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.

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