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Ninety-nine elite American soldiers are trapped in the middle of a hostile city. As night falls, they are surrounded by thousands of enemy gunmen. Their wounded are bleeding to death. Their ammunition and supplies are dwindling. This is the story of how they got there - and how they fought their way out. This is the story of war.
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 firelight American soldiers have fought since the Vietnam war.
Late in the afternoon of Sunday, October 3, 1993, the soldiers of Task Form 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, locked in a desperate struggle to kill or be killed.
When the unit was finally rescued the following morning, 18 American soldiers were dead and dozens more badly injured. The Somali toll was far worse; more than five hundred felled and over a thousand wounded. Award-winning literary journalist 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.
Authoritative, gripping, and insightful, Black Hawk Down is a riveting look at the terror and exhilaration of combat destined to become a classic of war reporting.
...as written by a civilian.
And he starts off running, too, with Blackburn's fall happening midway through chapter two of ninety-seven. Bowden then takes us through the following day and night and morning of combat at the same pace, quick asides fleshing out the history of Task Force Ranger and how it all went wrong. He effortlessly jumps between every viewpoint you could think of: grunts, commanders, civilians, militia, pilots, medics, Delta, you name it. All these varied people bring a different perspective, have a different part to play, and Bowden keeps it clear who is doing what and why. The reader is told everything he or she needs to know as soon as he or she needs to know it, in an easily grasped way. Above all else, Black Hawk Down is an immersive, engaging piece of nonfiction.
But also, I think the book represents something more universal. We hear the human stories of so many people, mostly soldiers: their motivations for enlisting, reactions to combat, snippets of army life, and so on. It layers glimpses and slivers and stories on top of each other, the end result being a mosaic of humanity under extreme conditions.
Another charm point for this book is its tone. Bowden never judges the subjects of his narration for thinking or doing anything. He simply recites. Whether it reflects good or ill, be it a petty mistake or a substantial act of bravery, it gets related.
I felt Alan Sklar gave a solid performance. His tone, like that of the book, was one of detached recitation. He delivers the right amount of emotion when the book calls for it, and does the dialogue decently enough when it comes up.
On a side note, I think my favorite person to follow was Delta Force operator SFC Howe. I loved his amusingly jaundiced view of everything that was going on. "Everything about this situation was pissing him off: the goddamned Somalis, his leaders, the idiot Rangers..." Even when he was feeling respect for the enemy it felt like he was doing it in part as a screw you to the Rangers around him.
Less fun was when the narration followed SPC Stebbins. I knew going in that he would later be sentenced to thirty years for raping his daughter. It doesn't invalidate his bravery, but I cringed to hear how he was becoming a sort-of legend in the unit when I knew how far he and his fortunes would fall. "Then, he got married, and his wife had a baby-" Eeeee....
21 of 21 people found this review helpful
Black Hawk Down is one of the great combat narratives of modern times and a tribute to the courage of the men who fought and died in Somalia. Alan Sklar does the book justice with his precise narration. One of my all time favorite books.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
Absolutely, You can't put it down.<br/>
Who was your favorite character and why?
There aren't really characters, they are real people who were interviewed.<br/><br/>The Delta people are the most interesting.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
When the cooks, secretaries, mechanics, etc loaded up and headed into Mogadishu. Good reminder of how everyone in the military is ultimately a soldier.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
as a fellow war veteran of Iraq I feel the pain of these men and the story was told with honor as they deserve some parts are hard to explain but mark bowden did a great job of telling their stories I was surprised to hear that he had no experience with the military after this it makes it that much better a story
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
The mission, Task Force Ranger, occurred in Mogadishu, Somalia. The mission was to take an hour. The afternoon sun was shining. Therefore, equipment such as night time goggles, canteens filled with water, extra ammunition, etc., were not taken. The quick capture of two high ranking lieutenants from a renegade warlord went from one hour, to the most intense battle since the Vietnam war. The year was 1993. There were 99 men who survived, 18 were dead and dozens injured. The survivors were pinned down over night in a ferocious fight for their lives.
Their mission was successful until a black hawk was downed and the soldiers from the Army, Marine Corps and the US Special Forces had to go back to find the Black Hawk and the men who were on the helicopter.
Three soldier's, while fighting in Vietnam, were taken by the North Vietnamese as prisoner's of war. Two of the men were killed and dragged through the streets of North Vietnam, showing the American's just how hated they were. The incident was televised over and over. The third American was rescued by the Special Forces and brought home to the US. He had been severely beaten by his captors. This is when the American military assured themselves and their fellow American's, they would never again leave one of their comrades behind.
The author, Mark Bowden, was a literary journalist. He has written, in my opinion, one of the best books about any real-time action that the US has been involved in. I have read many true accounts concerning the US and war. He extensively interviewed the participants from both sides. The combat had been videoed and Bowden was supplied with this classified information as well as the radio transcripts.
The mission, a supposed snatch and grab operation, turned into a war. The US had gone into Somalia many times and completed their missions quickly. However, this time the Somalian people of Mogadishu took up arms and fought back in a way such as never before.
The character's were indeed well developed. The cadence of the narrator read like a song. The book was definitely an edge of the seat listen. The book was a two day listen for me. The book, Black Hawk Down, was exceptionally good from start to finish. Don't hesitate buying the book. I know that you will not be disappointed. I hope that you experience the quality of the book as much as I did. I've never seen the movie but I think I'm satisfied having listened to the book.
20 of 22 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
It's definitely a story that should be experienced, especially by those interested in Military Memoirs.
Who was your favorite character and why?
I particularly enjoyed the Delta soldiers and Navy SEALs.
What three words best describe Alan Sklar’s voice?
Gene Hackman-esque. Solid.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
The whole book was pretty moving. I don't want to give anything away, but there was a specific part near the beginning of the battle with an RPG that was more emotional for me.
Any additional comments?
I very much enjoyed the narrator's performance, except for his pronunciation of words that end in -or. Horror, terror, error. As you can imagine in a book about war, these words are frequently used and his pronunciation jerks the listener out of the story, which is particularly impactful considering the timing of the usage of those specific words. Otherwise, great story. Would recommend!
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
This was a gripping read that went from accounts of many that were involved in the fighting that day. If you have seen the movie be prepared for much broader and definitive dissection of the overnight stay in the moog.,
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
First off let me say that this is my favorite book that I've purchased on audible. So much so that I am leaving a review. I've read the book once, but decided it wouldn't hurt to listen to it. And I'm so glad I did.
The way this book presents itself and the way it presents the moment to moment lives of soldiers is painfully and plainly real. In stark contrast to other historical novels, this makes you feel like you are living in the moment of the battle. The angles taken by the author are amazing. And since the author admirably left out as much political undertones as possible, we get a stark picture of what really happened.
Overall an incredibly gripping and emotional book.
The narrator whose voice at first didn't quite fit the story, grew on me. To the point that by the end of the book, I can't have imagined anyone else reading it. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting a military or historical novel.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Bowden is a phenomenal writer. He accomplished his vision of capturing a first hand account of this gruesome war, giving it a memoir feel with a journalistic approach. His dedication and desire to tell find and report the truth is inspiring. Lately I've been obsessed with reading books about modern warfare. Black Hawk Down set a high caliber for the other ones I plan to read. I am actually going to rifle through some of Bowden's other works because I enjoyed this one so much.
Bowden gave a thorough and harrowing account of the details that led up to the Battle of the Black Sea. He did a great job of explaining the string of events that led up to the fighting, described with riveting detail the horrors the Rangers and Delta force endured, and ended with great summation of the fallout of the battle. I was not much of a person for politics or war, but I find myself very curious about international relations and diplomacy these days (with all the threats of ISIS that keep popping up).
To all of our soldiers that have served, still serve, and hope to serve, God bless you. War is not a pretty alternative and I cannot believe there are brave souls out there who put their lives on the line for strangers in America to protect and defend us from terrorist agencies.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
I haven't yet seen the film (it's in my Netflix queue) but this book is probably one of the best war memoirs written by someone who wasn't a soldier and wasn't there.
Mark Bowden is a journalist who took an interest in the disastrous 1993 mission to capture the warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. A well-practiced mission executed by the elite Army Rangers and the even more elite Delta Force (the "D-boys" as the Rangers called them), they went into the heart of Mogadishu expecting to do a snatch-n-grab. Instead, one of the Black Hawk helicopters is brought down by a rocket-propelled grenade, and in the chaos that follows, the Rangers and D-boys are trapped in Mogadishu surrounded by hundreds of angry locals, the "combatants" and "non-combatants" essentially indistinguishable, and forced to hold them off with superior firepower overnight, until they are finally rescued in the morning by the 10th Mountain Division, a regular Army unit.
Bowden, who interviewed as many of the survivors as he could find, including the super-secretive Delta Force troops (who, once he was able to find them, were surprisingly willing to tell him details of what happened), also went to Somalia and interviewed as many Somalis as he could find who were there, getting both sides of the story. From this, he constructed a narrative that, as he tells it, has the realism of a documentary but the drama of a novel. And his narrative is dramatic and harrowing and puts you there, in the air and then on the ground, as the Army unit takes casualties, guns down women and children (who are shooting at them or acting as spotters for snipers), while donkeys and doves casually stroll unscathed through the firefight. He covers the entire action in detail from the planning to the aftermath. And he goes into the politics that led to the mission in the first place, and casts his own verdict about whether or not blame was apportioned fairly afterward. (He takes particular issue with what he calls unfair and inaccurate criticisms by David Hackworth, a retired Army colonel and military writer and journalist whom I used to read regularly.)
This was an excellent read, and really captures the feel, the camaraderie, and the no-BS sheer terror experienced even by hardened vets when exposed to combat, especially when a mission goes sideways. It does not whitewash the horrors and intractability of Somalia, how the US went in with good intentions and the Rangers were initially well-received by the populace, but soon became seen as murderers and terrorists. Sound familiar?
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Eventually I hear the story after seeing the film many times. For me it underlines the futility of war. However one cannot ignore the fascination if the subject matter. The real human stories of fighting for your own survival.
I really tried I wanted to know what really happens here but the narrator for me was useless I didn't know who was who or what was what I got lost in this very complexed fast paced storey.. a narrator is extremely important and needs to be multidimensional when so many characters are at play