SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — He’s been called the forgotten hero of the forgotten war. But that might soon change.
KELOLAND News has been following the heroic story of retired Navy Captain Royce Williams of Wilmot, South Dakota for almost two years now.
There’s been a strong push in Congress to award Williams, who is now 97 years old, the Medal of Honor and now it looks like that day is coming.
Congress is now considering the National Defense Authorization Act.
It includes an amendment to recognize retired Navy pilot Captain Royce Williams and authorize the President to award him the Medal of Honor.
“As you said, Don, he’s a forgotten hero of the forgotten war, and it’s incredibly important to take this opportunity to recognize his valor,” Congressman Dusty Johnson said.
This last-ditch effort has been nicknamed ‘Operation Just Reward’ to get Williams the medal many say he deserves before he passes away.
“This story of heroism is unusual and it’s the kind of thing my colleagues have been intrigued by,” Johnson said.
In 1952, Williams and others took off in their Panther fighter planes to intercept seven Russian MIG 15s.
He talked about the mission with John Mollison, host of Old Guys and Their Airplanes.
“They said do not engage and I said well we are engaged and I’m going to have to handle the situation,” Williams said.
And he did.
During one of the longest dog fights in American history, Williams is credited with single-handedly shooting down at least four of the MIGs, maybe five; setting the American aviator record for MiGs shot in a single sortie.
But Williams’ acts of valor were kept top secret for decades; for the longest time, even his wife didn’t know.
“The truth of the matter is it remained hidden until I was notified that it was no longer classified, so I told my wife, she said ‘Oh Royce,'” Williams said.
Now that Williams’ military records have been unsealed and are no longer classified the push is on to get him the Medal of Honor, 70 years late.
“To have just an acknowledgment to have the federal government of United States Congress to admit what he did was far far above and beyond the call of duty that day,” Johnson said.
Williams’ aircraft sustained 263 holes in that dog fight. If you’d like to read the bill, click here.