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See the extensive bibliography (divided into print, video/audio, and online resources) below the essay.

Black Hawk Down: Events Leading to the Battle of Mogadishu

[1] Somalia has had a bitter and difficult history since its independence from British and Italian colonial rule in 1960. The United Nations and the United States intervened there beginning in 1992 in order to establish some semblance of political order and to give humanitarian aid to the country. The film Black Hawk Down gives an account of the Battle of Mogadishu and the fate of the U.S. soldiers on October 3, 1993.

[2] The politics and government of Somalia are marked by chaos, dictatorship, and the rise of regional warlords. President Mohamed Siad Barre held office from 1969-1991. During his dictatorship, he tried to unite Somalia’s tribes by conquering disputed territories in Djibouti and Ethiopia, which led to Soviet and American involvement in the area during the Cold War. By the 1980s, Barre’s repressive terror campaigns against his challengers would set the stage for the coming civil war and his removal from power in 1991. With no formal government, the country was thrown into civil unrest, and General Mohamed Farrah Aidid emerged as a major force in the conflict. By 1992, 300,000 people were estimated dead due to civil war and famine in Somalia.

[3] In August 1992, U.S. military transports, under Operation Provide Relief, airlifted food to the starving Somalis. These first operations were an almost immediate failure, however, as planes and food supplies were looted upon reaching Somali soil. In response, President George H. W. Bush proposed to the UN that the U.S. would send in 25,000 combat troops to oversee the operations; the UN accepted this offer, and the operation was renamed Operation Restore Hope. On December 8 and 9, 1992, the 15th MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) landed in Somalia securing Mogadishu, Mogadishu airport, Baidoa airport, and the city of Kismayo. The objective of the operation was to galvanize Somalia into building its own nation, take power away from the warring factions, restore and maintain law and order, and help the Somalis set up their own representative government.

[4] After this initial success, the newly inaugurated President William J. Clinton reduced the number of U.S. troops in Somalia to 1,800 soldiers, relying on the UN peacekeeping force to maintain order. On June 5, 1993, 24 UN/Pakistani troops were killed while inspecting weapons storage sites around Mogadishu. They were attacked by Aidid’s militia in another one of his attempts to maintain control of the city. Admiral Howe of the United States Navy then offered a $25,000 reward for any information leading to the apprehension of the warlord.

[5] When no one was able to turn in Aidid, the United States Army sent a special operations task force consisting of U.S. Army Rangers, Delta Force, and pilots from the 160th SOAR (Special Operations Aviation Regiment) to capture Aidid. On October 3, 1993, Task Force Rangers attempted to arrest Omar Salad Elmi, Aidid’s foreign minister, and Mohamed Hassan Awale, Aidid’s political advisor. This disastrous mission led to the Battle of Mogadishu. During the operation U.S. convoys came under attack early as Somali militia crowded the streets and blocked roads with burning tires. As vehicle convoys came under small arms fire and RPG (rocket propelled grenade) attacks, two Blackhawk helicopters were shot down. U.S. troops rushed to save the downed crewmen, and the entire U.S. force came under siege from the militia in the city. After two days of fighting, 18 U.S. soldiers and an estimated 500-1000 Somalia militia and civilians were killed. As a result, President Clinton, under heavy pressure from the U.S. Congress, pulled out all U.S. troops a few months later, and the Battle of Mogadishu would haunt all future U.S. military operations.

Print Resources

Bolger, Daniel P. Savage Peace: Americans at War in the 1990s. Novato: Presidio P, 1995.
This book discusses American wars and operations during the 1990s to explore why America entered such conflicts, how they are carried out, what we have learned from them, and what part the media plays in influencing these situations. Chapter Seven ("Down Among Dead Men: Failure in Somalia, 1992 to 1994") applies each of these questions to the Somali operation, naming all of the departments and units involved, and relating them to the other operations carried out throughout the 1990s.
Bowden, Mark. Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1999.
While the movie focuses on the story and emotional aspect of the events that transpired in Mogadishu, the book is actually meant to edify the reader in regards to how modern urban wars are fought and how it affects society. The book explains the difference between the "Army Rangers" and "Delta Force" and what their purposes are. If one wishes to understand the context of the mission and wishes to know background information on the different units, the book Black Hawk Down is highly recommended.
Durant, Michael J. In the Company of Heroes. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2003.
Michael Durant, a U.S. Army pilot, was shot down in Somalia during the 1993 U.S.-Somali Battle of Mogadishu. This is the story of his capture and rescue.
Eversmann, Matt, and Dan Schilling, eds. The Battle of Mogadishu: Firsthand Accounts from the Men of Task Force Ranger. New York: Ballantine Books, 2004.
An anthology of firsthand accounts from six men who saw combat on October 3, 1993, from six very different vantage points. Eversmann plays a central role in the movie.
Gregory, Sophfronia S. "How Somalia Crumbled." Time 140 14 Dec. 1992.,9171,977234,00.html?iid=chix-sphere
This article discusses the history of Somalia as a nation, along with the rise of war lords and anarchy in Somalia from the 1960s-1990s. The lack of control by the central government allows violent, militant groups to arise and put a stranglehold on a nation.
Halberstam, David. War in a Time of Peace. New York: Scribner Books, 2001.
This book explores America's involvement in several worldwide conflicts, including Somalia, Kosovo, and Iraq. America's motives are probed, as well as some of the key personalities in each conflict.
Horan, Mike. Eyes over Mogadishu: Photos and Stories. Philadelphia: Xlibris, 2003.
From the Entertainment Weekly review: "Mike Horan, an Airborne imagery specialist, offers a firsthand account of life in Somalia from 1992-95. Horan's book . . . is a reality check for the hyper saturated action movie. And it serves as a reminder of the daily sacrifices made by the men and women of our armed forces."
Licklider, Roy. "Somalia, U.S. Military Involvement." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. Ed. John White Chambers II. New York: Oxford UP, 1999.
This entry describes U.N. involvement in Somalia between 1988 and 1995—from the breakout of civil war to the withdrawal of troops. The original mission, UNOSOM I (United Nations Operations in Somalia), to deliver food and end mass starvation, was successful. However, mission number two, UNOSOM II, to establish a new government, did not go as anticipated. This article is helpful to anyone seeking a short summary of events—the key reasons for U.N. involvement in Somalia. It helps one understand why troops were there in the first place and their intentions were.
Lock-Pullan, Richard. U.S. Intervention Policy and Army Innovation. New York: Routledge, 2006.
This book discusses how the U.S. Army rebuilt itself after the Vietnam War and how this rebuilding affected the U.S. intervention policy during the 1990s and early 21st century. By examining the successes in Panama and the Gulf War and the failures in Somalia, Kosovo, and Bosnia, the book analyzes the changes in U.S. military intervention strategy following Vietnam and its strategies for future conflicts. Chapter Six ("Interventions") goes into detail specifically about Panama, the Gulf, and Somalia and discusses the cultural considerations, military limitations, army doctrine, and strategic and national lessons learned during each operation.
McCarthy, Michael. "US military revamps combat medic training and care: new training methods for US combat medics are transforming the care of war causalities." Lancet (2003): 494. Ebsco Host. Worcester State College Lib. 10 Dec. 2003.
The battle of Mogadishu "was the most intense, sustained firefight US combat forces had to fight since the Vietnam War." The U.S. military was becoming more involved in urban warfare; however, its current medical training and methods were not ready for this change. This article discusses how the U.S. has revolutionized its medical strategies and training in warfare since this battle to become more up to date with the current battle strategies.
Patman, Robert. "Disarming Somalia: the contrasting fortunes of the United States and Australian peacekeepers during United Nations intervention, 1992-1993." African Affairs 25 (1997). Academic One File. InfoTrac. Worcester State College Lib. 10 Dec. 2007.
This article sums up how the United Nations missions in Somalia failed because of their lack of "consistent strategy." After the UN was unable to stop the starvation and cease the disruptions in Somalia, the United States launched the mission "Operation Restore Hope." The United Nations and the United States quarreled over whether the "mandate of the operation included the disarmament of the militia in Somalia." This article was relevant to the movie Black Hawk Down because it discusses the situation between the UN and the US and their involvement in Somalia.
Shaw, Ibrahim S. "Historical Frames and the Politics of Humanitarian Intervention: From Ethiopia, Somalia to Rwanda." Globalisation, Societies & Education 5 (2007).
This article discusses the effect that the media has on public opinion regarding foreign intervention in African wars, including Somalia, and how public opinion of a given war can influence support for it. The article also looks at historical apathy of Westerners towards African conflicts.
Stevenson, Jonathan. Losing Mogadishu: Testing U.S. Policy in Somalia. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1995.
"The U.S. operation in Somalia, as the first protracted American military engagement after the Cold War, constitutes a veritable laboratory for American military policy, U.S. foreign policy in the Third World and Washington's proper relationship with the United Nations. . . .At the very least, Operation Restore Hope has shown that U.S. policy makers and soldiers have learned the lesson of Vietnam mainly by rote and have yet to turn it into an integrated intervention policy."
Winkler, P. "(Feminist) Activism Post September 11: Protesting Black Hawk Down." International Feminist Journal of Politics 4.3 (2002): 415-30.
Winkler focuses on both the shift of masculinity to a more feminine disposition with regard to the conception of war displayed by the production of Black Hawk Down. Winkler also argues that the production staff's collaboration with the US Department of Defense is a propaganda machine that allows politicians to sway the media to show the public what they want to see, rather than the truth. Winkler juxtaposes the initial text by Bowden and the proceeding film to show how much was left out because of the influence of the US government.

See Also

DeLong, Kent, and Steven Tuckey. Mogadishu! Heroism and Tragedy. Westport: Praeger, 1994.

Peterson, Scott. Me against My Brother: At War in Somalia, Sudan, and Rwanda: A Journalist reports from the Battlefields of Africa. New York: Routledge, 2000.

Video/Audio Resources

"Ambush in Mogadishu." Frontline. Prod. William Cran. PBS. WGBH, Boston 29 September 1998.
"Ambush in Mogadishu" is part of the PBS investigative series Frontline and originally aired on Tuesday, September 29, 1998. As a traditional documentary—composed of archival footage, voice-over narration and "talking heads" interviews with soldiers, political officials and other commentators—"Ambush" provides some noteworthy points of contrast to Ridley Scott's fictionalized Black Hawk Down (2001). The documentary indicates that the mission on October 3rd 1993 aimed not to capture two specific lieutenants of warlord Aidid but to capture Aidid himself, "intel" from an Aidid insider, code-named "Lincoln," indicating that Aidid was to attend the meeting at the building next to the Olympic Hotel. Further, the documentary indicates that President Clinton, who had "inherited" the mission from his predecessor George H.W. Bush, initiated negotiations with Aidid at least a month before the bloody raid in a diplomatic attempt to bring order to Somalia and reduce U.S. involvement.

The documentary, like Scott's film, focuses primarily on the experiences of the soldiers involved in the October 3rd "Battle of Mogadishu;" however, the film provides more consideration of the political and historical circumstances that may have contributed to the mission's failure. As the documentary tells it, the mission was the doomed stepchild of at least four contradictory impulses: a humanitarian intervention in order to distribute food in Mogadishu; a military goal to quell the chaos resulting from civil warfare between at least 17 different factions; an attempt at "nation-building" in order to reconstruct a new society from the failed nation of Somalia; and a righteous quest to "bring to justice" Aidid for the murder of 24 Pakistani soldiers (serving the United Nations) earlier in 1993. Overall, the documentary is most valuable for bringing a larger perspective to the "Battle of Mogadishu" and for highlighting political realities obscured or ignored in the narrative film. The film also holds special interest for providing interviews with Mark Bowden, author of the book Black Hawk Down, and Specialist Mike Kurth, a character featured in Scott's film.
The True Story of Black Hawk Down. Dir. David Keane. DVD. The History Channel, 2003.
This documentary filmed by the History Channel gives a full description of the events that occurred during the operation of Black Hawk Down. Along with that, it gives specific information about Aidid and his reign and explains why the American operation failed so badly.

Online Resources

"Ambush in Mogadishu." Frontline. PBS. Sept. 1998. 30 Nov. 2007.
Companion web site to the Frontline video.
Bowden, Mark. "Black Hawk Down: An American War Story." Philadelphia Inquirer 9 Dec. 2007.
This is a website compiled by Philadelphia Inquirer staff members. It has "Black Hawk Down: An American War Story," a series written by Mark Bowden, printed as a monthly piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Maps, descriptions, logs, mini-biographies, etc., are provided to go along with the story. It is based on actual accounts from the men who served in Somalia on that fateful day. Actual audio clips with transcripts from the transmissions are also provided. This website brings the viewer into the heart of October 3, 1993. It is an excellent resource for anyone hoping to learn more about the event and get a glance at some primary sources.
Snyder, R. "Operation Restore Hope/Battle of Mogadishu." Nova Online. Aug. 2001. 28 Nov. 2007.
This website was created by a history student at Northern Virginia Community College to offer information about the Battle of Mogadishu and Operation Restore Hope. For that purpose, the website offers background information on the events leading up to the battle, and a summary of the battle events, and a timeline from 1969 to 2001 cataloging all events that were pertinent to the situation in Somalia and those surrounding the Battle of Mogadishu. The page also includes website links to information about Somalia and the battle for Mogadishu as well as a listing of pertinent books relating to the subject.