E. Royce Williams, 97, of Escondido. Valley News/Courtesy photo

TEMECULA (CNS) – Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Temecula, said today that a U.S.
Naval aviator who survived — and prevailed — in perhaps the longest
aerial dogfight between a lone American fighter pilot and enemy combatants in
history may be one step closer to receiving the Medal of Honor.

E. Royce Williams, 97, of Escondido was the focus of an amendment that
Issa and other representatives attached to the National Defense
Authorization Act, nominating the veteran for the nation’s highest award for

The legislation was approved and forwarded to the Senate for consideration.

Issa made a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives
hailing Williams as “an American hero and a Top Gun pilot like no other,”
saying there were few comparisons to the “the heroism and valor he
demonstrated for 30 harrowing minutes, 70 years ago, in the skies over the
North Pacific and coast of North Korea.”

“It is, to this day, the most unique U.S.-Soviet aerial combat
dogfight in the history of the Cold War — and one that is truly for the
ages,” the congressman said.

Williams, who retired from the Navy as a captain in the mid 1970s, was
on combat air patrol in a single-seat F9F Panther fighter jet, flying with
three other squadron mates deployed from a carrier anchored in the Sea of
Japan, on Nov. 18, 1952, when the Americans encountered seven Soviet MiG-15s at
higher altitude along the Yalu River.

According to accounts of the mission retold in books and other media,
the men were ordered by their commander to retreat to the carrier and establish
a protective screen. Three of the pilots succeeded, but Williams soon
discovered he had been boxed in by the Soviet fighters.

The young lieutenant was forced to engage the MiGs as they swarmed
him, culminating in a half-hour of gut-wrenching maneuvers to avoid being shot
down while trying to take out the Russian pilots trying to kill him.

“I was engaged mentally at the time,” Williams recently told the San
Diego Union-Tribune. “A lot of it was awareness of where they were and how
I had to maneuver to avoid them. They were taking turns. I decided if I
concentrated on shooting them down, then I’d become an easy target. So my
initial goal was to look for defensive opportunities when they made mistakes.”

He blasted four out of the sky and likely scored hits on two others,
whose pilots never returned to their base in Vladivostik, according to the book
“Red Devils Over the Yalu.”

Williams said that he ran out of ammunition and made a bee line for
his ship, evading the seventh MiG pilot by diving in and out of clouds for
cover. He landed uneventfully, but later counted more than 250 machine gun
holes in his F9F.

“He also survived a 37-millimeter round to his fuselage, where six
inches to the right or left would have meant certain death,” Issa said. “This
was an act of indomitable courage and the demonstration of the highest skill
under incalculable duress.”

Williams was told to clam up about the dogfight for fear of causing
negative publicity for the Russians, who weren’t officially involved in the
Korean War. According to one account, President Dwight Eisenhower personally
directed that the incident remain under wraps. It was not officially
acknowledged until the fall of the Iron Curtain, and the ensuing release of
Soviet archives in the 1990s, which detailed the air battle.

Since then, several personal advocates for Williams have sought to
have him nominated for the Medal of Honor, but those efforts haven’t yielded
momentum. Along with Issa, four other congressional representatives, all from
San Diego County, joined to form an advocacy coalition in support of his
receipt of the medal.

“We won’t stop until Royce Williams receives the recognition he
doesn’t seek, but richly deserves,” Issa said. “It is long past time for
Congress to have a real say on who receives the Congressional Medal of Honor.”

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