Lt. Colonel Michael Whetstone commanded the Quick Reaction Company of the 10th Mountain Division during the brief US involvement in Somalia, commanding his unit during some of the hardest fighting in Mogadishu. His men achieved all of their objectives in a series of bitter battles, and took part in the rescue operations during the ‘battle of Mogadishu’, better known as ‘Black Hawk Down’.
Whetstone has produced a fascinating account of his time in Somalia. His focus is on what was required to turn his command into a highly successful unit, looking at elements of leadership and training, and how the lessons from training were put into effect when the initial peace keeping mission turned into a hot war. His unit took part in a series of high risk missions, in each case achieving its objectives despite being outnumbered by heavily armed opponents. He has also produced an excellent account of what it actually feels like to be in command during that sort of mission, giving us an unusual insight into his thoughts and emotions during the various battles his command took part in.
There is only one area where I disagree with the author. He is quite clear that the fighting ended as a victory for the UN forces, and they did indeed achieve their original objective, capturing two high ranking targets, but the original plan called for a simple in-and-out raid. The main part of the battle was triggered when two US helicopters were shot down and the first US troops to reach the scene were pinned down. UN forces then went in to rescue the original US troops. In this phase of the battle the attempt to rescue survivors from the crashes was at best a draw, and the UN forces were able to rescue the besieged US troops. However the pilot of the second helicopter was captured, and the bodies of several of the US dead fell into Somali hands. It doesn’t matter how tactically efficient the UN troops were after that - the PR damage had been done, and as far as the outside world was concerned, the battle had been a costly disaster.
This is an excellent account of modern infantry warfare, taking us into the heart of urban warfare, with all of the chaos and confusion caused by that environment.
1 - Home
2 - Preparing for War
3 - Real-World Mission: The Big Show
4 - Escalation
5 - Out in Africa
6 - The Rangers are Coming, the Rangers are Coming
7 - Baptism by Firefight
8 - Black Eye over Mogadishu
9 - Calm before the Storm
10 - Living History
11 - Running the Gauntlet
12 - Back through the Valley of Death
13 - 'Take a Deep Breath'
14 - Extraordinary Coalition
15 - The Road to Hell
16 - Southern Objective
17 - The Rescue
18 - The Soccer Stadium
19 - Surreal Aftermath
20 - 20/20 Hindsight
Afterword: Preparing a Company for Combat
Author: Lt Col Michael Whetstone, USA (Ret)