealingly, nearly all white (there were only two blacks among the 140-man company). Some were professional soldiers, like Lieutenant Larry Perino, a 1990 West Point graduate. Some were overachievers in search of a different challenge, like Specialist John Waddell on Chalk Two, who had enlisted after finishing high school in Natchez, Mississippi, with a 4.0 GPA. Some were daredevils in search of a physical challenge. Others were self-improvers, young men who had found themselves adrift after high school, or in trouble with drugs, booze, the law, or all three. They were harder-edged than most young men of their generation who, on this Sunday in early autumn, were weeks into their fall college semester. Most of these Rangers had been kicked around some, had tasted failure. But there were no goof-offs. Every man had worked to be here, probably harder than he'd ever worked in his life. Those with troubled pasts had taken harsh measure of themselves. Beneath their best hard-ass act, most were achingly earnest, patriotic, and idealistic. They had literally taken the army up on its offer to "Be All You Can Be."

    They held themselves to a higher standard than normal soldiers. With their buff bodies, distinct crew cuts — sides and back of the head completely shaved — and their grunted Hoo-ah greeting, they saw themselves as the army at its gung ho best. Many, if they could make it, aspired to join Special Forces, maybe even get picked to try out for Delta, the hale, secret supersoldiers now leading this force in. Only the very best of them would be invited to try out, and only one of every ten invited would make it through selection. In this ancient male hierarchy, the Rangers were a few steps up the ladder, but the D-boys owned the uppermost rung.

    Rangers knew the surest path to that height was combat experience. So far, Mog had been mostly a tease. War was always about to happen. About to happen. Even the missions, exciting as they'd been, had fallen short. The Somalis — whom they called "Skinnies" or "Sammies" — had taken a few wild shots at them, enough to get the Rangers' blood up and unleash a hellish torrent of return fire, but nothing that qualified as a genuine balls-out firefight.

    Which is what they wanted. All of these guys. If there were any hesitant thoughts, they were buttoned tight. A lot of these men had started as afraid of war as anyone, but the fear had been drummed out. Especially in Ranger training. About a fourth of those who volunteered washed out, enough so that those who emerged with their Ranger tab at the end were riding the headiest wave of accomplishment in their young lives. The weak had been weeded out. The strong had stepped up. Then came weeks, months, years of constant training. The Hoo-ahs couldn't wait to go to war. They were an all-star football team that had endured bruising, exhausting, dangerous practice sessions twelve hours a day, seven days a week — for years — without ever getting to play a game.

    They yearned for battle. They passed around the dog-eared paperback memoirs of soldiers from past conflicts, many written by former Rangers, and savored the affectionate, comradely tone of their stories, feeling bad for the poor suckers who bought it or got crippled or maimed but identifying with the righteous men who survived the experience whole. They studied the old photos, which were the same from every war, young men looking dirty and tired, half dressed in army combat fatigues, dogtags hanging around their skinny necks, posing with arms draped over each other's shoulders in exotic lands. They could see themselves in those snapshots, surrounded by their buddies, fighting their war. It was THE test, the only one that counted.

    Sergeant Mike Goodale had tried to explain this to his mother one time, on leave in Illinois. His mom was a nurse, incredulous at his bravado.

    "Why would anybody want to go to war?" she asked.

    Goodale told her it would be like, as a nurse, after all her training, never getting the chance to work in a hospital. It would be like that.

    "You want to find out if you can really do the job," he explained.

    Like those guys in books. They'd been tested and proven. It was another generation of Rangers' turn now. Their turn.

    It didn't matter that none of the men in these helicopters knew enough to write a high school paper about Somalia. They took the army's line without hesitation. Warlords had so ravaged the nation battling among themselves that their people were starving to death. When the world sent food, the evil warlords hoarded it and killed those who tried to stop them. So the civilized world had decided to lower the hammer, invite the baddest boys on the planet over to clean things up. 'Nuff said. Little the Rangers had seen since arriving at the end of August had altered that perception. Mogadishu was like the postapocalyptic world of Mel Gibson's Mad Max movies, a world ruled by roving gangs of armed thugs. They were here to rout the worst of the warlords and restore sanity and civilization.

    Eversmann had always just enjoyed being a Ranger. He wasn't sure how he felt about being in charge, even if it was just temporary. He'd won the distinction by default. His platoon sergeant had been summoned home by an illness in his family, and then the guy who replaced him had keeled over with an epileptic seizure. He, too, had been sent home. Eversmann was the senior man in line. He accepted the task hesitantly. That morning at Mass in the mess he'd prayed about it.

    Airborne now at last, Eversmann swelled with energy and pride as he looked out over the full armada. It was a state-of-the-art military force. Already circling high above the target was the slickest intelligence support America had to offer, including satellites, a high-flying P3 Orion spy plane, and three OH-58 observation helicopters, which looked like the bubble-front Little Bird choppers with a five-foot bulbous polyp growing out of the top. The observation birds were equipped with video cameras and radio equipment that would relay the action live to General Garrison and the other senior officers in the Joint Operations Center (JOC) back at the beach. Moviemakers and popular authors might strain to imagine the peak capabilities of the U.S. military, but here was the real thing about to strike. It was a well-oiled, fully equipped, late-twentieth-century fighting machine. America's best were going to war, and Sergeant Matt Eversmann was among them.

Table of Contents

The Assault1
Black Hawk Down69
The Alamo199

What People are Saying About This

Henry H. Shelton

Your account of the events in Mogadishu on October 3, 1993 is an inspirational and evocative retelling of one of the most significant military operations of the past 10 years. Though there is heroism and professionalism aplenty, you also bring out the errors and missed opportunities that contributed to the unfortunate outcome of the mission. Both senior leaders and young soldiers can learn much from this compelling story....Black Hawk Down will occupy an honored place in my personal library.
— (Henry H. Shelton, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff).

Robert Oakley

A riveting, up-close account of...intensive, hand-to-hand combat.


Before the live chat, Mark Bowden agreed to answer some of our questions.

Q:  Did you face much or any resistance to telling the truth while researching this book and tracking down 50 veterans of this conflict? Also, what was the biggest surprise about modern American military philosophy that you encountered while writing Black Hawk Down?

A:  Truthfulness was not a problem. Access was difficult at first, but once I'd tracked down my first dozen or so Rangers (initially through the help of Jim Smith, whose Ranger son, Jamie, died in the fight), it was like the dam burst. The Army would not allow interviews with Delta Force operators but did set up my interview with Black Hawk pilot Mike Durant and other members of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, which was extremely helpful. The soldiers themselves were extraordinarily candid and seemed grateful for the chance to tell their story in detail.

There were so many things I didn't know about the military before I started writing this that it's hard to answer the second question. I think the thing that most surprised me was the professionalism and overall quality of the soldiers. These were very impressive young men, absolutely committed to their service and trying very hard to live up to admirable ideals. I was also surprised to learn how busy these elite soldiers are, how many missions they are called upon to perform around the world during a peacetime period.

Q:  How were you able to gain access to confidential Army action logs?

A:  The official Army records, documents, video, and audiotapes were shared with me by military officers who were determined that the story of what happened in Mogadishu be told accurately. There has been much misinformation and misunderstanding surrounding this very important incident, and I think they saw Black Hawk Down as a chance to get the real story out. I was impressed by the fact that no one who provided me with official information placed any conditions on me. In every instance, I was told, "We're not worried about what you write; we just want you to know the truth."

Q:  Are you at all surprised that two of the movies up for Best Picture at the Oscars are war movies? Also, do either "Saving Private Ryan" or "The Thin Red Line" get your vote for best picture?

A:  I am surprised that war movies seem to have made a comeback. It was not something I foresaw. I have read that one reason we are seeing a sudden resurgence in interest in war is that so few young Americans have ever experienced it, so perhaps I was drawn to write about the Battle of Mogadishu for some of the same reasons Steven Spielberg and Terrence Malick were drawn to World War II. My goal when I set out to write Black Hawk Down was to capture the experience of combat through the eyes of foot soldiers. I wanted to write about both sides of a fight with more energy, realism, and depth than I had ever seen attempted. I was finished with the book when I saw "Saving Private Ryan" for the first time, and I was struck by how similar a feel the wrenching beach-landing scene had to the chapters in my book where the lost convoy is wandering through Mogadishu streets getting cut to ribbons. It didn't surprise me. As I wrote in the epilogue to Black Hawk Down, the story of combat is timeless. It is about the same things whether in Troy or Gettysburg, Normandy or the Ia Drang. I liked both films for different reasons, but "Saving Private Ryan" had more emotional resonance for me and is, I think, the more powerful.

Q:  Please recommend three books that you've read and enjoyed recently.

A:  Three recent books I enjoyed very much are The Great Bridge by David McCullough, Purple America by Rick Moody, and Our Guys by Bernard Lefkowitz.

Q:  This is a very broad question, but generally speaking, what sort of future do you foresee for the United States Armed Forces?

A:  The U.S. Armed Forces are at a crossroads. The end of the cold war has completely changed the role of America in the world, and I think Black Hawk Down illustrates the dangers of proceeding with a poorly defined one. Our military today is experiencing serious manpower shortages at the same time our leaders keep finding new ways to employ it. Over the next ten years I hope we will better adapt the military to cope with unconventional threats worldwide, and we will do a better job of clearly defining when, where, and how that force will be applied. These are very hard questions to answer, and I have heard no one in politics clearly articulate a policy. One of the lessons of Black Hawk Down is that we need leadership that rigorously thinks through the consequences before any military intervention. Either the mission is worth American lives or it is not.

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Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 309 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book made me fully realize why soldiers actually suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome. As a teen, I lived through the Vietnam era and lost a few friends there, but never really understood the fears they went through. I've never read a more comprehensive book explaining details of war. Including these soldiers' lives and family stories made it heart-wrenching and so real. Absolutely the best-written book I've ever read!
bigskell More than 1 year ago
This is a story of the heroic acts of valor that take place in Mogadishu Somalia in the year 1993. The mission was to be short and only take hours get in get out. The men of the special operations forces Army Rangers and Delta force snipers did not see the fight that was about to unfold. Their mission was to go into Bekara Market and Capture war lords that were murdering millions of Somalia’s. The war lords were captured and brought back to base. Then things took a drastic turn when a Black hawk helicopter took fire and plummeted to the ground right in the middle of Bekara Market on of the most hostile environments in the world at the time. This is the start to the 18 hour battle of courage and the special operations motto no man left behind. Black Hawk Down starts off a little dry because it spends a good 5 chapters giving you an introduction to why we are in Somalia to begin with. But after that Mark Bowden jumps right into action. The story is a fantastic well rounded book with moments that will make you laugh, cry, and want to fight alongside the brave men. The story shows actions that men made in order to save the lives of their fellow brothers in arms that will inspire you. It is a book that will not be easy to put down. Mark Bowden did a great job pulling me into the book you really develop emaciations for the soldiers. This caused me to want to keep reading in order to know there fate. I found myself reading the lengthy book in a much less time then I estimated. The book has fantastic photos it has a whole chapter of real pictures from the battle and also of all the soldiers. They really help bring the book to life in your mind. Black Hawk Down will keep you hooked right until the end. It is a long book that seems short what I mean by this is that you will find yourself reading it rather quick very hard to put down. If you like war story’s Black Hawk Down is a must read. I would also recommend it to anyone that enjoys stories of bravery and honor.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having seen the movie, I decided to read the book. And it is much more detailed and provides a lot more background info than the movie had time for. With close to 100 American Rangers and Delta Force soldiers involved in the early hours of combat, the book does a surprisingly good job of covering each fighting group's experiences. Unlike the movie, it also provides background info on and perspective of some of the Somalian fighters engaged. Essentially, the American contigent of Delta and Rangers was given the White House-initiated mission of capturing the de facto ruler of Mogadishu (Mog) and former Somali general, Mohamed Farrah Aidid. Over the preceding two months in Mog, this team (led by Gen. Garrison) had completed five other snatch and grab missions. They managed to capture some of Aidid's key lieutenants, but always missed collaring Aidid himself. On this, their sixth, mission things went badly wrong. I have a very strong suspicion that Garrison's team fell into a monstrous ambush orchestrated by Aidid. I'll leave it to the other reviewers to describe the frantic and relentless combat that the Delta/Ranger team had to face. This team had a nearly impossible mission recklessly dictated by policians ignorant of the extremely adverse odds in Mog. The team's ability to extract itself from a potential overwhelming disaster confirms the strength of their moral and mental discipline. Also vindicated is the use of their body armor and ceramic plates. Less reassuring was the political leadership, unit discipline, and inter-Allied coordination. With over 12 years of hindsight, it is hard to imagine why the US ever placed troops in Mog in the first place. (Read the Weinberger Doctrine that should have been followed.) I highly recommend the book. Mark Bowden, the author, did an outstanding job in capturing the personalities, the frenetic combat, and the unremitting danger this brave, elite team faced. (After reading the book, I am truly in awe of the Delta Force operators.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read a little of everything, whether it's fiction or non-fiction. This is one of my favorite books. I've read my paperback copy literally to shreds and plan on adding it to my Nook library so I can experience it again. Impeccably researched and skillfully written, this reads more like a thriller than a true story; it's a page-turner. I would recommend this title to anyone who has an interest in history, the military, modern warfare or just a deep appreciation for excellent storytelling.
NLandry25 More than 1 year ago
This book is very great, uses a lot of detail and shows you both side with no info forgotten. Not everyone gets to see what special forces sees quite but this book does that. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
a great read easier if you are prior military , if not read the glossary first !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was fantastic. It depicted modern war in a way different of any. Any lover of war books should definitely read this. The movie is also great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Better than the movie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This avery good book to read. Gives a good account of what happen during this time in modern war
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
gripping account, excellent read
Dogs_Rule More than 1 year ago
I normally don't read war books, but this was a real page turner. Now, I'd like to see the movie.
rjkirk More than 1 year ago
As a frequent gamer of historical military-based video games, I was initially drawn to Black Hawk Down, by Mark Bowden. Moreover, because of the book's association with modern warfare and weaponry on which some of my games are based, I felt an immediate connection with the subject matter. What I especially found intriguing was the thorough description of the mission. I appreciated the inclusion of maps of the area and locations of buildings and units. Even though the story frequently switched its focus from one situation to the next (which I did not enjoy) the maps did make the account of the mission a lot less confusing. I also enjoyed the vivid descriptions of the combat, making the intensity and perspective more believable. Overall, the accounts from a first-person perspective were equally matched with intricate detail that only a soldier in the field could even attempt to recount. As mentioned earlier, the downside in recounting each of the battle conflicts was the obvious skipping around between the different fight scenes which definitely made the mission harder to follow. Also, the account could be difficult to understand especially if the reader did not have a background in military lingo, terminology, weapons, and vehicles prior to their reading. On the other hand, being a story about modern war, one should have some knowledge before attempting to read a military genre in the first place. I would recommend this book to any high school student interested in history or modern warfare. The book, while explicit about the soldiers' insecurities and bloody casualties, could be enlightening about the United States involvement in foreign countries in which we don't always fully understand their internal conflicts. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that most high school students are awed by the United States military's training and readiness, but this account presents the other side of the coin whereby even a rag-tag team of rebels can find weakness and cause havoc and casualties in a military setting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you've seen the movie, you need to read the book now to flesh out the ill-advised, ill-conceived and ill-fated military arrest raid into Mogadishu. If you haven't seen the movie either, watch it, then read this book. Mark Bowden did tons of research in order to piece together the events as they happened on that day. The Rangers and Special Forces (Delta Force) operators involved in that arrest raid and subsequent SHTF firefight experienced combat at a level of intensity and ferocity probably unseen by American foot soldiers since the Tet Offensive or, more likely, the Korean War. Bowden's investigative reporting, collected into one cohesive narrative, brings to mind Cornelius Ryan's work on famous operations of WWII. The overlapping point-of-view of multiple participants in modern battle is similar to Henry Brown's Hell and Gone (though this is non-fiction). Why our armed forces were in Somalia is just as valid a question as why our troops are in Iraq now. But this is not a book about policies and's about men in combat.
Red_Dragon More than 1 year ago
This book was great. Mark did a great job of getting research. He went around to many people who were involved with the war. It didn't matter what side they were on. He got statements for Somali fighters and American fighters. The writing however was not my favorite. He jumped time periods and had many little battles going on at once so it was hard to figure out what was going on. He also used very specific names and it was hard to figure out who was who. It was a nice touch to put into the book, but I would have liked it to be a little vague so I wouldn't have had to keep flipping pages in order to remember who was who. This book was very original in the sense that it was the first book written about this battle. Mark is a writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and was captivated by this battle. When he found out that nobody else had written a book on it he immediately started brainstorming. Another original touch were the little stories of the people involved. Like I said before, it was a nice touch, but he could have cleaned it up a bit and made it easier to know what was going on and keep in in chronological order. The balance was nice because the movie was based off of this novel. This made reading the book very easy to comprehend in terms of the general idea and some of the main characters. Due to this the interior images, or imagery, I encountered while reading the book was fierce because I was imagining the movie in my mind as I read it. The book was very touching and since he used actual names it really got to me and hit me on a personal level. The book was obviously inspirational as it is a war-based book and that always brings inspiration due to the bravery and valor of the soldiers. This was a great book and it worked great for my book report for my government class because of the role of Congress (called off further action against Aidid) and President Clinton (gave Aidid the ultimatum of either giving up the pilot or facing a decimation on the city).
HomeriusMark More than 1 year ago
America was in the midst of a world war; against Terrorism. We were the epicenter of help and goodwill. Whether it was a responsibilty or a bad move, we spread our forces throughout the world trying to stem the tide of evil that was washing over it. "There's not to make reply/There's not to reason why/There's but to do and die." (Tennyson, Charge of the Light Brigade) This is the sentiment that is found within this riveting and sensational novel. The boys are out doing their job, fighting and dying for causes far greater and admirable than the ones plastered all over the news. How about the story of two Delta snipers who blatantly give their lives for to prolong the life of when of their pilots. You will fight and die with these men as they face a whole country full of people who hate Americans. You will be with them as a 45 minute long operation turns into a day long dilemma, eventually fighting to just survive. You won't forget these men as they become immortalized in your mind for their actions and memorialized in your heart for their bravery.
Riley614 More than 1 year ago
Black Hawk Down was a very good book in my opinion. It tells the complete story of October 3rd, 1993. Mark Bowden found a topic that not many Americans want to look back on and therefore had not written a detailed account of it. I have always had an interest in warfare so the detail in which he describes what happened pulled me in until the very word. I did think the way the chapters flipped from person to person could have been made a little bit more understandable but it wasn't beyond being figured out. The most interesting part of the story to me was when the mixed unit of Rangers and Delta operators were pinned down over night and the valiant rescue mission forged to save them. Another reason this book is so powerful is because it happened so recently. It was just over ten years ago while most great war books are about the wars of our grandfathers which are drilled into us so well that we become bored of them. This recent conflict is a conflict of a generation much closer to our own. The technologies that we still use today were used when this happened which adds another interest factor. I guess the main point is that all that is being talked about in this book is still relevant and understood today. In 30 or 40 years everything in this book will be old news. All the things that we found so interesting will be considered old. The technologies will be overshadowed by more sophisticated and efficient killing machines. We should consider this fact when we push this book on future generations. The children on tomorrow will know nothing of the Clinton Presidency or anything of this time period. To me it was an inspiring book which i thoroughly enjoyed reading.
militarygirl27 on LibraryThing 2 days ago
I love the movie and book. I think the book is better though.
niteowljr on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Interesting and quite readable but, unfortunately, each chapter comes across as a news article rather than a work of literature.
kristianbrigman on LibraryThing 2 days ago
Wow. This was really my first 'true war' book, and it is great. A truly gripping account. Most of the book takes place over the course of a couple of days. I have since read some other war books like Jarhead and was turned off by all the focus on 'juvenile' behavior, and thankfully, because it focuses most on the battle, that's mostly absent here. Bowden pulls no punches, and attempts to show both sides of the conflict objectively, meaning this does come across a bit like a news journal. This is a good thing, IMHO, and just makes it that much more involving.
teaperson on LibraryThing 3 days ago
A compelling account with all too much relevancy to current events. I read this story of these fighters' experience in Mogadishu with echoes of the young men and women now fighting in Baghdad, fighting with huge bravery but doomed to futility by commanders who don't understand the bigger context of Iraq. Bowden does a great job of evoking the chaos of war and the individual heroism of these men -- warts and all.
jcvogan1 on LibraryThing 9 days ago
Quick and easy read. The author relied almost exclusively on US personnel as sources and the resulting texts reflects that.
ngennaro on LibraryThing 9 days ago
You will not put this book down. Depressing that we could be so inept at the high levels and yet you are proud that the men and women who serve this country are so dedicated to their profession and their counterparts. Just another example of where looking back on the situation we see clearly how so many mistakes were made that could have changed the outcome significantly.
NDDavis More than 1 year ago
Bowden evolves into a thrilling storyteller for this unfortunate non-fiction piece. A strong recommendation for those who want to understand what happened at the tactical level of this operation.
EPClark More than 1 year ago
How much good can you do with the point of a gun? This is the question that, at its heart, "Black Hawk Down" asks--and answers. The answer? Only so much. "Black Hawk Down" covers, with moment-by-moment thoroughness, the 1993 battle of Mogadishu, when a small group of US Rangers and Delta Force soldiers found themselves caught up in a city-wide battle during what was meant to be a simple operation to arrest a couple of warlords. The US was supposedly on a humanitarian mission in Somalia--a humanitarian mission they were carrying out with the aforementioned Rangers and Delta Force troops, and one that was terrorizing and alienating the people of Mogadishu, who, when two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down, took the opportunity to rise up and strike back at the American soldiers who were supposedly there to help them. The result was a multi-hour battle in which 18 US soldiers were killed and dozens wounded, as well as one of the Black Hawk pilots being taken prisoner and held for days. The Somali casualty count was horrifically worse: at least 500 Somalis killed, many of them women and children (although a number of those women and children had taken up arms against the Americans), and 1000 wounded. The story is an impressive piece of journalism, as Bowden interviewed all the participants and listened to their radio recordings, as well as visiting Mogadishu and getting the Somali side as well. The result is an incredibly detailed, minute-by-minute story of the multi-hour, multi-part battle, in which several rescue missions were sent in after the original force, only to get bogged down in heavy fighting as well. It can be hard to keep up with the multiple operations, told from multiple points of view, but that only adds to the "fog of war" experience that the soldiers had, as rescue convoys got lost in the winding city streets and troops on foot got trapped under enemy fire only a few yards from each other. Bowden has a taut prose style, and the action moves swiftly, even though the book is long and dense. Some of the sections are fairly graphic, especially the descriptions of the injuries that the soldiers sustain, so this is not a book for the overly squeamish, in case the subject matter didn't make that obvious already. Indeed, although before I read the book I had only the vaguest outline of what happened, I remember the pictures of dead American soldiers being dragged through the streets, something that has always made the word "Mogadishu" synonymous in my mind with brutality. Although "Black Hawk Down" tells the story largely from the American perspective, it also includes the perspectives of a number of Somalis who get caught up in the violence as well, and explains why they were so angry with what they saw as the American occupation. American forces were supposed to get rid of warlords who were, in fact, starving their own people, and put Somalia on the path to democracy. But it turned out the people didn't actually want democracy, at least not democracy forced on them at gunpoint. The Americans had overwhelmingly superior technology and firepower, not to mention extensive training, and by some measures they "won" the battle, in that they achieved the original aim of the mission and inflicted many more casualties than they took. But the end result was that they had to pull out, and Somalia remained a war-torn, corrupt country.