For weeks, the force had been steaming back and forth within the restricted waters of the littoral operating area. Operating so close to land was risky, and the carrier skipper would have been much more comfortable in the open ocean where maneuver was unrestricted and warning time much increased. But carrier air support and naval gunfire provided by the carrier escorts were vital to the expeditionary force ashore. And to be effective, that support had to be available continuously and as close to the action as possible.
So far, the mine threat had failed to materialize. Small craft and the few port facilities had been neutralized. Airspace domination was so complete that the only aircraft threat was a suicide attack from a light plane. While this was not impossible, defenses against it had been so well defined and so well rehearsed that the chances of a breakthrough seemed minimal. Missiles were something else. The thought of an unannounced missile attack suddenly appearing at close range from between the mountains kept everyone on edge.