Almost 30 years ago, members of the special operations unit Task Force Ranger fought for their lives in one of the toughest battles since the Vietnam War.

The battle in Mogadishu, Somalia — popularized by the movie Black Hawk Down — was so fierce that it resulted in two Medal of Honors and dozens of lesser awards.

Now the U.S. Army has upgraded 58 of those awards to the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest award for valor under fire, and two others to the Distinguished Flying Cross, which recognizes heroism in aerial combat.

Task Force Ranger

US Army Black Hawk helicopter over Mogadishu Somalia
A U.S. Army Black Hawk gunner covers a Cobra gunship during a patrol over Mogadishu, October 17, 1993. (Photo by Dominique Mollard/AP)

Task Force Ranger was the best the U.S. military had to offer.

A few hundred strong, the task force comprised Delta Force’s C Squadron, Bravo Company from the 3rd Ranger Battalion, small elements of Air Commandos, a four-man reconnaissance and sniper team from SEAL Team Six, and helicopters from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, also known as the “Night Stalkers.”

Operation Gothic Serpent, their mission in Somalia, was a U.S.-led effort to stop the civil war in the East African country by capturing warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid, a key player in the conflict, and his lieutenants.

The task force had been operating in Somalia for some time before the fatal battle on October 3, 1993. On that day, Delta Force operators, Rangers, and Night Stalkers conducted a daytime raid to capture Aidid’s lieutenants, who were meeting in downtown Mogadishu.

Although the mission started smoothly, it was upended by a series of mistakes and bad luck — most notably, the shoot-down of two MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.