A real-life “Top Gun” 10 years before Tom Cruise was even born was Royce Williams.

Williams shot down four Soviet fighter jets on a chilly November day in 1952, becoming a legend that would go unrecognized for more than 50 years.

The Navy Cross, the second-highest military decoration bestowed by the service, was given to the now 97-year-old former navy aviator during a ceremony held on Friday in California.

Williams’ case “stood out above all others” among the numerous recommendations he had to increase servicemen’ awards, according to Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro on Friday. To me, it was abundantly evident that his acts met the requirements for a higher medal and were genuinely outstanding.

Del Toro observed, “Freedom does not come cheap.” “It results from the sacrifice of everyone who has served in the military today and who is still doing so. You were kept free that day by what you did. In Task Force 77, they left your shipmates unharmed. They did, in fact, keep us all free.

Here are the things Williams accomplished to merit that distinction.

Overpowered and outnumbered
Williams was commanding the US Navy’s first jet aircraft, the F9F Panther, on a mission on November 18, 1952, during the Korean War.

He launched from the USS Oriskany, an aircraft carrier that was part of a task group of four carriers operating in the Sea of Japan, commonly known as the East Sea, 100 miles off the coast of North Korea.

Williams, who was 27 at the time, along with three other fighter pilots, were instructed to conduct a combat air patrol over the Korean Peninsula’s most northern region, close to the Yalu River, which divides North Korea from China. Russia, which was formerly a part of the Soviet Union and aided North Korea in the fight, is located to the northeast.

The leader of the group experienced technical difficulties during the patrol by the four US Navy jets, so he turned around and returned to the task force offshore.

Williams and his wingman were now the only two on the expedition.

They were shocked to see seven Soviet MiG-15 fighters approaching the US task force at that point.

An attack on the North Korean port of Hungnam by a Grumman F9F Panther fighter plane occurs in 1951.
An attack on the North Korean port of Hungnam by a Grumman F9F Panther fighter plane occurs in 1951.
Getty Images/Corbis
Williams stated in a 2021 interview with the American Veterans Center, “They just didn’t come out of Russia and contact us in any way before.”

The task force’s wary commanders gave the two US Navy jets the order to position themselves between the MiGs and the US cruisers.

Williams reported that as they were doing this, four of the Soviet MiGs wheeled and started firing at them.

He claimed that after firing on the tail MiG, the Soviet jet plummeted out of the four-plane formation, with Williams’ wingman falling after it.

He said that at that point, US officers on the carrier gave him the order not to engage the Soviets.

In the interview, Williams remembered, “I said, ‘I am engaged.

Fighting is the only option.
Williams added that he was also aware that the Soviet jets would catch and kill him if he attempted to diverge because they were quicker than his.

In the interview, he claimed that the MiG-15 was the world’s greatest fighter aircraft at the time because it could climb and descend more quickly than American fighters.

He said that his aircraft was designed for air-to-ground fighting, not for aerial dogfights.

But as the other three MiGs that had earlier broken off returned, he was now in one with not just one, but six Soviet fighters.

More than 30 minutes of aerial battle followed, with Williams continually swerving and turning to avoid being targeted by the more powerful MiGs – the one area where the F9F could match with the Soviet aircraft.

He claimed, “I was on automatic, performing as I was trained.”

Soviets were also.

However, Williams noted that occasionally “they made mistakes.”

One shot toward him, but after a moment it halted and sunk beneath him. Williams assumed his gunfire had killed the aircraft’s pilot.

And he explained how another MiG flew directly in front of him, he fired at it, and it exploded, forcing Williams to make a quick turn to miss the debris and the pilot as the plane crashed.

According to a description of the battle on the US Navy Memorial website, Williams used all 760 of the 20mm cannon projectiles that the F9F was equipped with during the battle.

However, the Soviets also hit Williams, taking out his rudder and wings, leaving him unable to control the jet other than with the elevators at the back of the aircraft.

Fortunately, he claimed, he was now traveling in the general direction of the US task group off the coast. But he was still being followed by one of the last remaining Soviet jets.

He claimed that when the Soviet pilot attempted to get a clear shot, he flew in an up-and-down, roller-coaster pattern, with bullets falling above and below him as he moved.

At this moment, Williams’ wingman returned to the fray, chasing after the Soviet and scaring him away, according to the Navy Memorial report.

Williams still had some challenging flying to perform, though, in order to bring the crippled jet back to the carrier.

In December 1950, the USS Oriskany is seen off New York City while en route to carry out carrier qualifications.
In December 1950, the USS Oriskany is seen off New York City while en route to carry out carrier qualifications.
US Navy First’s heightened air defenses originally mistakenly identified Williams’ F9F as a MiG, prompting the destroyers defending the American carriers to open fire on him. The task force was on high alert because it might be attacked by Soviet airplanes.

Williams claimed that his commander put a rapid end to that, removing one threat.

Williams still needed to land his jet on the carrier’s deck, which he often did at a speed of 105 knots (120 mph). But he was well aware that if he slowed down to 170 knots (195 mph), his plane would stall and crash into the frigid water.

And he was unable to pivot and align himself with the carrier. Therefore, the ship’s captain made the unprecedented decision to turn the carrier to align with Williams.

It succeeded. On impact with the deck, he grabbed the third and last arresting wire.

The Navy crew counted 263 holes in Williams’ plane on the carrier’s deck. According to the Navy Memorial story, it was in such bad state that it was shoved off the ship and into the water.

However, something else had to also vanish beneath the seas as the jet did, and that was the reality that the US and Soviet Union engaged in aerial combat at all.

Fear of a new global conflict
According to the Navy Memorial website, news of Williams’ bravery reached the highest levels of government, with Dwight Eisenhower among the senior US authorities wanting to talk with the pilot.

According to the website, “Williams was personally interviewed by several high-ranking Navy admirals, the Secretary of Defense, and also the President following the battle, after which he was told not to speak about his engagement as officials feared the incident might cause a devastating increase in tensions between the US and Soviet Union, and possibly ignite World War Three.”

US forces were putting new communications intercept technology to the test that day, according to a US Defense Department version of the incident. The US advantage was seen to have been eroded if the Soviet involvement in the conflict had been made public.

Williams was immediately sworn to secrecy and the records of the dogfight were classified by US authorities; as a result, it would take more than 50 years before his wins were officially acknowledged.

Williams received a Silver Star in 1953, although only “enemy” planes were mentioned in the citation. And just three kills were acknowledged. According to the website, the fourth was unknown until Russian documents started to become available in the 1990s.

Williams couldn’t even notify his closest friends until the records were declassified in 2002.

According to the US Defense Department, “the specifics of Williams’ duel with Soviet MiGs over North Korea remained a secret for the remainder of his illustrious Navy career, and for decades after retirement.”

Williams claimed that he told his wife about his mission’s declassification as soon as the government eventually got in touch with him.

After learning what he had done, veterans organizations argued that Williams should have received the Medal of Honor, the highest honor bestowed by the military, rather than the Silver Star.

More than 70 years after the aerial fight during the Korean War, in December of last year, Del Toro argued that Williams’ Silver Star ought to be changed to the Navy Cross.

Williams was referred to as “a Top Gun pilot like no other, and an American hero for all time” by California Rep. Darrell Issa, who worked to obtain him the enhanced medal.

Issa declared in a statement that it was still the most unusual US-Soviet aviation confrontation in Cold War history.

He saved the lives of his fellow pilots, crew members, and shipmates for 35 terrifying minutes in the air above the North Pacific and the coast of North Korea 70 years ago. His epic tale is finally being recounted in its entirety.

By Admin

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