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Black Hawk Down
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This is military writing at its breathless best. Bowden (Bringing the Heat) has used his journalistic skills to find and interview key participants on both sides of the October 1993 raid into the heart of Mogadishu, Somalia, a raid that quickly became the most intensive close combat Americans have engaged in since the Vietnam War. But Bowden's gripping narrative of the fighting is only a framework for an examination of the internal dynamics of America's elite forces and a critique of the philosophy of sending such high-tech units into combat with minimal support. He sees the Mogadishu engagement as a portent of a disturbing future. The soldiers' mission was to seize two lieutenants of a powerful Somali warlord. Despite all their preparation and training, the mission unraveled and they found themselves fighting ad hoc battles in ad hoc groups. Eschewing the post facto rationalization that characterizes so much military journalism, Bowden presents snapshots of the chaos at the heart of combat. On page after page, in vignette after vignette, he reminds us that war is about breaking things and killing people. In Mogadishu that day, there was no room for elaborate rules of engagement. In the end, it was a task force of unglamorous "straight-leg" infantry that saved the trapped raiders. Did the U.S. err by creating elite forces that are too small to sustain the attrition of modern combat? That's one of the key questions Bowden raises in a gripping account of combat that merits thoughtful reading by anyone concerned with the future course of the country's military strategy and its relationship to foreign policy. (Mar.)

Black Hawk Down is more than a well-crafted action thriller. Ninety-nine elite fighting men, trapped in a hostile city, are running out of ammunition and medical supplies as night falls. A rescue helicopter crashes, and an armored column loses its way. But this is not fiction; the people are real, and Bowden takes pains to show how a peaceful food-for-starving-Africans mission led to U.S. involvement in the battle of Mogadishu and how it extricated itself. This original work is virtually the sole source on the battle; it has won awards and was made into a movie. One caveat: this accurate portrayal of war contains a lot of gore. Narrator Alan Sklar's dramatization of this gripping tale is compelling. Recommended for all collections.DJames L. Dudley, Westhampton, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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