Blackhawk Down
Analysis: How a relief mission ended in a firefight
Background: A defining battle leaves lasting scars

  • Today's video
  • Video categorized by speaker
  • Audio
  • Audio interview clips
  • Radio transmission clips
  • Photos
    Somalia: A Nation in Name Only
  • Introduction
  • Guns and fear
  • Daily living
  • The future

  • A Soldier's View
  • Maps
    Full text
  • The mailgram sent to Ranger Spec. Jamie Smith's parents
  • Gen. Garrison's letter about the events of Oct. 3
  • Who's who
  • Where are they now
  • Glossary
    Ask the author
  • Round 1 of Q&A
  • Round 2 of Q&A
  • Round 3 of Q&A
  • Round 4 of Q&A
  • Round 5 of Q&A
  • Round 6 of Q&A
  • Round 7 of Q&A
  • Round 8 of Q&A
  • Round 9 of Q&A
  • Round 10 of Q&A
  • Round 11 of Q&A
  • Round 12 of Q&A
  • Round 13 of Q&A
  • Round 14 of Q&A
  • Round 15 of Q&A
  • Round 16 of Q&A
  • Round 17 of Q&A
  • Round 18 of Q&A
  • Round 19 of Q&A
  • Round 20 of Q&A
  • Final notes on Q&A
  • About the series

    Round 5

    Rick Raleigh, NC
    Another tactical question: Why didn't they extract by air? Even if there was no place to land they could have used a roof top. Also why weren't attack birds standing by in case of trouble?
    Mark Bowden
    Too many men, too many prisoners. Speed was the key to mission success. It's one thing to rope 100 men down out of helicopters (and, remember, the Blackhawks could not land on the streets), quite another to upload 100 plus 24 prisoners. MB

    John Smith Anytown, USA
    Why question whether there was "murder" of civilians? Are you kidding me? There was not an innocent person in those streets. The horror of the situation plagues me and will for the remainder of my life. We tried to eliminate the "warlords" on that day so the general public could lead a "normal" life and the entire time were treated like pariah's. Ugh!!!
    Robert Redding Erie, COlorado
    Mr. Bowden, I am very interested in receiving a copy of the video documentary. I do not live where I will be able to view it. However, I would like to be able to use it as an instructional tool for other soldiers. Where can I get a copy of it?
    Mark Bowden
    Details on obtaining a copy of the documentary will be available in early 1998.

    DEO Kansas City, Missouri
    Great Job Mr. Bowden! These young men are getting the praise they so richly deserve. Our prayers to the familys of those lost. I feel lucky to know Clay Othic, and I want you to know, he has been known to shoot chickens for a long time now. Thanks again.
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks. Clay also kept a pretty cool diary. MB

    Steve Milford, CT
    Mr. Bowden: Your well written series is very important in providing a look into what really happened to "our" guys. Let us not forget, these men and their families. They should be recognized, decorated, and be remembered- living & dead- as true heroes. Any plans for that?
    Mark Bowden
    I hope the series, film and book (Fall, 1998) accomplish some of that. MB

    Kevin Berry Fremont, CA
    Were any RPGs fired at helicopters during previous raids? (Before 3 Oct 93)
    Mark Bowden
    Yes. A 10th Mountain Division Blackhawk was shot down about 10 days before this mission by an RPG, and pilots were aware that the crude missiles were in the air. Never in such quantity as Oct. 3rd, however. Aidid achieved tactical surprise by having so many RPGs to shoot. MB

    David Smith Philadelphia, PA
    Outstanding Job, Mark - you're a credit to your profession! In regard to the question of why a P-3 was there, I'm sure it was an EP-3. They're packed with some of our best sensory gear and do a lot of "black" work, in some ways similar to MC-130's. Again, great job.
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks, although the official record says it was a P-3, and the aviator who flew it assures me it was. MB

    David C. Peters Philadelphia, PA
    Could you give me some idea as to why some documents are still classified. Are they worried about national security or covering someone's behind who flubbed?
    Mark Bowden
    In some cases there were local spies whose identities need to be protected. There is also a need to protect some of the technological and weapons capabilities. Also a little bit of cover-yer-ass, I suspect. MB

    DCP Philadelphia, PA
    Can you recommend any materials for me to read to learn about the differences between the Delta Force, Rangers and Seals? Do SEALs have the same code of silence that the Deltas do?
    Mark Bowden
    SEALs were no easier for me to reach than D-boys. I'd go to the nearest bigbarn book outlet or library and check out the military rack. Look for "Delta Force," by Col. Charlie Beckwith. It tells you how they were formed and a lot about training and qualifications. There are other less substantive books about the other units. Also, you could call your local recruiter. They have pamphlets and informational booklets on all the special forces, including the Marines. MB

    DCP Philly, PA
    If you do the radio interview that was proposed on the last round of questions, would you let us know about it in advance? I would love to hear it.
    Mark Bowden
    I am currently scheduled to appear at 9 AM on Friday, Nov. 28th, on CSPAN TV; at 10 AM Monday, Dec. 1st, on Radio Times on WHYY-FM, 91 on the dial in Philadelphia; and on Wednesday morning on NPR's morning edition nationally. No set time. MB

    roy euless texas
    could just one M1 ABRHAMS prevented all of this this your story is riveting and you are fortunate to have the sources look forward to the book .
    Mark Bowden
    I doubt the tank could have prevented everything. I do know that TFR's commanders did not request tanks and felt they would be vulnerable moving through city streets. See Gen. William Garrison's testimony before the Senate Armed Forces Committee in 1994. MB

    Tom Kanyak Swoyersville, Pa
    Thanks for the riveting series. This battle reminds me so much of Custer at the Little Big Horn. In both cases we grossly underestimated the size of the enemy. The difference was Custer didn't have Choppers..
    Mark Bowden
    You're welcome. I am struck also by the similarity. Check out "Son of the Morning Star," if you haven't already. A nice model for my book, which will be out in Fall, 1998.

    Major Chuck Harrison FT Hood, TX
    I was too quick to judge, I apologize, it is not worthless journalism, I appreciate your efforts to show bravery. There are still glaring errors but I understand your intent now. You stated you had access to classified material. Can't help but wonder how you got it? Last time I checked, thats a no-no.
    Mark Bowden
    Apology accepted. I remain eager to correct any errors. One of the great advantages of online journalism is that I can reach back and correct anything that's wrong instantaneously. For instance, a Blackhawk pilot and gunner called to tell me that the miniguns on their aircraft fire only 4,000 rpm, not 6,000 rpm, as the encyclopedia I consulted said. We will made the correction. Any detail, large or small. I also have months left before I finish the book. My goal is to be as accurate as possible. So, please, if you can help me, I'd be grateful. Call 215-854-2400. As for classified material, certain people in possession of information about the battle, documents, tapes, etc., felt strongly about having an accurate version of the story told. Leaks are as old as secrets. MB

    Bruce Shelton Albuquerque, NM
    I am an Air Force Captain in training in the MH-53J Pave Low special operations helicopter. I was wondering if I could get a copy of the complete story to disseminate to the other pilots and crew members in training here. I beilieve your story of what happened is one that we all need to read. We in the Pave Low fly the same mission. I can be reached at e-mail: Thanks for your help.
    Mark Bowden
    Reprints of the entire series can be ordered from the Inquirer at 215-854-4984. The book, which will be far more detailed, will be out next Fall. MB

    Tom Messner Springfield, PA
    My father was a WWII Paratrooper. He participated in many battles and firefights. My father didn't like to talk much about his war experience. I never truly understood what went on durring combat until your series. I look forward to reading the book. Thank You.
    Mark Bowden
    Thank you, Tom. MB

    John Phila Pa
    The lack of tanks ahas been alluded to several times in the questions, Cound an RPG take out a Heavy Tank? Did the Somalia's have any other weapons to take out an heavy tank?
    Mark Bowden
    I'm no expert, but Gen. Garrison seemed to think so in his testimony before the Armed Services Committee. RPGs were the heaviest weapons the Somalis had. Heavy tanks were picked to pieces in urban fighting in Chechnya. MB

    Bob Simon Harleysville,PA
    Sorry ,Mark ,I couldn't resist using this! Please keep us posted as to whether or not Major Chuck Harrison,who was thus far the only respondent critical of your account,actually calls you.
    Mark Bowden
    Still genuinely hoping to hear from the Major. MB

    J. Stefula Bronws Mills, NJ
    Delta Unit was a Troop or one sqdn.? Total of 60 personnel?
    Mark Bowden
    Squadron C from Bragg. About 60 of the men were combat personnel, I believe. MB

    10th MTN FT POLK NOW
    Who did you interview from the 10th MTN Rescue???
    Mark Bowden
    I have interviewed some but not enough members of the 10th. They will be appearing in the newspaper series in the coming days. As you know, I'm sure, the 10th entered the fight later in the afternoon and night. Anyone who was with the Mountain Division who would like to talk to me, please call 215-854-2400. I probably won't be able to reach everyone in time for the newspaper series, but there's still time for their stories to be part of the book. MB

    running fire ft campbell
    Excellent series. Still no mention of the part little bird gunships played in the battle.
    Mark Bowden
    You're right. Too much going on at the same time and not enough space. The Little Birds role in holding back the crowds around crash site one will be detailed, although I'm sure I'll never be able to write enough to fully capture the gratitude felt by the men on the ground (or the fear felt by the Somalis at the receiving end.) Keep reading. MB

    little hunter Wichita, Kansas
    Dear Mark, Doing a great job, already receiving chicken jokes. Will call soon, hunting season you know, have to have my priorities. Want to know a little info about my pictures. Hope you are having a great Thanksgiving.
    Mark Bowden
    Shoot straight, Clay. Your pictures are safe and sound. We're using a lot of them. MB

    EX-D-BOY Southeastern USA
    Mark-great story! One comment...We did not kill anyone that didn't either have a gun or was about to bring harm to us. Women and children were shooting at us just as the men. I would appreciate it if all of those officer that want to prosecute us leave this matter alone!!!
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks. MB

    raz bloomsbury, NJ
    Where/what was "Plan B," and when did the commanders first realize there was a major problem?
    Mark Bowden
    The first downed helicopter was a big problem. The second downed helicopter overloaded the system. There was something of a ground force available to attempt a rescue at Durant's site (the 2nd one) but clearly inadequate. The big miscalculation was underestimating the capability of RPGs to shoot down Blackhawks. Five were shot down that day (three were nursed back to base by superb pilots, or things would have been that much worse). MB

    Did talking to any of the parents/wives/children of the Fallen TF Ranger heroes change how you treated their deaths?
    Mark Bowden
    No. I did speak to the families of those about whom I had significant new information, or more details about their deaths, before the story started running. MB

    Did you have an opionion of Mike Durant before you interviewed him - did this change afterwards?
    Mark Bowden
    No. MB

    Speaking of interviews - was any attempt made to interview the chickens family?
    Mark Bowden
    Interviewed them at length, although you can imagine the difficulties finding a translator for a Somali chicken. They were, as you can imagine, bitter and outraged. Awaiting reparations. MB

    Can you shed some light on why you started the book research. Reason for asking is - do you feel this reason played a role in getting interviews with the people?
    Mark Bowden
    I answered this in an earlier round. My interest grew out of a long conversation with the father of a Ranger killed that day. He did a lot to initially open the door to soldiers who are understandably wary of the press. MB

    What limitations were placed on you for interviewing the active duty people?
    Mark Bowden
    In most cases a public information specialist or commanding officer sat in on the interview, and interrupted only to steer the conversation away from sensitive topics. MB

    N. Trulock McLean, VA
    Powerful.Can't wait for the book. Such a sad story, but so much bravery. Look forward to seeing CSPAN appearance. Was this a glimpse of the future?
    Mark Bowden
    In the sense that the US is likely to commit small units on limited missions around the world, it is. I certainly hope that what happened in Mogadishu that day won't be repeated (although war is war, and once the metal starts to fly, bad things happen to everybody). MB

    Are you going to cover Shughart's fathers remarks to President Clinton at the White House. Those remarks went largely unreported in the US.
    Mark Bowden
    Keep reading. MB

    Delta John Bragg
    Mark, I'll get your number out to the guys along with your interview invitation; I can tell you that most of them will be real leary of talking. If you get any, I promise you will be astounded by so many incredible accounts.
    Mark Bowden
    I hope they decide to help. If they don't, I expect them to hold their grumbling about my not getting things right. My information is only as good as my sources. MB

    Delta John Bat cave
    As it was explained to me there in-country, the P3 Orion had a sensor that could detect a large concentration of metal in one spot such as a submarine--or in the case of in Mogadishu--a large weapons cache. That's what Orion was looking for. I'm not the expert...
    Mark Bowden
    This is new to me. MB

    Delta John Bragg
    I can't fight back the impulse to tell Maj Rupert "look at me, I fly Air Force Pave low" that we D-Boys would sooner depend on an elderly Chinese guy pulling a rick shaw than ride one of his helo's. Stand behind Task Force 160 and take notes! Army
    Mark Bowden
    Calm down, boys. MB

    Delta John Behind the fence
    Mark, give me an idea of what P...I mean "Steave" had to go through to clear his interview with you through the proper channels; that way I might be able to get you some more sources. The guys are going to be extremely leary otherwise. You won't be sorry.
    Mark Bowden
    In "Steve's" case, I made initial contact with him. He was eager to talk, and urged me to make a formal request to interview him through the Pentagon's media affairs office. I did. They approved the request. "Steve's" commanding officer sat in on the interview and appeared as enthralled as I was. MB

    Can you explain why some of the "quiet professional" as you understand it. Generally it is known that those who talk the most did the least (ex. I fly Pave Lows)and why people decided to talk to you.
    Mark Bowden
    They spoke because existing accounts of the battle , they felt, had gotten it wrong. I learned that men who experience combat generally want people (at least the right people) to know about what happened, exactly what happened. In this case they felt information about the battle had been tailored to suit the needs of various factions involved. MB

    Peacekeeper Bosnia
    Your article should be mandatory reading for all Americans in Bosnia. It certainly has re-energized my force protection thoughts. I'm sure the same firepower is readily available here. What are your thoughts on Bosnia?
    Mark Bowden
    I am not really qualified to comment. I've never been there or studied it. From where I sit, it looks like the military intervention successfully stopped Serbian aggression, but there is little guarantee that the situation will not degenerate quickly once US troops are withdrawn. In Mogadishu we got in trouble by picking sides -- although, had things gone differently in Somalia, or had the US government decided to press on with renewed purpose after Oct. 3rd, there might have been a completely different outcome. MB

    I was there Clarksville, TN
    I flew with CW3 Jollotta on Super 68 the CSAR aircraft and his first name is Dan not Keith. You need to talk about what the CSAR members had to go through once they were on the ground at Super 61crash site. I have read nothing on their actions and I know they was not having a picnic at that crash site.
    Mark Bowden
    Keep reading. I'm sorry about getting Dan Jollota's name wrong in answering a question here. It is correct in the story, and an account of his heroism and your unit's is on the horizon. I interviewed Al Lamb, Tim Wilkinson and Rob Phipps, and would like to talk to you. My number is 215-854-2400. MB

    S.A.T Clarksville, TN
    You need to talk about the efforts of the crews of the other 3 Blackhawks that was shot down to land them safely so that there were no other fatalities. It took all the crews experience and ability to land those wounded aircraft without killing anybody on board.
    Mark Bowden
    Some of that is coming in this series. The book will also tell the story of Super 68's crash. There just isn't enough room for everything in the newspaper series. The book will be out Fall, 1998. MB

    Paul Gronke Durham, NC (Duke University)
    Mr. Bowden, Thanks for a wonderful series and site. I wonder if you have considered add'l site and material development for the academic world. This site is already being accessed by many IR classes that I know of. A set of case study materials linked to the site and articles could be valuable, and perhaps moderately lucrative. Nice site and excellent series.
    Mark Bowden
    Thank you, Paul. Your suggestions for expanding the site should be directed to the online editor, Jennifer Musser, at 215-854-4474, or MB

    Wm. Simpson Bothell, WA
    To Mark Bowden & The Phil. Inquirer; Great piece of work! These articles on the Somalia mission offer a eye-opening story about this episode.
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks. MB

    Cameron TN
    First,let me say that this is a great series. Second you mentioned that the videos were made by KR Video. Do they have an e-mail address? Again thanks for writing this. I look forward to your book.
    Mark Bowden
    They do, but I'm afraid I don't know it. You can call filmmaker Chris Mills at 215-854-4616. He'll be glad to hear from you. Thanks MB

    Jim Clark philly
    When will you mentioned the fact of our troops going into combat in "convertibles" (open hummers) instead of the more secured APC's that Les Aspin held back for comectic reasons. When will the public demand that our leader's fully back our military when they are c ommitted to hostile enviroments. Heck in Beirut troops where forbidden to chamber rounds.
    Mark Bowden
    Keep reading. MB

    Dave Boston, MA
    enjoying the series... am interested in role played by Air Force personel... understood several were involved in ground fighting already discussed, and don't see any in the "who's who"...
    Mark Bowden
    Keep reading. MB

    Bill W. C'ville VA
    Super job, Mark; You're doing a great journalistic service. So little has adequately described the situation so well. Some of these Q's & As exemplify what I'm saying. That was bitter fighting, but MG Garrison's finest hours came later, as he fended off the Mon AM QBs. RLTW.
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks. Keep reading. MB

    Karl A. Loose Pennsauken, NJ
    I want to compliment you on this poweful, moving story. You captured the fear, terror, and bravery of our forces unlike anything I've eve read. I look forward to the book and TV special. Congratulations.
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks, Karl. MB

    R. J. May St. Lawrence, PA
    You keep mentioning SEALs but I have trouble following which sailors (soldiers) are which. Do you list the baranches othe DF members?
    Mark Bowden
    All Delta Force personnel are Army. Where there is a SEAL mentioned I identify him as such. MB

    Jon Honolulu, HI
    Why a P-3 for surveillance? Simply put, it was the best equipped platform for the mission, and it was available. One could ask why a carrier battle group was sent AFTER the 3October dabacle as well.
    Jon Honolulu, HI
    Great work! Long overdue. I was on the carrier that arrived just after 3 Oct. I stewed after we left and Aideed was ferried to Ethiopia for a peace conference by us. Your work ensures nobody will ever forget the price paid. Thanks.
    Mark Bowden
    Thank you. MB

    L. Bruno Houston, Texas
    Why were there no APC's or even Bradley's for the original convoy? They might as well have sent them out in Oldsmobiles. Who is responsible for the lack of armored vehicles?
    Mark Bowden
    Keep reading. MB

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