Today is a great day;
A hero pilot who shot down at least four Russian Migs in a classified dogfight at the height of the Cold War which saw his jet shot 263 times is to receive the Navy Cross.
Retired Navy Captain Royce Williams was sworn to secrecy for more than 50 years over fears that his battle against seven Soviet fighters could spark war with Russia.
Now the 97-year-old is free to tell his tale and is due to receive the Navy's second highest award for combat valor on Friday at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.
Captain Williams first graced the pages of CDR Salamander almost 11-yrs ago. In honor of his well deserved Navy Cross, let's bring it back.
No one will challenge us; they never had before.
Don't worry - just another boring CAP mission; four JOs against ... the flight schedule, I guess.
Yawn ... and I have to wear a dry suit. Ungh.
Lt Elwood, the Flight Leader, reported his Fuel Pump Warning Light was on. The Combat Information Center (CIC) directed the Flight Leader to report overhead the Oriskany. Lt Elwood passed the lead to Royce and turned back to the CTF with his wingman Ltjg Middleton flying as his safety escort. Suddenly the odds went from 7 against 4 to 7 against 2. Royce and his wingman, Ltjg Rowland, continued climbing toward the approaching MIGs. At 45 miles from the CTF, the MIGs passed directly overhead and immediately turned left as though going to make a 180 degree turn and return to Vladivostok. Royce turned left to follow the MIGs and continued his climb to 26,000 feet. Royce followed the 7 MIGs keeping them in sight. The MIGs abruptly broke sharply back toward the 2 F9F-5 jets, split into two groups of 4 and 3 aircraft and dived steeply. The MIGs were lost by Royce when they passed conning altitude and the vapor trails vanished. Royce called out "Lost Contact" to the Oriskany controller to get information on the Bogie locations but the Bogie blips were no longer visible on ship's radar.
Royce started a gradual left turn after arriving at the position of last visual contact. A line of four MIGs abreast suddenly appeared at ten o'clock, diving towards them with all guns blinking orange as they attempted to shoot down the Panthers. Royce turned into the first four MIGs and positioned his Panther in gun range on tail end Charlie. Royce fired a short burst of 20 MM cannon fire at the trailing MIG. The 20 MM impacted the fuselage of the MIG and he fell out of the formation trailing smoke and aircraft parts.
Royce's wingman trailed the smoking MIG down to 8000 feet trying to get his guns to fire and his gun camera to function. He finally gave up, broke off the engagement and started the long climb back to his Section Leader. The remaining three MIGs climbed to position for another firing run on Royce. Then they reversed course, rolled in on individual diving runs and commenced firing both 23 MM cannons and the 37 MM Gun at a great distance away. Royce turned into them again and fired his 20 MM as they flashed by at a very high rate of closure. The other three MIGs joined the fray which had Royce alone dog-fighting six MIGs. While reversing, jinking and rolling against the Bogie gaggle, Royce could see a MIG locked on his six o'clock position but Royce executed a very hard turn which caused the MIG to overshoot. Royce was firing at every MIG that passed within gun range as they sped by after taking shots at his tail. Finally, Royce got in a kill position on another MIG and fired off a concentrated burst while watching the HEAP (high explosive armor piercing) rounds detonating on the MIG's fuselage. The disintegrating MIG forced Royce to break away from the debris. Several times Royce tracked an individual MIG and fired rounds that appeared to hit the target. Royce did not follow up on the damaged MIGs but instead kept trying to keep his 6 o'clock clear of MIGs while still firing at every opportunity. Royce was tracking and firing at a smoking MIG when he saw a MIG slip into close range at his six. Royce called out to the ship that he could use some help. Royce rapidly reversed by breaking sharply but he felt a 37 MM explode into his aircraft. His Panther was severely damaged. He lost rudder control and had little use of his ailerons. That left him with only one fully operational flight control and that was his elevators. By porpoising the aircraft he could see 20 MM tracers passing above and below and could even see the 37 MM projectiles as they shot by his wounded F9F-5. Royce pushed hard over and while still at full throttle made for the 12000 foot cloud tops. He felt a rush of relief after entering the security of the ominous cumulous.
Royce broke out below the clouds and headed for Oriskany. As he passed a few of the more than 20 ships of the CTF, some fired at his aircraft. The friendly fire stopped after his Panther jet was visually recognized. The Panther was hardly airworthy, but Royce hated the thought of ejecting into the icy Sea of Japan. The F9F-5 was controllable above 170 kts and Royce flew aboard the carrier with a lot of help from the Captain of the Oriskany lining the ship on final approach to accommodate the drifting F9F-5.
Royce was ordered to report to VADM Briscoe, COMNAVFORFAREAST, at Yokosuka, Japan. Briscoe cautioned Royce that a Top Secret agency called NSA was aboard a Navy cruiser off the coast near Vladivostok and monitored all Soviet communications. NSA warned the CTF of the Soviet MIGs taking off from Vladivostok and flying toward the CTF. NSA covered all the radio transmissions and followed the MIGs from departure through the entire confrontation and until return of the remnants of the MIG flight to Vladivostok. NSA told Admiral Briscoe to tell Lt Williams that he got at least 3 of the MIGs. Admiral Briscoe warned Royce to not tell anyone about what he had been told about the Soviet encounter.Royce reported that virtually all of his 95 minutes (1.6 hours) in the air was at full throttle, gun cameras used throughout and that he had fired out all of his 20 MM rounds during the engagement. He further stated that he had learned that the names of the Soviet pilots killed were Captain Belyakov, Captain Vandalov, Lieutenant Pakhomkin and Lieutenant Tarshinov.
No such thing as a normal combat mission. History finds you when she does - and when she does, let's hope you're fullbore.