John Joliffe Yarnall, born in Wheeling, Va. (now W.Va.) in 1786, was appointed midshipman in the Navy on 11 January 1809. Between 1809 and 1812, Yarnall cruised the coastal waters of the United States in Chesapeake and Revenge performing duty that was tantamount to blockading his own country to enforce President Madison's embargo on trade with the European adversaries during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1813, he was transferred to Oliver Hazard Perry's command on the Great Lakes and became the first lieutenant on board Perry's flagship, Lawrence. He participated in the decisive Battle of Lake Erie on 10 September 1813, and, though wounded, refused to leave his post during the engagement. When Perry shifted his flag to Niagara during the battle, Lt. Yarnall assumed command of Lawrence. After the battle, he took the squadron's wounded on board and carried them back to Erie for medical attention. For his gallantry in the battle, Yarnall earned Perry's commendation as well as a medal expressing the gratitude of Congress and the country.
In the spring of 1815, Yarnall sailed from New York with Stephen Decatur in the frigate Guerriere for the Mediterranean Sea. On 17 June, off the Algerian coast, his ship encountered and captured Meshuda, the flagship of the Algerine "Navy." While defending his country's honor and rights during that engagement, the valiant Yarnall again suffered wounds. Probably because of his wounds, Lt. Yarnall was chosen as the bearer of dispatches from Decatur's squadron to the government in Washington. In July 1815, he embarked in the sloop-of-war Epervier for the voyage home. The warship was last seen on 14 July 1815 as she passed through the Strait of Gibraltar and into the Atlantic. Presumably, Yarnall and all others on board went down with her during the transatlantic voyage.
(DD-541: displacement 2,050; length 376'5"; beam 39'7"; draft 17'9"; speed 35.2 knots (trial); complement 329; armament 5 5-inch, 10 40 millimeter, 7 20 millimeter, 10 21-inch torpedo tubes, 6 depth charge projectors, 2 depth charge tracks; class Fletcher)
The second Yarnall (DD-541) was laid down on 5 December 1942 at San Francisco, Calif., by the Bethlehem Steel Co.; launched on 25 July 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Earl Groves; and commissioned on 30 December 1943, Cmdr. Benjamin F. Tompkins in command.
The destroyer spent the first two months of 1944 conducting her shakedown cruise and other training exercises in the San Diego operating area. She departed the west coast early in March and arrived at Oahu on the 19th. For the next 10 weeks, Yarnall carried out additional tactical exercises in the Hawaiian Islands.
On 31 May, the warship stood out of Pearl Harbor with Task Group (TG) 52.17 and set a course, via Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands, for the invasion of Saipan in the Marianas. For that operation, Yarnall was assigned to Fire Support Group 1 under Rear Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf. When her task group began its prelanding bombardment of Saipan on 14 June, Yarnall screened Cleveland (CL-55) and Montpelier (CL-57) and managed to add 148 rounds of 5-inch shell of her own to the effort. On 15 June, the day of the assault, she continued to screen Cleveland and, on the following day, carried out her first call fire mission, a dual-purpose action to help repulse an enemy counterattack and to destory a bothersome pillbox.
On the 17th, as a result of the submarine sightings of the Japanese fleet moving toward the Marianas, Yarnall and 20 other destroyers were detached from direct support for the invasion and ordered to screen the fast carriers. Yarnall joined TG 58.7, Rear Admiral Willis A. Lee's hastily composed battle line, in preparation for what would be the Battle of the Philippine Sea. She tasted her first antiaircraft combat at 0515 on 19 June when a "Zeke" tried to bomb Stockham (DD-683) and then began a strafing run on Yarnall. Three guns of her main battery quickly took the intruder under fire and began scoring hits on him. As the plane closed the destroyer's port quarter, it exploded and splashed into the sea to give Yarnall her first victory over the enemy.
About five hours after that attack, the ship received word of the first of the four large air raids launched by the Japanese Mobile Fleet to attempt to break up the American invasion force off Saipan. At about 1045, Yarnall and Stockham encountered the first carrier-based air of the battle when five "Val" dive bombers peeled off to attack the two picket destroyers. Yarnall's guns opened up on them and splashed one before the remaining four flew off to attack the larger ships of the American fleet. Word of the approach of the second raid arrived at 1110; and, 35 minutes later, about 20 enemy planes managed to break through the reception committee of F6F Hellcats vectored out to intercept them. Yarnall took seven of those planes under fire and splashed one. That was her last combat of the day. Though the Japanese mounted two more raids, they approached Task Force (TF) 58 from directions which did not bring them in close proximity to Yarnall.
On the 20th, no enemy planes attacked TF 58. Instead, the Japanese began their retirement toward Japan. American carrier search planes found the enemy late in the day, and TF 58 launched air strikes from extreme range. After darkness fell that evening, Yarnall's searchlights helped to guide the returning airmen to their carriers. The following day, the destroyer returned to the coast of Saipan to resume call fire missions supporting the troops fighting ashore. She continued her labors in the Marianas until 8 July, when the warship left in the screen of a convoy bound for the Marshalls. After arriving at Eniwetok on the 12th, she took on ammunition, provisions, and fuel and headed back to the Marianas on the 15th. There, she resumed patrol and antisubmarine screening duties and kept at such tasks until the 25th when she moved inshore to provide gunfire support for the troops occupying Tinian.
The warship alternated screening and bombardment missions in the Marianas until 16 August when she again sailed for the Marshalls. Yarnall remained at Eniwetok from 20 to 29 August. On the latter day, she left the anchorage in company with TG 38.2 for an aerial sweep of the Philippine Islands in preparation for the invasion of the archipelago at Leyte. Following those raids, the carriers and their escorts rested at Ulithi Atoll between 1 and 6 October.
On the latter day, Yarnall sortied with the entire Fast Carrier Task Force for a three-day aerial sweep of Japanese air bases on Formosa. During that operation, Yarnall provided aircrew rescue services and performed antiaircraft and antisubmarine screening duties. During the first day of that attack, the destroyer fired on 15 enemy planes and splashed two of them. The following evening, she barely evaded a bomb which exploded close astern. She emerged unscathed from another bombing attack on the 14th.
Following the Formosa raid, Yarnall's unit steamed south to operate off Luzon. She screened the carriers while their planes suppressed Japanese land-based air-power in the vicinity during the landings at Leyte. During the three-phased Battle for Leyte Gulf which thwarted the Japanese attempt to break up the American liberation of Leyte, Yarnall continued to screen the carriers as they raced northward to destroy Admiral Ozawa's decoy force built around planeless aircraft carriers. After successfully completing that mission, TF 38 made a fueling rendezvous on 30 and 31 October and then resumed its duty pounding enemy installations on Luzon.
At the end of the first week in November, the carriers and their escorts once again retired to Ulithi. The destroyer returned to sea on 14 November to screen TF 38 during further aerial attacks on Japanese installations in the Philippines. On 23 November, she headed back to Ulithi with TG 38.1 for logistics. In December, she returned to the Philippines with TG 38.1 to support the landings on the island of Mindoro and to continue the pressure on Japanese air forces based on Luzon. During that mission, she successfully weathered the famous typhoon on 17 December 1944 which claimed destroyers Hull (DD-350), Monaghan (DD-354), and Spence (DD-512). She returned to Ulithi on 24 December and remained there until January 1945.
On New Year's Day, TG 38.1 stood out of Ulithi to provide air support for landings on Luzon at Lingayen Gulf. The planes hit Formosa on the 3d and 4th, pounded airfields on Luzon on the 6th and 7th, and returned to Formosa installations on the day of the landings, 9 January. That night, Yarnall accompanied the fast carriers through Bashi Channel into the South China Sea to begin a series of raids on Japan's inner defense line. Unopposed by the Japanese Fleet, TF 38 sent planes against bases at Camranh Bay and Saigon in Indochina, then against Formosa on 15 January. Fighters attacked Amoy, Swatow, and Hong Kong in China as well as Hainan Island in the Gulf of Tonkin. On the 16th, they returned to Hong Kong and Hainan for a repeat performance and for good measure made a sweep of Canton. The task force exited the South China Sea via Balintang Channel and then hit Formosa and the Nansei Shoto on 21 January. Okinawa felt the carriers' punch on the 22d; and, two days later, TF 38 set a course back to Ulithi.
On 10 February, Yarnall left Ulithi with TF 38 to attack the Japanese home islands for the first time since the Halsey-Doolittle raid and to provide strategic cover for the assault on Iwo Jima. For two days, 16 and 17 February, the skies over Tokyo rained death and destruction. On the 18th, Yarnall steamed south with the carriers to lend the marines a hand during the Iwo Jima landings. While TF 38 planes supported the assualt, Yarnall protected their floating bases from enemy air and submarine attacks. She remained in the vicinity of the Volcano Islands until the 22d when she and the carriers again headed toward the Japanese home islands for another swipe at Tokyo on the 25th. Then, after rendevousing with TG 50.8, the logistics group, TF 38, sent its planes to strike Okinawa on 1 March.
On 3 March, Yarnall received orders transferring her from TG 58.2 to TG 59.6 for a practice attack on the main body of TF 59. While closing the objective on the night of 4 and 5 March, she collided with Ringgold (DD-500). Ringgold suffered a sheared off bow while Yarnall also suffered one man killed and six others injured. Towed to Ulithi by Molala (ATF-106), she reached the anchorage on 7 March. On the 8th, her bow broke off and sank. While at Ulithi, she had a false bow fitted for the voyage back to the United States for permanent repairs. She stood out of Ulithi on 5 April and steamed via Pearl Harbor to the Mare Island Navy Yard where she underwent repairs until 2 July.
The warship returned to Pearl Harbor in July and conducted training operations in the Hawaiian Islands through the end of the war. Two days after the cessation of hostilities, Yarnall set a course for Tokyo, Japan, to participate in the postwar occupation. She was present in Tokyo Bay on 2 September when Japanese officials signed the surrender document on board Missouri (BB-63) and remained in the Far East supporting minesweeping operations until the end of October. On the 31st, she put to sea and shaped a course for San Diego, Calif., where, though she remained in commission, she was placed in an inactive status. Berthed at San Diego with the Pacific Reserve Fleet, Yarnall was finally placed out of commission on 15 January 1947.
The outbreak of the Korean conflict in June 1950 brought many ships out of the "mothball fleet." Yarnall was ordered back into active service on 31 August 1950, and she was recommissioned at San Diego on 28 February 1951. She reported for duty with the Pacific Fleet on 20 March and conducted shakedown training and other exercises along the west coast until mid-May. On 15 May, Yamall departed San Diego for Japan. Steaming via Pearl Harbor, she arrived in Yokosuka on 7 June and, three days later, got underway for her first tour of combat duty in Korean waters. For the most part, Yarnall served in the screen of TF 77, the carrier task force, though on occasion she did close the coast of Korea to provide gunfire support for the United Nations troops operating ashore. Her first Korean War deployment was punctuated by periodic port calls, mostly at Yokosuka, but also at Okinawa and at Keelung, Taiwan. In August, she served briefly with the Taiwan Strait patrol before returning to the Korean combat zone in September.
Her first Korean War deployment lasted until December. On 8 December, the destroyer departed Yokosuka and steamed via Midway and Pearl Harbor to San Diego where she arrived on the 21st. From there, she moved to Long Beach early in 1952 for an overhaul. The warship completed repairs early that summer and returned to San Diego on 11 June. A month and a day later, she departed San Diego; set a course via Pearl Harbor and Midway for the western Pacific; and arrived in Yokosuka on 6 August. On the 8th, she again got underway and, after an overnight stop at Sasebo on 10 and 11 August, headed for the Korean operating area. Again, her duties consisted of screening TF 77 carriers and providing bombardment services, frequently at the besieged port city of Wonsan. As during the previous deployment, she alternated tours of duty in Korean waters with port calls at Japanese ports for repairs, upkeep, rest, and relaxation. Later, in November, she returned to the Taiwan Strait patrol before resuming her tours of duty with TF 77 and on the bombline. On 30 January 1953, she concluded her second Korean War deployment by departing Sasebo for the United States. Steaming via Midway and Pearl Harbor, Yarnall arrived in San Diego on 16 February.
While Yarnall enjoyed her stateside rotation, hostilities in Korea ceased when an armistice was finally signed on 27 July 1953. The warship, however, continued to make annual deployments to the Far East and frequently operated in Korean waters with TF 77. She continued to alternate deployments to the Orient with periods of normal operations out of San Diego until September of 1958 when she was decommissioned.
Berthed at Stockton, Calif., Yarnall remained inactive for almost a decade. On 10 June 1968, she was transferred, on a loan basis, to the Taiwanese Navy which she served as Kun Yang (DD-8). She was returned to the United States Navy in 1974 for disposal. Her name was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 25 January 1974, and she was retransferred back to Taiwan by sale. Ultimately, Kun Yang was stricken from the Taiwanese Navy list on 16 October 1999..
Yarnall (DD-541) earned seven battle stars for her World War II service and two battle stars for her service during the Korean War.
Updated,. Robert J. Cressman
29 June 2021