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An American Isandlwana
am 14. April 2000
First of all, it is important to understand what this book is, and what it is not. It is a good oral history of what the soldiers of TF Ranger felt like during what was for most of them, their first taste of combat. It is a very accurate portrayal of young men at war which, is why I gave it three stars. However, I was looking for a little more than that from this book. I was hoping for an accurate military history of the firefight of Oct. 3rd and 4th which, it is not. 99% of this book is about the pinned down SOF which, was really only half the battle. The other half was the rescue attempt by the QRF and UN allies which, is totally ignored in this book. The Malaysian soldier who died was no less brave than any American soldier who died. In fact, he should be eulogized more, because he died trying to save the soldiers of another country whom he had no obligation to. I realize the soldiers who fought in Mogadishu consider this book to be their "monument," but that shouldn't blind us to the inescapable truth of what really happened that day. Although the veterans claim that they were up against "thousands of Somalis," this statement has to be qualified. In a Congressional Review, US Army officers have said that there were only 300 trained SNA soldiers in that part of the city. The rest of the Somalis were an untrained and undisciplined mob of men, women and children. This mob was largely unarmed and had to wait for one of their own to get killed, so they could then pick up the weapon and fire wildly in the direction of US soldiers. Their lack of accuracy can be imagined, as the low death toll of US soldiers attests to. If the Somalis had been in any way tactically competent, they would have caused many more casualties then they did. Let's face it, the US Army wasn't exactly up against the quality of the Waffen SS here. Obviously, the firefight was not as one sided as it has been claimed. Although the Spec Ops were a little outnumbered in men, that was made up for in air power. TF 160 and QRF gun-ships simply hosed down all moving targets in the city. If it wasn't American, it was dead. The majority of the killing was done by the gun-ships. This book tries to make Oct. 3rd sound like it wasn't a total US defeat by using the "Vietnam yard-stick of victory" which, is the body count. Playing the numbers game does not make this a victory. The truth is that a few hundred pathetic Somalis managed to shoot down five helicopters from our best aviation unit, kill 19 soldiers from our best combat units and wound almost a hundred more. In 15 hours, the Somalis rendered TF Ranger and the QRF "combat ineffective." Immediate replacements for TF 160, Delta, Rangers and 10th Mtn. were brought in-country to make up for the loss. This battle was a tactical and strategic defeat for America, as we had to depart from Somalia with our tail between our legs just like we did in a similar situation in Beirut ten years before. I got the impression that the author was trying to turn this humiliating defeat into an American Dunkirk, when in fact, it as more of an American Isandlwana. And of course, whenever the US Army fails, it starts throwing medals around like they were going out of style. Napoleon was right about baubles. My critique of this book was meant in no way to take anything away from the individual soldiers who saw action that day. You guys are the real thing. Although, I wasn't in Mogadishu myself on October 3rd, I did spend a few months on QRF in that hellhole and so have an inkling of what it was like. Overall, a good book...but the truth of Oct 3rd has still yet to be written.