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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Van Voorhis

 

Bruce Avery Van Voorhis—born on 29 January 1908 in Aberdeen, Wash.—grew up in Nevada and was appointed to the Naval Academy in June 1925. Following graduation from the Academy on 6 June 1929, Ens. Van Voorhis reported for duty in Mississippi (BB-41). That assignment lasted until November 1930 when he transferred to the naval air station at Pensacola, Fla., for aviation training. He received his wings on 3 September 1931 and was assigned to Maryland (BB-46) as a member of Observation Squadron 4B (VO-4B). In June 1934, he transferred to Bombing Squadron (VB) 5B on board Ranger (CV-4) and, soon thereafter, to VB-2B attached to Saratoga (CV-2). From July 1935 until May 1937, he served in the Panama Canal Zone and flew patrols from Coco Solo with Patrol Squadron (VP) 2F. The following June, 1938, Van Voorhis returned to carried-based aviation and served first in Enterprise (CV-6), then in Yorktown (CV-5), and finally back to Enterprise. In June 1940, Van Voorhis joined the aviation unit assigned to 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, 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, Lt. Comdr. Van Voorhis gave his life for his country near Hare Island of Kapingamarangi Atoll, the southernmost of the Eastern Caroline Islands. After a 700-mile flight alone, Lt. Comdr. Van Voorhis launched successive bombing and strafing attacks on the enemy ground installations. During his onslaught, he succeeded in destroying a radio station, antiaircraft 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 either the intense antiaircraft barrage, the fighters, or—perhaps—his own bomb blasts knocked him out of the sky near the island. For the ". . . conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity . . ." he displayed in his ". . . lone but relentless battle against overwhelming opposition . . ." Lt. Comdr. Van Voorhis was awarded the Medal of Honor, posthumously.

 

(DE-1028: dp. 1,892 (f.); 1. 314'6"; b. 36'9"; dr. 17'3¼"; s. 27 k.; cpl. 198; a. 2 3", Weapon ALFA, 6 15.5" tt.; cl. Courtney)

 

Van Voorhis (DE-1028) was laid down on 29 August 1955 at Camden, N.J., by the New York Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 28 July 1956, sponsored by Mrs. Kathryn Van Voorhis, the widow of Lt. Comdr. Van Voorhis; and commissioned at Philadelphia, Pa., on 22 April 1957, Lt. Comdr. Joseph J. Doak, Jr., in command.

 

Following shakedown training1 near Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during the summer, Van Voorhis reported at Newport. R.I., for duty with Escort Squadron (Cort-Ron) 14. The destroyer escort conducted operations along the east coast of North America until May 1958 when she sailed across the Atlantic for a cruise with the 6th Fleet. While operating with other ships of the 6th Fleet near Crete, she was ordered to the eastern end of the Mediterranean in mid-July to patrol off the Levantine coast. She supported the marines who landed in Lebanon in response to President Chamoun's request for help during a crisis precipitated by Arab nationalist factions in reaction to his administration's pro-Western policies and its adherence to the "Eisenhower Doctrine." President Eisenhower's personal representative, Robert Murphy, helped the factions to negotiate a settlement which resulted in the election of General Chahib to the presidency on 31 July. President Chamoun's refusal to yield office before the expiration of his term kept the country in turmoil until late September. However, political conditions in Lebanon remained highly volatile, so American forces remained there until after General Chahib took office in September. During this period, Van Voorhis alternated normal 6th Fleet operations with patrols off Lebanon. Late in September, the warship departed the Mediterranean and returned to Newport early in October.

 

Upon her return, the warship operated along the east coast until February of 1959 when she joined the other ships of her squadron in a three-month cruise to South America. She reentered Newport late in April and resumed local operations once more. She continued that employment through June 1960. The following month, she departed the United States for duty in the eastern Atlantic. During that six-week cruise, Van Voorhis joined other Navy ships and units of Allied navies in a NATO exercise. She also visited Greenwich, England, and Greenock, Scotland, before returning to Newport where, after upkeep, she resumed antisubmarine warfare operations. She remained so occupied through the remainder of 1960. Over the following two years, the destroyer escort continued the routine of summer operations out of Newport and winter training in the West Indies. In the autumn of 1962, when the United States subjected Cuba to a quarantine in order to keep offensive missiles from the strategically situated island, Van Voorhis moved to Mayport, Fla., to support the blockade-type operation. After spending the last week of the quarantine in Mayport, she returned north without having actually participated in the operation.

 

In December, the warship began preparations for another overseas deployment. On 15 February 1963, she cleared port for a three-month goodwill cruise to Africa—"Solant Amity IV." During the first half of the cruise, she moved south, along the eastern coast of Africa, and called at Monrovia, Liberia; Lagos, Nigeria; Pointe Noiro in the Congo; and Capteown, South Africa. After rounding the Cape of Good Hope, she moved north, up the eastern coast of Africa, and visited Lourenco Marques, Mozambique; Diego Suarez in the Malagasy Republic; and Mombasa, Kenya. She continued north to Aden, transited the Red Sea and the Suez Canal and entered the Mediterranean on 1 May. During the first two weeks of May, Van Voorhis crossed the Mediterranean making liberty calls at Athens, Naples, and Barcelona along the way. She rounded out the voyage with one-day stops at Gibraltar and the Azores and reentered Newport on 24 May.

 

Following upkeep, she conducted ASW exercises in July and made a midshipman cruise to Bermuda. Additional ASW training off the Florida coast ensued before the ship returned to Newport in October. For the remainder of 1963 and throughout 1964, the destroyer escort operated along the eastern seaboard. On 8 August 1964. she was reassigned to CortRpn 8 as the squadron flagship. She continued ASW training exercises through 1964 and during the first part of January 1965.

 

During the latter part of the month, the ship entered the Boston Naval Shipyard for a six-week availability during which she received control equipment associated with the Drone Antisubmarine Helicopter (DASH) system. The installation was completed early in March, and Van Voorhis departed Boston on the 9th to participate in the annual "Springboard" exercises conducted in the Caribbean. Upon completion of that assignment, Yan Voorhis returned north to receive her DASH helicopters. She arrived in Norfolk on 29 March and began three weeks of tests and qualifications with the DASH system. The first destroyer escort to receive DASH, Van Voorhis completed her qualification trials in April and returned to her home port on the 21st.

 

The ship continued to work out of Newport through the following four and one-half years, primarily conducting operations in the western Atlantic. She sharpened her antisubmarine warfare skills constantly as she participated in numerous exercises along the entire North American coastline and in the Caribbean. In 1966 and 1967, she made cruises around South America in which she visited a number of South American ports and participated in bilateral and multilateral exercises with warships of various South American countries. During the first five months of 1969, her sphere of operations was centered around Florida and the West Indies. In June, she returned to Newport for a short time before resuming operations in the Caribbean in July. Through the fall and winter of 1969, she alternated between Newport and the Fleet Sonar School at Key West, Fla.

 

In January 1970, Van Voorhis began preparations for conversion to a research and development platform to test the Interim Towed Array Surveillance System (ITASS). Late that month, her DASH equipment was removed to make room for the ITASS submarine detection gear. On 9 February, she entered the Bethlehem Steel Shipyards in East Boston to begin the actual conversion. Over the next month, her new equipment was installed, and her DASH hangar was modified to provide a berthing area for the additional crew members necessitated by the ITASS. Van Voorhis completed the conversion early in March and, for the next four months, she conducted a series of tests on the experimental equipment in the vicinity of Bermuda.

 

From late June to late August, she prepared to deploy to the Mediterranean. She departed Newport on 26 August 1970, passed thorugh the Straits of Gibraltar on 6 September, and arrived at Naples on the 9th. The destroyer escort operated with the 6th Fleet, conducting surveillance patrols with her new ITASS gear until near the end of November. During the intervening two months, she also called at such places as Barcelona, Mallorca, Crete, and Naples. On 17 November, she turned the 6th Fleet ITASS responsibility over to her relief, Lester (DE-1022). After a liberty call at Palma de Mallorca and change of operational control at Rota, Spain, Van Voorhis set out to recross the Atlantic on 26 November and arrived in Newport on 6 December.

 

Van Voorhis began 1971 in port at Newport and operated from that base during the first eight months of the year. In September, the warship underwent an inspection and survey which found her to be unfit for further naval service. She remained moored at Newport until the following summer. Van Voorhis was deqpm-missioned on 1 July 1972, and her name was struck from the Navy list simultaneously. On 15 June 1973, she was sold to the Union Minerals and Alloys Corp., of New York City, and was subsequently scrapped.