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Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War Hardcover – February 10, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; 1 edition (February 10, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871137380
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871137388
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (850 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Journalist Mark Bowden delivers a strikingly detailed account of the 1993 nightmare operation in Mogadishu that left 18 American soldiers dead and many more wounded. This early foreign-policy disaster for the Clinton administration led to the resignation of Secretary of Defense Les Aspin and a total troop withdrawal from Somalia. Bowden does not spend much time considering the context; instead he provides a moment-by-moment chronicle of what happened in the air and on the ground. His gritty narrative tells of how Rangers and elite Delta Force troops embarked on a mission to capture a pair of high-ranking deputies to warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid only to find themselves surrounded in a hostile African city. Their high-tech MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters had been shot down and a number of other miscues left them trapped through the night. Bowden describes Mogadishu as a place of Mad Max-like anarchy--implying strongly that there was never any peace for the supposed peacekeepers to keep. He makes full use of the defense bureaucracy's extensive paper trail--which includes official reports, investigations, and even radio transcripts--to describe the combat with great accuracy, right down to the actual dialogue. He supplements this with hundreds of his own interviews, turning Black Hawk Down into a completely authentic nonfiction novel, a lively page-turner that will make readers feel like they're standing beside the embattled troops. This will quickly be realized as a modern military classic. --John J. Miller

From Publishers Weekly

This is military writing at its breathless best. Bowden (Bringing the Heat) has used his journalistic skills to find and interview key participants on both sides of the October 1993 raid into the heart of Mogadishu, Somalia, a raid that quickly became the most intensive close combat Americans have engaged in since the Vietnam War. But Bowden's gripping narrative of the fighting is only a framework for an examination of the internal dynamics of America's elite forces and a critique of the philosophy of sending such high-tech units into combat with minimal support. He sees the Mogadishu engagement as a portent of a disturbing future. The soldiers' mission was to seize two lieutenants of a powerful Somali warlord. Despite all their preparation and training, the mission unraveled and they found themselves fighting ad hoc battles in ad hoc groups. Eschewing the post facto rationalization that characterizes so much military journalism, Bowden presents snapshots of the chaos at the heart of combat. On page after page, in vignette after vignette, he reminds us that war is about breaking things and killing people. In Mogadishu that day, there was no room for elaborate rules of engagement. In the end, it was a task force of unglamorous "straight-leg" infantry that saved the trapped raiders. Did the U.S. err by creating elite forces that are too small to sustain the attrition of modern combat? That's one of the key questions Bowden raises in a gripping account of combat that merits thoughtful reading by anyone concerned with the future course of the country's military strategy and its relationship to foreign policy.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Mark Bowden is the bestselling author of Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, as well as The Best Game Ever, Bringing the Heat, Killing Pablo, and Guests of the Ayatollah. He reported at The Philadelphia Inquirer for twenty years and now writes for Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and other magazines. He lives in Oxford, Pennsylvania.

Customer Reviews

I saw the movie, then read the book, then saw the movie again.
bradw2k
The bravery, courage, and loyalty these soldiers demonstrate in this book in giving their lives up for their fellow soldiers is beyond admirable.
Amazon Customer
Mark Bowden has done an outstanding job of telling the story of the battle of Mogadishu.
David C. Read

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

155 of 167 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
So you've never been in combat. Come to Mogadishu. Maybe you're the rear detachment company clerk who was called forward due to an injury. Join the D-Boys and Rangers on a quick raid gone wrong. Fast-rope into a crowded African city on a Sunday afternoon and smell, taste, hear, and touch the reality of true combat. Test your soul; what would you do if you were surrounded by thousands of deadly Somalis only miles from safety in the heart of their territory and there is a BLACK HAWK DOWN? Mark Bowden has taken his award winning series of newspaper articles written for the Philadelphia Inquirer and turned them into a must-read classic for all military professionals. He definitely took a modest assignment and overachieved; we are the beneficiaries. His detailed account of the Battle of the Black Sea (Mogadishu: 3-4 October 1993) is destined to occupy the bookshelves of every military professional or would-be warrior. Devour and enjoy Black Hawk Down. This book is not about your Grandfather or Father's war. This is about modern war involving many soldiers still on active duty. It's not about destroying tanks from 3,000 meters away. It's about close combat when the rules of engagement cease to have relevance and survival requires immediate instinctive response. This book is a crystal ball on future urban warfare and a cautionary note for contentious peacekeeping operations. The devil is in the details and you will not want for details. The gore, frustrations, disagreements, mistrusts, illusions, misconceptions, ramifications, difficulties, cowardice, and heroics are displayed for all to see. Sure there is some hype and inaccuracy, but no interesting microscopic analysis can exist without such blemishes.Read more ›
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52 of 55 people found the following review helpful By "deedawg" on August 18, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
If Black Hawk Down was not nonfiction, I wouldn't have believed it. The heroic tale of a group of just over 100 U.S. Rangers, DELTA operators, and SEALs in the 15+ hour non-stop battle of their lives to survive against thousands of agressive,armed Somali militia should be near impossible for anyone to put down who has an interest in military history. However, the main strength of the book is delivered by the author Mark Bowden himself. As an investigative reporter, he takes pains not to play the role of a monday morning armchair quarterback, and as a result simply reports the facts surrounding the October 3-4, 1993 "Battle of the Black Sea" in Mogadishu. Throughout the book, I began seeking the military commanders or politicians who should be "blamed" for this mission gone so bad. Bowden doesn't provide the answers, but instead lets the reader come to his or her own conclusions. His research of first hand source material, documentation of his sources, and reliance on only first hand interviews is first rate and qualifies this book as an excellent work of History, not merely a piece of investigative journalism.
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55 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Wanko on March 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
I read a fair amount of historical non-fiction and was taught throughout high school to think critically when reading. Check sources, check author's tone, point of the writing, points of view being used, context, and so forth. Apparently Mark Bowden, the author, comes from the same school of thought. He writes a thorough and genuine account of a sadly-ignored incident in US history.
I can recall the newspaper accounts of the time, wondering what we were doing there and why, after taking such incredible beatings, we were leaving. Rather than do the research to find out why, Mr. Bowden has compiled this book, which rightfully deserves its place on any historian's bookshelf.
Bowden's accounting of the events and context are flawless. His research is uncommonly thorough, and given the opportunity to write the first really comprehensive accounting of the events, he makes the most of it. His attention to detail, his recreation of the timeline, and his notes are worthy of emulation by future students of history.
All that is nothing without good writing, and Bowden keeps a reader locked into the story. As hard as some of it is to read because of the imagery and concomitant emotional responses, Bowden leads you through the battles at ground level, at eye level from helicopter platforms, at screen level from command centers. At the end of the book one wonders how you survive the reading; how much worse to have been there in it? I was exhausted mentally, and therein lies the demanding aspect of the book.
So much goes on, so many players become involved, that a cheet sheet and glossary of some terms would've helped immensely. Even a cast of characters would've been of some utility, but eventually, I just bore down and focused.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Glenn M. Frazier on June 5, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, by Mark Bowden, is an in-the-streets account of the now infamous seventh mission of Task Force Ranger and Delta Force in Mogadishu, Somalia. Militarily, the mission was a success; politically, it was a disaster.
Black Hawk Down was recently released as a major motion picture. I haven't (yet) seen the film, but even to those who have I strongly suggest reading this book. In addition to being made as a movie, an even earlier version of this book appeared as a series of articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Additionally, there is a "companion documentary" (Somalia: Good Intentions, Deadly Results), a shorter version of which has appeared on CNN. Of course, the most famous media related to this story is the news footage of the dead American soldiers being dragged through the streets by angry mobs; second to that would be the image of Black Hawk pilot Mike Durant's smashed face in the video made of him by his captors. Both of these are around; if you really need a reminder, try Google.
In the 1990's, the United States found itself in three separate conflicts in (at least partially) Muslim lands. The Gulf War was a conventional military venture, the UN missions in the former Yugoslavia represented a basic-albeit convoluted-peace-keeping venture. The nation-building force in Somalia after the initial famine-busting mission heavily involved special operations. The first sent ripples among the military theorists of nations across the world; the second involved the civilizationally odd American preference to support the Muslim community over that of Orthodox and Western forces; the third was seen as a victory of sorts by Third Worlders and Islamists who drew from it the lesson that America could be shocked into backing out of a conflict.
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