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Navy Cross Awarded to Korean War Veteran from South Dakota

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs Committees, announced South Dakota native and retired U.S. Navy Captain E. Royce Williams received the Navy Cross from the Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro this past Friday. Rounds’ office worked with the Navy to properly recognize Capt. Williams with an upgrade of his previously-awarded Silver Star Medal, which he received for his service during the Korean War.

“Royce is a true American hero, and I am pleased he is finally receiving the Navy Cross,” said Rounds. “As the second-highest military decoration for sailors and marines, it is truly reserved for those who displayed extraordinary heroism in combat with armed enemy forces. His distinguished actions over 70 years ago is a story for the ages. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award than Royce, and I am grateful for his service to our nation.”

On November 18, 1952, then-Lieutenant Williams led three F9F Panthers against seven Soviet MiG-15s, which according to the U.S. Naval Institute, were “superior to the F9F in almost every fashion.” His mission, which was the only direct overwater combat between U.S. Navy fighters and Soviet fighters during the Cold War, led to the protection of Task Force 77 from enemy attack. Capt. Williams’ heroic actions were classified due to rising tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union at the time.

After the engagement was declassified in 2016, Rounds’ office spent years conducting research, sending formal requests for records and maintaining communication with various stakeholders on behalf of Capt. Williams. On February 19, 2021, Rounds sent a letter to then-Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Harker seeking assistance in obtaining gun camera film from Williams’ mission. Rounds also sent a letter to the Archivist of the United States David Ferriero to request an expedited search for Williams’ records on May 25, 2021. On July 12, 2021, Rounds met with then-incoming Secretary of the Navy Del Toro and asked the Navy to review Williams’ case. Rounds followed up with Secretary Del Toro asking for his personal review of the case on August 18, 2021. Rounds and his staff have remained engaged with the Navy and the National Archives and Records Administration related to Williams’ case.

Rounds’ office works to assist veterans and their families with lost or overdue military awards. The contact information for each office can be found at


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