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First Name: Bruce

Last Name: Van Voorhis

Birthplace: Aberdeen, WA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Home of Record: Annapolis, MD
Middle Name: Avery

Date of Birth: 29 January 1908

Date of Death: 06 July 1943

Rank or Rate: Commander

Years Served: 1929 - 1943
Bruce Avery Van Voorhis

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Bruce Avery Van Voorhis

Commander, U.S. Navy

Medal of Honor Recipient

World War II

Commander Bruce Avery Van Voorhis (29 January 1908 - 6 July 1943) was a U.S. Navy officer and aviator who was posthumously awarded the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions during World War II.

Bruce Avery Van Voorhis was born on 29 January 1908 in Aberdeen, WA, and grew up in Nevada. He was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy in June 1925. Following graduation from the Academy on 6 June 1929, Ensign Van Voorhis reported for duty in the battleship USS Mississippi (BB-41). That assignment lasted until November 1930 when he transferred to the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, FL, for aviation training.

He received his wings on 3 September 1931 and was assigned to the USS Maryland as a member of Observation Squadron 4B (VO-4B). In June 1934, he transferred to Bombing Squadron 5B onboard the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4), and soon thereafter, to VB-2B attached to USS 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, Van Voorhis returned to carried-based aviation and served first in USS Enterprise (CV-6), then in USS Yorktown (CV-5), and finally back to Enterprise. In June 1940, Van Voorhis joined the aviation unit assigned to the light cruiser USS 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 was killed near Hare Island of the Kapingamarangi Atoll, the southernmost part 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 attack, 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 the blasts from his bombs caused the aircraft to crash. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy.

Citation: 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 6 bold ground-level attacks to demolish the enemy's vital radio station, installations, antiaircraft guns and crews with bombs and machinegun fire, and to destroy 1 fighter plane in the air and 3 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.


The U.S. Navy Dealey-class destroyer escort USS Van Voorhis (DE-1028) was named in honor of LCDR Van Voorhis. The Van Voorhis was commissioned on 22 April 1957 and decommissioned on 1 July 1972.

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

Van Voorhis Elementary School in Fort Knox, KY, is named after Van Voorhis.

There is also a U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps unit under his name; the Van Voorhis Squadron in Las Vegas, NV.

Death and Memorials

Commander Bruce Avery Van Voorhis was killed in action on 6 July 1943. His body was not recovered. A memorial headstone for him is located at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis County, MO.

A memorial headstone for him is also located at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, in Section MI, Site 86.

Honoree ID: 1685   Created by: MHOH




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