The Skyraiders broke the dawn, and everything else, apart, as they came in over the river at an altitude that had to be less than a hundred feet. First light was upon the valley, and the smoke coming up from the still-burning dried mud of the river bank could be seen, its pungent smell able to be inhaled all the way across the water. The four Skyraiders had come down from higher altitude to arrive almost soundlessly until their giant thundering radial engines became the only thing any animal could hear up and down the valley. Cowboy’s plane had to be among the four, but it was impossible to tell in the low light by trying to see through the canopies of the fast passing planes. And then, the sounds grew even louder with the roaring fire that came out of the Skyraider’s 20mm cannons.

I knew the pilots could not see any activity below them. The light was simply too bad for that. I also knew why they were firing anyway. The NVA would not only be diving for cover in the jungle beyond, but they’d now be fully on notice that airpower had arrived, and it was of the kind that was going to remain on-site for some time to come. Cowboy was merely giving the enemy a taste, and letting everyone know that nothing would happen in the valley that escaped any notice from the huge deadly aircraft constantly overhead or within seconds of being called to be overhead. That the enemy threat was no longer from the jungle mattered little, until I could get on the radio and advise Cowboy otherwise. There was no missing or ignoring the Skyraiders when they were down in the valley, and that applied to both sides and just about everything else wanting to stay alive.

Medevac and resupply were coming, I knew. Battalion could not have missed the frightened and emotional communications made on the combat net during the battle. I hoped they sent a CH-46, or preferably two of them, along with plenty of Cobra gunships. Hill 975, the hill that had so frightened me, to the point of never wanting to get near it again, was back in play. The hill could not be attacked and taken because our forces, even with total air cover, heavy artillery support and plenty of resupply, were not capable of penetrating deep down into the earth to root the NVA out. Aside from nuclear weapons, nothing in our current inventory I knew of could penetrate that deeply into the planet. There would be problems later in the day with the landing zone because of where it had to be. The only clear place for the choppers to put down was near Hill 975, not far downriver from where the old airstrip had been allowed to go fallow.