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Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War [Hardcover]

Mark Bowden
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (615 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 10 1999
Black Hawk Down drops you into a crowded marketplace in the heart of Mogadishu, Somalia with the U.S. Special Forces - and puts you in the middle of the most intense firefight American soldiers have fought since the Vietnam War. Late in the afternoon of Sunday, October 3, 1993, the soldiers of Task Force Ranger were sent on a mission to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord and return to base. It was supposed to take them about an hour. Instead, they were pinned down through a long and terrible night in a hostile city, locked in a desperate struggle to kill or be killed. When the unit was finally rescued the following morning, eighteen American soldiers were dead and dozens more badly injured. The Somali toll was far worse: more than five hundred killed and over a thousand wounded. Mark Bowden's dramatic narrative captures this harrowing ordeal through the eyes of the young men who fought that day. He draws on his extensive interviews of participants from both sides - as well as classified combat video and radio transcripts - to bring their stories to life. A Black Hawk pilot is shot down and besieged by an angry mob, then saved by Somalis who plan to ransom him to the local warlord. A medic desperately tries to keep his grievously wounded friend alive long enough to be evacuated - only to have him bleed to death in his arms. The company clerk, who is the butt of jokes in the barracks, rises to the task and performs extraordinary feats of valor.

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Product Description

From Amazon

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book! July 14 2004
Format:Paperback
Mark Bowden has done an outstanding job of telling the story of the battle of Mogadishu. U.S. army rangers and delta forces were in Mogadishu trying to kill or capture Mohamed Farrah Aidid, a local warlord, leader of the Habr Gidr clan, who was preventing international relief agencies from properly distributing food in famine-decimated Somalia.
Trying to pluck one well-hidden person from the midst of a very sympathetic populace is not so easy, as we learned then and have re-learned in the case of Ossama bin Ladin. The U.S. began to settle for picking off top Aidid aids.
This battle bagan when U.S. forces learned that two Aidid lieutenants were meeting in a building near the center of the Aidid-controlled section of Mogadishu. The plan called for Delta forces to take the building and capture the men, for army rangers to secure the corners of the block containing the target building, and for black Hawk helicopters to provide overhead cover for the rangers.
It was a reasonably good plan, but it had one very serious weakness. It turned out that the Black Hawks were very vulnerable to fire from rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), a cheap and reliable Soviet made weapons system. RPGs are as common as dirt in third world countries, and Aidid's forces had plenty of them. Two of the Black Hawks were shot down by RPG fire, and two more were damaged so badly that they had to crash land back at the U.S. base. In trying to retrieve the downed Black Hawk pilots and crews (or their bodies), the rangers and Delta forces got shot to hell by an extremely hostile city full of AK-47-toting Somalis.
It is an amazing story, well told by Mark Bowden. Part of the irony and horror of the situation is that we were only trying to help, we were only trying to do good.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Only Half the Story July 2 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Mark Bowden's story is an excellent retelling of the events of that day in 1993, but it only tells half the story. I don't think he even realized he was telling only part, even though he did try to get Somali voices in it. The real other half, which he does not seem to have a clue about, is that the whole event was a trap, an ambush coordinated and managed by Bin Laden and the Islamists in Sudan and Iran (see Y. Bodansky's book, Bin Laden, The Man Who Declared War on America). Isn't the author even curious about how, without any warning, all of these snipers and other armed individuals knew to be where the US soldiers were at that particular time? Mogadishu was and is a pretty lawless place, but even there I doubt that most areas have that many RPG launchers in one place all the time, just in case US soldiers drop in. The lack of adequate intelligence then and now, has led to the vulnerability of Western nations to terrorism. That and an unwillingness to admit that anyone could hate the US enough to ambush its soldiers, as well as putting hundreds of innocent civilians in the line of fire. Unfortunately, the US did not learn in Mogadishu, at the Khobar Towers, on the USS Cole, or even the WTC bombing in 1993. But it did learn on Sept. 11th.
This book is very good in many ways. But the complete story of these events in Mogadishu has yet to be told.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put it down! May 21 2004
Format:Paperback
What a fascinating and gripping account of modern urban combat! Bowden has written an excellent narrative of the ferocious events in Mogadishu on 3-4 October 1993. I would reccommend this book to any student of history, political science, or military studies--especially soldiers in need of an understanding of how, when even minute mistakes are made in planning, terrible things can happen to deter a unit's mission. One crticism is that Bowden should have shied from the political critique in his Epilogue. Since his book focused on the Rangers' and D-boys' combat experience, that's what he should have discussed. It seems that the political implications leading to US / UN involvement in Somalia were an afterthought and Bowden does a much better job focusing on the stories of the individuals involved. Overall, however, this is a great read and a fascinating testament to the courage, bravery, and devotion to each other shown by those who participated in the terrible Bakara Market Battle.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Story Of A Modern War May 13 2004
By Anthony
Format:Paperback
"Black Hawk Down" by Mark Bowden was one of the best war book that I have read. The story is a true story about 500 American soilders and Marines who go to Somalia(Which is located in east Africa) to bring food to all the starving people but War Lord Mohammed Farid Aidid siezes control of the ports where the Americans are giving the food to the people. Mohammed is taking the food to his army. The Americans come and try to arrest some of Mohammed's top Officers. Everything was going as planned. They were ready to transport the prisoners until Wolcott Black Hawk was shot downand 100 American soldiers were pinned down against 1000 angry Somalians. They set up a perimitor around the crash site untill Mike Durrant Black Hawk was hit and they had two blawk hawks in the city and now the whole city is against them. If you want to hear more you should read this book. This is a good book for anybody who likes true storys or war books. Personally, I think it was the best war book I have ever read.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Bit wordy in places but good read.
Story of war. Bit wordy in places but good read. Recommend
Published 1 month ago by JimmieA.
4.0 out of 5 stars Bravery & futility.
This is a story of futility and bravery. Unfortunately it included indiscriminate killing of civilians, which happens in war.

Well written.
Published 2 months ago by Bryan
3.0 out of 5 stars Modern Warfare in Therapy
The detail in this book sometimes weighs down the reading. It's a "study" of this famous engagement suffered by the American military in Somalia. Read more
Published 11 months ago by David R. Foster
5.0 out of 5 stars great read
This book is fantastic. It is well written and is one of the greatest pieces of war that I've ever read. Recommended.
Published 24 months ago by CAMBOT
4.0 out of 5 stars Breath Taking and Riveting
This book truly proves that war is no game. Where fear is always on the move.
The book was a powerful aspect of the men who died in Somalia, carfully scripted and studied... Read more
Published on Sept. 27 2004 by "midnite565"
5.0 out of 5 stars Could not put it down.
I first hear about this book years ago when someone suggested it on tv. But I did not pay it any attention until I saw the movie. Read more
Published on July 8 2004 by Everett Littles
5.0 out of 5 stars A dramatic acount of modern war.
Black Hawk Down is about the battle on October 3rd, 1993 in Somalia. I won't reveal anything, because I think you should read this wonderful book for yourself. Read more
Published on June 20 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Black Hawk Down
This book is so cool. It should be on your top ten list. Well, thats what I think. There is so much action and suspense. I cant stop reading it. There are so many facts. Read more
Published on May 14 2004 by Jordan kempfle
5.0 out of 5 stars Will be considered a classic of American literature
On October 4, 1993, America was rocked by the news that American Special Forces were ambushed in the Somali city of Mogadishu. Read more
Published on May 10 2004 by Kurt A. Johnson
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