Second-highest award for a US hero who shot down 4 MiGs in 35 min

WASHINGTON — The Navy Cross is the second-highest honor awarded by the United States Navy. The honor of being awarded this medal goes to American heroes who in their professional careers have shown heroism and exceptional qualities in the performance of their duties. Retired Navy Capt. E Royce Williams is one of those heroes, and he received the medal from the Secretary of the Navy.

Second-highest award for a US hero who shot down 4 MiGs in 35 min
Photo credit: US Navy via Twitter

On November 18, 1952, at the height of the Korean War, Williams and his squadron of four F9F-5 Panther fighters flew high into the sky to patrol over the Yalu River. This river is a border river and separates two territories – North Korea and the USSR. On this day, nothing suggests that Williams will have to show piloting skills. The patrol proceeds calmly, especially since it is known that the USSR is not a party to the conflict.

7 MiGs

Although the USSR was not at the time a party to the conflict, Moscow also sent its squadrons to the area to protect its airspace.

At one point, American pilots detected seven unidentified objects in the air. It turns out to be seven MiG-15 fighters from the inventory of the Air Force of the Soviet Union. At the same time, before the engagement could even take place, the American wing leader suffered an engine failure and was ordered to return to the American aircraft carrier. An action he performs.

Thus, three American combat aircraft remain in the air, against seven Soviet ones. The US Navy ordered Williams to return to the carrier as well. It is not known whether Williams agreed to carry out the order or not, but immediately after the call from the aircraft carrier, the three F9F-5 Panthers found themselves “bracketed” at 26,000 feet by the MiGs.

35 minutes

At one point, Williams’ wing found itself up against seven Soviet fighters. A shootout begins at a ratio of 7 to 1. Williams shows outstanding piloting skills. He manages to deftly maneuver and shoot, leading an uneven battle. First MiG, second MiG, third MiG, fourth MiG. Before returning to the aircraft carrier, Williams shot down four Soviet MiG-15s.

Second-highest award for a US hero who shot down 4 MiGs in 35 min
Photo credit: National Archive

Williams’ battle with the seven Soviet fighter jets lasted 35 minutes in the air. It is exhausting and stressful. It is believed to be the longest battle in the history of US aviation and the US Navy. Williams successfully returned to his aircraft carrier and participated in the construction of a defensive wall to protect against a possible Soviet attack, which did not materialize.

Williams’ achievement is impressive. It has great value because, at the time, its F9F-5 Panther was neither faster, nor more maneuverable, nor more powerful than its Soviet counterpart, the MiG-15.

In presenting the Navy Cross, Secretary of the Navy [SECNAV] Carlos Del Toro said Williams’ fight was “special and unique.” “I authorize that he be awarded the Navy Cross for his brave actions performed by personal bravery and self-sacrifice for the country.”

Forgotten hero

Williams is a “forgotten hero”. But not forgotten by the US military and US society, but “forgotten” for political reasons. Williams should have been awarded the highest military award, the Medal of Honor. He got away with this award because he was removed from the US Navy’s historical chronicles so as not to draw Washington into a war with Moscow during the Korean War.

The Russians, however, pay a lot of respect to Williams. Paradoxically, in 1995 Moscow declassified its archives from the Korean War and the heroism of the “American pilot” was detailed, honoring the fact that he shot down four of their Soviet fighters. Williams enters as a character in the history book of the Russian military historian Igor Seidov. In his book “Red Devils over the Yalu: A Chronicle of Soviet Air Operations in the Korean War”, the author devoted an entire chapter to the 35-minute battle.

Williams hasn’t talked about that fight. To this day, his family knows as much as we do. Secrets and secrecy remain in the mind of the American hero. Neither his brother nor his wife Camilla knows the details of those 35 minutes of Williams’ life. Williams is 97 years old and lives in Wilmot, South Dakota, US.

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