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Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War Paperback – April 13, 2010
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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 --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
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. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
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Our critical mistake in this episode was drastically underestimating the enemy. While we had every advantage in terms of technology and military hardware, the Somali's had on their side sheer numbers of fighters as well as their determined willingness to fight regardless of the dangers to their own lives. Time and again, Somali fighters would put themselves in direct fire of the US forces to attack, usually being killed in the process. Another Somali fighter would then pick up their weapon and take their place. This went on for 12 to 18 hours in a house-to-house street battle that kept the relatively small force of Americans pinned down all night.
Like the movies Saving Private Ryan and Three Kings this book depicts a very graphic image of war and battle. While I do believe that there are things we need to be willing to fight for, every one of us needs to understand the type of situation we are asking our military to go in to.
Black Hawk Down, on the other hand, treats combat as a very intense, extraordinarily terrifying experience. The combatants are solely concerned with keeping themselves and their comrades alive for as long as possible.
I have had the good fortune never to be involved in a combat situation and now I hope like hell that I never do.
It's a very good book. I highly recommend it, provided that you don't start reading it within two hours of the time you plan to go to sleep. You'll glance at the clock to realise that five hours have passed.
After reading the book, I understand why people volunteer to go into the armed forces. However, it's probably a good idea for the recruiters to provide a copy of this book to a prospective volunteer, just to make sure that the person knows what he or she is signing up for.