BLACK HAWK DOWN by Mark Bowden


A Story of Modern War
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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.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-87113-738-0
Page count: 356pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1999


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