Tuesday, 08 January, 2002

Black Hawk Down

I bought the book Black Hawk Down over the weekend to read on my trip to Columbus.  Of course I've seen the advertisements for the movie but haven't paid them much attention and I haven't read any of the reviews.  I wasn't even going to buy the book until I read the back and discovered that it's a factual account of a U.S. Army battle that occurred in Mogadishu Somalia in 1993.

I couldn't put it down.  I started the book at the airport on Monday, and had completed well over half of it before I went to bed.  I stayed up late tonight to finish it.  I was totally blown away.

The author, Mark Bowden, did an excellent job of organizing the material he gathered from hundreds of interviews, hours of video footage and radio traffic transcripts, and uncounted documents.  He put it all together in chronological order and leads the reader through the entire sequence:  the initial assault, the shooting down of the first helicopter when things started going wrong, the rush trying to rescue the crew, the siege, and the final rescue.  This is all done in a very matter-of-fact manner and yet I was completely mesmerized.  Somehow, by presenting factual matter in a straightforward manner, the author was able to convey some of the terror that those men must have felt.  It's one thing to read a novelist's description of "our hero" dodging bullets, killing bad guys, and shrugging off a bullet or two to the leg.  It's something else entirely to read what really happens when a 7.62 mm round from an AK-47 hits the bone below the knee and exits through the heel.

Not that the book is all blood and gore.  Far from it.  Sure, people get shot and killed, but he doesn't really dwell on that.  I gained from the book a better understanding of just how confusing things get when the lead starts flying and the shit hits the fan.  

Highly recommended.