Royce and his brother signed up after the attack on Pearl Harbor. During his career he flew everything from open cockpit biplanes to jets at Mach 2 in three wars.
During the Korean War, Royce was a member of a task force that sailed north to attack “juicy” targets close to the Russian border. On November 18, 1952 his flight flew a morning bombing mission then returned to their aircraft carrier for a quick lunch. Despite a snow storm moving in over the task force, he was ordered to go back out on a combat air patrol.
His four ship flight was immediately notified of incoming aircraft from the North and Royce spotted seven contrails high above. Two planes were ordered back to the task force because of an emergency fuel warning. Royce and his wingman saw seven planes “flying directly at us and all of them were shooting”. After shooting down one, Royce would soon find himself in a desperate 35 minute solo dogfight against six MIG-15’s; consider the preeminent fighter of the era. He shot at least four before turning back to the carrier with his hydraulics shot out and out of ammunition. When he landed, 263 holes were found in his plane.
Due to the political ramifications of publicly acknowledging that the Russians were actively engaged in the war, Royce was quietly awarded a Silver Star and ordered to keep the mission a secret. He did so for 50 years.
After the end of the cold war, Russian records verified that he had shot down three planes and a fourth crashed while trying to land with severe damage. On January 20, 2023 his Silver Star was upgraded to a Navy Cross, the second highest award for Valor. Royce was also award two Distinguished Flying Cross medals for missions in Vietnam.