Retired U.S. Navy Cpt. E. Royce Williams will never forget November 18, 1952.
“Here came four of them from the front side all firing and the others were coming around from the other side…We came in head on,” Williams remembered. “I saw bullets go over me and under me then over me… So the fight went on and on and on.”
Williams, who fought in the Korean War, single-handedly shot down four Russian fighters – a record-breaking feat never recognized or even known until recently.
That’s because Williams’ achievement was kept 'top secret' for more than 50 years.
“I didn't tell anyone, including my wife and my brother who’s a naval aviator. No one,” Williams said. “I had a meeting with President Eisenhower and I didn’t even talk about that.”
The weather was bad that day with low clouds, heavy wind and snow, but that didn’t keep Williams from doing his duty.
In his F9F-5 Panther Williams took on seven superior MiG-15s in a fierce dogfight lasting roughly 35 minutes.
“When I take into account the level capability of the airplane it was sort of like, God giving David a task of Goliath – only I had seven Goliaths.”
“The aviation historians, the knowledgeable ones, will tell you without a blemish that this event by Royce was unmatched in the Korean War, was unmatched in the Vietnam War, unmatched ever since then. It stands alone all by itself as a really amazing situation,” Rear Admiral Doniphan B. Shelton (Ret.) said. “He was never recognized properly for what he did on this one day…We hope…he will be properly recognized sometime soon.”
Last year Shelton initiated the request to have Williams’ achievement re-reviewed through Congressman Duncan Hunter's office along with the endorsements of two four star-admirals, Hays and Hayward.
“There’s nothing wrong with the Silver Star that they gave him, believe me, that’s a wonderful award, but it’s not what he earned,” Shelton explained.
Shelton said if the proper record was known from the beginning Williams would have received the Navy Cross or Medal of Honor.
“I am the only person to have ever shot down four jets in one mission...and on my first mission at that...so I don't know, maybe that qualifies,” Williams said about the possibility of a medal. “People say thank you for your service, I say thank you for letting me serve.”
Now, Williams, who has been dubbed ‘the forgotten hero of the forgotten war’, may just be a little closer to being remembered.
Supporters of Williams and his story are creating a nationwide campaign to gather 100,000 signatures for a petition to demand a re-review for recognition.
They are launching the petition on Saturday May 14th at the San Diego Ride for Vets.