Facts About "Black Hawk Down"

by Valerie Taylor
The conflict in October 1993 involved nearly twenty American aircraft, including Blackhawk helicopters.

The conflict in October 1993 involved nearly twenty American aircraft, including Blackhawk helicopters.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

"Black Hawk Down" is the title of a book published in 1999 and re-released in 2010 by Grove Press. A 2001 film was adapted from the book and shared the name. Author and journalist Mark Bowden based "Black Hawk Down" on an incident that occurred on October 3, 1993 in Mogadishu, Somalia between elite U.S. Army forces and residents of the city. More than a thousand outraged Somalis outnumbered the soldiers ten to one, and the mission ended after eighteen Americans were killed and many others wounded. The encounter was one of the longest firefights involving U.S. forces since the Vietnam War and it received a fair share of media attention.

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The Fight

Army Rangers received orders to enter predetermined buildings in Mogadishu and capture the Aidid's lieutenants. The lead Blackhawk was shot down early in the mission and its two pilots killed. Among other weapons, Somalis on the ground used antitank rockets and rocket propelled grenades to damage U.S. aircraft. At one point, Rangers were fighting hand-to-hand with Somali militia men. The mission was planned to take less than one hour but turned into an overnight incident.

Background Information

Army Rangers entered the war-torn city at the request of the Clinton administration and the U.N. who wished to capture two men involved in an ambush that killed 24 Pakistani humanitarians. The targets were lieutenants for Mohammad Farah Aidid, the leader of the Habr Bidr clan. Aidid and his men were instrumental in overthrowing the Somali dictator in 1990. Since that time, the African nation lacked a central government and American intervention, meant to feed the starving population, turned into a U.N. initiative to restore an independent government. In the process, a conflict in July of that year killed or injured more than 200 Somalis, and an indignant mob murdered four Western journalists. In October 1993, the city of Mogadishu was ripe for opposition.

The Book

Bowden's 400 page book quickly hit the bestseller list. The journalist was not present during the conflict and neither were any other reporters. He later spent a week in Mogadishu collecting information from both sides of the conflict. Bowden also got information from army records, audiotapes and classified video. The information he gathered was originally published in a 29-part series for the "Philadelphia Inquirer." The finished book received praise because the author carefully detailed what many believe went wrong with the single mission on October 3, as well as U.S. and U.N. involvement in Somalia.

The Film

The film "Black Hawk Down" was directed by Ridley Scott and was well-received at premiers in New York and Los Angeles. One pilot publicly praised the accuracy of the film, crediting the limitations of cinematography for most of the discrepancies that involved the people involved and the aircraft that was utilized. The movie starred well-known actors including Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor and Sam Shepard. "Black Hawk Down" received an Academy nomination for Best Cinematography and Best Director and won two Academy Awards for Best Editing and Best Sound in 2001.

About the Author

Valerie Taylor holds a master's degree in ancient history and a bachelor's degree in education and literature. She coauthored an article on Spartan religion for the "Journal of Sparta" in 2010 and has written numerous, history-related articles for Internet publication. Taylor enjoys hiking, gardening and running half-marathons.

Photo Credits

  • Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images