JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas --
A 39th Flying Training Squadron T-38C “missing man formation” flyover in Denver last month, led by 39th FTS commander Lt. Col. Kyle Goldstein, paid tribute to the life and service of “legendary” World War II veteran, Col. (retired) 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 (at age 27), flying the P-39 Airacobra over the South Pacific. Under his command, the squadron (predecessor of the 39th FTS) was the first unit to receive P-38 Lightings (resulting in more combat aces at the 39th than any other squadron).
On July 4, 1942, the young commander and his wingman encountered a flight of Japanese A6M Zero long-range fighters. During the battle that ensued, Royal’s wingman took a devastating hit, forcing him to bail out. As he floated to the ground (presenting an easy target), Royal risked his own life to protect his wingman, shooting down one Zero and fending off several others.
In the fall of 1943, Royal returned to the states, married his waiting sweetheart, and continued a stellar 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 Fighter Squadron 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.
Joining Goldstein in the Denver tribute were 39th FTS members Lt. Col. Ben Price, Lt. Col. Matt Alley, Lt. Col. Matt Reynolds, Lt. Col. Kevin Fenno and Maj. James White.