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39th FTS flyover pays tribute to legendary WWII commander

Lt. Col. Thomas J. Nefe, Director of Resources and Readiness, 240th Civil Engineer Flight, Colorado Air National Guard, Buckley AFB, presents the American flag to Linne (Royal) Haddock during the memorial service at Logan National Cemetery in Denver for Haddock’s father, Col. Frank Royal, who passed away in November. Royal commanded the 39th Fighter Squadron during World War II in New Guinea, making one air-to-air kill July 4, 1942. (Photo by Senior Airman Alyssa Duprey, 460th Space Wing Public Affairs).

Lt. Col. Thomas J. Nefe, Director of Resources and Readiness, 240th Civil Engineer Flight, Colorado Air National Guard, Buckley AFB, presents the American flag to Linne (Royal) Haddock during the memorial service at Logan National Cemetery in Denver for Haddock’s father, Col. Frank Royal, who passed away in November. Royal commanded the 39th Fighter Squadron during World War II in New Guinea, making one air-to-air kill July 4, 1942. (Photo by Senior Airman Alyssa Duprey, 460th Space Wing Public Affairs).

Colonel (ret.) Frank Royal (1915-2016) (Courtesy photo)

Colonel (ret.) Frank Royal (1915-2016) (Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- A missing man formation of T-38Cs in Denver last month, led by Lt. Col. Kyle Goldstein, 39th Fighter Training Squadron commander, paid tribute to the life and service of “legendary” World War II veteran, Col. Frank Royal, who died in November at the age of 101.

Royal, who joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1940, was the first commander of the 39th Fighter Squadron, flying the P-39 Airacobra over the South Pacific. Under his command, the squadron was the first unit to receive P-38 Lightnings.

On July 4, 1942, the commander and his wingmen encountered a flight of Japanese A6M Zero long-range fighters. During the battle that ensued, Royal’s wingmen took a devastating hit, forcing him to bail out. As he floated to the ground, Royal risked his own life to protect his wingmen, shooting down one and fending off several others.

In the fall of 1943, Royal returned to the states, married his waiting sweetheart, and continued a career that included a tour at the Pentagon, command opportunities and more. Among other honors, Royal earned the Silver Star with one oak leaf cluster, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters.

The colonel and his family retired in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he was an active participant in a variety of community programs. His family’s life-long commitment to the 39th FS continues today with daughter Linne, who is the secretary and treasurer of the unit alumni group.

His military career came full circle when he was interred a few blocks from the station where he initially entered the service.