August 17, 2005 by

Butch Voris

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Categories: Military

Roy Marlin “Butch” Voris, a decorated World War II flying ace and one of the original Blue Angels, died on Aug. 9. Cause of death was not released. He was 86.
Raised in Santa Cruz, Calif., Voris graduated from Salinas Junior College and was considering a career as a mortician when he saw a recruiting poster for the Navy. He enlisted in 1941 and was commissioned as an ensign and naval aviator a year later. Voris spent World War II fighting in the Pacific theater, where he earned the status of “ace” for shooting down at least eight Japanese fighter planes. He was also one of four fighter pilots selected to conduct experimental night fighter operations to intercept and destroy enemy bombers at Tarawa.
After the war ended, Adm. Chester Nimitz handpicked the 6-foot, 5-inch pilot to organize a flight team that would demonstrate precision fighter maneuvers at Navy air shows. As Officer-in-Charge and Flight Leader of “The Blue Angels,” Voris trained the team in secret in preparation for its first public performance in 1946 at the Southeastern Air Exposition in Jacksonville, Fla. He restarted the team in the 1950s after his pilots returned from combat duty in the Korean War.
Voris survived several accidents during his 33-year Navy career, including a midair collision during a Blue Angels show in Corpus Christi, Texas. A colleague was killed in the 1952 crash, but Voris managed to land his badly damaged plane. After retiring from the service as a captain in 1963, Voris became an executive at Grumman Aircraft and developed the F-14 Tomcat fighter and NASA’s Lunar Explorer Module.
Voris was inducted into the Navy Aviation Hall of Fame and the International Air Show Hall of Fame. He received three Distinguished Flying Crosses, 11 Air Medals, three Presidential Unit Citations and a Purple Heart. His life story was chronicled in the 2004 biography, “First Blue: The Story of World War II Ace Butch Voris and the Creation of the Blue Angels” by Robert K. Wilcox.
In 1993, Voris was honored by the Air Force as one of 20 people who made significant contributions to the world of aviation. An aircraft displayed outside Jacksonville Naval Air Station, and the passenger terminal there, are both named in his honor.
View Voris’ Flight Logs

2 Responses to Butch Voris

  1. Cathy Lederer

    I worked with Butch in the Technology Transfer Division NASA HQ 79-81. I was in his office when the first shuttle landed. We had a small B&W TV to watch it land. He worked his invisible “stick” conducting the safe landing himself. Those who know the Shuttle lands “deadstick” can appreciate the experienced hand he had and how priviledged I was to watch him do this because I know how capable he was and how if given the chance he could of landed it himself.
    He talked once of crashing on an island only to wake up to a face he knew from High School. I wish I could remember more.
    Sometimes I would sit in a meeting with him and he would pound his chest to correct his irregular heartbeat.
    I am so happy to see that he lived so many many years after I had the pleasure of knowing him. I have never forgotten the man I met 25 years ago.
    Cathy Lederer
    Boston, MA

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