Black Hawk Down

By Mark Bowden

You've probably seen or at least heard of the movie that is based on this book. The movie captures the essence of battle but theres only so much information that can be conveyed in a 2.5 hour movie. This book is a deep dive into the battle of Mogadishu and is a technical masterpiece given that, with few exceptions, every line of dialogue and event is either corroborated by multiple first hand sources or video / audio evidence.  The only area of the book where I wished there was more information was on the actions of Delta Force. Some of the Delta Force men don't even seem human. Their courage and resolve in battle can only be described as literally incredible (both extraordinary and difficult to believe). With the exception of the thoughts of MSG Paul Howe, all other accounts of Delta are from an outside perspective. The tradition of Delta Force is "silent professionalism" so it's understandable why so few operators were willing to talk to Bowden.

I'm bit of a military buff and I went into this book thinking that it would be an easy and familiar read. However, I was quickly floored by the detailed descriptions of death and dismemberment. The description of the lost convey that drove through the city under constant fire from all directions, made me feel on some small level the terror that was experienced by those present. Bowden tried to make the book read like fiction with more emotion than a more historical record keeping approach, and it shows.

Another part of the book that gave the story more teeth is the fact that I'm now older than a majority of those present at the battle. I first watched the movie when I was in my early teens, so it was easy to think that the people in the battle were adults who were more prepared to handle situations like this. Ranger Richard "Alphabet" W. Kowalewski, Jr was only 20 when he died during the battle of Mogadishu. With the exception of a few commanding officers, the Rangers all seemed like kids.

I think this a great book to expand a persons horizon on some of the harsher realities of life. We live in one of the most peaceful times in human history which makes it easy to forget some of things we take for granted. This book doesn't glamorize battle, but it does provide the thoughts and feelings of people not unlike yourself, in one.