Original Blue Angel Dies
Original Blue Angel Dies
From Navy Region South Public Affairs
Pensacola, Florida -- (NNS)
August 12, 2005 -- 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.
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 Jacksonville, Fla.
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
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.