“The Blue Angel nightclub was a big thing in its day. I think it took up a whole block. Four orchestras, eight or nine bars, it was massive. I said, ‘Gee, that sounds great! The Blue Angels. Navy, Blue, and Flying!,” Lt. Cmdr. Roy “Butch” Voris, first Blue Angels Leader.
At the end of World War II, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Chester W. Nimitz ordered the formation of a flight demonstration team to keep the public interested in naval aviation.
In a short three months, the Navy Flight Exhibition Team performed its first flight demonstration Jun. 15, 1946, at their home base, Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, Florida. Lt. Cmdr. Roy “Butch” Voris led the team and flew the Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat.
According to the official website of the US Navy Blue Angels, the new Navy Flight Exhibition team was only the second formal flying demonstration team to have been created in the world, since the Patrouille de France formed in 1931.
But let’s face it, “The Flight Exhibition Team” is not a very catchy name. As told by Nicholas A. Veronico in his book The Blue Angels a Fly-By Hitory, to find a new name, the team ran a contest throughout the training command. “We were getting hundreds of names back, but not a one grabbed us like we wanted to be grabbed:’ Voris said. “I got a call to go up to the staff, this time to meet with the chief of staff, Captain Bill Ginter. He asked how the name contest was coming. I told him that we were just not finding anything right yet, but that I was sure we would get something soon. Ginter told me he had one for me to consider, the Navy’s Blue Lancers. Something rung a bell—I remembered that his son had submitted this one. I said, ‘Yeah, it’s got a ring to it, hasn’t it Captain?’ He asked me to give it serious thought, and I knew what he meant.
“We were going to go to New York for a show and Wickendoll, who was my number two man, was looking through the New Yorker magazine,” Voris recalled. We were sitting having a scotch in my room at the BOQ and he said, ‘I’ve got it boss. I asked what he meant. He was looking at a column called Goings On About Town and the nightclubs are all listed. The Blue Angel nightclub was a big thing in its day. I think it took up a whole block. Four orchestras, eight or nine bars, it was massive. I said, ‘Gee, that sounds great! The Blue Angels. Navy, Blue, and Flying!”
When they arrived at Omaha, Nebraska, for the air show in July 1946, they told the aviation press of their Blue Lancers versus Blue Angels dilemma. The press agreed to help. After the show, headlines touted the team’s performance with Blue Angels in quotes.
“When I got back to Jacksonville with the team, I was summoned up to Ginter’s office. Dispatches had come in congratulating the command on the performance of the team. Ginter asked, ‘What’s this Blue Angel stuff?’ I told him I did not know and that l had heard some comment, from somebody in the press, saying they are just like Blue Angels:’ Voris said. Captain Ginter knew he had been hoodwinked, but there was nothing he could do.
In the 1940’s, the team thrilled audiences with precision combat maneuvers in the F6 Hellcat, the F8 Bearcat and the F9 Panther. During the 1950’s, they refined their demonstration with aerobatic maneuvers in the F9 Cougar and F-11 Tiger and introduced the first six-plane delta formation, still flown to this day. By the end of the 1960’s, the Blue Angels were flying the F-4 Phantom, the only two seat aircraft flown by the delta formation. In 1974, the team transitioned to the A-4 Skyhawk, a smaller and lighter aircraft with a tighter turning radius allowing for a more dynamic flight demonstration. In 1986, they transitioned to the F/A-18 Hornet, and on Nov. 4, 2020 the Blue Angels officially transitioned to the F/A-18 Super Hornet.
For more interesting news and info about US Navy Blue Angels and other display teams check out Aerobatic Display Teams website
Photo credit: U.S. Navy