BRUCE A. VAN VOORHIS, LCDR, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Bruce Van Voorhis '29

Date of birth: January 29, 1908

Date of death: July 6, 1943

Age: 35

Lucky Bag

From the 1929 Lucky Bag:


Loss

1929 Van Voorhis 1.jpg

From Arlington National Cemetery:

Bruce Avery Van Voorhis (29 January 1908 - 6 July 1943) was a United States Navy aviator who was shot down in the Pacific theater during World War II. For his heroic action on July 6, 1943, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Van Voorhis was born on 29 January 1908 in Aberdeen, Washington, and grew up in Nevada, He was appointed to the Naval Academy in June 1925.

Following graduation from the Academy on 6 June 1929, Ensign Van Voorhis reported for duty in the battleship Mississippi (BB-41). That assignment lasted until November 1930 when he transferred to the Naval Air Station at Pensacola, Florida, for aviation training.

He received his wings on 3 September 1931, and was assigned to the Maryland (BB-46) as a member of Observation Squadron 4B (VO-4B). In June 1934, he transferred to Bombing Squadron 5B on board the aircraft carrier Ranger (CV-4), and soon thereafter, to VB-2B attached to Saratoga (CV-3). From July 1935 until May 1937, he served in the Panama Canal Zone and flew patrols from Coco Solo with Patrol Squadron 2F (VP-2F). The following June, 1938, Van Voorhis returned to carried-based aviation and served first in Enterprise (CV-6), then in Yorktown (CV-5), and finally back to Enterprise. In June 1940, Van Voorhis joined the aviation unit assigned to the light cruiser Honolulu (CL-48) where he served for a year. In July 1941, he reported for duty at the Naval Air Station, Anacostia, where he served until November 1942.

In December 1942, Van Voorhis, a Lieutenant Commander since July, assumed command of VP-14, but soon thereafter took command of VB-102. While serving in that capacity, LCDR Van Voorhis gave his life for his country near Hare Island of Kapingamarangi Atoll, the southernmost of the Eastern Caroline Islands. After a 700-mile flight alone, LCDR Van Voorhis launched successive bombing and strafing attacks on the enemy ground installations. During his onslaught, he succeeded in destroying a radio station, anti-aircraft emplacements, and at least one airborne fighter as well as three others on the water. However, the strength of Japanese aerial opposition eventually forced Van Voorhis lower and lower until either the intense anti-aircraft barrage, the fighters, or-perhaps-his own bomb blasts knocked him out of the sky near the island. For the ". . . conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity . . ." he displayed in his ". . . lone but relentless battle against overwhelming opposition . . ." He died on July 6, 1943 and was awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously.

His wife was listed as next of kin; she was a widower with a son, and she and Bruce had another two sons together.

Bruce has a memory marker in Arlington National Cemetery; he is buried in Missouri.

Medal of Honor

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Commander Bruce Avery Van Voorhis, United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Squadron Commander of Bombing Squadron ONE HUNDRED TWO (VB-102) and as Plane Commander of a PB4Y-I Patrol Bomber operating against the enemy on Japanese-held Greenwich Island during the battle of the Solomon Islands, 6 July 1943. Fully aware of the limited chance of surviving an urgent mission, voluntarily undertaken to prevent a surprise Japanese attack against our forces, Lieutenant Commander Van Voorhis took off in total darkness on a perilous 700-mile flight without escort or support. Successful in reaching his objective despite treacherous and varying winds, low visibility and difficult terrain, he fought a lone but relentless battle under fierce anti-aircraft fire and overwhelming aerial opposition. Forced lower and lower by pursuing planes, he coolly persisted in his mission of destruction. Abandoning all chance of a safe return he executed six bold ground-level attacks to demolish the enemy's vital radio station, installations, anti-aircraft guns and crews with bombs and machinegun fire, and to destroy one fighter plane in the air and three on the water. Caught in his own bomb blast, Lieutenant Commander Van Voorhis crashed into the lagoon off the beach, sacrificing himself in a single-handed fight against almost insuperable odds, to make a distinctive contribution to our continued offensive in driving the Japanese from the Solomons and, by his superb daring, courage and resoluteness of purpose, enhanced the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Service: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant Commander

Namesake

USS Van Voorhis (DE 1028) was named for Bruce; the ship was sponsored by his widow.

The airfield at Naval Air Station Fallon is also named in his honor.

Navy Directories & Officer Registers

The "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps" was published annually from 1815 through at least the 1970s; it provided rank, command or station, and occasionally billet until the beginning of World War II when command/station was no longer included. Scanned copies were reviewed and data entered from the mid-1840s through 1922, when more-frequent Navy Directories were available.

The Navy Directory was a publication that provided information on the command, billet, and rank of every active and retired naval officer. Single editions have been found online from January 1915 and March 1918, and then from three to six editions per year from 1923 through 1940; the final edition is from April 1941.

The entries in both series of documents are sometimes cryptic and confusing. They are often inconsistent, even within an edition, with the name of commands; this is especially true for aviation squadrons in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Alumni listed at the same command may or may not have had significant interactions; they could have shared a stateroom or workspace, stood many hours of watch together… or, especially at the larger commands, they might not have known each other at all. The information provides the opportunity to draw connections that are otherwise invisible, though, and gives a fuller view of the professional experiences of these alumni in Memorial Hall.

July 1929

Ensign, USS Mississippi

Others at this command: LCDR Morris Spriggs '15, LTjg Howard Gilmore '26, ENS Renwick Calderhead '27, and ENS Finley Hall '29.

October 1929

Ensign, USS Mississippi

Others at this command: LTjg Howard Gilmore '26 and ENS Finley Hall '29.

January 1930

Ensign, USS Mississippi

Others at this command: LTjg Howard Gilmore '26 and ENS Finley Hall '29.

April 1930

Ensign, USS Mississippi

Others at this command: LTjg Howard Gilmore '26.

October 1931

Ensign, Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B, USS Maryland

Others at or embarked at USS Maryland: LT Paul Register '21 (USS Maryland), ENS John Shaffer, III '30 (USS Maryland), ENS Edward Blessman '31 (USS Maryland), ENS Elliott Marshall '31 (USS Maryland), and ENS Thomas Ashworth, Jr. '31 (USS Maryland).

January 1932

Ensign, Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B, USS Maryland

Others at or embarked at USS Maryland: LT Paul Register '21 (USS Maryland), ENS Edward Blessman '31 (USS Maryland), ENS Elliott Marshall '31 (USS Maryland), and ENS Thomas Ashworth, Jr. '31 (USS Maryland).

April 1932

Ensign, Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B, USS Maryland

Others at or embarked at USS Maryland: LT Paul Register '21 (USS Maryland), ENS Edward Blessman '31 (USS Maryland), ENS Elliott Marshall '31 (USS Maryland), and ENS Thomas Ashworth, Jr. '31 (USS Maryland).

October 1932

Lieutenant (j.g.), Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B, USS Maryland

Others at this command: ENS John Burgess '30.

Others at or embarked at USS Maryland: ENS Edward Blessman '31 (USS Maryland), ENS Elliott Marshall '31 (USS Maryland), ENS Thomas Ashworth, Jr. '31 (USS Maryland), ENS Arthur Vorpahl '32 (USS Maryland), ENS Robert Strickler '32 (USS Maryland), and ENS Truman Carpenter '32 (USS Maryland).

January 1933

Lieutenant (j.g.), Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B, USS Maryland

Others at this command: ENS John Burgess '30.

Others at or embarked at USS Maryland: ENS John Shaffer, III '30 (USS Maryland), ENS Edward Blessman '31 (USS Maryland), ENS Elliott Marshall '31 (USS Maryland), ENS Thomas Ashworth, Jr. '31 (USS Maryland), ENS Arthur Vorpahl '32 (USS Maryland), ENS Robert Strickler '32 (USS Maryland), and ENS Truman Carpenter '32 (USS Maryland).

April 1933

Lieutenant (j.g.), Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B, USS Maryland

Others at this command: ENS John Burgess '30.

Others at or embarked at USS Maryland: ENS John Shaffer, III '30 (USS Maryland), ENS Edward Blessman '31 (USS Maryland), ENS Elliott Marshall '31 (USS Maryland), ENS Thomas Ashworth, Jr. '31 (USS Maryland), ENS Arthur Vorpahl '32 (USS Maryland), ENS Robert Strickler '32 (USS Maryland), and ENS Truman Carpenter '32 (USS Maryland).

July 1933

Lieutenant (j.g.), Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B, USS Maryland

Others at this command: ENS John Burgess '30.

Others at or embarked at USS Maryland: LTjg John Shaffer, III '30 (USS Maryland), ENS Arthur Vorpahl '32 (USS Maryland), ENS Robert Strickler '32 (USS Maryland), ENS Truman Carpenter '32 (USS Maryland), ENS John Phillips, Jr. '33 (USS Maryland), and ENS Joseph Bourland '33 (USS Maryland).

October 1933

Lieutenant (j.g.), Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B, USS Maryland

Others at this command: ENS John Burgess '30.

Others at or embarked at USS Maryland: LTjg John Shaffer, III '30 (USS Maryland), ENS Arthur Vorpahl '32 (USS Maryland), ENS Robert Strickler '32 (USS Maryland), ENS Truman Carpenter '32 (USS Maryland), and ENS Joseph Bourland '33 (USS Maryland).

April 1934

Lieutenant (j.g.), Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B, USS Maryland

Others at this command: ENS John Burgess '30.

Others at or embarked at USS Maryland: LTjg John Shaffer, III '30 (USS Maryland), ENS Robert Strickler '32 (USS Maryland), ENS Truman Carpenter '32 (USS Maryland), and ENS Joseph Bourland '33 (USS Maryland).

July 1934

Lieutenant (j.g.), Bombing Plane Squadron (VB) 5B, USS Ranger

Others at this command: LTjg John Burgess '30 and LTjg Robert Haven '30.

Others at or embarked at USS Ranger: LT LaRue Lawbaugh '20 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 3B), LT Samuel Arthur '20 (USS Ranger), LT Robert Bedilion '22 (USS Ranger), LTjg William Pennewill '29 (Bombing Plane Squadron (VB) 3B), LTjg James Kyes '30 (USS Ranger), 2LT Robert Brown '31 (USS Ranger), ENS William Sisko '31 (USS Ranger), and ENS Earle Schneider '33 (USS Ranger).

October 1934

Lieutenant (j.g.), Bombing Plane Squadron (VB) 2B, USS Saratoga

Others at this command: LT Charles McDonald '24 and LTjg Charles Palmer, Sr. '31.

Others at or embarked at USS Saratoga: CDR Walter Webster '11 (Aircraft Squadrons), LT Arnold Isbell '21 (Aircraft Squadrons), LT John Jones '21 (USS Saratoga), LT Matthias Marple, Jr. '23 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 6B), LTjg Harold Richards '27 (Aircraft Squadrons), LTjg Leonard Southerland '27 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 6B), LTjg Loren Morris '27 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 2B), LTjg Carl Lindgren '28 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 2B), LTjg Mathias Wyatt '29 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 6B), LTjg Charles Ostrom '30 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 2B), LTjg Robert Patten '30 (Aircraft Squadrons), ENS George Stone '31 (USS Saratoga), LTjg James Murphy '31 (Torpedo Plane Squadron (VT) 2B), ENS Albert Gates, Jr. '32 (USS Saratoga), ENS Bertram Prueher '33 (USS Saratoga), ENS Paul Burton '33 (USS Saratoga), ENS Robert Fair '33 (USS Saratoga), and ENS Wendell Froling '34 (USS Saratoga).

January 1935

Lieutenant (j.g.), Bombing Plane Squadron (VB) 2B, USS Saratoga

Others at this command: LT Charles McDonald '24 and LTjg Charles Palmer, Sr. '31.

Others at or embarked at USS Saratoga: CDR Walter Webster '11 (Aircraft Squadrons), LT Arnold Isbell '21 (Aircraft Squadrons), LT John Jones '21 (USS Saratoga), LT Matthias Marple, Jr. '23 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 6B), LTjg Harold Richards '27 (Aircraft Squadrons), LTjg Leonard Southerland '27 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 6B), LTjg Loren Morris '27 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 2B), LTjg Carl Lindgren '28 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 2B), LTjg Mathias Wyatt '29 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 6B), LTjg Charles Ostrom '30 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 2B), LTjg Edward Blessman '31 (Aircraft Squadrons), LTjg Ford Wallace '31 (Aircraft Squadrons), LTjg George Stone '31 (USS Saratoga), LTjg James Murphy '31 (Torpedo Plane Squadron (VT) 2B), ENS Albert Gates, Jr. '32 (USS Saratoga), ENS Bertram Prueher '33 (USS Saratoga), ENS Paul Burton '33 (USS Saratoga), ENS Robert Fair '33 (USS Saratoga), and ENS Wendell Froling '34 (USS Saratoga).

April 1935

Lieutenant (j.g.), Bombing Plane Squadron (VB) 2B, USS Saratoga

Others at this command: LT Charles McDonald '24 and LTjg Charles Palmer, Sr. '31.

Others at or embarked at USS Saratoga: CDR Walter Webster '11 (Aircraft Squadrons), LT Arnold Isbell '21 (Aircraft Squadrons), LT John Jones '21 (USS Saratoga), LT Matthias Marple, Jr. '23 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 6B), LTjg Harold Richards '27 (Aircraft Squadrons), LTjg Leonard Southerland '27 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 6B), LTjg Loren Morris '27 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 2B), LTjg Mathias Wyatt '29 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 6B), LTjg Charles Ostrom '30 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 2B), LTjg Edward Blessman '31 (Scouting Plane Squadron (VS) 2B), LTjg Ford Wallace '31 (Fighting Plane Squadron (VF) 6B), LTjg James Murphy '31 (Torpedo Plane Squadron (VT) 2B), ENS Albert Gates, Jr. '32 (USS Saratoga), ENS Bertram Prueher '33 (USS Saratoga), ENS Paul Burton '33 (USS Saratoga), and ENS Wendell Froling '34 (USS Saratoga).

October 1935

Lieutenant (j.g.), Patrol Plane Squadron (VP) 2F, Coco Solo, Canal Zone

Others at this command: LTjg Henry Twohy '29.

January 1936

Lieutenant (j.g.), Patrol Plane Squadron (VP) 2F, Coco Solo, Canal Zone

Others at this command: LTjg Henry Twohy '29.

April 1936

Lieutenant (j.g.), Patrol Plane Squadron (VP) 2F, Coco Solo, Canal Zone

Others at this command: LTjg Henry Twohy '29.

July 1936

Lieutenant (j.g.), Patrol Plane Squadron (VP) 2F, Coco Solo, Canal Zone

Others at this command: LTjg Henry Twohy '29.

January 1937

Lieutenant (j.g.), Patrol Plane Squadron (VP) 2F, Coco Solo, Canal Zone

Others at this command: LTjg Henry Twohy '29.

April 1937

Lieutenant (j.g.), Patrol Plane Squadron (VP) 2F, Coco Solo, Canal Zone

Others at this command: LTjg Henry Twohy '29.

September 1937

Lieutenant, Scouting Squadron (VS) 6, USS Enterprise

Others at this command: LTjg James Tyler '34.

Others at or embarked at USS Enterprise: LCDR Mark Crouter '20 (USS Enterprise) and LTjg Gilbert Carpenter '30 (USS Enterprise).

January 1938

Lieutenant, Scouting Squadron (VS) 6, USS Enterprise

Others at this command: LTjg James Tyler '34.

Others at or embarked at USS Enterprise: LCDR Mark Crouter '20 (USS Enterprise).

July 1938

Lieutenant, Scouting Squadron (VS) 6, USS Enterprise

Others at this command: LTjg James Tyler '34.

Others at or embarked at USS Enterprise: LCDR Mark Crouter '20 (USS Enterprise), LCDR William Ault '22 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LT Gilbert Carpenter '30 (USS Enterprise), LTjg Alfred Tucker, III '31 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LTjg John Phillips, Jr. '33 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LTjg Frank Whitaker '34 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LTjg Philip Torrey, Jr. '34 (Bombing Squadron (VB) 6), LTjg Walker Ethridge '34 (Bombing Squadron (VB) 6), ENS Webster Johnson '36 (USS Enterprise), ENS Bruce Skidmore '37 (USS Enterprise), and ENS Ernest Wood, Jr. '38 (USS Enterprise).

January 1939

Lieutenant, Scouting Squadron (VS) 6, USS Enterprise

Others at or embarked at USS Enterprise: LCDR Mark Crouter '20 (USS Enterprise), LCDR William Ault '22 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LT Gilbert Carpenter '30 (USS Enterprise), LTjg Alfred Tucker, III '31 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LTjg John Phillips, Jr. '33 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LTjg Frank Whitaker '34 (Torpedo Squadron (VT) 6), LTjg Philip Torrey, Jr. '34 (Bombing Squadron (VB) 6), LTjg Walker Ethridge '34 (Bombing Squadron (VB) 6), ENS Webster Johnson '36 (USS Enterprise), ENS Bruce Skidmore '37 (USS Enterprise), and ENS Ernest Wood, Jr. '38 (USS Enterprise).

October 1939

Lieutenant, Aviation Unit, USS Honolulu

Others at or embarked at USS Honolulu: LTjg Jack Crutchfield '36 (USS Honolulu), ENS Earle Craig '39 (USS Honolulu), and ENS Jack Mahony, Jr. '39 (USS Honolulu).

June 1940

Lieutenant, Naval Air Station Anacostia, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LT Seymour Johnson '27 and LTjg Graham Bright '35.

November 1940

Lieutenant, Naval Air Station Anacostia, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LT Seymour Johnson '27 and LTjg Graham Bright '35.

April 1941

Lieutenant, Naval Air Station Anacostia, Washington, D.C.

Others at this command: LT Seymour Johnson '27 and LTjg Graham Bright '35.


Class of 1929

Bruce is one of 29 members of the Class of 1929 on Virtual Memorial Hall.