Benjamin H. Vandervoort

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Benjamin H. Vandervoort
Lt.Col. Benjamin Vandervoort
Born(1917-03-03)March 3, 1917
Gasport, New York
DiedNovember 22, 1990(1990-11-22) (aged 73)
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Allegiance United States
Service/branchSeal of the United States Department of War.png United States Army
Years of service1937–1946
Commands held2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment
AwardsDistinguished Service Cross (2)
Other workCIA

Benjamin Hayes "Vandy" Vandervoort (3 March 1917 in Gasport, New York – 22 November 1990 in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina) was an officer of the United States Army, who fought in World War II.[1] He was twice awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. He was portrayed by John Wayne in the D-Day film The Longest Day.



Vandervoort attended Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, where he was a member of the Washington Players drama club, the YMCA, the Mount Vernon Literary Society, and the football and track teams. He was also an officer of the Theta Chi fraternity. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1938, having enlisted in the army as a private on 23 July 1937. He was commissioned with the rank of second lieutenant on 16 March 1938.[2]

World War II[edit]

Vandervoort transferred to the newly established paratroops in the summer of 1940, and was promoted to first lieutenant on 10 October 1941. Promoted to captain on 3 August 1942, he served as a Company Commander in the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and was promoted to major on 28 April 1943, and served as Operations Officer (S-3) in the 504th Parachute Regimental Combat Team at the invasion of Sicily and in the landings at Salerno.[2]

Promoted to lieutenant colonel on 1 June 1944, he was the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion, 505th PIR, during the airborne landings in Normandy. Vandervoort led his battalion in defending the town of Sainte-Mère-Église on 6 June in "Mission Boston", despite having broken his ankle on landing.[2] During "Operation Market Garden" in September 1944, he led the assault on the Waal Bridge at Nijmegen while the 3rd Battalion, 504th PIR, made the assault crossing. General Matthew B. Ridgway described Vandervoort as "one of the bravest and toughest battle commanders I ever knew".[3] At Goronne he was wounded by mortar fire, so was unable to take part in the divisions' advance into Germany.

Post war[edit]

He was promoted to colonel on 7 July 1946, and left the army on 31 August. After studying at Ohio State University he joined the Foreign Service in 1947. He served as an Executive Officer in the Department of the Army in 1950-54, acting as joint political adviser to the Commanding General United Nations Forces and UN Ambassador, Korea, in 1951-52, and studied at the Armed Forces Staff College in 1953. He served as a military attaché at the US Embassy in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1955-58, and was assigned to the Department of State in 1958-60. He then served in the Executive Office of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), from 1960–66, also serving as a consultant on politico-military affairs to the US Army Staff in 1960, and as a plans and program officer on the Army Staff, Department of Defense, in 1964.[2]

Benjamin Vandervoort died on November 18, 1990 at the age of 73 years at a nursing home from the effects of a fall.[1]

He had two children with his wife Nedra; a son (Benjamin Hayes Vandervoort II) and a daughter (Marlin Vandervoort).[1]

Awards and decorations[edit]

US Army Airborne basic parachutist badge.gif Parachutist Badge
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Service Cross with oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Purple Heart with two oak leaf clusters
Croix de Guerre with palms (France)
Bronze Lion (The Netherlands)
Fourragère (Belgium)

In the early 1990s, the United States Army Center for Leadership at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, selected one or two colonels or lieutenant colonels from every American War from the Revolution to Vietnam. Colonel Vandervoort was selected as the outstanding ground battle commander for World War II. He is honored by a brief biography and several photographs in what is known as "Leadership Hallway" located on the second floor of Bell Hall.[4]

Portrayed in film[edit]

Vandervoort was portrayed by actor John Wayne in the film version of Cornelius Ryan's history of D-Day, The Longest Day. The role was actively sought by Charlton Heston, but the last-minute decision of John Wayne to take a role in the film prevented Heston from participating. At the time of filming in 1962, Wayne was 55 – 28 years older than the 27 year old Vandervoort had been on D-Day

In museum[edit]

Original World War II uniforms and memorabilia of Col. Ben Vandervoort are on display at this museum:

D-DAY EXPERIENCE - Saint-Come-du-Mont - Normandy, France


  1. ^ a b c "Benjamin H. Vandervoort, Retired Colonel, 75". The New York Times. November 22, 1990. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d "Officers of the US Army 1939-1945 (V)". Retrieved 21 December 2010.
  3. ^ "The Way We Were - Col. Ben Vandervoort". Archived from the original on 16 November 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2010.
  4. ^ "Tribute to Colonel Benjamin H. Vandervoort, CO, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division". Archived from the original on 15 May 2011. Retrieved 21 December 2010.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]