Retired Navy Capt. Roy M. “Butch” Voris, a World War II ace and organizer of the famed Blue Angels flight demonstration team, died at his home in Monterey, Calif., Aug. 9. He was 85.
In 1946, Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, who then was Chief of Naval Operations, went looking for a crack Naval Aviator to form a flight demonstration team, primarily as a recruiting tool. He chose Voris, who had shot down eight Japanese planes in the Pacific and at the time was training flight instructors at Daytona Beach.
The Blue Angels were the first such team in the military. “My goal was to beat the Army Air Corps,” Voris told an Associated Press reporter in 1996. He selected a handful of fellow Pacific veterans who, like him, had flown F6F Hellcats. The Blue Angels name came from a New York night club that Voris had seen advertised. “It sounded just right,” he told his biographer, Robert Wilcox.
Flying formations of three F6Fs, they practiced in great secrecy over the Florida Everglades. “If anything happened, just the alligators would know,” Voris told Wilcox.
Their first public demonstration was at Jacksonville in June, 1946. They performed across the country until the outbreak of the Korean War, when they returned to combat flying. The Blue Angels were recommissioned in October 1951, still led by Voris but with new team members.
Voris joined the Navy in 1941 after seeing an advertisement featuring a handsome young pilot and the slogan, “Fly Navy!” He was in flight school when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
After retiring from the Navy in 1963, he worked for Grumman, where he helped develop the F-14 Tomcat and NASA’s lunar lander. He joined NASA in 1973 and was its spokesman during the Apollo missions to the Moon.