A Spy reader recently called our attention to Washington College graduate Benjamin Vandervoort whose heroic exploits during the D-Day invasion of Europe was eventually memorialized by John Wayne on the film, The Longest Day.
From Wikipedia we learn that “Benjamin Hayes “Vandy” Vandervoort (March 3, 1917 − November 22, 1990) 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.
Vandervoort transferred to the newly established paratroops in the Awards Distinguished summer of 1940, and was promoted to first lieutenant on 10 October Service Cross (2) 1941. Promoted to captain on 3 August 1942, he served as a company commander in the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and was Other work CIA promoted to major on 28 April 1943, and served as operations officer(S-3) in the 504th Parachute Regimental Combat Team in the invasion of Sicily and in the landings at Salerno.
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 (now the Joint 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.
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.
Benjamin Vandervoort died on November 18, 1990 at the age of 73.”