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    Top Secret: The Forgotten Fighter Ace of the Korean War



    Story by Austin Rooney            

    Defense Media Activity     

    Retired Navy Capt. E. Royce Williams has been keeping a secret for more than 50 years.
    To his friends, family, and others he served with, Williams was known as a decorated fighter pilot, who led a successful career in the Navy, where he served for more than 30 years and flew more than 220 missions in Korea and Vietnam. However, even his wife wasn’t aware of what he’d done on Nov. 18, 1952.
    That morning, Williams was continuing what had become a daily routine for him as a young Navy pilot stationed onboard the USS Oriskany off the coast of Korea during the Korean War; flying his F9F-5 Panther fighter aircraft over the skies of North Korea to attack targets in support of operations on the ground. On this particular morning, the only difference was the targets were further north than usual – close to the country’s border with the Soviet Union.
    Despite a blizzard sweeping in with heavy winds and snow, Williams said the mission began successfully, with minor amounts of anti-aircraft fire. However, they hadn’t counted on the nearby Soviet base to notice their presence. Within minutes, the Soviets went to general quarters and scrambled seven MiG-15 fighters to react to the situation.
    “Our combat information center notified us that there were inbound bogeys,” said Williams. “I spotted seven contrails coming from the north, and identified them as MiGs.”
    Once the MiGs passed over Williams and his wingman, they circled around and split into two groups – four to the right, and three to the left. Williams lost sight of the aircraft, and was ordered to move closer to the strike group to protect it in case the Soviets attacked.
    That’s when they dropped back in on Williams.
    “They dropped back in and started shooting,” said Williams. “Since they started the fight, I shot back.”
    Williams quickly locked on to one of the aircraft and hit it, watching as it caught fire and billowed smoke on its way down. His wingman followed it, leaving Williams alone with the remaining MiGs.
    In another intense moment, Williams was able to dodge the weapons fire and shoot back, downing another MiG, leaving two of the original four in the fight.
    “I’m on the defensive – I’m not really declaring war on them,” said Williams.
    As he kept maneuvering to avoid being hit by the hundreds of bullets being fired, one of the Soviet pilots made a grave mistake, putting his aircraft directly in Williams’ sights. He took the opportunity and opened fire, downing a third MiG.
    On another turn, Williams felt his aircraft shake violently as it was hit by a MiG’s 37mm cannon – ripping holes in his fuselage and exploding, leaving his aircraft severely damaged.
    As he struggles to stay in the fight, something else goes wrong – Williams runs out of ammunition.
    The remaining MiGs followed Williams as he turned his damaged aircraft into the storm, using the high winds to shield himself from the incoming rounds as he headed full speed back towards his task force.
    “I could see the bullets coming over me, and under me,” said Williams.
    As he approached the task force, the remaining MiGs quickly retreated, assuming Williams probably wouldn’t make it back to the Oriskany due to severe damage regardless. Williams knew if he ejected, he’d end up freezing to death before he could be rescued, and his communications were now severed due to the damage done to his aircraft. He had no choice but to attempt a landing.
    To make matters worse, the task force had gone to general quarters with orders to open fire on any unidentified aircraft; since Williams couldn’t communicate with them, they opened fire on his aircraft – luckily stopping once he got close enough to identify.
    His Panther was unable to slow down or it would stall, which forced Williams to make his landing at 200 miles per hour. Somehow, he was still able to catch a wire on the flight deck and emerged unscathed.
    The next day, the crew inspected his Panther and found 263 holes in the aircraft.
    “You’d be surprised, it was almost like a training mission,” said Williams, recounting the story. “I was pretty stable.”
    Soon after returning, Williams was ordered into a meeting with his Admiral and a representative of a brand new government agency – the National Security Agency. The NSA had been testing new communications equipment that was intercepting radio chatter from the Soviets, and they knew if any details from Williams’ mission went public, the Soviets would know the United States could hear their communications. Therefore, Williams was ordered not to tell a soul about his mission – it was classified as Top Secret.
    For the rest of his accomplished Navy career, and for decades after retirement, the details of Williams’ dogfight with Soviet MiGs over North Korea remained a secret. When he was finally contacted by the government and told his mission was declassified, the first person Williams said he told was his wife.



    Date Taken: 12.01.2018
    Date Posted: 12.19.2018 06:48
    Story ID: 304237
    Location: CA, US

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