William P Yarbrough, Jr

United States Navy
23 May 1925 - 24 February 1976
Abilene, Texas
Panel 14E Line 054

A-6 Intruder


Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign
William P Yarbrough

The database page for William P Yarbrough, Jr

16 Dec 2003

To a true American hero who made the ultimate sacrifice
while flying the A-6 Intruder over North Vietnam.

From a fellow A-6 bombardier/navigator,
Michael J Munson
1623 Cold Springs Rd, Weatherford, Tx 76088

19 Dec 2003

LCDR Yarbrough was my Division Officer in VA-85 during our WESTPAC deployments in the USS Kitty Hawk in 1965 and 1966. He was present when I reenlisted, as an AT1, on 20 December 1966 on "Yankee Station" in the Gulf of Tonkin and I asked him to pose in front of the squadron flag. He was one of the finest officers I ever had the pleasure and honor of serving under.

Earlier that year, when we were returning from our first deployment, LCDR Yarbrough, who was an Amateur Radio Operator, call sign W4TCY, took the early flight back to Virginia Beach. While there we established communications on Amateur Radio and coordinated the aircraft parts needed to repair our broken A-6s upon return to CONUS and also the airlift from NAS North Island back to NAS Oceana (our airlift was the first to takeoff). That was a valuable and much appreciated service to his squadron.

From a shipmate,
George W. Schmidt
CWO3, USN, Retired
E-mail address is not available.

23 Dec 2003

I first met Bill in March 1959 when he was a Limited Duty Officer Lieutenant and we were both in the same Bombardier/Navigator class at HATUPAC, NAS Whidbey Island. He had been an enlisted Air Crewman during WW II and had the gruff exterior of an "Old Salt" (bushy mustache and all). For some reason he took a liking to this boot Ensign who had all of three months in the Navy, and took me under his wing and taught me a lot of the "Navy Ways". We became close friends.

Our next encounter was at NAS Sanford in 1962 when he came down there as a station keeper and I was in VAH-9. We rekindled the friendship and then I went on to VA-42 to be in the initial cadre. Bill followed shortly thereafter to be in the transition of VA-85 from A-1s to A-6s.

I transferred to VA-85 in time to make the first combat cruise on Kitty Hawk. Bill was Eric "Bud" Roemish's B/N and I flew with CDR Ron Hays. The four of us did what I consider to be the first successful night/all weather strike of the A-6. It was against the Uong Bi power plant in March 1966. It was a no-radio, no-lights strike. We were lead and Bill and Bud were on our wing. 0100 launch, low altitude rendezvous, all lights off - I had a red flashlight stuck in the canopy rail as a formation reference for Bud and Bill. That was the only light. We flew formation at low level over the water until we lined up on our target release heading. We climbed to 1200 feet for safe separation and then Bill and Bud took a 10 second separation to make their own independent run on the target. The strike was successful (we each had 15 Mk-83s, 1,000 pound bombs, on board) and Hanoi accused the US of using B-52s in NVN.

Back to the states in July 1966 and then out to the west coast for workups and deployment again in Sept 1966. Bill was due to rotate to shore duty, but volunteered to extend for the coming deployment to Vietnam. He was the Maintenance Officer, and was doing very successfully in a very difficult job. The A-6 at the time was the most complex weapons system in existence in TacAir. It was also the first to employ these systems in combat. Maintenance was not easy as no one had had any experience required in these advanced systems maintenance. Bill was doing a very capable job.

Bill was now flying with the Executive Officer, Commander Al Brady. In the spring of 1967 they were shot down over NVN. Al was taken prisoner and repatriated in 1973. Bill was never heard of or from since.

Bill was the epitome of the "Old Salt". He had the gruff exterior, but a good heart. He took care of his men and friends and was well respected by all. The Navy sorely missed his talents.

Ted Been

19 Jun 2005

I have a Vietnam Bracelet inscribed with CDR W. P. YARBROUGH JR, dated 1-10-67 that I wore for many years. It would be a privilege to forward it to his family. Anyone knowing family members may contact me at my email address.

N. L. Frymire

23 Oct 2007

I wore a bracelet with Commander Yarbrough's name for many years. I still have it. I also wrote to his wife one time many years ago. I would like to hear from any of his family members. From what his wife wrote and the letters he sounds like a truly wonderful and brave man.

Diane Gilhen-Chesnov

05 Mar 2008

I, too, have a POW bracelet for Commander William Yarbrough, Jr. and would love to send it to his family. Does anyone know how to reach them?

Sue Harvey

Notes from The Virtual Wall

The A-6 Intruder was designed as a night/all-weather low-level bomber with a large payload. However, when the Intruder first deployed to Vietnam emphasis was placed primarily on the payload and the aircraft was used extensively in daylight attacks. This led to unnecessary losses in aircraft and aircrew, and the former were easier to replace than the latter.

On 19 Jan 1967, Attack Squadron 85's Executive Officer, CDR Allen C. Brady, and LCdr William P. Yarbrough launched in A-6A BuNo 151590 as part of a daylight dive bombing mission against the Dong Phuong Thuong bridge complex about 10 miles north of Than Hoa. Just after Brady released his load of 22 500-pound bombs the aircraft was heavily hit by AAA fire and exploded. The major portion of the fuselage tumbled but both crewmen were able to eject. CDR Brady landed safely and immediately was captured. LCDR Yarbrough's parachute failed to deploy properly and he died on impact.

In the absence of positive knowledge, both men were initially classed as Missing in Action. Brady returned on 04 March 1973; Yarbrough did not. He was continued in MIA status until the Secretary of the Navy approved a Presumptive Finding of Death on 24 February 1976.

In August 1985 the Vietnamese government turned over human remains to the US government. On 07 October 1985, the Department of Defense announced that William P. Yarbrough's remains had been positively identified. He was buried in the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery (Plot A-1-614) on 08 November 1985.

Commander William P. Yarbrough was a "mustang" - he came up through the ranks, first enlisting in the Navy in 1943. He served continuously through Korea and into the Vietnam war, earning a commission as a Limited Duty Officer and his wings as a Naval Aviator. He had over 33 years' active service when he was shot down.

The Virtual Wall has no information regarding his decorations and awards for service during World War II and Korea, or the periods between hostilities. For that reason, we are limited to displaying the awards we know he received for his service in Vietnam.

For quite a long time a young Californian, Cindi Hamblin, wore LCdr Yarbrough's MIA bracelet. She eventually met and married a Naval Aviator, John Scheffler. Commander Scheffler was Attack Squadron 85's last Commanding Officer and presided over the squadron's final stand-down after the First Gulf War.

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 16 Dec 2003
Last updated 08/10/2009