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First Name: Norman

Last Name: Vandivier

Birthplace: Edwards, Hinds, MS, US

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: Francis

Date of Birth: 10 March 1916

Date of Death: 05 June 1943 (Presumed)

MIA Date: 04 June 1942

Rank or Rate: Lieutenant (junior grade)

Years Served: 1935-1938, 1939-1943

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Norman Francis Vandivier

Lieutenant, Junior Grade, United States Naval Reserve

Navy Cross & Air Medal

Norman F. Vandivier was descendant from the early Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam (NYC). His fourth great-grandfather, Peter Vandiver (sic) (1769-1823), was a soldier in the American Revolution. He fought with the New Jersey Militia and resided in Somerset county, NJ. He probably moved from New Jersey to Kentucky via the Cumberland Gap trail after the Revolution to claim a land bounty for his war service. In 1826, Peter Vandiver (sic) II (1787-1866), a native of New Jersey, made the trek from Mercer county, Kentucky with his family to Johnson county, Indiana. His son Strother (Norman’s second great-grandfather), a native of Johnson County, IN, carved the inscription "16 Oct 1826" into a Beech tree on their farm to commemorate the day his father, Peter Vandiver (sic), claimed an 80 acre-tract of land in Union Township, Johnson county, Indiana.

Norman's father, Fred Forsythe Vandivier, a graduate of Franklin high school class of 1908, married Mary Rebecca Hardin, a graduate of Nineveh high school class of 1913, at her parent’s home in Nineveh, Johnson, Indiana on 27 Jan 1915. Immediately after their wedding ceremony, Fred and Mary Vandivier departed for Edwards, Mississippi. The newlyweds journeyed south, making brief visits at Chattanooga, Tennessee and Birmingham, Alabama before arriving in Edwards. Beginning 01 Feb 1915, and for the next two years, Fred was in charge of the agricultural department of a missionary school located in Edwards and run by the Christian Woman’s (sic) Board of Missions (C.W.B.M.). The CWBM merged with several other organizations in 1919 to form the United Christian Missionary Society. As part of his duties, Fred also managed a farm of 1300 acres. Mrs Vandivier served as matron of the girl’s dormitory at the Edwards Mission school.

The following year Mr and Mrs Vandivier sent word home announcing the birth of their first child, Norman Frances (sic) Vandivier, on 10 March 1916. The good news was published on 11 March 1916 in Franklin’s only newspaper at the time, The Evening Star. A month later, Mrs Fred Vandivier departed Edwards and traveled to Indiana with her infant son, Norman Francis. They arrived there on Saturday, 15 Apr 1916, to a boisterous welcome by the new grandparents and other close family of which there were many. The following year Fred, Mary and Norman left Edwards for the last time and returned to Indiana in March 1917. Upon their arrival in Indiana, Fred's father, Ira Vandivier, gave Fred a large farm to live on and manage. Over the next seven years, Fred and Mary’s family grew with the birth of three more children, Rosemary, Robert Dale and Ellamae Vandivier. All born in Franklin, Johnson county, Indiana.

Norman graduated from Alva Neal high school in Franklin, Indiana with 80 other graduates at the evening commencement of 24 May 1934. The following September, Norman began classes at Franklin College in his hometown and pledged Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. He was active in sports earning letters in football and baseball. In his senior year, he was captain of the baseball team. Norman was also an excellent scholar. According to his mother, Norman expressed an interest in the military while he was a student in college. On 1 July 1935, Vandivier enlisted as a Private in Co. A, 139th Field Artillery, Indiana National Guard for a term of three years. During his enlistment he advanced to the rank of Corporal. He was honorably discharged on 01 July 1938 after completing his three year enlistment. Shortly before his discharge from the National Guard, Norman graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in Chemistry from Franklin College with forty-eight other graduates at the campus on the afternoon of 13 Jun 1938. After graduation, Norman went to work for the U.S. Bureau of Mines.

In late May 1939, Norman made application for Aviation Training in the U.S. Naval Reserve (V-5). He submitted required documentary data including: a birth certificate, educational records from high school and college, three letters of recommendation from persons of recognized standing in the community, a hand-written resume covering occupational and other experience, and a recent photograph of himself. In addition, he had to pass a physical and dental exam, and sit for an interview with the Naval Reserve Flight Selection Board (NRFSB). The board assessed various aspects of Vandivier's character and educational qualifications to determine his potential ability as an officer and naval aviator. He received an overall numerical score that was compared to other applicants in his class to determine a final ranking among the group. Elimination flight training (e-base) was the last hurdle Vandivier had to face before the Board made its final decision on whether to recommend him for the program.

Norman Vandivier enlisted for four years in the US Naval Reserve flight training program (V-5) as a Seaman 2/c (S2/c) on 6 July 1939 at the Naval Reserve Aviation Base, (NRAB) Grosse Isle, Michigan. He returned to NRAB Grosse Isle on 15 July 1939 to commence a 30-day e-base flight training under instruction. In a letter to his parents dated 18 July 1939, Vandivier wrote that he flew that day for the first time. He said when he was up for about 2 hours, he felt like it was a vacation. The class was expected to fly everyday to the end of the month except Sunday. By that time he was supposed to be able to solo. During his flight today he wrote, we (himself and flight instructor Mr. Cady) flew over Ann Arbor and Adrian, MI and landed at both places for a short time. The letter continued to say that on the return flight, Mr Cady put the aircraft through a "bunch" of stunts to see if he would "scare out." Vandivier considered the radical maneuvers to be fun. Prior to his flight he learned about radio sending and receiving. He didn't find it difficult, but one had to learn Morse Code, he seemed to lament. He received the standard navy uniform allowance issued to aviation cadets. It was 4 pair of underwear, 3 shirts, 3 pair of pants, 3 pair of socks, one pair of shoes, a flight jacket and a helmet and goggles. Vandivier made his first solo flight on 04 Aug 1939. He completed the remainder of his training and on 15 Aug 1939, he was released from temporary active duty under instruction. He was ordered home to await further orders. Several weeks later Nazi Germany's army and air force crossed the Polish borders and attacked the country. The date was 01 Sep 1939. World War II had begun.

After he successfully completed e-base, the NRFSB sent their recommendation that Vandivier be appointment an aviation cadet to the Bureau of Navigation (later Bureau of Naval Personnel (BUPERS)). He received new orders via mail from the Secretary of the Navy in early October 1939 to report to the Commandant, Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, FL no later than 30 Oct 1939 to begin flight training under instruction as a Naval Aviation Cadet. Vandivier departed Franklin, Indiana on 24 Oct 1939, and he arrived at the Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola on 28 Oct 1939. The next day he was discharged from enlisted status active duty in order to accept an appointment as an Aviation Cadet. He took the oath of office and accepted the appointment as an Aviation Cadet on 30 Oct 1939. He was assigned to the 102 student strong Aviation Cadet Class 131-C. He began his training on 31 Oct with two weeks of what he stated as long lectures on seamanship, leadership, fundamentals of the naval service and naval command and procedure. The lectures were coupled with "hell week." During the first week new cadets were constantly harassed by more senior cadets. The newbies were marched everywhere, while senior cadets were always present. It was much like boot camp only rolled into one week. The objectives of "hell week" were to teach the cadets to march in formation, learn time management, learn to handle pressure, and to begin the process of eliminating those cadets not fit to be naval officers and pilots. That was followed by several weeks of ground school beginning on 13 Nov 1939. Vandivier, along with the Cadet Battalion was granted Christmas leave that began on 22 Dec and ended on 2 Jan 1940. Vandivier went home to Indiana to spend the holidays with his family.

After returning to Pensacola, Vandivier completed his primary flight training in mid-March when he passed final checks in Squadron 2 and was advanced to Squadron 3. By this time Vandivier had accumulated 100 flying hours. He completed his last two checks in early May. He detached from NAS Pensacola in mid-May and transferred to NAS Miami (Opa-Laka) and the Advanced Training Specialized Carrier Group for approximately 6 weeks of specialized training related to carrier based aircraft. While at NAS Miami, Vandivier received his designation as a naval aviator (Heavier-than-Air) with an effective date of 21 May 1940. In late Jun 1940, Vandivier completed his flight training at NAS Miami and received orders for duty with Bombing Squadron Six (VB-6) attached to USS Enterprise (CV-6). He took the oath of office and accepted the commission as an Ensign, (A-VN), US Naval Reserve on 26 Jun 1940 with a date of rank of 07 Jun 1940. Ensign Vandivier detached from NAS Miami on 26 Jun 1940 and was authorized a delay in reporting to VB-6 to count as leave. Ens. Vandivier went home to Indiana for a visit. Norman departed Franklin, Indiana on 14 July 1940 for San Diego. Accompanying him to San Diego was his sister Rosemary and her friend Miss Julia Thompson. They arrived about a week later after which Ens. Vandivier reported to NAS San Diego to await further transportation on board the ex-battleship, USS Utah (AG-16), his ride to Pearl Harbor and VB-6. Utah arrived in Pearl Harbor on 01 Aug 1940 where Ensign Vandivier disembarked and reported for duty with VB-6.

After her commissioning, Enterprise cast off all lines from Pier 7 at NOB Norfolk and turned her prow southward for the ship’s shakedown cruise (18 July–22 September 1938). The carrier anchored off Ponce, PR., on 23 July, on 27 July at Gonaïves Bay, Haiti, and in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba (31 July–12 August). Enterprise briefly stood out of that harbor on 10 August, reversed heading and placed her stern into the wind, and backed as necessary to land planes over the bow before returning to the anchorage. Enterprise crossed the equator for the first time on 20 August, and then (25 August–3 September) called on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She came about for home, stopped for mail at Guantánamo Bay (14–17 September). A storm pounded the ship as she steamed northward off Cape Hatteras, before returning to Norfolk and completing voyage repairs. Enterprise battled through heavy seas while completing her final trials in New England waters (29 October–3 November). She anchored in Cape Cod Bay south of Provincetown, Mass., on the day before Halloween, and visited Boston, Mass. (31 October–1 November), then returned to Norfolk. (Excerpt for the Naval History and Heritage Cmd)

During 1939, Enterprise and her embarked squadrons conducted training cruises and workup exercises at various times. While the ship was inport her squadrons were temporarily based ashore at their assigned airfields. In Sep 1939, Enterprise became part of the Hawaiian Detachment of the U.S. Fleet whose homeport was Pearl Harbor. In Jan 1940, Enterprise engaged in exercises in Hawaiian waters. In early Feb, she steamed for Puget Sound Navy Shipyard for an overhaul after making a brief port call in San Diego. In late May, Enterprise, her overhaul completed, returned to San Diego for about a month. She got underway from San Diego in late June and steamed to Pearl Harbor arriving on 2 July 1940. Ensign Norman Vandivier reported for duty to Bombing Squadron Six on 01 Aug 1940. Enterprise conducted training exercises for the ship and air group from August to early Nov in the Hawaiian area. According to a letter from Vandivier to his parents dated 5 Sep 1940, he qualified on 3 Sep for carrier landings along with thirteen other pilots after making the required seven take-offs and seven successful landings. He also said that there were four cameramen from Life Magazine on board taking pictures all over the ship. On 09 Nov, the Big "E," as she was affectionately known by her crew, steamed to San Diego. On 2 Dec, she got underway and steamed to the Puget Sound Navy Shipyard in Bremerton, WA for a yard period. According to a Franklin Evening Star newspaper article dated 18 Jun 1942, Norman was able to be home for Christmas, 1940, for a short visit. It would be the last time he saw his family.

She returned to Pearl Harbor on 21 Jan 1941. During 1941 Enterprise made 13 round trips between Hawaii and San Diego from April - Nov conducting exercise cycles and squadron work-ups. During those months, she also shuttled Army Air Force P-39s and P-40s, as well as, Navy aircraft from US West Coast ports to Pearl Harbor and beyond. On May 20 1941, Vandivier was on his final approach to land on board Enterprise. His plane was in a nose-up, near-stall attitude necessary for landing. His engine suddenly quit when he was about 250 yards from the ship. With only 75 feet in altitude and no chance to restart the engine, Vandivier's plane hit the water. The force of the crash sent Vandivier's head into the control panel resulting in only a right black eye and a small cut over it. Both men scrambled out of their sinking plane and were quickly retrieved by the rescue greyhound (destroyer). Vandivier wrote home in a letter dated 22 May 1941.Trying to not worry his family, Vandivier downplayed the severity of his accident a few days earlier calling it an "interesting experience" and a "rather embarrassing predicament." He also said, "I am really having a nice vacation," referring to his medical grounding. On 28 Nov 1941, Enterprise, now operating in a war-time steaming condition, left San Diego with a cargo of Marine Fighting Squadron 211 (VMF-211) aircraft and pilots destined for Wake Island. The Marine pilots and their planes flew from Enterprise to Wake Island on 02 Dec 1941. Enterprise was scheduled to arrive back in Pearl Harbor on 06 Dec, but was delayed due to inclement weather.

In the early pre-dawn hours of 07 Dec 1941, Enterprise was 200 miles west of Oahu steaming for a late afternoon docking at Pearl Harbor. Admiral Halsey planned to send 18 SBD dive bombers to search 150 miles ahead of the task force as a normal precaution. Instead of returning to Enterprise, the search group was to continue directly to airfields at and around Pearl Harbor. The rest of the air group would follow that afternoon before Enterprise entered port. Leading the mission was Lcdr Howard L. Young, Commander Enterprise Air Group (CEAG) in his own SBD, thirteen dive bombers from Lcdr Halstead L. Hopping’s Scouting Six (VS-6) and four from Lcdr William R. Hollingsworth’s Bombing Six (VB-6). Ensign Vandivier did not fly with this group. Air group launching began at 0618. Operating under strict radio silence, Halsey had not alerted Pearl Harbor that his dive bombers were coming. He assumed his aircraft would not have any trouble identifying themselves, and ordinarily they wouldn't. However, at 0755, 183 Japanese fighters, bombers and torpedo planes swarmed over the unsuspecting US Pacific Fleet. When the Enterprise SBDs arrived over Pearl Harbor they were attacked by Japanese aircraft and shot at by friendly AA fire from panicked sailors, marines and army personnel. This attack was followed by a second wave of Japanese planes about an hour later. On board Enterprise, Admiral Halsey launched scout planes in an attempt to locate the enemy carrier force. They flew sorties all day long, but they came up empty. Ens. Vandivier probably flew on one or more of these scouting missions, but there is not record available that confirms it.

The first word the Vandivier family received from Ensign Vandivier indicating he was ok after the attack on Pearl Harbor was a radiogram sent from Honolulu and received on 22 Dec 1941 stating that he was safe and sound, letter to follow. The Vandiviers were assured that their son was safe Saturday (20 Dec) when a local bank received a sum of money he had cabled from Honolulu, but they had received no definite word from him. The radiogram was sent to Chicago, where it was received Saturday and then mailed to the Vandiviers. The next notification from him was a US government post-card postmarked 16 Dec 1941. On the front of the card was the single sentence, "This Side of Card is For Address. Norman wrote in Fred F Vandivier, Franklin, Indiana, U.S.A. The reverse side listed six sentences. The instructions said, "NOTHING is to be written on this side except to fill in the data specified. Sentences not required should be crossed out. IF ANYTHING ELSE IS ADDED THE POSTCARD WILL BE DESTROYED." First sentence was, "I am well. Choices of sick or serious were lined out. Another sentence was, "I have received your (Letter dated (he wrote) December 4, 1941. Another sentence he finished said, "I have received no letter from you (lately." He signed his name, "Norman F Vandivier" and date - December 16, 1941. The remaining three questions didn't pertain to him so they were omitted here. The follow-up letter to his family was dated 18 Dec 1941. He told his parents not to worry about him and not to listen to radio reports or newspaper accounts of the war because they were filled with sensationalism. He was most disappointed that he wasn't able to be home for Christmas. Norman was concerned about his situation although he didn't say so directly. He wrote that he had accumulated extra money ($750.00) that he was sending home for his parents to either deposit in a savings account or to help finance his brother, Robert's, college tuition or as they may need it. Finally, he noted that he was sending home papers regarding his $10,000 Government Life Insurance Policy and a $5,000 accident policy.

Among the Enterprise's search group of eighteen SBDs launched early in the morning of 07 Dec 1941, seven SBDs were shot down either from enemy action or friendly fire, eight airmen were killed and two wounded. After the debacle at Pearl Harbor, Enterprise was sent on a belated attempt to relieve Wake Island. Wake Island was overrun by Japanese forces and surrendered on 23 Dec 1941 before Enterprise could come within range.

On 09 January 1942, Admiral Nimitz directed Admiral Halsey to raid the southern Marshall and northern Gilbert area employing air attack and ship bombardment. On 01 Feb 1942, Enterprise with TF 8 were to attack Kwajalein, Wotje, and Maloelap in the Marshall Islands marking the first offensive action by US forces in the Pacific. Flight quarters sounded at 0345 and not long after 0400 the word, “Pilots, man your planes!” was passed. Launching began at 0445 with the fighters for the combat air patrol (CAP) launching first. They were followed by thirty-seven dive-bombers; eighteen each from Bombing Six including in the third division pilot Ens. Norman Vandivier and his gunner, S1/c Lee E.J. Kearney in SBD 6-B-5, and Scouting Six, plus Lcdr Brigham Young in the CEAG plane. The last to launch were the nine bomb-armed Devastators of Torpedo Six.

During the attacks, third division leader Lt Jack Blitch landed a direct hit on a cargo vessel off Roi while his wingman, Norman Vandivier, scored a near miss. Shortly after 0905, Vandivier and other planes from VB-6 landed on Enterprise. They were rearmed and refueled and began launching again for another strike at 0935. VB-6 planes in the second strike included pilots Hollingsworth, Walters, Smith, Blitch, Vandivier, Schneider and Penland. At 1032, Hollingsworth and Blitch led their sections in a dive-bombing attack on Taroa military airfield. Multiple enemy bombers and fighters were parked on the airfield. A number of enemy aircraft were destroyed. Vandivier dropped all three of his bombs in the initial dive and blasted a small barracks. He returned safely to Enterprise.

After the attacks, The "Big E" steamed to Pearl Harbor and arrived on 5 Feb 1942 where she was refueled, replenished, and rearmed. She also experienced normal upkeep. The squadrons returned to their shore air stations around Oahu. The "Big E" steamed from Pearl Harbor on Valentines Day 1942. Halsey’s carrier force was redesignated Task Force 16. She originally planned to rendezvous with USS Yorktown’s force to conduct raids on Wake Island and Eniwetok, but Yorktown was ordered to join USS Lexington to conduct raids on coastal enemy positions in New Guinea. Enterprise received orders to proceed independently for strikes against Wake Island.

Flight quarters sounded at 0430 on 24 Feb. Shortly after 0600 the first Wildcat CAP began launching. Behind them on the deck were eighteen SBDs from VS-6, another eighteen SBDs from VB-6 and Brigham Young, the Air Group Commander’s bomber. Ensign Norman F. Vandivier and his rear-seat gunner/radioman S1/c Lee E.J. Keaney were in the VB-6 Third Division in 6-B-5. At 0750, Brigham Young ordered his air group to attack. Minor damage was done to the island. By 0945, the fifty planes of the Enterprise air group began making the way back to the ship.

On board Enterprise, Ash Wednesday (4 Mar 1942) began at 0330 when reveille sounded for the air crews. At 0435, came the call, "Pilots man your planes." The air group commander, Lcdr Brigham Young was the first off the flight deck at 0446 in his command SBD. He was followed by Lt Gallaher's Scouting Six's fourteen SBDs. Lcdr Holly Hollingsworth's VB-6 with seventeen SBD dive-bombers were next to launch, followed by Lcdr Wade McClusky's six Wildcat fighters. Skyward the thirty-eight plane attack package went at 0525 into a thick overcast to gather into formations prior to departing Enterprise's air space and the flight to Marcus Island just 128 miles distant. However, visibility problems cause by the overcast wreaked havoc on the assembly attempts. For some, maintaining formation was difficult and dangerous. VB-6 became separated from VS-6. Even individual pilots had difficulty trying to form up with their squadrons. Thanks to the efforts of the Enterprise radar operator who helped guide the strike package to Marcus, the island was spotted at 0630 with the help of a break in the clouds.

The primary target for VB-6 was aircraft on the field and then any radio stations, fuel tanks, hangers and anti-aircraft batteries. CEAG Young was the first to push over into a dive attack with his section followed at 0640 by VB-6. Lcdr Hollingsworth led three divisions of six planes each. Leading division three was Lt John Blitch in 6-B-4 followed by his wing-man Ens. Norman Vandivier and his rear-seat gunner ARM2 Stuart J. Mason, Jr., flying 6-B-5. Anti-aircraft fire was intense. Blitch's division blew up a radio transmitter building located between two transmission towers. The damage from the attack was hard to assess except for several fires, a few buildings blown up, radio transmitter bombed, gasoline storage destroyed and many new holes in the runways. VB-6 returned safely to Enterprise. The "Big E" steamed back to Pearl Harbor mooring on 10 Mar 1942 with her air group landing on Oahu ahead of her. Norman wrote a letter to his parents dated 17 Mar 1942. He said that he was very sorry to hear about his grandmother Vandivier's death (7 Feb 1942) and wished he had been able to attend the funeral. He also noted that all civilian clothes were to be taken off the ship. No reason given. He quipped that he had no romantic interests and probably wouldn't until the war ended. Finally, he told his parents that he was sending home an allotment of $100.00 a month.

In April, Enterprise supported the Doolittle raid by providing CAP support for USS Hornet (CV-8) as well as long range reconnaissance flights conducted by the two bombing squadrons (VB-6, and VB-3) on board. On 25 April 1942, Enterprise and Hornet entered Pearl Harbor.

Ens. Norman F. Vandivier, USNR (A-VN) advanced in rank to Lieutenant Junior Grade (Ltjg) with a date of rank of 15 April 1942 (his date of rank according to Navy records). Some sources said he received a posthumous promotion to Ltjg. Navy policy regarding posthumous promotions indicates they are a very rare occurrence. Policy states that when an officer is promoted, but hasn't signed the acceptance and sworn the oath of office, and he is missing in action, then the promotion is held in abeyance until the officer is returned to navy control. If that doesn't happen then the advancement is cancelled. Ltjg Vandivier was never returned to navy control. His rank of Ltjg is recorded in the 01 Jan 1943 Naval Reserve Officer's Directory. In all probability, he signed the acceptance of his new commission and took the oath of office before 4 Jun 1942.

On 29 April 1942, Enterprise got underway to conduct training exercises northwest of Oahu. After several days of aviator carrier qualifications, Enterprise and Hornet were directed to the South Pacific to assist aircraft carriers USS Lexington (CV-2) and USS Yorktown (CV-5) engaged in the battle of the Coral Sea. The battle was over before they could arrive on-scene. She was then directed to perform a feint towards Nauru and Banaba (Ocean) islands which caused the Japanese to delay Operation RY to seize the two islands. Enterprise returned to Pearl Harbor on 26 May and began intensive preparations to meet an expected Japanese thrust at Midway Island. In one of his last letters home dated 27 May 1942, Ltjg Vandivier told his parents that he had 1250 hours of flight time and had made 175 carrier landings. Enterprise got underway from Pearl Harbor on 28 May 1942, and with USS Hornet (CV-8), steamed toward a point Northeast of Midway called "Point Luck." USS Yorktown (CV-5) followed a short time later.

Early on the morning of 4 Jun 1942, the Enterprises' air group (launched 0700) along with those from the USS Hornet (CV-8) and USS Yorktown (CV-5) launched their strike packages to intercept and attack the Japanese carrier fleet approaching the Midway Atoll. Bombing Squadron Six (VB-6) with only 15 SBDs, 18 SBDs from Scouting Six (VS-6) and the CEAG section of three launched, formed up, then circled the task force waiting for Fighting Six and Torpedo Six to launch. Twenty minutes passed with little visible activity for a VT-6 and VF-6 launching. Meanwhile the SBDs were using up valuable fuel unnecessarily. Finally, at 0745 Lcdr McClusky, CEAG, was instructed to "proceed on mission assigned." The unnecessary expenditure of fuel by all the Enterprise Air Group was to have serious consequences after the enemy was finally attacked at 10:25. After nearly 3 1/2 hours in the air, the CEAG finally spotted the Japanese carrier fleet.

During the ensuing battle, Ens. Vandivier flew 6-B-14 with rear-seat gunner/radioman Seaman First Class (S1c) Leroy "Lee" Edward John Keaney. His wingman and Division Three leader was Ltjg John James Van Buren (6-B-13). When the Japanese carriers were sighted, the SBDs of VB-6 and VS-6 were near fuel exhaustion. As the attack on Kaga began there was confusion between Lt Best leading VB-6 and Lt Gallaher leading VS-6 on which target, Kaga or Akagi, each squadron was to attack. Consequently, all SBDs from both squadrons attacked Kaga except three from VB-6. Only VB-6 Squadron CO Dick Best (S-B-1) and his two wingmen, Ltjg Edwin Kroeger (S-B-2) and Ens. Frederick T Weber (S-B-3) attacked Akagi. Those three delivered fatal attacks setting Akagi ablaze almost immediately.

Vandivier delivered a probable near miss on Kaga with his 1000 lb bomb as did Van Buren. As they pulled out of their dives, the American planes were met with a barrage of anti-aircraft fire and swarming Zero fighters as the SBDs tried to quickly exit the battle field. After the attack Vandivier, Ltjg Roberts (6-B-5), and Ens. Halsey (6-B-6) joined up, followed by Ens. George Goldsmith (6-B-15)* on the flight back to Enterprise. The group was quickly attacked by Zeros who made about six runs on the American planes. Two more VB-6 SBDs joined with Vandivier; Ltjg Edward L "Andy" Anderson (6-B-16) and Ens. Bert Varian (6-B-18). The Zeros did a lot of damage to the planes of Vandivier's group. First to ditch was Ensign Halsey; He ran out of fuel. He was seen with his gunner getting into their life raft. Vandivier and several others circled Halsey to make sure he was ok. Varian and Anderson flew on. Soon, Ltjg Van Buren joined the group and took the lead. Ten minutes after the Zeros left, Vandivier signaled he was going down because of fuel exhaustion. Vandivier and Keaney made a safe water landing and got into their life raft as confirmed by Ens. Goldsmith who circled above them. Five minutes later, Van Buren and his gunner made a water landing and were seen manning their life raft. Then Bert Varian went down and made a good water landing and was seen manning his life raft with his gunner. Varian, Halsey, Van Buren and Vandivier all made successful water landings and were seen manning their life rafts, however, none were ever found.

*Ensign Goldsmith dove behind Vandivier and was credited with a direct hit on Kaga. After the attack on Kaga, Goldsmith joined up with the section led first by Ens. Vandivier and then Ltjg Van Buren. He witnessed Van Buren's and Vandivier's water landings and subsequent deployment of life rafts. While searching for Enterprise Goldsmith found the Yorktown and landed just as he ran out of fuel. When Yorktown sunk Goldsmith was forced to abandon ship. He was eventually returned to Enterprise in time to learn that his personal belongings were about to be sent to his parents. Enterprise had not been notified that he had landed safely on Yorktown. He had been listed as missing in action. As soon as he reached Pearl Harbor he called home to say he was ok. The navy telegram that said he was missing in action had reached his parents four hours before his call.

Early in the morning of 17 Jun 1942, Fred and Mary Vandivier received a telegram from the Navy Department that said their son, Ensign Norman Vandivier, had been killed in action. Grief-stricken, Mary and Fred Vandivier contacted their church and began preparations for a memorial service. Twenty four hours later they received a second telegram from the Navy that said he was not confirmed dead, but was missing in action. They cancelled the memorial service. Several years later, September 1944, rumors began to circulate that Ltjg Vandivier was, in fact, alive and a prisoner of war of the German Government. Mr Vandivier asked anyone with knowledge of the source of the rumors to get in touch with the family. None did. Norman's parents never fully recovered from his death. Over the years they visited their son's cenotaph in Greenlawn Cemetery in Franklin often and especially on Memorial Day. Fred died on 10 Feb 1958 still clinging to hope that his son would come home one day. Mary, a Gold Star mother, pressed on through life treasuring the mementos of her son's life until 28 Dec 1987 when she passed away. She and Fred were buried in Greenlawn Cemetery, Franklin, Johnson county, Indiana.

Ensign Vandivier and Seaman 1/c Lee Edward John Keaney were listed as missing in action on 4 June 1942. Their remains were unrecoverable. On 5 Jun 1943, they were "presumed" dead. Ensign Vandivier was awarded the Navy Cross, the Purple Heart, the Presidential Unit Citation with ribbon, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Medal with three bronze battle stars and the WWII Victory Medal. The three bronze campaign stars were for Pearl Harbor, Marshall Island and subsequent raids, and Midway.


Navy Cross Citation:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Norman Francis Vandivier, Ensign, United States Naval Reserve, for extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as Pilot of a carrier-based Navy Dive Bomber in Bombing Squadron SIX , attached to the U.S.S. ENTERPRISE, during the "Air Battle of Midway," against enemy Japanese forces on 4 - 6 June 1942. Defying extreme danger from concentrated anti-aircraft barrage and powerful fighter opposition, Ensign Vandivier, with bold determination and courageous zeal, led his squadron in dive-bombing assaults against Japanese naval units. Flying at a distance from his own forces which rendered return unlikely because of probable fuel exhaustion, he pressed home his attacks with extreme disregard for his own personal safety. His gallant intrepidity and loyal devotion to duty contributed greatly to the success of our forces and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 309 (December 1942)


The Presidential Unit Citation reads:

For consistently outstanding performance and distinguished achievement during repeated action against enemy Japanese forces in the Pacific war area, 7 December 1941, to 15 November 1942. Participating in nearly every major carrier engagement in the first year of the war, the Enterprise and her air group, exclusive of far-flung destruction of hostile shore installations throughout the battle area, did sink or damage on her own a total of 35 Japanese vessels and shot down a total of 185 Japanese aircraft. Her aggressive spirit and superb combat efficiency are fitting tribute to the officers and men who so gallantly established her as an ahead bulwark in the defense of the American nation.

Actions of the Enterprise mentioned in the citation include the Gilbert and Marshalls Islands raid of 01 Feb 1942; Wake Island raid, 24 Feb 1942; Marcus Island raid, 04 Mar 1942; Doolittle Raid, 18 April 1942; Battle of Midway, 4-6 Jun 1942; Occupation of Guadalcanal, 7-8 Aug 1942; Battle of Stewart Islands, 24 Aug 1942; Battle of Santa Cruz Islands, 26 Oct 1942; and Battle of Solomon Islands, 14-15 Nov 1942.


Air Medal Award

Lt (jg) Norman P. Vandivier, USNR, of Franklin, IN., who is listed as missing in action, for participating in the Marshall Islands attack February 1, 1942, and attacking ships and shore installations in the face of heavy antiaircraft fire, scoring a near miss on a cargo vessel and a direct hit on a small barracks.

Source: General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 312 (March 1943)


His family also received a commemoration from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It reads: In grateful memory of Norman Francis Vandivier, who died in the service of his country, SEA, Pacific Area, ATTACHED U.S.S. ENTERPRISE, 5 JUNE 1943 (Presumed). He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live and grow and increase its blessings. Freedom lives, and through it, he lives -- in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men.

(Signed) Franklin D. Roosevelt,

President of the United States


Dixon Evening Telegraph (Dixon, Illinois) – 12 Nov 1942, Thu – p. 6

Navy Cross Awarded to Man From Geneseo

Washington, Nov. 12 – (AP)

Secretary Knox, it was announced today, has awarded the Navy cross to 16 aviators for heroism in action against the Japanese during the battle of Midway last June. Among the officers:

Lieutenant (JG) John James Van Buren, 27, son of Irvin C. Van Buren, Mukwonago, Wis. Lieutenant (JG) Norman Francis Vandivier, Franklin, Ind. Ensign John Cady Lough, 26, son of George W. Lough, Geneseo, Ill. All three were listed as missing in action.


U.S.S. Vandivier (DER-540) was a Butler-class destroyer escort. Launched 27 Dec 1943. Did not see action during WWII. Redesignated DER-540 on 2 Sept 1954 and placed in commission of 11 Oct 1955. Struck 01 Nov 1974 and sunk as a target off Florida 7 Feb 1975.


Task Force 16 Citation Recognizing its contribution to the Doolittle Raid, 18 April 1942

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Second World War, it is appropriate that we take time to reflect on the unique and daring accomplishments achieved early in the war by Task Force 16. Sailing westward under sealed orders in April 1942, only four months after the devastating raid on Pearl Harbor, Task Force 16, carrying sixteen Army B-25 bombers, proceeded into history. Facing adverse weather and under constant threat of discovery before bombers could be launched to strike the Japanese homeland, the crews of the ships and LTC Doolittle's bombers persevered. On 18 April 1942 at 14:45, perseverance produced success as radio broadcasts from Japan confirmed the success of the raids. These raids were an enormous boost to the morale of the American people in those early and dark days of the war and a harbinger of the future for the Japanese High Command that had so foolishly awakened "The Sleeping Giant." These exploits, which so inspired the service men and women and the nation live on today and are remembered when the necessity of success against all odds is required.

(Signed) John H.Dalton

Secretary of the Navy

15 May 1995


Combat Action Ribbon (CAR) note:

None of the Navy/Marine flight crews in the Battle of Midway were eligible for or were awarded the Combat Action Ribbon (CR). See Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual (SECNAVINST M-1650.1 of 16 Aug 2019, Appendix 2C.1.c (3) Amplifying Guidance). It reads in part, “The CR will not be awarded in connection with aerial flight, . . . “ The CR was established in 1969 and made retroactive to 07 Dec 1941. According to the Awards Manual, when deemed appropriate, the award for aerial combat was/is the Air Medal.


Biography #249 composed by Gerry Lawton (GML470)

This is a link to many of his letters to and from his parents used in this bio that are archived at the Indiana Historical Society.


Honoree ID: 103669   Created by: MHOH




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