CDR Bruce Avery Van Voorhis

CDR Bruce Avery Van Voorhis

Aberdeen, Grays Harbor County, Washington, USA
Death 6 Jul 1943 (aged 35)
Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia
Burial Lemay, St. Louis County, Missouri, USA
Plot Section 79, Site 279-281
Memorial ID 19394 · View Source
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World War II Medal of Honor Recipient. In June 1925 at the age of 17, Bruce was appointed to the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, and graduated 6 June, 1929. The next few years were extremely busy for Ensign Van Voorhis as he traveled and took assignments on various ships. He was first assigned to the USS Mississippi and at some point transferred to the Naval Air Station Pensacola for flight training. He received his wings on 3 September, 1931, and was then assigned to Observation Squadron 4B aboard the USS Maryland. By June 1934, he’d transferred to Bombing Squadron 5B aboard USS Ranger, then to the USS Saratoga. For nearly 2 years (July 1935 until May 1937), he served in the Panama Canal Zone and flew patrols from Coco Solo. After that, between June 1937 and June 1940, Van Voorhis was assigned to USS Enterprise and USS Yorktown. On 19 February 1938, Bruce Van Voorhis married Miss Kathryn Nora Johnson, at Parris Island Naval Air Base, Beaufort, South Carolina; she was the daughter of Henry Dow Johnson, a commissioned officer and dental surgeon at the Naval base at Parris Island. Sixteen months later, June 1939, Van Voorhis’s first son and namesake was born in California. Barely a year later, June 1940, Van Voorhis joined the aviation unit assigned to USS Honolulu, and from July 1941-November 1942, he was assigned to Naval Air Station Anacostia (Washington DC). His 2nd son John was born there in 1942. By December 1942, the U.S. was a year into WWII, and 35-yr old Van Voorhis was now a Lieutenant Commander in charge of a bombing squadron. Just 2 mo later, 15 Feb 1943, he took command of a newly commissioned squadron, VB-102, at Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Station, Honolulu, Hawaii. Squadron VB-102 would be the first Navy operational squadron to receive the new B-24 aircraft (PB4Y-1 Liberator). Once the transition training was completed, crews and aircraft proceeded to Carney Field, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. It was 19 Apr 1943. Just a few months after arriving in the Solomons, Van Voorhis volunteered to fly his Liberator alone (i.e., no squadron support) on a 700+ mile reconnaissance/bombing mission over Kapingamarangi Atoll, Caroline Islands. And on 6 July, 1943, at 4:30am, he and his crew of 10 flew out of Carney Field, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, headed for Kapingamarangi, 700 miles away. Once he arrived, Van Voorhis encountered Japanese resistance, but he was nevertheless able to destroy or seriously degrade the enemy's installations in 6 attacks, not only at Kapingamarangi, but also nearby islands. At some point, Van Voorhis's plane crashed into the Kapingamarangi Lagoon, near the beach area it was attacking. It is thought the plane was likely caught by its own bomb blast or anti-aircraft fire. When the Liberator failed to return, the entire crew was declared MIA. Post war, the remains of all 11 aboard were eventually recovered from the lagoon at Kapingamarangi Atoll and buried stateside. The plane still rests in 20-30 feet of water in that lagoon --although today, Kapingamarangi has been officially renamed Greenwich. For heroic action as Commanding Officer of Bombing Squadron 102, Lieutenant Commander Bruce Avery Van Voorhis was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Some of wording for his Medal of Honor commendation can be confusing until you realize the mission to Kapingamarangi (now Greenwich), while hundreds of miles from the Solomons, was nevertheless considered part of the overall “Battle of the Solomon Islands,” which took place on 6 Jul, 1943. The Medal of Honor commendation reads: "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 and as Plane Commander of a PB4Y-1 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 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 antiaircraft 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, antiaircraft guns and crews with bombs and machine-gun 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 insurmountable odds, to make a distinctive contribution to our continued offensive in driving the Japanese from the Solomon's and, by his superb daring courage and resoluteness of purpose, enhanced the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country." Bruce Van Voorhis was also posthumously promoted to Commander USN and ultimately had several entities named in his honor. Most prominent among them was the U.S. Navy Dealey class destroyer escort USS Van Voorhis, which actively served the Navy for 15 yrs (1957-1972). Also, the airfield at Naval Air Station, Fallon NV, was renamed Van Voorhis Field in his honor. In addition, there is Van Voorhis Elementary School in Fort Knox, Kentucky, as well as a United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps named the Van Voorhis Squadron in Las Vegas, Nevada. And, May 31 is Cmdr VanVoorhis Day in Nevada. Commander Van Voorhis’s remains are buried at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Lemay, St. Louis County, Missouri, and additionally there is a memorial tombstone at Arlington National Cemetery, Section MI, Site 86.

Bio by: Cookie

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Gravesite Details CDR US NAVY; WORLD WAR II



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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 5 Jan 2001
  • Find a Grave Memorial 19394
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for CDR Bruce Avery Van Voorhis (29 Jan 1908–6 Jul 1943), Find a Grave Memorial no. 19394, citing Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Lemay, St. Louis County, Missouri, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .