Black Hawk Down

  • by Mark Bowden
  • Narrated by Alan Sklar
  • 15 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.


What the Critics Say

"Black Hawk Down ranks as one of the best books ever written about infantry combat." (The New York Observer)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A Classic Of Military Writing... 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....
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- Joshua

A Short Operation Turns Long and Costly

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.

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- Pamela Dale Foster "I listen to and have recently started to write reviews. I've found the reviews have helped me to select books."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-09-2012
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio