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 9

    Bogue Rat (SSgt Smith P.L.) Bogue Field, NC
    Comment: Urban enviroments are bad places for armor, due to confined areas, exposure to infantry ambushes, mines, and less effective use of long range weapons. Armor is vulnerable to anti-tank weapons (RPG-7, Carl Gustav, LAW), due to thinner armor, from the sides, rear, and top. Urban enviroments offer superb opportunities for all 3 attack profiles. Also, without properly trained infantry support armor is highly vulnerable to infantry attack. Intensive training for military operations in an urban enviroment is necessity for success. The majority of the worlds population lives in cities. We must learn from the past or fail to repeat it. Stalingrad, Hue, the Mog, and Chechniya....who is next.
    Brent Woodard Sand Lake ,mi
    Mr.Mark Bowden; Thanks so much for bringing this story to into the "sunlight".I saw you on C-Span and was interested in the story,so went to your website and read all of it so far. I think this is reminder that we are not invinceable and our military is often too quick to want action and cause problems. Thanks again for your great effort in reporting this story. Brent
    Mark Bowden
    Thank you, Brent, although the US military is strictly under civilian control, and is put into action only by the President and Congress (your representatives). I for one think it's very important to have highly trained and ready military forces available at all times in this world. When you take young people and train them well, it's natural and good that they are eager to be tested. It's up to our nation's leadership to control that power. I agree, however, that Mogadishu demonstrated that our forces, no matter how superb, are not invincible, and there is nearly always a terrible price to pay in battle. War is war, and should never be waged unless all other alternatives are gone. MB

    L.H. Burruss Columbia SC
    Brent Woodward, above, states, "...our military is often too quick to want action and cause problems." What nationality are you, sir? If you get a chance, you should enroll in an American high school civics course. I think you will learn a great deal about sho commits the military to action in this country. Best regards, L.H. Burruss
    Delta John Bragg
    I won't bash enlisted Rangers, but in defense of the D-boys who were described as acting "everyone else be damned, we're doing our own thing..." The guys, realizing that the Ranger ground command was stalled-out pretty well there in the city, established and maintained forward offensive momentum in support of the crash sites.
    Delta John Bragg
    I want to compliment you on your contrast between Howe and steele. I also have to compliment you on your ablility to endure the same ol' questions over and over. You've pretty much got my vote and I'm making it a personal quest to get you some calls from the boys. See you in about a week. Have a good one.
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks, John. I'm by the phone: 215-854-2400. MB

    Delta John Bragg
    It was not at all my intention to use a lower case "s" when I wrote "steele" in my last comment. I apologise to Cpt Steele and to you--I need to proof-read!
    Wm. McLin Indianapolis, IN
    M.B. and Philly Inquirer, Thank you for this insight into such tragic and heroic events. As a former active duty NCO(91B2P)and now a senior ROTC cadet their are many lessons to be learned, for all leaders. To the soliders who served,thank you(jason b).
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks. MB

    Michael S. McManus Pennsauken, NJ
    I was there in Mogadishu before the "TF 160th" and there after they left. I flew the night they tried to recover themselves. My question is why haven't you mentioned the 10th Mountain Division soldiers and aviators who help save the "rangers"? Why didn't the AH-1s there get called sooner? We carried more firepower then any aircraft there.
    Mark Bowden
    Keep reading. Also, bear in mind that in this battle, as in most, a whole lot of things were happening at the same time. I hope not too many people have been paying close attention to the timeline because it has been moving all over the place. I will get to the 10th this week, and I know that it will not do them justice. I hope the book will. As for why the AH-1s were not commited sooner, I don't know. They weren't. MB

    gunnin yes
    For those who are wondering about the fighting ability and culture of the Somali fighters: Read "Mountains of The Moon" by Sir Francis Richard Burton, famous British Explorer from 19th Century. (Also a movie by same name that can be rented from big video stores) I think you will be shocked at the similarity of the savagry ie, dragging enemies after their death. Other books on Somali culture in your local library also shed some light on what we were facing. Too bad we didn't do our homework on the enemy and prepare the American people for what might happen. Traditional Somali culture demands that men are either warriors or holy men. Guess which ones we ran into. They are known throughout history as fierce and brave fighters. "Know your enemy" has taken on new meaning to me since then. Keep up the good work Mark.
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks. I'll have to put "Mountains of the Moon" on my reading list, which is growing. MB

    Phil Shiman Springfield, VA
    Fascinating reading, and well balanced. You have compared this battle to Custer's. Actually, a better analogy would be Lexington & Concord in the Revolution: Some of the finest infantry in the world, making a surprise raid, are themselves ambushed and hounded by well-armed locals putting up unexpected resistance. Only this time, we Americans are on the receiving end.
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks, Phil. MB

    Michael S. McManus Pennsauken, NJ
    I must say that one of your answers to an earlier question is wrong. You said 120 soldiers fought. I don't know the exact number, but more then that fought when you count the members of the 10th Mountain Division and the Malaysian Army who drove the APCs. I'm tried of hearing how "160th" this and "160th" that. My unit, the 2-25th "ATTACK" BN lost a member when the first UH-60 was shot down in September. I went to flight school with a pilot in that airframe. A fellow aviator who I lived with was shot while on a NVG mission. There is no telling how long that battle would lasted if the 10th Mountain didn't finally be allowed to assist. I'm not taking anything away from their actions during the battle, but I'm telling you that more people were on those streets then just the "160th". I know because I lived it too. The soldiers that did give their lives did it to protect and help their fellow soldier. Nobody can ever take that from them. When or will you ever tell the whole story?
    Mark Bowden
    You are right, Michael. There were about 500 men in the giant convoy that drove out to rescue the pinned-down task force. That included men from the 10th Mountain Division, Malays, Pakistanis, Rangers and D-boys, and probably others that I haven't mentioned. I have been trying to limit my discussion to those things which have already come up in the story. More on the rescue convoy is coming, this week and (in far more detail) in the book. I promise. MB

    Thank you. As a member of the 160th SOAR (ABN) during that time, I'm glad to see my brothers from the Nightstalkers are not shoved under the rug anymore. They and I always will be Nightstalkers. NIGHTSTALKERS DON'T QUIT. Please send me your e-mail address.
    Mark Bowden
    You're welcome. Will do. MB

    former infantryman arlington, va
    come on guys, lets not stretch to find similar actions- Little Big Horn? Concord? Iswandidwana zulu wars? (ammo was boxed up) Rorke's Drift is a much better example... K Co/31 Inf on Pork Chop Hill... or Gloster Hill in Apr 51 --all small units fighting against overwhelming odds.
    Mark Bowden
    You are not the first person to make the connection with Pork Chop Hill. "Rorke's Drift," for those of you who haven't heard of it, is a masterpiece of battle reportage. MB

    former infantryman arlington, Va
    Couldn't resist! Hooray for you Burruss!! don't you love it when someone says its military wanting to get in a fight? Hey Phil Shiman-- Surprise raid? Ever hear of Paul Revere? Lousy analogy, I think.
    Mike Lafayette, IN
    In reading Q&A's, I am appalled at the ignorance of readers crying "War Crimes!" How can they not comprehend, that women and children who aid and abet combatents, become themselves combatents in the act?
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks, Col. Kearney. I've made a note to call you that week. Have a safe trip home. MB

    DCP phila, PA
    I've gotten a little lost in following the story. Does the time line read something like. 1) Pillai's convoy takes wounded ranger back to base, 2) 1st helo crash, 3) Some Delta's and rangers rush to 1st crash site (with or without permission?), 4) 2nd helo crash, 5) convoy moves out,
    Mark Bowden
    Lots was going on at the same time, but the timeline is roughly:
    1) Pilla's death in the convoy rescuing Blackburn
    2) Super 61 goes down
    3) Part of Chalk Two moves to 61, Keith Jones' and Karl Maier's Little Bird evacuated two, the CSAR bird ropes in to crash site one.
    4) Ground convoy departs with prisoners, remainder of assault force and Rangers move to the crash sit on foot.
    5) Super 64 goes down (minutes after ground convoy departs)
    6) Ground convoy wandering lost ... gives up and heads back.

    Sorry if it has been confusing. In the book I'll have more room to spread the story out and pace it -- and learn from my mistakes in the series. MB

    DCP phila.,
    When the main convoy moves out, how many rangers are left behind? or did they already have orders to proceed to crash cite 1? In Chap. 21, I believe you wrote that there were 99 men at crash site one. To give some context, How many men were in the convoy?
    Mark Bowden
    A force of exactly 99 men ended up at crash site one. Of that number, about 50 were Rangers. They were ordered to proceed to crash site one by Capt. Steele after the ground convoy moved out. I don't know the exact number of men on the convoy, but it was about 30 (not counting the 24 Somali prisoners). MB

    Final Q, after the main convoy left the targer site, approx how long did it take them to get back to base?
    Mark Bowden
    I don't have the timeline with me right now or I could tell you exactly. My recollection is that they wandered for over an hour. If you want, e-mail the question again during the workweek. I'll give you the exact times. MB

    wm. bitting st. louis mo
    Chapter 1: The mission begins with mistakes. (link)Background: A defining battle leaves echoing scars Could the (link) be included at the top of every chapter just as it is on Chapter 1? It took me a long time to find it. "Background" is key to understanding the "who what why where when" of the series. It's hard to find now except when reading the 1st Chapter. Congratulatons on your forth coming Puliter! ..wcb, St Louis
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks for your suggestions, and compliment. I will pass these to our online wizard, Jennifer Musser. MB

    CW3 C Ft Meade, MD
    No question, just thanks for the outstanding account of what happened. I've gotten up early every day to read it before PT. My guess is that you'll never have to pay for a beer near any military post again. Thanks.
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks a lot. I'll look forward to hoisting a few freebies. You know what they say about journalists, tap the keg and they'll come. MB

    This is in response to Mark Mondl of Beavercreek. It is easy to be a armchair quarterback when you have no idea what you are talking about, like yourself. I was in TFR that was commanded by MG Garrison and I can tell you that he has the combat skills and experience to handle any kind of mission that he is put in command of. I would follow MG Garrison into any combat situation because I know I am being commanded by one of the best. (cont)
    Mark Mondl if you are going to armchair quarterback you need to get all you fact staight and not from a self centered idiot like COL Hackworth(less). In order to accomplish a mission like the one we were sent to do, you have to have the full support from the people that sent you there and we did not have that from our so called president and all his puppets.
    George Mannoe Fenwick, Ontario Canada
    What a story, who were the generals in chage? And what is their current position if they are still in the army? Americans and Europeans by and large have no idea how intricate local political conditions are, and often fail with a scepter of a machine gun or checkbook.
    Mark Bowden
    Maj. Gen Wllm. F. Garrison commanded TFR (he's now retired). He reported to Gen Wayne Downing (a four-star, now also retired). Downing reported to USMC Gen Joseph Hoar (I'm not sure what Gen Hoar is doing now). Hoar answered to Joint Chiefs of Staff, defense Sec. Les Aspin and the White House. The 10th Mt. Division was commanded by Col. Lawrence Caspar, who reported to Brig. Gen. Thomas Montgomery (he's now European commander of NATO), who reported (sort of) to Turkish Lt. Gen. Cevik Bir. (Montgomery wore two hats, 2nd in command of UN forces and commander of the Quick Reaction Force, 10th Mt. Division, which was separate from UN troops and not under Bir's control). MB

    SIXGUN Philadelphia, PA
    In reference to the types of helicopters used to hold back the crowds of Somalis at the crash sites: Which types of "gunships" were in the air, MH-6s, AH-1s, MH-60s fitted with their typical miniguns or a combination of these three? Also, were DAPs (Defensive Armed Penetrator) MH-60s used in Mogadishu?
    Mark Bowden
    TFR Ranger employed AH-6s and MH-6s, and MH-60s. The 10th Mt. Division had Cobra gunships which joined the fight later on. That's all the attack aircraft employed that I know of. There were also surveillance birds and the P-3 Orion in the air. I don't know the answers to your other questions. MB

    Rick Raleigh NC
    In regards to a grenade being thrown with pulling pin and being thrown back. How could that be known? Did the blast from other grenades kick it back or was there a significant time interval before it came back?
    Mark Bowden
    There was a significant time interval. According to the Rangers present, the pin was definitely pulled before the grenade was tossed. As you know, the grenades are also secured by a safety clip. When it came back and subsequently exploded, the Rangers present concluded that the clip had not been removed, and that it had been thrown back. MB

    Rick Raleigh NC
    Historical about US grenades. In Vietnam there were some casualties from grenade pins getting caught on jungle underbrush or protrusions in helicopters (same reason pilot removed wedding band)and pulled accidentally. Also a bad lot of grenades had defective spoons that would pop as soon as the pin was pulled. So safety bails were added. Troops are trained to remove bail, pull pin and throw, but real grenades aren't thrown much and smoke grenades don't have bails. So it's tough to ingrain the safety bail step and sometimes grenades get thrown with them in place.
    Mark Bowden
    Sounds like this might be what happened. MB

    Max Bromberg Hope, Idaho
    How can I get access to Chapters 1 thru 20 on the net?
    Mark Bowden
    Go back to the main page for this website and click on "previous chapters". MB

    Another way to navigate: On the left side of the page, if you click the button labeled "Other Chapters" or the button labeled "Index" you will go the Table of Contents page for the Web site. -- Online ed.

    Rick Raleigh NC
    The picture of the "tank" hull in Mog looks like a V-150 armored car hulk. It is definately not a tank. Was this what Malays used? If so I can see why RPG's zapped them, they have very thin armor meant to stop small arms only. Bradley is much better armored.
    Mark Bowden
    I believe the Malays used Soviet-built BRDMs known as Condors, while the Pakis offered four US model M48 tanks. MB

    Rick Raleigh NC
    Bogue Rat makes some good comments about armor vulnerability in urban terrain (even if he is a jarhead ;-) but everything is vulnerable to some degree. It is just a matter of what it takes to kill it in the range from a pistol to a nuke. Unlike a lot of other armor, Bradleys can elevate their main and coax guns almost vertically (for antiaircraft) so they can shoot pretty good in urban areas. Bradleys were designed to fight in an RPG rich environment and are pretty well protected from that threat, not invulnerable, but well protected.They can also tow another bradley with a track broken by an rpg.
    Rick Raleigh NC
    Mark, great job, it must be tough trying to learn all this mitary stuff for a story. Most writers don't even try. If you haven't read it already, I suggest you check out "Men Against Fire" by SLA Marshall. He did after action reviews, much like this story, in WWII as the European Theater historian and became fascinated with the way men reacted to hostile fire. You can probably find it in the Army ROTC library at a local university if it isn't in your other sources.
    Mark Bowden
    Thank you, Rick. I'll add "Men Against Fire" to my growing stack. Learning this stuff is fascinating to me, and, as you see, I'm getting a lot of help. MB

    "Vitto" Charlotesville, VA
    DCP brings up a good point. I, too, have had trouble keeping track of the sequence of events. But thats not your fault. This is a story with a lot of events happening simulateously and thus it is impoosible to relate it in a linear manner. One suggestion for the site or the forthcoming book might be a time line of events. This would alllow readers to "see" where they are in relation to the overall story. Keep up the excellent work! RLTW! out!
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks. I will take your suggestion. Maybe we can even add a timeline to this Web site. MB

    We will add the timeline later this week. -- Online ed.

    Ensign Phil., PA
    Amazing journalism....both your "traditional" reporting and writing and the use of the internet to amplify the story using audio & video and to interact with readers and additional potential sources. How are nominations for Pulitzer prizes made? Many thanks for telling a story so that all Americans can see how foreign policy decisions become such great dangers for young men in combat.
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks. In addition to the added features for readers, I am discovering how much this interactivity helps with accuracy. Since I have a book coming out in the fall, which will cover this ground in far more detail, I've been able to take advantage of, quite literally, a world of experience! MB

    Wahoowa hooville
    MCMANUS. MCMANUS. MCMANUS. You mention pilots in your unit being shot down. Would one of these be a Dale S. We were in the same platoon in basic and AIT back in '85 and would love to talk to him. I can be reached at
    Ensign Phil, PA
    Re: Marine Corps M1's in Somalia: Did the Marines deploy M1's in Mog. (in the city?)? The streets seem very narrow for such a large vehicle. Re: Attach helicopters: The MH-60 is a special version of a utility/transport UH-60. The MH-6 is a special version of a observation OH-6. Marine units deployed to the Persian Gulf and (I believe) Army light inf units (like 10th Mountain) have organic AH-1's and/or AH-64's for the Army - attack helicopters. Were the available/used? They are smaller, have more firepower and are somewhat harder targets.
    Mark Bowden
    I don't know. MB

    Allen Americus, GA
    Excellent series. Too bad there wasn't an AC-130 available, it would have come in real handy. One additional comment. This series should be required reading for the women in combat crowd, Sara Lister, Togo West and Bill Clinton. The ones who think that combat is sitting in a chair and pushing buttons.
    Mark Bowden
    Thanks, Allen. MB

    Ensign Phil., PA
    Were the infantry equipped with CS/tear/pepper gas? If yes, was it used/effective? Were smoke rounds used, either by mortar/arty. assets at the US base or from the M203's/M-79's? If yes, when in the engagement and with what effect?
    Mark Bowden
    As I understand it, some kind of incapacitating gas was available, but was not employed. I suspect because US troops were spread out through the same neighborhoods with Somali attackers. But I don't know the answers. I'll pursue it, though. MB

    Ensign Phil. ,PA
    Your graphic shows the range of the RPG to be less than 2000 feet as an anti-air weapon. What is the effective range of the helicopters' miniguns as a ground support weapon? Did the helicopters have to fly lower than 2000 feet? The Rangers and Delta Force are world reknown as extraordinarily well-trained and valiant troops. Do you know what specific training they had for sustained operations in built-up areas? Has this type of training been increased since 1993?
    Mark Bowden
    I don't know the answers. I do know that Delta and the Rangers trained for several months off and on for precisely this mission. MB

    Ensign Phil., PA
    Will your book, if not the newspaper series, detail the type of intelligence available to the officers that planned the raid and from what sources it came from (if possible)? You seem to imply that the great density of RPG's was a surpise and one of the questions seemed to imply that air traffic controllers were checking for Stinger-type weapons by having transports approach low over the city. For the commanders/senior NCO's of the raid, was there any opportunity to recconoiter the route, the target and possible escape routes during their prior time in the city?
    Mark Bowden
    The book will offer more yes, as will next Sunday's story about how and why the battle took place. The great density of RPGs was the key tactical surprise. The C-5 was directed over the city in error, I believe, but I don't know for sure. I don't know the answer to your last question, but I doubt it. MB

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