Tuesday, May 11, 2010

CoAAG: Major Arthur P Yarborough - He Served With Honor

This post serves as my submission for the third installment of the Carnival of African-American Genealogy: In Memoriam, African-Americans In The Military 1914-1953, which is being hosted by Amy Cain, of Reconnected Roots. For this installment, we are asked to feature an ancestor, relative, or other person who served in the military between the years 1914-1953.  The military hero who will be the subject of my post is my father, Retired  Major Arthur Person Yarborough (deceased).

Before I begin, I must offer a disclaimer, that although I live and grew up in an overwhelmingly military area, flanked by bases and personnel from each of the five branches of the Armed Services, I, myself, am not well-versed in the lingo, nor do I have an in-depth understanding of military protocol.  For that reason, and since I don't quite have the time to research it fully before the deadline for this carnival, I'm asking forgiveness of any readers who may find fault in the way I reference anything about my father's service.  If corrections are offered, I will verify, then edit. :)

My father, Arthur P. Yarborough, joined the Armed Forces the early 1940's, as one of our nation's first Black Marines.  He completed training at Montford Point, and from there, went on to serve in the South Pacific Theatre. His DD-214 fors (on which he is classified as, "Negroid"), shows that he left the Marines, but reenlisted as an Army soldier. During the interim period, my dad spent a semester at North Carolina A&T, and then worked for a short time at the shipyard in Newport News, VA, and as a truck driver for the lumber yard in his hometown of Louisburg, NC.  He then entered the Army, and began what turned out to be over twenty years of very distinguished service to our country.  My father retired from the United States Army (with an honorable discharge) on July 31, 1964 after 20 years, 1 month, and 24 days of service. Of that time, he spent more than nine years in foreign and/or sea service.

I have no idea what's going on here, but it's clear that everyone is listening to my father!  

When my father retired from the Army, I was only 2 and 1/2 years old.  Though my two oldest siblings lived the "military life" and got to travel and live on military bases, my brother Arthur and I grew up as civilian children, only using the base to shop, go swimming, bowl, and go to the movies.  Because of this, I never really saw my father as a military man, and I had no idea how highly commended he was until after his death.  This saddens me to this day.  My father, being the humble man that he was, never rang his own bell.  I didn't grow up hearing about his military service - his salutations, honors, nor his high ranking amongst his classes.  Neither he, nor my mom ever talked about these things, and the plethora of certificates and medals that I've now discovered, were never displayed on the walls or shelves of our home.  What I've learned since my father's death is that he loved and honored the United States Army, but as much as it brought him pride and pleasure, it was also the source of institutional racism, which caused him to have to fight just as hard within his ranks, as he did on behalf of our country.  Despite this, he earned the rank of Major, before he chose to retire in 1964.
As much as I wish I knew some stories to tell about my father's service, I don't; so I'd like to use this space to list just a few of the awards and honors he received during his service career.  There are far too many to list them all, and again, I don't have the background knowledge to really discern which are more important than the others, so I'll just list the ones that are on his DD-214.
World War II Victory Medal
United Nations Service Medal
National Defense Service Medal
AFR Medal
Korean Service Medal
Army Commendation Medal
Army of Occupation Medal (Germany)
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal

My father was meticulous in his record-keeping (a characteristic no-doubt instilled in him by the Army). It's been tough trying to decide which pictures and/or documents to include in this post, but I think this one that I just found amongst his certificates will give readers an idea of how organized he was.  

The document below is his certificate for The Commendation Ribbon with Metal Pendant (First Oak Leaf Cluster), given February 25, 1958.
Next, here's a letter, or write-up of some sort, (explaining his meritorious achievement) which I'm assuming he was given along with the certificate. (Take special note of the paper clip in the corner.)

Here's what was under that paper clip. :)
That's "Arthur P" (as we called him behind his back) - covering all his bases.  I'm just like that - and I was just reminded of why.

I miss you, Daddy.  May God rest your soul. 



  1. Renate,
    What a great piece on you father. I like the pictures and sources you chose to show us -- gave a good sense of the man. I am always surprised when all of a sudden I realize that paarents had such different experiences that dinna necessarily inclue me. A good thing.

  2. Great piece. If you have questions on the DD214, forward it to me and I will take a stab at it. Most of my work is in military. You may need to get a copy (if still available) of your father's service record. Do you know which division/company he served in WWII. I'm beginning to wonder if he is related to my Yarborough's.

  3. Joan, thanks, as always, for your comment and your support.
    Kathleen, I never knew you had Yarboroughs! Send me an email and tell me about them. I should be able to let you know if there is a connection or not. :)


  4. What a wonderful tribute to your father Renate. He must have loved his country and his family to have enlisted so many times.

  5. Great tribute to your father

  6. I could not agree with Joan more, loved the photos, and the documents. Lovely warm piece, I enjoyed the read!

  7. Very nice tribute to your father. I am sure you are very proud of him, as you should be!

  8. It would be so interesting to find out who is in the picture with him and why. Perhaps it was to do with the commendations he received.

  9. Thanks, everyone!

    Lori, I have been trying to find out what this was about for a while now, but no one (as of yet) has been able to help me! I, along with some others, think that a couple of the gentlemen in the picture have recognizable faces, but again, no one has been able to name them. I posted this picture as one of my very first posts, back in July of 2009, and asked for suggestions about what might have been going on. Here's the link to that post. http://justthinking130.blogspot.com/2009/07/re-gold-mine.html

    I've also asked around a bit, and put the pic on a Military blog, too. So far, no responses, but I'm still hopeful, so if anyone has ideas, or recognizes any of the faces in the picture, I'm all ears (or eyes, as it may be...lol)!


  10. Great post and tribute to your Dad. I'm so greatful for the service he gave our country. He sounds like a wonderful person.

  11. Renate,

    This is a wonderful tribute to your Father. Thank you for sharing. I am sure he is smiling.

  12. Renate,

    Wonderful tribute to your father. He would be very proud of you. Thanks for sharing such great memories.

  13. Renate, a great tribute! One of your father's medals is described as the "AFR Medal." That is most frequently understood to mean the Armed Forces Reserve Medal which is awarded for every ten years of honorable service in the Reserve or National Guard. This may explain why your father seemed to have entered and left service "a few different times" and why he has several DD-214s. The DD-214 is completed on release from active duty--a military member would receive a DD-214 when they left the regular Army for the Army Reserve, or having been in the Reserve, was called to active status, and then released back to the Reserve after a term of active service.

    He may have enlisted in WWII, then left after the war, but at some point returned as an officer. In one of the photographs, your father clearly shows a shoulder patch of the Northern Area Command (NACOM), an organization of the US Army, Europe, headquartered at Frankfurt. My father was a lieutenant, then captain, assigned to NACOM in the late 1950s/early 1960s. I wonder if they knew each other (there weren't that many black officers stationed n Germany at that time). I'm blessed to have my dad still around to ask him, but his recollections are fading fast.
    Thanks for a great piece.

    1. Craig, it's almost 8 years later, and I don't even know if you'll see this, but did you ever get to run my dad's name by your dad?


  14. Thank you so much, everyone, for your comments. I'm so grateful to each of you for taking the time to honor my father by leaving them!

    Craig, you have done my heart glad this morning! Thank you so very much for sharing all of that information with me. I will use your suggestions as a guide to helping to clarify and add facts to a timeline for my dad's service. As for the Germany connection, I can tell you that my dad was stationed in Bremerhaven. My brother was born there in 1960. Feel free to contact me at yarsan@aol.com if you'd like to further compare notes to see if our fathers' paths may have crossed.