Book info

Black Hawk Down (1999)

Black Hawk Down (1999)
Author
Rating
4.26 of 5 Votes: 3
ISBN
0871137380 (ISBN13: 9780871137388)
languge
English
publisher
atlantic monthly press
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Black Hawk Down (1999)
Black Hawk Down (1999)

About book: I realize it's silly to review a best-selling book that's been made into a movie and repackaged and reprinted multiple times, but that's never stopped me before, so...As a military (and military history) reader, I offer no rational excuse for not having read this book long ago (nor can I explain why I never saw the movie). I remember reacting poorly to one or more book reviews I read at the time, but, still, I should have read it.... On the other hand, there was a certain kismet in that, without intending to do so, I started the book on a (business) trip to Africa and, indeed, read it while flying over (and working in) the state(s) that surround Somalia. Having worked (albeit briefly) in a number of African states, it's both sad and informative to read about another step in Somalia's modern-era civil war and descent into its current, depressing, all-too-often seemingly hopelessly chaotic state (although, increasingly, Somalia is enjoying some amount of reconstruction and is now optimistically described as a progressing, evolving "fragile state").For non-military readers, the most important thing to know is that the author succeeds in presenting a detailed, harrowing non-fiction account of a dramatic military confrontation that reads like best-selling, airport bookstore fiction. The author did his homework, he interviewed many of the participants, and his access to a wealth of raw data (including video and tape from the battle) leads to a uniquely precise and orderly account of an otherwise chaotic series of events. But, while this is history, the story (and, ultimately, the action) drives the train. Granted, I shouldn't be surprised on that score, to the extent that I really enjoyed the author's football (NFL history) book, The Best Game Ever, and, indeed, I consider it one of the better sports books I've read. Accordingly, I applaud the author's ability to ply his art across highly divergent genres, and I expect I'll end up reading more of his work.For similar reasons, I strongly recommend taking the time to read the author's 2010 afterword - and, in retrospect - I could see it serving equally well, if not better, as a forward or preface. The author makes clear (what should have been obvious to any reader) that the art of this book is the author's presentation and empowerment of the soldiers' (and the participants') voices, rather than his own. The author plays no role in the story, and he remains invisible throughout the telling. He contrasts his approach - with help from critics (and/or what some might call literary snobs) - from generations of authors who determined that black humor, cynicism, and, implicitly, condescension and disrespect for the military (generally) and soldiers (individually and collectively) was the gold standard of war reporting. I applaud the author for his consistent and disciplined respect for those who serve, with all of their human failings, fears, and, well, humanity.Nonetheless, or, maybe, ultimately, the story (not the book) is immensely frustrating, as it graphically, painstakingly, and painfully, presents a brief anecdote of the fog of war, how political and leadership decisions impact the lives of soldiers, their families and, of course, people, communities, and states abroad ... and, of course, the next generation. For better or worse, in the new Millennium, Iraq and Afghanistan have generated a wealth of similar "new journalistic" accounts of urban warfare, small unit actions, and the actual experience of soldiers (rather than dispassionate high-level reconstruction of grand battles). War is messy, and the costs are high, and this book is a poignant reminder of both. In any event, I'd add this volume to a growing shelf of books that I'd love to see high school students exposed to before they truly enter adulthood, vote, consider military service, attend college, or form their initial (yet hard to change/inform) opinions about the nation's role in the world.There are a lot of players in the drama, and Bowden provides an extensive index (for that and other reasons). As an oft-academic reader, I'd personally have preferred Bowden's fulsome end notes as footnotes. In many cases, Bowden expands at length on specific events and recollections. Had these commentaries been at the bottom of the page when I was reading the relevant passage, I expect I would have spent significantly more time with them.Bowden's hard work paid off on this one. I expect this one will stay on bookshelves for years to come....

Black Hawk Down Book ReviewtBlack Hawk Down by Mark Bowden is about a mission gone awry. Mark Bowden was born in July 17, 1951 in St. Louis, Missouri. He graduated from Loyola College in Maryland and is a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer. The mission is to capture some of Mohamad Farrak Aidid’s militia’s officials in Mogadishu, Somalia. While trying to capture two prime suspects, the forces engage in fierce combat that kill many fine Rangers and Delta Force operatives.tI enjoyed the battle a lot because I am a war nut and love the military. I liked how in detail the story was because it has with many narratives and direct quotes from some people. During reading the book I felt like I was actually in the battle, so I started ducking while my trigger finger went nuts. I actually might have ducked for cover a couple times which is sad to admit. I also enjoyed the adjectives that were used because they were eloquent, but still gave me a sense of the battle. tA weakness I found in this novel is that the point of view changes way too much. The book was so interesting that while the narrative changes I am still on the ground trying to dodge bullets while shooting back. While the story is now talking about their families and how they grew up. At one point in the novel it starts in one person’s point of view than half way down the page it changes to someone else’s point of view that has no relevance to the first person’s point of view. Also the narratives were very uninteresting. The book changes sometimes to very boring parts of the story while there are battles on the other side the book is talking about birds and scenery.tOverall I thought the book was exquisite minding some inconsistencies. I believe that everyone should read this book about survival and the will to bring an area to safety instead of poverty. I would read this book again because the story is sad yet patriotic. When I finished this book I felt torn between signing up for the army or going to an anti war protest.
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Reviews
David
This book describes a battle in 1993 in Somalia - I remember it, as do many Americans of the time, because of the way the bodies of slain American soldiers were abused and paraded through the streets. It was a tough time for the US forces.On October 3, about a hundred elite US soldiers were dropped by helicopter into Mogadishu with a mission of capturing two top aides of a Somali warlord. The raid was supposed to take an hour. But when two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down by the Somalis and the soldiers were not able to be extricated amid the heavy opposition fighting, the plan fell apart. Eventually 18 Americans were killed and scores badly injured; one pilot was held hostage for a week.Bowden did exhaustive work interviewing survivors (on both sides of the conflict), poring through military records, analyzing reports and film footage taken from surveillance helicopters, etc. This is perhaps the most thoroughly documented battle description of modern times. I especially appreciated some of the descriptions from the Somali points-of-view. It gives you concern about the US role as "policeman of the world."Concerns: the violence, while accurate, is oppressive. War is terrible, and this book shows some of its worst aspects. Vulgar language is often present as you would expect in a military setting. And I occasionally found the style a little confusing when it would jump back in time to consider a scene from the different perspective of another witness.
Matt
This account of the infamous battle in Mogadishu, Somalia benefits both from the story being so compelling, and from Bowden's structuring style. Bowden interviewed everyone he could get ahold of, both in the US and Somalia, before writing the book- then compared stories and asked for clarification wherever there were discrepancies. Because of this, you get the story from many different perspectives, shifting between them as it unfolds, and the honesty of it serves to illustrate the many complications that arise when the world's strongest army ends up engaging mobs of armed and angry people in a third world country. What looks good on paper ends up making no sense at all in reality, and quickly descends into a confusing,troubling bloodbath for everyone involved. (The afterword in this edition contains some of the most interesting material)
'Aussie Rick'
This is one of those great books that you can't put down; it reads like a novel, a fast paced narrative that can sometimes make you forget that it's a true life drama where real people die. I enjoyed reading this book and it's nice to see an honest appraisal of a stuffed-up mission, which was no fault of the men on the ground. This is a well presented account of the men of the US Army Rangers and Delta Force troops involved in a mission to capture a pair of high-ranking deputies to warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. In the end a number of their MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters had been shot down and they were surrounded in a hostile city on the verge of being overrun. This is the sort of book that all soldiers and politicians should read for different reasons. Well done to the author and the men involved!
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