Mark Bowden

Black Hawk Down

  • 55-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 27 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a published author with a degree in English Literature
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Black Hawk Down Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 55-page guide for “Black Hawk Down” by Mark Bowden includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 27 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like How Could This Happen? and Loyalty.

Plot Summary

Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War is a 1999 book by journalist Mark Bowden. It is a non-fiction account of the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia, which resulted from US forces’ attempt to capture the two lieutenants of Mohamed Farrah Aidid, a warlord who oppressed the Somali people and stole their humanitarian aid. Bowden originally published a 29-part investigation of the failed mission in The Philadelphia Inquirer, later expanding it into Black Hawk Down.

In 1992, Somalia’s famine and civil war are worsening. President George H. W. Bush sends US troops to Somalia to help combat the warlords who are stealing humanitarian aid. Aidid becomes the focus of US military efforts, but he manages to evade capture for so long that the US troops begin to look like an occupying force rather than a temporary aid unit.

The best chance to capture Aidid’s leadership comes on October 3, 1993. During daylight hours, a team of Rangers and Delta Force operators arrive in the city of Mogadishu in helicopters and descend on ropes outside the target house where Aidid’s men are holding a meeting. The Delta men secure the prisoners without incident, but a ranger falls from a helicopter during his descent and is badly injured. Thousands of Somalis rush to the scene and open fire on the Americans, encircling them. A rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, shoots down two of the Black Hawk helicopters, limiting escape options for the Americans.

A convoy of heavy vehicles meant to transport prisoners away from the target house is surrounded and bogged down in heavy fighting. For the next 14 hours, the US troops in Mogadishu fight for their lives against thousands of Somali militiamen. In the early morning hours of October 4, US leadership gets a new rescue convoy, comprised of Malaysian and Pakistani forces, to the crash sites. However, there are not enough seats for everyone in the convoy, and many of the men must run out of the city on foot, still fighting.

Thirteen US soldiers die in the battle, and 75 sustain injuries. Estimates vary, but the US forces kill at least 500 Somalis and wound 1,000.

Bowden’s book is a rapid-fire account of the frantic battle. Chapters are brief, vivid accounts from the viewpoints of many characters on each side of the conflict. Bowden also uses the knowledge of various characters to explain the background of the political realities in Somalia, as well as the involvement of the US military and the United Nations.

Black Hawk Down is a harrowing account of a failed mission, resulting in a new era of US policy during the Clinton administration that emphasizes judiciousness when involving America’s military in foreign countries.

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Part 1