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 8

    Ted Redman Atlanta, Ga
    I noticed an error. An M203 grenade launcher is NOT mounted on a SAW. It is mounted under an M-16 (or M-4 nowadays).
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks and sorry for the mistake. We've fixed it. MB

    Bill Monterey
    Mark, Rather than a safety "strap" on a hand grenade, I think a more accurate description would be a safety "clip". Out of the box, grenade spoons (handles) are secured with both a metal clip and the famous pin. Most units remove the clip before going in to combat, leaving only the pin that must be pulled prior to throwing. Please excuse my nit-picky corrections. This is a fantastic series. I can't wait for the book.
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks. I appreciate the help. MB

    Karl Monger Wichita, Kansas
    From a former 1st Ranger Battalion officer - thanks for the incredible detail. We're hanging on a daily basis, waiting for the next installment. You've done a great job of showing how the "fog" of battle impacts on everyone and everything. Looking forward to natl broadcast...
    Mark Bowden
    Thank you. You guys are the experts. I'm depending on your help. MB

    Don't worry so much about the small errors or omissions - as in battle, it's always easier to critique after the action - especially if the person critiquing wasn't participating.
    Mark Bowden
    I'm not worried. I'm always chagrined to make a mistake, but given that I have no military experience, I'm bound to make some. And this series is giving me the chance to correct them! Thanks. MB

    May I also suggest a link for your Other Resources to the US Army Ranger Association Web Page:
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks. MB

    Other suggestions welcome. -- Online editor.

    Lou Killeen, Texas
    Mark, 3 quick comments: 1) Great work..i've read alot of mil history and yours ranks way up there. 2) Consider looking at the battle of Islandhlwana during the Zulu wars - Brit Regt was wiped out to a man -- often compared to Custer but in an African context.
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks, and I will. MB

    tp ny,ny
    How many SEALS were involved in the battle, were they from DEVGRU (ST-6) and did they participate in the taking down the target building? Thanks again, and I look forward to reading more.
    Mark Bowden
    I know it was SEAL Team Six, and I think it was four of five guys, but I may be wrong about that. They did not actually help storm the target building, but were in the thick of things throughout. MB

    Lou Killeen, TX
    3) Marines had a plt of M1s in Somalia prior to Army arrival...talked to the plt leader and he was very impressed with their capabilities in the theather -- may be worth some research?. M1s are virtually immune to RPGs except a very lucky shot at the track. I have commanded both M1s and Bradleys-- Combine 4 M1s and a company of Rangers in a city and they are unstoppable. Bradleys are not tanks but would have had a major impact on operations. Comparing either M1 or M2 with a HMMWV is like a mac truck and a VW bug. Again Great Work!!!
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks. I'm going to let you guys who know what you're talking about settle this armor thing. MB

    Ed Breen Bensalem PA
    Mark, thank you for bringing what really happens in war to those who have not experienced it.I have three boys and I will make it required reading,because all little boys want to be soldiers when they grow up. I want them to know that it is not all a hollywood movie.Hoo-Raa
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks, Ed. I feel the same way about my boys. My 18-year-old left for Parris Island a few weeks ago with a rough draft of the whole thing under his arm. My nine and 11-year-old are reading it avidly. It is also interesting to me that the story is being appreciated by both military folks and pacifists. I have received several letters from Quakers who are pleased that the stories do not clean up and glorify combat. My job is to tell people what happened. MB

    Bob Nance Napa California
    Mark, I have been flying helicopters for almost 30 years including combat, at this time Im flying blackhawks for the Natl.Guard. This profile of a tough mission is one of the most vivid accounts of combat I have read. I hope people keep this in mind when our soldiers are asked to fight and the dangers that are out there.
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks, Bob. MB

    Sam Coronado, CA.
    Mark, I don't know if you've clarified this yet as I was unable to review the entire Q&A: "SEAL Sgt." No Sgts in the Teams, only Petty Officers. PO2 being the Navy's equivalent of a buck sgt. Great story. Cheers.
    Mark Bowden
    Yup, we got it. Thanks for pointing it out. MB

    Sam Coronado, CA
    To "PK" in Philadelphia: When you've been in a firefight comparable to that which took place in Mogadishu, then you can come back talking about "murder". Until then, STFU.
    MAJ Dave Armstrong Fairfax, VA
    Outstanding series. Glad someone recounts the incredible bravery of our soldiers during this battle. Makes me double my efforts as an Army intel officer.
    Mark Bowden
    Thank you, major. MB

    Mark Bowden
    Major Steele is with the 82nd, I believe. MB

    Proud2B American
    Thanx for a moving series, and telling the story of our nation's treasure. MB, any observations on the expanding role of the military in non-traditional roles, and its impact? Also interested to know your opinion of key politicians of this era who are only to happy to be in charge, but evaded their duty to their nation while others served?
    Mark Bowden
    I haven't thought much about the first question. So long as the other roles don't diminish the main capability -- that is, being able to fight and win -- I'd say it's OK. I do not strongly condemn those of my generation who tried to avoid going to Vietnam. It was a different time, and a dreadfully wrongheaded military venture. I was too young to be drafted into it, thank God, and I have nothing but respect for those who fought, but just as I would hesitate to criticize anyone's actions in a battle (having never been in one), I hesitate criticizing those who tried to avoid Vietnam (since I wasn't faced with the dilemma myself). MB

    Mark Mondl Beavercreek, OH
    Note to Gordon from Ft Benning, GA. Please see my comments in the forum.
    JPD Mechanicsburg, PA
    According to FM 9-13 an RPG 7 has a point initiating, base detonating fuze. Anything can be changed in the field. My comments are in regards to the weapon as manufactured. My original point was to raise why anyone would question the morality of our soldiers returning fire on the enemy when the Somalis were firing everything they had at everything they could. Hell, I'll bet more Somalis were casualties from the back blast from the RPGs than our guys justifiably wacked.
    Mark Mondl Beavercreek, OH
    Note to Gordon from Ft Benning. I tried to post to forum, but failed. In short, my note contained quote from Col David Hackworth. The comments are his. To see further information concerning Col Hackworth's comments on Somalia and Gens Garrison and Montgomery, go to and see his comments under Vietnam Primer.
    Redleg Edison, NJ
    Vitto is right. Intimidation could have been vital. Skirts would have helped protect tracks of vehicles. Bottom line-Bradleys would have meant more protection and better projection of firepower than HUMVs. I differ with blame, though, lay it squarely on Les Aspin's shoulders. His entire Senate career was anti-military, I resent his appointment. Thanks again to the Rangers and to Mark B.
    Mark Bowden
    You bet. MB

    MAJ Lock Somerville, NJ
    Mark: Thanks for your response ref ‘shirking their duties’; it was what I expected. I would like to add, though, there is a real ‘danger’ with these type of forums—‘snippets of thought’—to be misconstrued, as my remarks were by ‘gordon of ft. benning, ga.’ "This man" does NOT at all believe that the Rangers shirked their duties and I don’t believe my question implies that. I’ve done considerable research on this battle, also, and I know that nearly every man involved in the firefight—Delta, SEAL, TF160, and Ranger fought with considerable bravery—and was scared to do so. The fact that some did not does not denigrate those who did, nor does it make those who did not cowards; and my questioning their actions is not a criticism of their conduct. I was not there and would never be so brazen to imply that anyone, to include me, would have done better. But there are lessons to be learned and questions need to be asked. There is more I’d like to say but I’ll leave it at that.
    gordon ft benning, ga
    Mr Bowden...Thank you for response. This is the kind of clarification I and alot of the Rangers in this Regiment were looking for. I don't mean to always sound negative but everyone needs to realize, the people involved do worry about the accuracy of what is being written. This does not just refer to this battle but all the other ones this regiment has been involved with in the recent past. To respond to Monger's!!!worry about the little omissions. This does effect the men who were there and it does overshadow how they feel about themselves and their actions during very trying and self testing times. Rest assured, Karl, nobody here dislikes the drama of this story. What they do have a heartache about, however, is the misquotes, the train of thought, and the feelings expressed in the article that reflects a one-sided decision making process that leaves out the Rangers and elevates the d-boys.
    Mark Bowden
    I have had no one point out "misquotes" to me. If they do, I will fix them. I believe my account is accurate. As for trains of thought, they are drawn directly from the extensive interviews with the men themselves. Listening to some of the audio and video excerpts on this Web site will demonstrate in many instances how the statements by soldiers in interviews have been incorporated into the narrative. I have no desire to put words in anybody's heads or mouths, and labor not to. Where I have done so, I'd like to be corrected, and will be grateful for it. MB

    Mark Bowden
    I think Col. Hackworth's overview of the facts is correct. He obviously had access to official accounts, timelines, etc. He is much quicker to reach conclusions about the facts than I am, but then he has better standing than I to do so. I will give his piece and the others that have been written about the battle a closer read and comment on each in more detail in the book. MB

    gordon ft benning, ga
    Note to Mondl...Who die'd and made Hackworth God? Not to belittle Hackworth's patriotism and proud service to this country in two wars...don't you realize that he's out of loop and has been out a long time? Anybody who would make negative comments about a gnrl officer of the caliber of Garrison or second guess his planning and execution skills, obviously has a personal agenda. This man was not picked to be the commander of the unit he commanded just because his name is Garrison...he was chosen based on his past performance as a tested COMBAT LEADER! As a SR NCO, rest assured I have (as do alot of the NCO's who have worked for him and with him) unquestionable respect for him both as a commander and a well known WARRIOR!!! To rely on Hackworth's Monday Morning Quarterbacking is dangerous. Remember this man left the Army because of his question of authority and Garrison represents the authority he so disliked.
    Kent King of Prussia, PA
    A few comments: 1)Armor - When 13th MEU conducted a show of force op several weeks after the battle of Mog we went with a signifigant armor precence (see earlier posting). I during that op I rode in my hummer (MRC-110), given what I new of the battle at that time, I felt very reassured by the fact that there were several M-1A's, Bradleys, Lav's, and AAVs in our task force.
    Aimy Philly
    Mark, Have you been able to determine who is still a member of the helicopter unit they were in during the battle? Is that why they won't interview with you?
    Mark Bowden
    Many of the guys are still there. I think some were simply unavailable to be interviewed. They are busy defending the Free World. The series has opened up new interest and possibilities, and I hope to talk to more of these guys for the book. MB

    Kent KOP, PA
    2)I think that Bradelys would have had a signifigant psychological effect on the Somalis. This was evident to me during our op. The gun is a porwerful symbol in their culture, the bigger the gun the better, the more respect one has. A few Bradleys that day would have represented the biggest guns on the block. They would have thought twice...
    D.M. KENNEDY Thousand Oaks, CA
    Mark. Great series. And I don't mind getting slammed if it means a better debate! (For the record, I think that "no excuse, sir" is still a pretty weak excuse.) My question: I understand that the request for armor support was "slow rolled" (14 day+ turnaround!) at the Unified CinC (Gen Hoar) level, and that this lack of apparent urgency + a relatively weak endorsement from the CinC (CentCom) was evident when the request finally made it to JCS/SecDef. Under Goldwater-Nichols, the warfighting Unified CinC is given tremendous, almost independent warfighting authority and responsibility, yet very little attention has been directed at Gen Hoar's failure to go to the mat, if necessary, to support his field commander, Gen Garrison. Have you run across any information concerningthe Unified CinC's role/action/inaction in the issue of force protection?
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks. No. I've been up to my eyeballs here for the last three weeks. But these are important questions. MB

    Win Stauffer Phila, PA
    The backlash from the Rnagers incident and more from the State Dept.'s ineptitude in coordinating with military personnel was felt in the lack of crucial action in Rwanda and Burundi. The multinational task force within the USLO compound was as close to incompetent as a military unit could get. The senior officers in coordination with State Dept. officials that planned the rangers mission should be crtitized for not using an American reserve force, such as the Marines use Force Recon, Direct action platoon, trailer platoons, as well as Sparrowhawk and Bald Eagle forces. Any US force should have been used, not the Pakistanis. The State Dept. must realize that once a military mission is planned, it is in the hands of the military and they need to take a backseat. This should be obvious with all the Non-combatant operations(NEOs) that occured within the past, i.e. Liberia.
    Kent KOP, PA
    3) Ranger/Delta interaction- From your account of the battle one thing seems somewhat clear to me; for all their experience, maturity, and skill, the D-Boys in gerneral seemed to act in their own self interest. It seems to me that because of their vaunted abilities they should have been more stabilizing presence than they were. Instead it would seem that they took a "hey, everyone else be damned. We're going this way and if you want to come fine, if not see ya". While you make mention in several places to some of the good they did, I can only imagine the fracturing effect their actions had on the cohesion of the younger Rangers.
    Mark Bowden
    So not everybody thinks I'm the PR man for the D-boys. Still waiting for that check in the mail ... MB

    GEL Denver
    Outstanding work, however, check your naval rank terminology. There's no such thing as a SEAL SGT.
    Mark Bowden
    Yes, yes. I'm sorry. Really. MB

    MD Alabama
    Was the CSAR Task Force pre-planned & able to respond immediately? What RESCORT acft were available (fast movers, apache's, UH-60 IDAP, etc). Were all services integrated into CSAR plan? Found your site late and haven't been thru it all yet, hope I'm not redundant. Absoluetly great work on your part.
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks. The CSAR element was on a single Blackhawk, and roped into crash site one. That was the only such force, and they had trained hard and were able to respond immediately. Beyond that there was only the Rangers left behind and, of course, the QRF, which was in a different chain of command. Nobody seems to have seriously anticipated two helicopters going down. The attack aircraft on hand were the Little Bird gunships, the Blackhawks and the QRF's Cobras. I don't know what RESCORT means. MB

    Delta John Bragg
    I think the guys are waiting around for each other to be the first to get in touch with you. I get the impression that it probably won't ever happen while they are in the unit; however, several of the guys are moving-on very soon and will probably do it then--like Steve did. I'll be out of the net for a few. Thanks.
    Mark Bowden
    I hope so. The number is 215-854-2400. We'll miss you. Keep your head down. MB

    Rick Raleigh NC
    David Hackworth has zero credibility.Remember, he was the guy that predicted that the Blackhawks, Apaches, M-1 Abrams tanks, and M-2 Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicles wouldn't work during Desert Storm and that we would suffer 10,000 dead. I lost all respect for him when he got on CNN and said that on the eve of the battle with our guys in the field.
    Action49 Puzzle Palaceland, VA
    Extraordinary effort. I believe that you're providing a service that will go far beyond the obvious. Doesn't seem like ammo supply was a big issue--was it? How much did the Rangers/Deltas take into battle? Were any units resupplied during the battle? The discussion on the armor aside, were there any other weapons that the troops would have liked to have?
    Mark Bowden
    Ammo wasn't much of a problem, although the 99 guys at crash site one overnight ran low and were resupplied, very heroically, by a Blackhawk that braved withering fire, and then managed to limp back to base and land. Just one more example of stunnig bravery that will not make it into this newspaper series but will be described in the book. As for weapons they would like to have had, I haven't heard much talk beyond the Bradleys, tanks and the AC130 gunship. MB

    "Vitto" Charlottesville, VA
    Well I feel stupid. I just discovered the forum link at the bottom of the left column. MB, should those of us who have been using the Q&A page to vent our frustrations move to that AO? RLTW! out.
    Mark Bowden
    You are welcome in both places. I'm trying to stay out of discussions where I have no place. MB

    was there any mention of sgt.bill( the bull)o'connell in this firefight.he talks alot about it at tony"s every thurs.
    Mark Bowden
    I haven't heard his name, but that sure doesn't mean he wasn't there. If he'd like to clue me in, he can reach me at 215-854-2400. Either that or tell me how to get to Tony's. I could use a drink. MB

    N/A Washington, D.C.
    Would help round the story out to check out the official accounts taken at the time.
    Mark Bowden
    I have. I'm sure I don't have all of them, but I have a lot. I did request from the Army, months ago, all of the accounts written by army historians. Even spoke to the man who compiled them. They refused. I managed to find quite a few on my own, but I'm always interested in more. My address here is, The Philadelphia Inquirer/400 N.Broad St./Phila. PA 19101. MB

    Karl Monger Wichita, Kansas
    To Jose Gordon - if you're the SSG Gordon I served with in the 1/75 S3, give me a call @ (316) 734-3950 or e-mail @ To Clay Othic - if you're still in Wichita, please also call me. Would like to buy you the beverage of your choice.
    SGT. J. A. Misnik Ft. Campbell, KY
    I am assigned to 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), and would like to know if you have any information on some of my Units activities during this time frame in Somilia. Thanks
    Mark Bowden
    I don't. Call me at 215-854-2400 and educate me. I'd be grateful. MB

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