Yarborough, William Pelham, LTG

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Last Rank
Lieutenant General
Last Service Branch
Last Primary MOS
1542-Infantry Unit Commander
Last MOS Group
Infantry (Officer)
Primary Unit
1968-1969, 1542, I Corps
Service Years
1936 - 1971


Special Forces
Lieutenant General

Ten Overseas Service Bars

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

Home State
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by MAJ Mark E Cooper to remember Yarborough, William Pelham, LTG.

If you knew or served with this Soldier and have additional information or photos to support this Page, please leave a message for the Page Administrator(s) HERE.
Contact Info
Home Town
Not Specified
Last Address
Southern Pines, NC

Date of Passing
Dec 06, 2005
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

 Official Badges 

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 Additional Information
Last Known Activity


Born in 1912 in Seattle, he graduated from West Point in 1936 and served in the military for 35 years. He held high-level posts in the Army’s airborne, special operations and intelligence branches.

Yarborough was made commander of the Army’s Special Warfare Center, now the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, at Ft. Bragg, N.C., in 1961 as the Vietnam War was increasing the demand for stealth combat skills. He retired in 1971.
In 1941, he designed the paratrooper boot and uniform, and the winged insignia given to qualified paratroopers, according to Yarborough’s official Army biography.
He led paratroopers into battle in North Africa, in Salerno and Anzio in Italy, and in southern France during World War II.
After the war, Yarborough was in charge of police activities in Vienna, where he organized patrols of U.S., Soviet, French and British troops.
As head of the Special Warfare Center in 1962, Yarborough tapped an old West Point classmate who was a military aide to Kennedy to press his case to allow the green beret to become part of the uniform of Army Special Forces soldiers.
Kennedy was visiting Ft. Bragg to see a demonstration of Special Forces units and said he wanted to see the troops in the berets.
Yarborough’s military service also is commemorated with a knife named after him and issued only to current or former Green Berets. Each knife bears a serial number registering its owner.
Other Comments:

The Story Behind the Green Beret:

The green beret was originally designated in 1953 by Special Forces Maj. Herbert Brucker, a veteran of the OSS. Later that year, 1st Lieutenant Roger Pezelle adopted it as the unofficial headgear for his A-team, Operational Detachment FA-32. They wore it whenever they went to the field for prolonged exercises. Soon it spread throughout all of Special Forces, although the Army refused to authorize its official use.

Finally, in 1961, President Kennedy planned to visit Fort Bragg. He sent word to the Special Warfare Center commander, Brigadier General William P. Yarborough, for all Special Forces soldiers to wear their berets for the event. President Kennedy felt that since they had a special mission, Special Forces should have something to set them apart from the rest. Even before the presidential request, however, the Department of Army had acquiesced and teletyped a message to the Center authorizing the beret as a part of the Special Forces uniform.

When President Kennedy came to Fort Bragg October 12, 1961, General Yarborough wore his green beret to greet the commander-in-chief. The president remarked, "Those are nice. How do you like the green beret?" General Yarborough replied: "They're fine, sir. We've wanted them a long time."

A message from President Kennedy to General Yarborough later that day stated, "My congratulations to you personally for your part in the presentation today ... The challenge of this old but new form of operations is a real one and I know that you and the members of your command will carry on for us and the free world in a manner which is both worthy and inspiring. I am sure that the green beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying times ahead."

In an April 11, 1962, White House memorandum for the United States Army, President Kennedy showed his continued support for the Special Forces, calling the green beret "a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom."

To honor his memory, Special Forces soldiers pay their respects to late President Kennedy by laying a wreath and green beret on his tomb every November twenty-second, the date of his assassination.

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 Ribbon Bar

Combat Infantryman 1st Award
Master Parachutist (4 Combat Jumps)
Vietnam - Jump Wings

 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
Philippine Division1st Battalion (Cadre) 29th Infantry501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR)504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR)
5th Army (Fifth Army)1st Battalion, 509th Infantry (Airborne)1st Battalion, 473rd Infantry 15th Army Group
US Forces Austria (USFA)U.S. ArmyNorth Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)Army War College (Staff)
MAAG Cambodia7th Infantry Regiment 66th Military Intelligence GroupUS Army Institute for Military Assistance
United Nations Command (UNC)I Corps
  1936-1940, 1542, 57th Infantry Regiment, 57th Infantry Regiment (PS)
  1940-1940, 1542, 1st Battalion (Cadre) 29th Infantry
  1940-1941, 1542, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR)
  1943-1944, 1542, HHC, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR)
  1944-1944, 2162, 5th Army (Fifth Army)
  1944-1945, 1542, HHC, 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry (Airborne)
  1945-1945, 1542, 1st Battalion, 473rd Infantry
  1945-1946, 9100, 15th Army Group
  1946-1947, 9100, US Forces Austria (USFA)
  1946-1947, 9100, US Forces Austria (USFA)
  1947-1948, 2622, Armed Forces Information School
  1950-1952, 2170, International Military Staff (IMS) NATO
  1952-1955, 2520, Army War College (Staff)
  1956-1957, 1542, MAAG Cambodia
  1957-1958, 1542, 7th Infantry Regiment
  1958-1960, 1690, 66th Military Intelligence Group
  1961-1965, 1542, US Army Institute for Military Assistance
  1965-1966, 1542, United Nations Command (UNC)
  1968-1969, 1542, I Corps
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1942-1942 WWII - Africa Theater of Operations/Algeria-French Morocco Campaign (1942)/Operation Torch
  1943-1943 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Sicily Campaign (1943)
  1944-1944 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Anzio Campaign (1944)
  1944-1944 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Normandy Campaign (1944)/Battle for Caen
  1945-1945 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Po Valley Campaign (1945)
 Colleges Attended 
United States Military Academy
  1932-1936, United States Military Academy
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