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

Recounts a 1993 firefight in Mogadishu, Somalia, that resulted in the deaths of eighteen Americans and more than five hundred Somalis, examining the rationales behind the disastrous raid.

Dramatically, graphically reconstructing the October 1993 gun battle in Mogadishu, Somalia, journalist Bowden leaves nothing about combat to the imagination. Thinking there must have been some official inquiry into the disaster that killed 18 American soldiers and upwards of 500 Somalis, Bowden discovered none was undertaken, and so conceived this account. It is a horribly fascinating bullet-by-bullet story, in which the purpose of Americans in Somalia fades to irrelevance amidst the immediate desperation of fighting. The battle ignited as the army's elite formations, the Delta units and the Rangers, were ambushed in the course of capturing clan leaders. In the ensuing day-and night-long snafu, helicopters were shot down, rescue convoys drove in wrong directions, men bled to death. In effective New Journalism style, Bowden projects the individual soldier's thinking: his pride in his elite training, his surprise at the strangeness of combat, his determination to hold out until rescue, and, in two instances, his pure self-sacrificial heroism. An account impossible to stop reading, especially for those with army associations. ((Reviewed January 1 & 15, 1999)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

Journalist Bowden (Bringing the Heat: A Pro Football Team s Quest for Glory, Fame, Immortality and a Bigger Piece of the Action, 1994, etc.) originally wrote this as a serialized account in the Phildalphia Inquirer; he has now crafted the pieces into a searing look at one specific incident during the US military action in Somalia. This is the story of a military action on October 3, 1993, when elite US Rangers and a Delta task force swooped down on a Mogadishu neighborhood to capture two top lieutenants of a Somali warlord. The action was to be a quick surgical strike into a crowded market district that was known to be very unfriendly. Rather than a quick success, the attack decayed into mayhem as the Somali crowd which Bowden depicts vividly as a mixture of armed mercenaries working for warlords and a general populace that runs confusedly toward gunfire rather than away from it downs the high-tech helicopter with a simple grenade, and the American forces become pinned down in the city. Bowden captures the intensity of the situation with a brisk writing style reflecting the quick pace of action. Although he was not present in Somalia during the fighting, his account is well balanced with firsthand sources that cover the spectrum, from members of the Ranger forces stationed in Mogadishu to Somali citizens. As the Somali night unfolded, more than 500 civilians were killed, more than 1,000 injured, and 18 US soldiers died. Bowden covers these deaths with detail and passion. One element that is lacking from his account is a level of background that would offer more than a surface look at the actions as they unfolded; this is a work of reportage, rather than analysis. But as reportage, this account offers a look at modern war in the tradition of the great war correspondents. Gripping, passionate, and impossible to put down. Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

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