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.
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