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The 98-year-old real-life Korean War “Top Gun” receives the Apostle of Peace Medal

The 98-year-old real-life Korean War “Top Gun” receives the Apostle of Peace Medal

Posted February. 18, 2023 04:15,   

Updated February. 18, 2023 04:15


Former U.S. Navy pilot Royce Williams who single-handedly shot down four enemy jets during the Korean War has received the Apostle of Peace Medal from the Korean government. The medal is given to commemorate, appreciate, and pay respect to the sacrifice of Korean War veterans.

The Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Los Angeles presented the medal at a ceremony in San Diego, California, on Thursday. Capt. E. Royce Williams said, “during the Korean War, when I looked down Seoul from the air, it was nothing but a ruin with only two or three broken bridges. However, when I visited Korea several years ago, I was astonished by the advances it has made since then.” He added, “It still bums me out that we didn’t end the war once and for all and reunify the Korean peninsula.”

This real-life Korean War “Top Gun” was born in South Dakota in 1925 and joined the army during World War II. In 1952, then-U.S. Navy pilot Royce Williams engaged in possibly the longest solo aerial dogfight against seven Soviet jets, shooting down four of them.

The US intelligence authority kept this secret for 50 years out of its concerns that the shooting down could spark a third world war by increasing tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The classified story began to be shared only in 2002. Last month, the Navy awarded the Navy Cross, the service’s second-highest award for military honor. And the South Korean Navy also awarded a certificate of appreciation under the name of its chief of staff. "Captain Williams was already a 'Top Gun' a decade before Tom Cruise was born," CNN wrote, noting that Tom Cruise, the star of the "Top Gun" movie franchise, was born in 1962.

Jung-Min Ha dew@donga.com