Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A Review of "The True Story of Black Hawk Down!"

"Winston Churchill said, 'We'll fight them in the air, we'll fight them in the water, we'll fight them on the beaches, we'll fight them from the cliffs. And we'll never, never surrender.'

Well, this episode sent the message that we'll fight them on the beaches, we'll fight them on the hills, but if they kill a few of our soldiers we'll give up and go away."--Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War

During the Battle of Mogadishu, on October 3-4, 1993, 18 American soldiers were killed and 73 were wounded. Mark Bowden wrote a book about the battle entitled, Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War. The book was quickly turned into a movie by Jerry Bruckheimer and Ridley Scott and called, Black Hawk Down.

I own, and have seen the movie numerous times. Yet, it wasn't until this past week that I got a chance to watch the History Channel's, The True Story of Black Hawk Down. It was well done and showed that the movie had been, for the most part, accurate and it made me want to read Bowden's book even more.

It drove home how ruthless the Warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid was in using starvation as a weapon against his own people. President Bush Sr. sent in 20,000 Marines in December of 1992 that were literally able to end the famine. The problems started again when the Marines were replaced by the UN national force.

Finally, it became evident that Aidid needed to be taken care of, but it was taking awhile to get to him. On October 3rd, Task Force Ranger took place and consisted of:
...an assault force made up of US Army Delta Force, Ranger teams, an air element provided by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, four Navy SEAL operators from SEAL Team 6, and members of the Air Force Pararescue/Air Force Combat Controllers, executed an operation which involved traveling from their compound on the outskirts of the city to capture tier one personalities of the Habr Gidr clan, headed by Aidid.
Aidid had the whole city of Mogadishu ready for them. They were able to shoot down 2 of the Black Hawk helicopters and damaged 3 others. Aidid's soldiers also set up numerous blockades so that the American Soldiers were trapped, many of whom were wounded.

When "Nightstalker Pilot" Michael Durant was trapped in a downed helicopter, unable to walk, Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart voluntarily went in to help. Gordon and Shughart literally fended off thousands of Somali's by themselves until they died. They were both posthumously awarded the medal of honor. After watching "The True Story" documentary, I re-watched the movie. When I saw Gordon and Shughart facing all of those Somali's to protect Durant, knowing they wouldn't make it, I got teary eyed. Especially, when I realized that their deaths were in vain because Clinton never allowed the other soldiers to finish the mission.

Mark Bowden said that he's often asked if any of the soldiers are bitter about being a part of the battle. He said they aren't bitter about having been a part of it but, "they're bitter about the fact that the day after this battle, their mission was called off."

Also, U.S. Air Force Combat Controller Dan Schilling had this to say about Clinton's unwillingness to finish the mission and actually go back in and get Aidid:
As the Commander-in-Chief, and leader of this country, which is always the same person, you absolutely have the the obligation to be as strong as the people you send out to die.

In conclusion, one of Bowden's quotes:
One of the things that struck me working on the story of 'Blackhawk Down' was the tremendous courage and nobility of these young men. None of these young men who were trapped on the streets of Mogadishu, being shot at, wounded and killed had any part in the decision that put them there. They were there representing you and me as American citizens.

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