Lt. Gen. William Pelham Yarborough
Deputy Commander-in-Chief and Chief of Staff
U.S. Army, Pacific
William P. Yarborough was born May 12, 1912, in Washington. A 1936 graduate of the United States Military Academy with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Yarborough's first assignment was with the 57th Infantry Regiment in the Philippines. Upon his return to the United States in 1940 he was assigned to the 29th Infantry battalion at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was then a company commander with the 501st Parachute Infantry at Fort Benning, and worked on the early development of airborne operational doctrine. While at Fort Benning, Yarborough designed the US Parachutist Badge, for which he received a patent, as well as the jump boot and the parachutist uniform.
His service in World War II started on the staff of Gen. Mark Clark as Clark's primary advisor on airborne operations. He was instrumental in the planning for Operation Torch, America's first airborne combat operation into North Africa. Yarborough served as the executive officer for the Airborne Task Force prior to taking command of the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion. As a member of the 509th, he participated in Operation Torch and detailed the story in his book Bail Out Over North Africa. He subsequently commanded parachute battalions that jumped in Sicily and Southern France.
A veteran of nine campaigns in World War II, Gen. Yarborough's last command was with the 505th Regimental Combat Team. Along with the famous 442nd Infantry Regiment, they liberated Genoa, Italy. After the German surrender, Yarborough remained in Europe as Provost Marshal of the US Forces in Vienna, Austria where he was responsible for organizing the International Patrol, which consisted of British, French, Soviet and American members and was dramatized in the film "The Third Man." During this time, Yarborough met the ailing Russian ballet star Vaslav Nijinsky and his wife Romola, and aided in smuggling the couple through the Russian sector to freedom in England.
Following assignments at the Armed Forces Information School in Pennsylvania and the British College in England, Yarborough attended and later taught at the US Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. From 1956 to 1957, he was assigned as Deputy Commander of the US Military Assistance Command - Cambodia. He traveled throughout Southeast Asia during this time, and his fluency in French served him well in working with the Cambodian higher political and military echelons. He then became the Commanding Officer for the 1st Battle Group, 7th Infantry where he moved the entire unit from Fort Benning to Germany. He later commanded the US Army 66th Counterintelligence Corps Group in Germany, serving as a liaison between the Allied counterespionage, intelligence and police agencies.
In January 1961, Yarborough was appointed commander/commandant of the US Army Special Warfare Center/School for Special Warfare at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Remaining until1965, he was instrumental in the build-up of Special Forces, overseeing the activation of four new groups. He also worked diligently to increase the professional and academic standard of the JFK School, bringing in national figures in anthropology, history, science, and inviting leading political figures to speak. He initiated an exhaustive review of training programs and doctrine, and wrote numerous monographs on subjects pertaining to Special Operations, which are still relevant today. It was also under his direction that foreign students were fully integrated into training and language instruction was expanded. He established five new courses including the Military Assistance Training Advisor School, the Unconventional Warfare course and the Counter-Terrorism course. He also initiated a staff study that later resulted in the movement of the US Army Civil Affairs School from Fort Gordon, Georgia to Fort Bragg.
During his tenure as Commander of the Special Warfare Center in 1961, Yarborough arranged for President John F. Kennedy to visit Fort Bragg. This resulted in the authorization of the Green Beret for wear as the official headgear of Special Forces, and the general became known as the "father of the Green Berets."
After his tenure at the Special Warfare School, Yarborough served as Senior Member, UN Command Military Armistice Commission, Panmunjom, Korea where he was the chief spokesman and negotiator for the UN Command in talks with the North Koreans and Chinese. He then was assigned as Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Special Operations in the Pentagon with the responsibility of all Special Forces, PSYOP and Civil Affairs units and activities. In this position, he completed exhaustive studies on the state of insurgencies in Thailand and Latin America. A year later, he became the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence on the Army General Staff where he monitored the Army's intelligence training programs, provided finished intelligence materials to the Army General Staff and directed the Army's personnel security program. He also directed the programs in which foreign military attaches assigned to Washington were involved and was responsible for their accreditation by the Department of the Army.
During the final years of his career, Yarborough was the Army's top intelligence officer at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. He assumed the command of I Corps in Korea in 1968, a position he held for a year. I Corps consisted of both conventional and nuclear weapons, two American divisions and three Korean Divisions, and a Korean Marine Corps Brigade, numbering approximately 100,000 men. In 1969, he was assigned as the Chief of Staff and Deputy Commander in Chief, US Army Pacific, responsible for directing a wide variety of Army activities in the Pacific Rim, including planning joint training exercises, response to natural disasters and monitoring intelligence operations. He retired from the Army in 1971 and died on December 6, 2006.
USARPAC postures and prepares the force for unified land operations, responds to threats, sustains and protects the force, and builds military relationships that develop partner defense capacity in order to contribute to a stable and secure U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility.
Vincent K. Brooks