MONTEREY, Calif. (NNS) — Retired Navy Capt. Roy M. “Butch” Voris, the original flight leader of the famed U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, was honored Oct. 10 with a memorial service at the Fort Ord chapel, followed by a six-plane missing man formation flyover by the Blue Angels in their blue and gold F/A-18 Hornets.
Voris died at his home in Monterey, Calif., Aug. 10. He was 86.
Full military honors were conducted outside the chapel following the memorial ceremony, which included a 21-gun salute and the traditional folding and presentation of the American flag. The service ended with the Blue Angel flyover at approximately 2:15 p.m.
“Butch Voris’ contributions to naval aviation history were epic,” said Cmdr. Steve Foley, flight leader and commanding officer of the 2005 Blue Angels. “Concluding his memorial service with a fly-by by the 2005 Blue Angel team will be a highlight of not only this season, but our careers as naval aviators as well. It truly reinforces our responsibility to preserve the legacy and ideals Boss Voris bestowed upon us 59 years ago.”
The service commemorated Voris’ life and his passion for naval aviation. It was peppered with notable speakers from his historic career as a World War II flying ace, the first Blue Angel, carrier air group commander, air show supporter and loyal friend.
“It was a fitting thrill and great comfort to our family,” said Hank Nothhaft, Voris’ son-in-law. “I know Butch was looking down at the proceedings with a twinkle in his eye and the thrill and pride that he always experienced whenever he watched the team perform.”
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 of that year, Voris led the newly-named Blue Angels and their Grumman F-6F Hellcats in the team’s first public performance at Craig Field in Jacksonville, Fla.
Voris’ Navy career spanned 33 years, flying everything from biplanes to jets, many of them in combat. His status as an ace was earned in the early years of the Pacific War 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.
In 1952, Voris was brought back to re-form the Blue Angels following their stint as a fighter squadron in the Korean War known as “Satan’s Kittens.” Voris was a two-time Blue Angel flight leader, the skipper of Fighter Squadrons (VF) 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, NY, 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.
Voris was awarded three Distinguished Flying Crosses, 11 air medals, three Presidential Unit Citations and a Purple Heart, when he almost was killed by a Japanese Zero that shot up his cockpit as he defended Guadalcanal.
Voris was inducted into the Navy 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 had made significant contributions to aviation.
For more information on the Blue Angels, visit www.blueangels.navy.mil.
By Lt. Garrett Kasper, Blue Angels Public Affairs