On the night of March 20, 2003, a U.S. Marine helicopter pilot named James Cox took off from Kuwait on a mission to destroy three border posts inside Iraq. Flying lead in a flight of four AH-1W Supercobras — known as “Snakes” to members of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269 — he was soon experiencing visibility of less than a half mile. In a feature published by Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine based on a daily journal he kept, he described the “darkest night I’d ever flown in.” ...

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