6 things you probably never knew about 'Black Hawk Down'

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A still from 'Black Hawk Down' (Sony Pictures)

The 2001 blockbuster Black Hawk Down is a favorite among service members and veterans alike. Depicting the 1993 raid to capture Mohamed Farah Aidid and subsequent Battle of Mogadishu, Black Hawk Down provided a pro-soldier narrative, a look into what happens when a mission goes wrong, and some straight up awesome action scenes.

Here are six things you didn't know about Black Hawk Down.


"Only the dead have seen an end to war."

The movie opens with a quote attributed to philosopher Plato. Gen. Douglas MacArthur first misquoted this phrase as being said by Plato, but it was actually written by George Santayana in his book, “The Life of Reason."

Bonus: An earlier cut of the movie opened with a quote from poet T.S. Eliot, which said, “All our ignorance brings us closer to death."

The fast rope scenes were real

The Department of Defense actually gave the producers a platoon of Army Rangers to perform the fast rope scenes. They also flew real helicopters in most scenes, not using computer-generated imagery except for crash sequences.

The aircraft used during the filming were from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and most of the pilots were involved in the actual battle in 1993. Many of the Army Rangers in the film were actual Rangers, serving with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

The movie's reception was influenced by 9/11

Although this movie was released shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, the movie was actually completed long before. The outpouring of patriotism bolstered viewership, however. It also became one of the most culturally significant films released during George W. Bush's term in office.

The movie was based on a book

The movie is an adaptation of “Black Hawk Down," a book by Mark Bowden, based on a series of articles he published in The Philadelphia Inquirer. The 29-part series focused on 100 characters, 39 of whom were featured in the movie.

The actors went to boot camp

In order to maintain legitimacy, the actors playing Rangers participated in a crash, one-week Ranger-familiarization course at Fort Benning. The Delta Force actors took a two-week commando course from the 1st Special Warfare Training Group at Fort Bragg. Additionally, captured aviator Michael Durant spoke with Ron Eldard and the actors playing 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment helicopter pilots at Fort Campbell.

The characters wore personalized helmets

The film features soldiers wearing helmets with their last names on them. Although this was not accurate, director Ridley Scott used this device to help the audience distinguish between the characters because "they all look the same once the uniforms are on."

My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead

"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."

Opinion

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.

They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.

As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.

But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.

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Conflict photographer Lynsey Addario's seen a hell of a lot of combat over the past twenty years. She patrolled Afghanistan's Helmand Province with the Marines, accompanied the Army on night raids in Baghdad, took artillery fire with rebel fighters in Libya and has taken photos in countless other wars and humanitarian disasters around the world.

Along the way, Addario captured images of plenty of women serving with pride in uniform, not only in the U.S. armed forces, but also on the battlefields of Syria, Colombia, South Sudan and Israel. Her photographs are the subject of a new article in the November 2019 special issue of National Geographic, "Women: A Century of Change," the magazine's first-ever edition written and photographed exclusively by women.

The photos showcase the wide range of goals and ideals for which these women took up arms. Addario's work includes captivating vignettes of a seasoned guerrilla fighter in the jungles of Colombia; a team of Israeli military police patrolling the streets of Jerusalem; and a unit of Kurdish women guarding ISIS refugees in Syria. Some fight to prove themselves, others seek to ignite social change in their home country, and others do it to liberate other women from the grip of ISIS.

Addario visited several active war zones for the piece, but she found herself shaken by something much closer to home: the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina.

Addario discussed her visit to boot camp and her other travels in an interview with Task & Purpose, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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An Army staff sergeant who "represents the very best of the 101st Airborne Division" has finally received a Silver Star for his heroic actions during the Battle of the Bulge after a 75-year delay.

On Sunday, Staff Sgt. Edmund "Eddie" Sternot was posthumously awarded with a Silver Star for his heroics while leading a machine gun team in the Ardennes Forest. The award, along with Sternot's Bronze Star and Purple Heart, was presented to his only living relative, Sternot's first cousin, 80-year-old Delores Sternot.

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U.S. special operations forces are currently field testing a lightweight combat armor designed to cover more of an operator's body than previous protective gear, an official told Task & Purpose.

The armor, called the Lightweight Polyethylene (PE) Armor for Extremity Protection, is one of a handful of subsystems to come out of U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) effort that media outlets dubbed the "Iron Man suit," Navy Lieutenant Cmdr. Tim Hawkins, a SOCOM spokesman, told Task & Purpose on Wednesday.

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