Racing along at harrowing speed through the twisting waterways, the two PBRs rounded a bend into a wider stream and suddenly found themselves in a beehive of enemy activity. Scattered across the water were dozens of junks and sampans, all loaded with troops and weapons. The banks bristled with fortified gun and rocket emplacements. As Williams later told an interviewer in his South Carolina drawl, "There wasn't no exit ramp, so we jus' kept on a-comin'." With throttles jammed forward and guns chattering, the sailors roared through, running over several of the sampans as they sprayed fire. The surprised Communists returned fire heavily but chaotically, some of them firing on their counterparts on the opposite bank. The PBRs emerged from the gauntlet pockmarked and holed but with no casualties. Williams radioed for Navy Seawolf helicopter gunship support and then headed back into the enemy concentration.
The battle raged on for several hours with the Americans ultimately destroying 65 enemy craft and killing hundreds of enemy soldiers. Williams took a piece of shrapnel in his side, and one of his crew was shot in the wrist.
For this action, Williams was awarded the Medal of Honor (shown above being presented by President Lyndon Johnson), which he added to his previous decorations: a Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and three Purple Hearts (among others). DDG-95, an Arleigh Burke -class guided-missile destroyer, was christened the John Elliot Williams on 28 June 2003.
Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 122 (VAW-122) was already deployed at sea with Carrier Air Wing Six (CVW-6) on board the USS America (CVA-66) when the squadron was established on 1 April 1967. VAW-122 was formed from a detachment of VAW-12, which was divided into four squadrons on that date.
Equipped with E-2A Hawkeyes, VAW-122 directed fighter coverage for the USS Liberty (AGTR-5) in the Mediterranean in June 1967 when the intelligence-gathering ship was attacked by Israeli aircraft and torpedo boats. During a 1968 deployment on board the America off Vietnam, VAW-122 crews assisted a Fighter Squadron 33 crew in downing a North Vietnamese MiG-21 fighter, and controlled interdiction strikes against North Vietnam.
After a 1970 deployment to the Mediterranean during the Jordanian crisis with CVW-7 on board the USS Independence (CVA-62), VAW-122 upgraded to the E-2B version. The squadron's next two deployments to the Mediterranean returned its crews to international crises—the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the 1974 Cyprus Crisis.
In April 1975, VAW-122 upgraded to the E-2C. In 1978, the squadron rejoined CVW-6 and over the next 13 years deployed to the Arabian Sea, Mediterranean, and North Atlantic on board the Independence and the USS Forrestal (CV-59). During the 1983 deployment, VAW-122 supported combat operations in Grenada and Lebanon, and, on its last carrier deployment in 1991, supported Operation Provide Comfort over Iraq.
VAW-122 made its first drug-interdiction deployment to the Caribbean in 1990, and in 1992 became permanently assigned to this role. By 1996, the unit had completed eight deployments in the Caribbean area, conducting some missions deep over South America, and was credited with the seizure of more than 16 metric tons of illegal drugs.
VAW-122 was disestablished at NAS Norfolk on 31 March 1996, when its role and aircraft were turned over to the new reserve squadron VAW-77.