By Any Other Name

Naval Air Station Fallon is known among the locals simply as “Fallon NAS,” but few are familiar with the airfield’s real name or the man for whom the field is named. In fact, the airfield represents a memorial to a WWII naval aviation hero and recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Lieutenant Commander Bruce Avery Van Voorhis was born in Aberdeen, Washington, January 29, 1908. Shortly thereafter he moved with his family to Fallon, where he spent his childhood.

Van Voorhis attended school at the Oats Park Grade School. He later graduated from Churchill County High School in 1924 where his classmates knew him as “Clint.”

A 1929 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, he earned his pilot wings in 1931. Van Voorhis served with numerous aviation units stateside and overseas.

He reported for duty to Bombing Squadron 102 as Plane Commander of a PB4Y-1 at the height of conflict in the Pacific during WWII. Van Voorhis died on July 6, 1943, near Hare Island in the Western Pacific.

After a 700-mile flight alone, he launched successive bombing and strafing attacks on Japanese ground installations, destroying a radio station, anti-aircraft emplacement and at least four enemy aircraft in the air and on the water in six successive attacks. He was caught in his own bomb blast and crashed into a lagoon, ending his life.

The Naval Air Station Fallon was dedicated in his name November 1, 1959. At that time the 14,000-foot runway was one of the longest in the world and remains the longest in the U.S. Navy.

In 1956, 13 years after Van Voorhis’ death, a destroyer escort was launched bearing his name with the official Naval designation of DD-1028 from the shipyard in Camden, N.J.  The vessel was in service for 17 years, including the Naval blockade of Cuba in 1962, before being decommissioned ten years later.

In 1982, then Nevada Governor Robert List issued a proclamation designating May 31 as LCDR Bruce Avery Van Voorhis Day in the state. In November 2010, the Nevada Aerospace Hall of Fame inducted Van Voorhis into its Hall of Fame.

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