I COULD PICTURE IT so clearly in my mind's eye. The B-52s up there all alone, the missiles dropping out of the bomb bay, the tiny wings unfolding, then the small jet engines igniting, and the missiles diving down as they winged their ways to the targets.
The Tomahawks, the Navy's Tactical Land Attack Missiles, came just a few moments later. I could picture these, too. The greenish-blue of the Adriatic just a few minutes before nightfall. The bursts of flame as the booster charges eject the missiles from the launch tube of the frigates and cruisers. The spouts of seawater as the submarine-based missiles catapult out of the ocean, fins unfolding and boosters igniting.
It was a synchronized attack. We were going to blind the Yugoslav military by taking out their radars and cripple them by destroying their anti-air missile systems. Then we were going to sweep in with the manned aircraft. We would lead with the least vulnerable birds, the stealth aircraft that couldn't be easily detected by radar, and we'd have some regular fighters and fighter-bombers along, too. I could imagine what the airmen felt like on this night, helmets tight, masks on, a head full of code words, target descriptions, and mental reminders.
But I couldn't be there in those cockpits. I could only imagine.