Ladies And Gentlemen... Please Take The Time to Remember A True
Retired Capt. Roy M.
“Butch” Voris, the original flight leader of the famed
U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, died at
his home in Monterey, Calif., Aug. 10. He was 86.
Voris, a World War II flying ace in the Pacific theater, was
hand-picked by Adm. Chester Nimitz in 1946 to organize a flight
demonstration team to showcase naval aviation. June 15, Voris led
the newly-named Blue Angels and their Grumman F-6F Hellcats in the
team’s first public performance at Craig Field in
Voris’ Navy career spanned 33 years, flying biplanes to
jets, many of them in combat. His status as an ace was earned in
the early years of World War II, when he shot down eight Japanese
fighter planes. Flying from the carriers USS Enterprise (CV 6) and
USS Hornet (CV 8), he had taken part in the battles of Santa Cruz,
Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Central Pacific Islands, Philippine Sea, the
"Great Marianas Turkey Shoot" and “The Mission into
Darkness,” in which air wing pilots had taken off near dusk
to pursue the Japanese fleet, knowing many probably wouldn’t
have enough gas to return.
Voris had survived numerous accidents and emergency situations
in the air, including a mid-air collision during a Blue Angel
demonstration at Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1952, in which one Blue
Angel was killed and he miraculously brought his plane in, despite
lack of control and a severed tail.
In 1952, Voris was brought back to reform the Blue Angels
following their stint as a fighter squadron in the Korean War, when
they were known as “Satan’s Kittens.” Voris was a
two-time Blue Angel flight leader, the skipper of Fighter Squadrons
113 and 191, and commanding officer of Carrier Air Group 5.
After retiring from the Navy in 1963, he went to work as an
executive at Grumman Aircraft Corporation, in Bethpage, N.Y., where
he had been instrumental in the early development of the F-14
Tomcat. He ended his aviation career as a spokesman for NASA during
the momentous 1970 moon shots.
“Butch Voris’ contributions to naval aviation
history were epic,” said Cmdr. Steve Foley, flight leader and
commanding officer of the 2005 Blue Angels. “The legacy Boss
Voris bestowed upon the Blue Angels has had a profound impact on
our team’s 59-year history. Our thoughts and prayers are with
the Voris family during this challenging time.”
Voris was awarded three Distinguished Flying Crosses, 11 Air
Medals, three Presidential Unit Citations and a Purple Heart, from
an incident when he almost was killed by a Japanese Zero that shot
up his cockpit as he defended Guadalcanal.
Voris is a member of the Naval Aviation Hall of Fame in
Pensacola, Fla., and the International Air Show Hall of Fame. An
aircraft bearing his name is outside Jacksonville Naval Air
Station, and the passenger terminal at the station is named for
him. In 1993, he was honored by the Air Force in a “Gathering
of Eagles” ceremony as one of 20 pilots worldwide who have
made significant contributions to aviation.
Voris is survived by daughters Randie and Jill, sons-in-law Hank
and Joe, and grandsons Hank Jr., Ryan and Todd. In addition, he is
survived by brothers Robert and Richard. His wife of more than 50
years, Thea, passed away in 2003.