Arthur Padios (2002)
Categorizing the missions in Vietnam, I think there were three basic types.
1. Direct Close Air Support of US troops in close combat (the most rewarding).
2. Strikes against hard targets (frequently the hairiest because the baddies were shooting back, often big-time).
3. Bombing suspected VC trees (sheer boredom, a waste of assets, JP fuel, and time).
In close support I'm guilty of becoming over zealous. On one of my '69 missions into the DMZ in support of a Marine rifle company (don't ask what they were doing in the DMZ, except getting themselves surrounded), I burned up two $15,000 each 20MM Mark 4 Gun Pods strafing the gooners - 300+ KIA. When my Ordnance Officer and good friend (CWO Warren Rook), chewed me out for destroying his guns, I told him to order two more, after all the gooners only cost us $100 a head - fair bounty for the afternoon's work.
On occasion, some of us would stumble into a meaningful mission simply because of being airborne at the right time with the right ordnance load, or being scrambled from a hot-pad. An example would be when one of our helicopter's was shot down. Often close cover by the Skyhawks would make the difference between buying time for a rescue mission to extract the crew, or they being overrun and killed/captured.
Another was running across Marine Recon troops trying to get away from the bad guys after becoming entrapped. You know the motto - "Swift, Silent, and Deadly". We called them "Swift, Silent, and Surrounded". In "65" I ran across a 4-man fire team beating feet in the foothills some 30-40 miles west of DaNang. My flight of 4 and I were loaded with slick 500 pounders (before Snake Eyes) and some 2.75" rockets. Talking directly to the Fire Team Leader on the radio, he asked me to drop a pair of 500's on the eastern edge of a small river. Considering the baddies were chasing him from the west, I couldn't figure out what good the bombs would do east of him. When I asked he quickly replied, "We need an instant fox-hole and don't have time to dig one." I dropped where he asked.