25 February 2014

#8 52 Ancestors: Col. Jay Vanderpool

#8 52 Ancestors — Col. Jay D. Vanderpool

 Marine Reject Builds Brilliant Career in Army

Jay Dee Vanderpool grew up in the Wild West of hard knocks of the 1930s. His parents were divorced and his mother, with whom he was living in Oklahoma, died while he was still in high school. He dropped out of school and went to work at a CCC Camp (Civilian Conservation Corps). In December of 1936 he was in Southern California, working at whatever jobs he could find. He wanted to travel and see the world so he decided to become a Marine.

“As I was wearing cowboy boots, I passed the height test. When I went back in for my physical, the doctor said, “Well, you’re not that tall. So they tore up my papers and sent me down the street to the Army recruiting station.” [1] He enlisted and was sent to basic training at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.

He got to see the world — Guadalcanal, New Zealand, New Caledonia, New Guinea, Luzon, Japan, Korea, Germany, Vietnam, Belgium and many places in the United States. He was a veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War and is honored in the Army Aviation Hall of Fame at Fort Rucker, Alabama for arming the first helicopter. His awards include the Bronze Star, Silver Star, the Legion of Merit with four oak leaf clusters, the Bronze Star and the Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters. He wrote The Concept of Air Cavalry and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Maj. Jay Vanderpool (right) in WWII Army photo
He was inducted into the Army Aviation Association of America’s Hall of Fame 4 June 1977 at Fort Rucker, Alabama, which notes that:

"In 1956, he began experimentation on ordnance and airmobile tactics for Army helicopters. Colonel Vanderpool overcame a multitude of barriers through aggressive dedication to duty and superior leadership. He and his team developed, tested, and proved the feasibility, practicality, and potential tactical effectiveness of the armed helicopter, which abetted their air assault tactics that led to the armed helicopter's later combat success.

"Colonel Vanderpool sold this new concept to both military and civilian leaders through his team's presentation of live fire demonstrations. Through these demonstrations, the groundwork was laid for the air assault concept which was later employed by the 11th Air Assault Division whose tactics we still draw upon today. Army Aviation's lineage from Colonel Vanderpool is very much alive. It links us closely to facts about helicopter hardware, armament, tactics, and, perhaps most important, the esprit de corps and the vision that Colonel Vanderpool created."

Col. Jay D. Vanderpool (1917-1993)

Col. Jay D. Vanderpool was born 22 April 1917 in Wetumka, Hughes County, Oklahoma. He died 16 July 1993 in Sarasota, Florida. His obituary noted that he had come to Florida from Germany more than 30 years ago (so ca 1963). He retired as full colonel in the U.S. Army. His obituary mentions his wife, Lynn, two brothers, Hoyt K. Vanderpool (Wilburton, Oklahoma) and Norman D. Vanderpool (Coulee City, Washington), but no children.

Col. Jay D. Vanderpool was the oldest child of Orpheus Dixon “Dixon” Vanderpool and Bessie Edna Smith. They both died before their son’s military accomplishments took place. He had three brothers and no sisters. Two of his brothers, Hoyt and Norman, served in the Navy and another brother, Raymond, was in Army Signal Corps (he predeceased Col. Jay). His paternal grandparents were Dr. James Monroe Vanderpool (1859-1916) and Cumi Palestine Johnson (1858-1931) and his maternal grandparents were Jefferson Davis Smith (b. ca 1869) and Isabelle Adkins (born ca 1874). He is a descendant of Captain James R. Vanderpool, a Union army officer who served from Arkansas, during the Civil War.[2]



[1] Jay D. Vanderpool, Colonel, USA Retired. Senior Officers Oral History Program, Project 83-12. Interview with Jay. D. Vanderpool (Colonel, USA, retired) by John R. McQuestion, lieutenant colonel, USA, 1983. Carlisle Barracks, PA, U.S. Army Military History Institute.

[2] Descendants of Capt. James R. Vanderpool (1831-1880), compiled by Myra Vanderpool Gormley, 2012.


  1. Have you looked up the 'family tree' for Jefferson Davis Smith? ... I do believe you'll find it leads to the Confederate side of the Civil War. If my supposition is right, there is lineage directly to Jefferson Davis President of the Confederacy. If you find that to be true... we are related! ;) ~ Blessings to you and yours... Enjoyable read! :)

    1. Carolyn, I have not done any additional research on the lineage of Jefferson Davis Smith. Thanks for the information.

  2. My third great grand uncle was named Jefferson Davis Smith. He was born in Texas in the 1860s. When he was a young boy, he was captured by Comanches. The Comanches traded him to Apaches. He escaped when he was grown. I don't know who he married or the names of his children. His father was Henry Smith, Marshall of San Antonio and Texas Ranger. His grandfather was Major John Short who emigrated to Texas to fight in the Revolution.

    1. Thanks for this information about your Jefferson Davis Smith. Most interesting.

  3. Ms Vanderpool Gormley,
    I was fascinated to find your page. One of my research projects tangentially involves the late Colonel Jay Vanderpool, so I'd very much like to ask you a few questions. My email address is jacksonbe@outlook.com