Cmdr Bruce Van Voorhis - Our Squadron's Namesake
Bruce Van Voorhis was born on January 29, 1908 in the state of Washington. Shortly after his birth his family moved to the Fallon Paiute Reservation in Nevada where his father served as a goverenment agent. Van Voorhis was appointed to the United States Naval Academy in June 1925 and following his graduation from the Academy in June of 1929, Ensign Van Voorhis reported for duty on the USS Mississippi. In November of 1930 Ensign Van Voorhis transferred to the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida for aviation training.
Ensign Van Voorhis received his wings on September 3, 1931 and was assigned to the USS Maryland as a member of Observation Squadron 4B. Van Voorhis transferred to Bombing Squadron 5B on board the aircraft carrier USS Ranger in June 1934 and soon thereafter to Air Squadron VB-2B attached to the USS Saratoga. He served in the Panama Canal Zone from July 1935 until May 1937 and flew patrols from Coco Solo with Patrol Squadron 2F. The following June, Van Voorhis returned to carrier-based aviation and served first on the USS Enterprise then on the USS Yorktown, and finally back to the USS Enterprise. In June of 1940, Van Voorhis joined the aviation unit assigned to the light cruiser USS Honolulu where he served for a year. In July 1941 he reported for duty as a Lieutenant Commander at the Anacostia Naval Air Station in Washington D.C. where he served until November 1942.
In December 1942, Lt. Cmdr. Van Voorhis assumed command of the Navy Patrol Bombing Squadron VP-14 and shortly after that took command of Navy Patrol Bombing Squadron VB-102. While serving in that capacity, Lt. Cmdr. Van Voorhis was killed near Hare Island of the Kapingamarangi Atoll, the southernmost area of the Eastern Caroline Islands. Flying 700 miles without any cover or support, Lt. Cmdr. Van Voorhis and his crew launched multiple bombing and strafing attacks on enemy ground installations. During his attack, Lt. Cmdr. Van Voorhis succeeded in destroying a radio station, anti-aircraft emplacements, and at least one airborne fighter as well as three others on the water. Overcome by the strength of Japanese aerial opposition, Lt. Cmdr. Van Voorhis' altitude was forced lower and lower until anti-aircraft barrage, enemy fighters, or perhaps his own bomb blasts, caused his aircraft to crash. He was posthumously promoted to Commander and awarded the Medal of Honor.
Cmdr. Van Voorhis is buried in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis County, Missouri. He has a headstone at Arlington National Cemetery which reads "In Memory of Bruce Van Voorhis".
Medal of Honor Citation - Commander Bruce Van Voorhis
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Squadron Commander of Bombing Squadron 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, Lt. Comdr. 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, Lt. Comdr. 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.