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am 30. April 2003
Mit "Blackhawk Down" dürfte Mark Bowden eine der besten und realistischsten Beschreibungen eines echten Kampfeinsatzes nach dem Vietnamkrieg gelungen sein. Das Buch ist an historischer Genauigkeit kaum zu übertreffen (Zum großen Teil läßt Bowden die Charaktere ihre Originalsätze während des Kampfes sprechen - der ganze Kampf und der Funkverkehr wurde ja komplett auf Video und Tonband aufgezeichnet). Man meint beim Lesen die Hitze, den Staub, das Vorbeipfeifen der Kugeln und die Explosionen der Panzerfäuste zu hören. Die ganze Geschichte des fehlgeschlagenen Einsatzes in der Gluthitze von Mogadischu wird bis ins allerkleinste Detail erzählt und analysiert, aber immer mit größtem stilistischen Geschick; nie wirkt die Geschichte trocken oder wie eine bloße Chronologie der Ereignisse.Es wird dem Leser ein faszinierender Einblick in Ausbildung, Struktur, Fähigkeiten und Mentalität von Einheiten wie den Rangers und der Delta Force vermittelt. Der amerikanische Autor (ein professioneller Journalist) gleitet aber nie in plumpen Nationalismus ab sondern bleibt stets kritisch. Eigentlich hatte er erwartet, daß das Militär ihn für dieses Buch hassen würde, aber nein: Präsident Clinton, der Generalstabschef der USA und der Oberkommandant des US Marinekorps haben ihn begeistert zu diesem Buch beglückwünscht, in West Point wurde das Buch zur Pflichtlektüre für alle Kadetten erklärt ! Mein Tip: wer sich für Geschichten über und Erzählungen aus dem Krieg interessiert, für den ist dieses Buch ein Muß !
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am 16. Mai 2000
This is an excellent piece of modern American history. Black Hawk Down is also a wake up call to any policy makers who have taken the Gulf War as proof positive that Military intervention will always work in the new century.
Mark Bowden manages to give the reader a good impression of the overall situation in Somalia in addition to the electrifying events of that ill fated mission in October. This is a very good aspect of the book, because it is here that the general reader and future policy maker will gain the most insight. Technological superiority does not insure an easy military success. Gunships and night vision goggles do not equal victory.
As the battle rages through the streets of Somalia, you will find yourself having to take some time off, in order to catch your breath. Bowden's writing is as telling as Spielburg's directing in Saving Private Ryan. Not only is there an honest and smooth account of combat, but the humor that manifests itself in these terrible situations is also brought out with ease.
I did find myself fliping to the index when a name came back that I recognized but could not remember exactly- that is one of the few shortfalls Bowden's tale posesses: an amazing quantity of characters. They are hard to keep track of. I needed to remind myself that I was reading history, and not an adventure novel. It shamed me to think that I could read like that, but you might find yourself falling into the same trap that Bowden's prose led me. All in all, I am glad that Bowden has give us the story the way he has, with as few as possible ommitted details and in a way that is so easy to access.
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am 16. Juni 2003
My experience in military is somewhat limited to a 15 month period in the german army. And even this was not completely by choice either. Nevertheless I really like to read books with a military background. As Mark Bowden puts it:
"The story of combat is timeless. It is about the same thing whether in Troy or Gettysburg, Normandy or the Ia Drang. It is about soldiers, most of them young, trapped in a fight to the death. The extreme and terrible nature of war touches something essential about being human, [...]."
"Black Hawk Down" is a really good example of a military book. Rightly it reached a much bigger audience than most and has been turned into a major motion picture. Mark Bowden is a journalist and he did a great deal of research for the book. Opposed to a lot of American journalists turning authors he does not simply sort the content of his notebook in chapters, and voila here we have a book:
"My contribution would be to capture in word the experience of combat through the eyes and emotion of the soldiers involved, blending their urgent, human perspective with a military and political overview of their predicament. [...] I wanted to combine the authority of a historical narrative with the emotion of the memoir, and write a story that read like fiction but was true."
The book is about the battle of October 3rd 1993 taking place in Mogadischu after American Rangers and Delta operators capture leading members of the clan of Somalian warlord Aidid. This story got significant press coverage with video footage of dead soldiers, one of them being drawn through the streets behind an APC. As a consequence of this battle both the UN and the USA basically stopped their attempt to try to ensure peace in Somalia.
What should have been a quick operation turned into a daylong firefight resulting in hundreds of Somalians and 18 Americans dead. The major cause for this carnage was the downing of two helicopters shot down in the city with RPGs. The Americans thought about them as basically invulnerable to the small arms available to Somalians. Two more were damaged but able to land on safe ground.
Instead of going back to base after the work was done the task force tried to secure the crash sites and extract the soldiers on board the helicopters. Doing this was opposed by a steadily growing force of armed people. Mogadischu had been through a year long civil war so there were a lot of arms around.
The book describes the ensuing tragedy in very graphic detail. Amazingly it also to a certain amount takes into account the views of some Somalians. It is written like a novel, but firmly based on detailed research carried out by the author. Compared to a real novel it has too many characters, so it is more difficult to get attached to the persons. The dramatic situation nevertheless keeps the reader glued to the book.
For everybody interested in military books this is a must read, no doubt about it. It gives a detailed picture of American special forces, specifically Rangers and Delta Force in action. But even people normally reading action thrillers should get something out of it. This experience in Somalia has been very important for US foreign politics in recent years. The massive use of force in Serbia or Iraq as opposed to a limited operation like the one described in the book is a visible result. So if you don't mind a certain amount of gore and are interested in one the topics mentioned above go out and buy this book. I for sure was positively surprised.
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am 21. Juli 2000
I knew these people, they were my, colleagues, my friends, my 'Ranger Buddies'. I was stationed with the 3d Ranger Bn. for four years from 1996 to 2000. I learned a lot about the actions of my buds, from stories here and there, but none so comprehensive as this. When you talk to individuals you get small pieces of the pie, and the command structure, was never really willing to talk about it too much, either, except for certain tactical applications. I learned more about the silent heroes that worked around me everyday through this book than I would have known.
This book was extremely well written, fast paced, and graphic. It will provide the reader with an unstoppable thrill ride of action and fact.
Funny how things are, but this book which is the most accurate account of Mogadishu, was never encouraged to be read by our leaders, mainly because it did point out some of the faults of the past leadership.
Overall one of the best books I've ever read.
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am 6. Juli 2000
The military and the press have often been at odds since Vietnam. As a junior officer in Turkey during a minor special forces operation, I had no problem at all ordering troops not to say a word to Christiane Amanpour, the CNN reporter lurking outside the gate of the base as the mission took off. The press is rarely of any help to the operation, and often a great hindrance. This is due in part to the fact that most of the press hate the military, a bias which invariably shows up in their coverage.
Reading "Black Hawk Down", by Mark Bowden, a reporter with the Philadelphia Inquirer, has caused me to reevaluate some of my preconceived notions about war journalism.
It is clear from the first page of his narrative that Bowden is taking great pains to tell it like it really was. While Bowden devotes much of the story to the Somali point of view, he is scrupulously fair, and avoids giving away any of his own opinions regarding the Battle of Mogadishu.
And what a battle it was. It began with a routine operation to capture a few aides to Aidid, the Somali warlord who was the bete noire of the Clinton administration until Slobodan Milosevic crawled out from under his rock. Delta Force personnel, aided by U.S. Army Rangers, entered the city via helicopter and convoy to conduct the operation.
The Somalis were not caught unawares this time. They had rehearsed firing rocket propelled grenades at Black Hawk helicopters prior to this ill-fated mission, now they succeeded in bringing two of the nigh-invulnerable choppers down.
A pitched battle, full of the fog and friction of war, ensued about the crash sites as the Americans fought frantically to rescue their comrades.
Bowden relates this gripping tale in a tense, minute-by-minute narrative. Having conducted extensive interviews, he manages to reconstruct the battle and dissect it at the same time.
Too often, military history portrays the glory of battle with none of the horror it invariably entails. Bowden skillfully avoids this trap as well, portraying eloquently the sacrifices of the 18 U.S. soldiers who died in the battle.
In this, "Black Hawk Down" compares favorably with another classic of the genre, "We Were Soldiers Once...And Young" by General Harold Moore and Joseph Galloway, which adopted the same "Just the facts, ma'am" approach to the battle of Ia Drang during Vietnam.
If you have any interest at all in what the modern battlefield is really like, pick this book up now.
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am 20. Juli 2000
"Black Hawk Down" is one of the best examples of investigative journalism I have ever read. I picked up the book in a bookstore and read the first few pages while I stood there. I then grabbed a chair and read the first three chapters. That was it. I was hooked. I bought the book and took it home.
The author tells as complete a story about war as I have ever read. He tells of many events from two, three, or more perspectives. One might assume that such a tactic might wear thin, but each perspective is so unique and offers a more complete image of the entire battle. I never tired of the multiple POVs, and in fact, I was disappointed when alternative POVs were not offered for a scene.
I was completely hooked on this book, reading it in the morning before work, during my lunch break, and at night before bed. It is that engrossing. Many times, I found myself saying "wow, that happened?", or pumping my fist in the air and saying "Yeah!", or shaking my head and saying "boy, that had to hurt". It was all so realistically captured, I felt I was there with the soldiers. More than once, I was brought to tears as I read.
Bowden would have been remiss to omit the Somalians' POV, and I would be remiss to omit the fact that he handled that task masterfully. He didn't devote nearly the amount of time to the Somalian point of view, but I commend him for giving me a clearer understanding of the factors that compelled them to civil war, and battle with American troops.
This is the best book I've read this year. It's going to be hard to top this one on my best of the year list.
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am 14. März 2004
Black Hawk Down ist eines der besten "Kriegsbeschreibungen" die ich je gelesen habe. Es ist unheimlich fesselnd und auch erschütternd, wenn man bedenkt, daß die Ereignisse tatsächlich so geschehen sind. Mark Bowden hat einen wirklich guten Job gemacht beide Seiten des Konfliktes zu beschreiben. Ich würde jedem, der den Film gesehen hat, empfehlen auch das Buch zu lesen, da der Film nur einen Teil der Geschichte erzählt und auch einige (meiner Meinung nach wichtigen) Entwicklungen, die zu den hohen Verlusten auf amerikanischer Seite geführt haben nicht wiedergibt. Ich habe erst das Buch gelesen und dann den Film gesehen und vermisste einige Ereignisse, die meiner Meinung nach wichtig für das Verstehen der ganzen Entwicklungen sind und die Schwierigkeiten bei solchen Einsätzen verdeutlichen.
Die Mission war ERFOLGREICH.. im Gegensatz zu dem, was viele über diesen Einsatz sagen. Die Soldaten verhafteten die Männer, die sie verhaften sollten; was korrekt ist, der Preis, den sie bezahlen mußten war erheblich höher, als sie erwartet hatten. Aber aus rein militärischer Sichtweise war der Einsatz erfolgreich ausgeführt. They accomplished the mission.
Was mir an der Arbeit von Mark Bowden sehr gut gefällt, er hebt sich kritische Worte für das Nachwort auf.
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am 6. Juni 2000
Many moves and books about combat have an almost abstract atmosphere. The participants casually think about great philosophy or remember their early lives while trying to kill each other.
Black Hawk Down, on the other hand, treats combat as a very intense, extraordinarily terrifying experience. The combatants are solely concerned with keeping themselves and their comrades alive for as long as possible.
I have had the good fortune never to be involved in a combat situation and now I hope like hell that I never do.
It's a very good book. I highly recommend it, provided that you don't start reading it within two hours of the time you plan to go to sleep. You'll glance at the clock to realise that five hours have passed.
After reading the book, I understand why people volunteer to go into the armed forces. However, it's probably a good idea for the recruiters to provide a copy of this book to a prospective volunteer, just to make sure that the person knows what he or she is signing up for.
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am 21. Januar 2000
It has been many years since I picked up a book, began reading it and did not want to let it out of my hands or my sight. Mark Bowden takes you to the streets of Somalia and into the hearts and minds of our elite soldiers, the Rangers and Delta Force members, as well as into the confusion felt by those living in a cultural civil war. Bowden extensively deals with the military operation and touches on the political misgivings that often place our young hero's in harms way. My only regret about the book was that I finished it. I could have continued to read this book until the day I die.
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am 17. November 1999
The book provides incredible detail; however I think the book lacks in two key areas:
First, a lop-sided opinion of the soldiers involved. Specifically Paul Howe's assessment of the Ranger's abilities. The prevading theme I got was the Rangers were lucky to be alive, much less able to accomplish the mission. It seemed that parts of the book became a platform to bash the Rangers.
Second, I think he (Bowden) slighted the efforts of the 10th Mountain Division QRF Relief Column. 2-14 Infantry did an OUTSTANDING job getting a multi-national relief column moving on such short notice. Again, the tone of the book suggests that 2-14 Infantry were a bunch of stooges not worthy of such operations.
Due to the budget cuts, every combat arms unit in the Army is an 'elite' unit. What I mean is we don't have excess resources; therefore every unit has a specific task to perform without any overhead. The National leadership made a bad call by not allowing armor into Somalia; instead the UNOSOM forces got a Light Infantry Batallion with a good commander at its helm.
I served in Somalia for 9 months with an Army Special Forces unit attached to UNOSOM; so if I'm arm-chair quarterbacking, it's from the front edge of the chair.
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