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Tigers: Tracking a Legend
Born in Marquette, Michigan in June of 1890, Ralph Royce went on to graduate from West Point in 1914 and begin a military career that spanned 32 years and saw action in two world wars. He graduated from the Signal Corps Aviation School in 1916 and was assigned to the 1st Aero Squadron at Columbus, New Mexico.
In late 1917, Maj. Royce took the 1st Aero Squadron to France as its commander. He led the first American aerial reconnaissance over Germany, became Commander, 1st Corps Group, and was then assigned to HQ Staff, American Expeditionary Force.
After the war, he held various command positions and attended both the Air Corps Tactical and the Army Command and General Staff Schools. In 1928 he became Commander, 1st Pursuit Group, Selfridge Field, Michigan. Major Royce won the Mackay Trophy for leading the January, 1930 "Arctic Patrol" flight from Selfridge to Spokane, Washington and back again.
Following a General Staff assignment in Washington, D.C., he attended the Army War College. In 1934 he was one of the pilots and the Operations Officer on the B-10 "Alaskan Flight." He then became Post and 1st Pursuit Group Commander at Selfridge Field. Assigned to the Philippines in 1937, he served as the Air Officer until August 1939. In July, 1941 he became Air Attach to Britain. He was assigned to Allied Air Forces Australia in September, 1941.
In April, 1942, ten days before the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, General Royce led a bomber force of three B-17 and ten B-25 aircraft on the first retaliatory raid against Japanese targets in the Philippines. The two day assault against targets in Manila, Cebu and Davao was the longest aerial offensive to that date.
After two brief stateside commands, General Royce became commander of all U.S. Forces in the Middle East, then Deputy Commander, 9th Air Force and Senior Air Officer afloat during the Normandy invasion. He retired from active duty in 1946 and made his final flight in August, 1965.
General Royce's decorations include Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit wit one Oak Cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross, and the French Croix de Guerre with gilt star.
Major General Ralph Royce was enshrined into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame on October 18, 1997 for his long and illustrious military aviation career.