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Film Analysis and Commentary: Black Hawk Down Somalia has been experiencing a civil war ever since Dictator Mohammed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991. Mohammad Farah Aidid emerged as a leader and relatively quickly, and genocide began almost immediately. By 1993, it was estimated over 300,000 Somalis had died, while over 900,000 had fled to neighboring countries. After several years of sending food and monetary aid, which was intercepted by Aidid supporters, President Bush announced the US would be sending in troops to Somalia.
The United States began Operation Restore Hope, which was supposed to “create the security environment necessary to ensure the delivery of humanitarian relief to the Somali people. ” (Fact sheet: Somalia–Operation Restore Hope). Originally named Operation Gothic Serpent, The Battle of Mogadishu, took place on October 3-4, 1993, and was the biggest firefight involving US soldiers since Vietnam (Bowden, “A defining battle”).
It was an attempt to capture Aidid’s top political advisor, Mohamed Hassan Awale, and his foreign minister, Omar Salad Elmi.
Journalist Mark Bowden’s book entitled Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, tells the accounts of many people involved in the battle in which nineteen Americans, hundreds of Somalis were killed and over a thousand were wounded. Director Ridley Scott brings the book to life in the film Black Hawk Down (2001), which features Josh Harnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom.
The award-winning film begins with PFC Blackburn’s fall from the Black Hawk helicopter. The film shows that the Somalis shooting at the Black Hawk helicopters with rocket-propelled grenades were the reason Blackburn slipped off the rope.
Staff Sergeant Matt Eversmann, however, alludes to soldier inexperience being the cause of the fall as he recalls, “I don’t remember anyone shooting at us then” (14). The operation is planned to be completed in thirty minutes but takes over eighteen hours. On the ground, the Somalis have a clear advantage, not just because they are on their home turf, but also because they outnumber the US soldiers. Ground rescue is heavily delayed by Somalis putting up road blocks, burning tires, as well as thousands of Somali militia armed with AK-47s.
As a result, wounded soldiers cannot be evacuated and makeshift shelters are setup. The film shows more than just a war, it also demonstrates much of the comradeship the troops have, making sure to take care of all of the wounded, and even of the bodies of those killed in action. At the end of the film, in a conversation between Staff Sergeant Matt Eversmann and Sergeant First Class Norm “Hoot” Hooten, Hoot explains Eversmann why he keeps coming back to war by saying, “They don’t understand why we do it. It’s about the guy next to you, and that’s it. This is also evident in the scene where Pilot Michael Durant’s Black Hawk crashes and Sergeants Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart insist on securing the crash site and trying to help the fallen soldiers. Although they cannot rescue all of them, they actually die in saving Durant. When Durant is captured by Somali militia men, a pilot announces from the air “Mike Durant, we won’t leave you behind. ” While the film depicts the accounts documented in Bowden’s book, the film fails to portray any Somali point-of-view of the account of the Battle of Mogadishu.
Bowden’s book does give both accounts as he did not just interview US soldiers involved in the battle but went so far to travel to Mogadishu and interview dozens of Somalis as well (Bowden). Both the book and the film capture and reiterate the US Ranger’s motto: No man left behind. While the film shows, the masses of Somalis the US troops were up against, an interview with US Army Ranger Keni Thomas published by CNN, makes it even more clearer when he recounts how they were outnumbered 10-to-1 (“Ranger recalls ‘insane,’ deadly Somalia mission”).
I felt the film made it seem like the soldiers were trained to deal with death. In one scene, a soldier picks up a hand of another soldier who had been killed in action and pockets it, almost as if it was the normal thing to do. In his compilation (with Dan Schilling), Staff Sergeant Matt Eversmann confesses that “Nothing in [his] training prepared [him] for that. There is nothing that can replicate that feeling of loss” (25). The film has a powerful ending, which lists the nineteen US soldiers that lost their lives during the battle.
Text scrolls as a soldier reads a letter to his wife and children in the background, saying, “So, in closing, my love… tonight, tuck my children in bed warmly. Tell them I love them. Then hug them for me… and give them both a kiss good night for Daddy. ” Although I thoroughly enjoyed watching the film version, several times even; after browsing through the books and articles on the Battle of Mogadishu, I am looking forward to reading the book by Bowden and the compilation by Eversmann and Schilling. I believe the detail and emotion that is in the written versions vanishes much too quick after the film ends.
Annotated Bibliography Bowden, Mark. “A defining battle. ” The Philadelphia Inquirer. 16 Nov. 1997. Web. 24 Apr. 2011. Introduces Battle of Mogadishu, and the accounts of those that were involved or present at the time. Eversmann, Matt and Dan Schilling. The battle of Mogadishu: firsthand accounts from the men of Task Force Ranger. New York: Random House, 2004. Print. Gives six first-hand accounts of those that were present during the Battle of Mogadishu. Very detailed narratives that leave a lasting impression on the reader. “Fact sheet: Somalia–Operation Restore Hope. U. S. Department of State Dispatch 3. 51 (1992): 898. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 23 Apr. 2011. Provides background information to Somalian Civil War and Operation Restore Hope. Gives statistics and facts that led President Bush to deploy troops to Somalia. “Ranger recalls ‘insane,’ deadly Somalia mission. ” CNN. com 27 Oct 2001. Web. 23 Apr. 2011. Interview with a former US Ranger who fought at the Battle of Mogadishu. Discusses the events as he recalls them and his thoughts on more current conflicts around the world.