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. 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.

General Orders: CITATION:
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.


Class of 1929

Bruce is one of 28 members of the Class of 1929 in Memorial Hall.