November 18, 1952. Task Force 77 off North Korea. TF-77 was operating north of its normal area to run some strikes in the far north-east area of North Korea.
Gen’l Quarters! Gen’l Quarters! All hands man yer battle stations! Boing! Boing!!
Strange. When I got to the Ready Room (the pilots’ general quarters station is the ready room—Ready One for VF-781).
Each ready room has a large video screen where teletype messages were displayed. Soon the type scrolled, “BOGIES ARE APPROACHING THE FORCE. OUR CAP IS VECTORED.” We checked to see who was on the CAP. Four VF-781 aircraft—we usually had two on CAP—were airborne. Claire Elwood and John Middleton in the first section, Royce Williams and Dave Rowlands in the second.
The Ready Room got very quiet. All hands were staring at the teletype. “OUR CAP HAS ENGAGED MIGS.” A couple of pilots started checking the bulkhead hooks to see which of the pilots on the CAP were wearing their immersion suits.
Teletype: “WILLIAMS CLAIMS TWO” “Jesus. What’s going on?”
The rest of the story is best told in the following narratives.