John Robertson

Staff member
John Howard
  • UNIT
2 Raider Bn (Company F)
  • RANK
Navy Cross
Guadalcanal 1942
born 27.04.1918, Plumberville, Arkansas, USA
father John Benjamin Yancey (1896-1933)
mother Mary Yancey
wife JoAnn (nee Campbell) Yancey (1928-2012)
daughter Dena (nee Yancey) Trujillo (1950-2020)
awarded second Navy Cross for Korea 1950s
died 16.05.1986 (Aged 68), Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas
buried Little Rock National Cemetery, Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas. Plot 17,13
John Howard Yancey was possibly Arkansas's most decorated Marine Corps war heroes. His actions in World War II on Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima and the Chosin Resvivor in the Korean War won him two Navy Crosses, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. Yancy was also a champion of civil rights in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Arkansas.
John was the son of Mary and John Benjamin Yancey, who owned a gas station in Plummerville. He graduated Central High School and then attended Ouachita College (now Ouachita University) but left school in 1942 to join the Marine Corps to fight in World War II. After basic training in San Diego, he volunteered for what became a legendary unit in the Marine Corps that was being formed, Carlson's Raiders, commanded by Colonel Evans F. Carlson. John would eventually become Colonel Evans' bodyguard.
In November 1942, John's unit was on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, and had captured a strategic artillery placement during a night of hand-to-hand combat. His leadership in this battle earned him his first Navy Cross and a battlefield commission to lieutenant.
After the war ended, he was assigned to the Marine Corps Reserves Rifle Company in Little Rock. He married JoAnn Campbell in January of 1950 and they began a family and operated a liquor store in Little Rock named Yancey's. He was thirty-two when the Korean War began in 1950, and he volunteered to return to active duty in Korea. John was assigned as a platoon leader with the 7th Marine Regiment and in short order was on his way to combat again.
At the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea, with the temperature thirty-five degrees below zero and with his superiors dead, John found himself in command of an infantry platoon. Despite more than ninety percent casualties, the platoon defended its position against 120,000 advancing Red Chinese, earning John his second Navy Cross and a Silver Star Medal for hand-to-hand combat that helped save two Marine regiments. During two days of what was later called one of the bloodiest battles of the Korean War, he suffered three wounds, one from grenade sharpnel lodged in the roof of his mouth, another from a bullet that tore into his nose and the third and most serious from a bullet that penetrated the sinus cavities of his right cheek and lodged in the back of his neck, popping his eye out on his cheek. Only after finally succumbing to loss of blood and not being able to see did he relinquish his command. John was recommended for the Medal of Honor, but as all of his superior officers were killed in the battle and there was no written report of his actions, the award was not processed. An effort was made on several occasions to get him nominated for the award but it was always denied.
John was very active in his civilian life. He was an authority on Mexican and Aztec history (he would spend his winters in Mexico and was known by the locals as "Jungle Tiger"). Back home in Arkansas, Yancey ran unsuccessfully for state senator in the 1960s, supporting integration and opposing Governor Orval Faubus. He won a lawsuit against Faubus to reapportion the state so voting would be racially balanced. His wife was on the Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC), which fought to keep Little Rock schools open.
General Sidney McMath (governor of Arkansas from 1949 to 1953) suggested that Yancey become his executive officer in the Vietnam War when he was assigned to Vietnam, but the Marine Corps turned him down because of his previous injuries. One of the disqualifying issues was the poor condition of his teeth. John was quoted as having said, "I wasn't planning on biting the sonsofbitches" (Viet Cong) or something to that effect. Despite his tough image, he was a student of poetry and philosophy. Yancey was the model for the bronze bust of Count Pulaski—the Revolutionary war hero for whom the county is named—in the county courthouse. The Arkansas Historical Society established John Yancey–Count Pulaski Day—Two Heroes Bonded Together in Bronze—in 1999, which is celebrated in the fall.
John died on May 16, 1986, and his close friend, General McMath, planned every detail of the funeral. The Rev. Trumann Welch officiated the service. John was survived by his wife, Mrs. Jo Ann Campbell Yancey, a son Stuart Yancey of Little Rock; four daughters, Miss Anne Yancey of Springdale, Mrs. Dena Yancey-Launet and Miss Laura Yancey, both of Little Rock and Mrs. Mary Burk of Los Angeles, Calif; a brother J. R. Yancey of Little Rock and one grandchild. A detachment of the Marine Corps League in Dallas, Texas is named after him.


Navy Cross : The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Corporal John Yancey (MCSN: 335303), United States Marine Corps Reserve, for extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty while serving with Company F, SECOND Marine Raider Battalion in combat against enemy Japanese forces on the upper Lunga River, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on 30 November 1942. Leading his squad into a hostile bivouac, Corporal Yancey surprised over a hundred of the enemy and although vastly outnumbered, he charged into the group, his automatic weapon blasting. Following his daring example, his squad completely overwhelmed the Japanese, killing over fifty and driving the remainder into the bush. By his swift and courageous action, he won a complete victory over the enemy without the loss of a Marine. His great personal valor and outstanding leadership were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Navy Cross : The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Navy Cross to First Lieutenant John Yancey (MCSN: 0-36570), United States Marine Corps Reserve, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving as a Platoon Leader of Company E, Second Battalion, Seventh Marines, FIRST Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces in the Republic of Korea on 27 and 28 November 1950. With his company subjected to a savage and sustained night attack by an enemy force of approximately two battalions while defending strategic high ground north of Yudam-ni, and with adjacent platoon positions infiltrated by hostile troops, First Lieutenant Yancey bravely rushed into the thick of the fighting in a daring attempt to rally the men and seal the gap in the lines. Although wounded by an enemy bullet which penetrated his cheek and lodged in his neck, he led the Marines through snow and sub-zero temperatures in a fierce hand-to-hand encounter with the hostile force, drove off the attackers and quickly reorganized the unit. Learning that his company commander had been killed, Lieutenant Yancey unhesitatingly assumed command and boldly made his way from one platoon to another in the face of intense enemy fire, shouting words of encouragement to the men, seeking aid for the casualties and directing the defense of the vital terrain. Despite two further wounds sustained during the intensive action, he gallantly refused to be evacuated and continued to lead his company in repelling the hostile attacks until, weakened by loss of blood and no longer able to see, he was forced to accept medical aid. By his inspiring leadership, outstanding courage and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of overwhelming odds, First Lieutenant Yancey was directly instrumental in the successful defense of the area and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.


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