William John Yokes, born on 15 November 1918 in Franklin, Pa., enlisted in the U.S. Navy at Cleveland, Ohio, on 3 January 1942 and ultimately advanced to the rating of seaman 2d class.
Attached to the armed guard detachment in the freighter Steel Navigator, Yokes was killed in action on 19 October 1942 when his ship, a straggler from Convoy ON-137, was attacked by the German submarine U-610. For several days prior to the engagement, heavy seas and high winds had caused a dangerous shift in ballast in the merchantman. Yokes acted beyond the scope of his duty when he and his shipmates volunteered to go below and perform the physically exhausting task of shifting ballast to trim the ship. That they did for some 30 hours without rest. On 19 October 1942, lookouts spotted the periscope of U-610, and the armed guard unit swiftly manned their guns. Soon the gunfire registered several near-misses around the enemy's periscope, and he withdrew temporarily.
Later that day, U-610 returned and torpedoed the merchantman, sinking her immediately. Among the dead, Yokes was commended posthumously by the Chief of Naval Personnel, who cited the seaman's "courageous and unfailing devotion to duty . . . fortitude, skill and bravery" in conduct "in keeping with the highest traditions of the naval service."
(APD-69: displacement 1,650; length 306'0"; beam 37'0"; draft 12'7" (limiting); speed 23.6 knots; complement 205; troops 162; armament 1 5-inch, 6 40 millimeter, 6 20 millimeter, 2 depth charge tracks; class Charles Lawrence)
Yokes (DE-668) was laid down on 22 August 1943 at Orange, Tex., by the Consolidated Steel Co.; launched on 27 November 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Charlotte Yokes, the widow of Seaman Yokes; reclassified from DE-668 to a high-speed transport, APD-69, on 27 June 1944; and commissioned on 18 December 1944, Lt. Cmdr. Paul E. Warfield, USNR, in command.
Following her shakedown training out of Bermuda and post-shakedown availability at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Yokes shifted to the west coast, via the Panama Canal, and arrived at San Diego, Calif., on 14 March 1945. After further training, Yokes departed San Diego on 19 March, bound for the Hawaiian Islands. She made port at Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii (T.H.) on the 26th and trained at Maui, T.H., with underwater demolition teams for one week before she sailed for the Ryukyu Islands.
Arriving at Okinawa on 1 May 1945, Yokes operated in that vicinity through June, serving as an antisubmarine screening vessel, a rescue ship, and as an escort ship. On 10 May, her gunners claimed a Zeke (Mitsubishi carrier fighter A6M5 Model 52).
The ship shifted to the Marianas in July 1945, escorting LST Flotilla 36 from Okinawa to Saipan between 4 and 10 July, and then briefly anchoring at Apra Harbor, Guam, before heading for the west coast of the United States. Proceeding via Pearl Harbor, where the ship embarked the 14 officers and 79 men of Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) 28 on 25 July, Yokes reached Oceanside, Calif., on 2 August. Transferring UDT-28 to the tank landing craft LCT-395 upon her arrival, the high-speed transport sailed for San Diego that same day.
Shifting to the Western Pipe and Steel Co. yard at San Pedro, Calif., on 5 August 1945, Yokes underwent a 15-day yard availability before she conducted a brief stint of training off the coast of southern California. She departed San Diego on 5 September to return to the Far East, touching at Manila Bay, Subic Bay, Tacloban, Samar, Buckner Bay, Guam, Manus, and Shanghai on transport operations into the winter. Departing Manila Bay on 23 January 1946, Yokes steamed via Pearl Harbor for the west coast of the United States, making port at San Diego on 15 February and remaining there under repairs through the summer.
Decommissioned at San Diego on 19 August 1946, Yokes lay berthed there, in reserve, until stricken from the Navy list on 1 April 1964. Sold to the National Metal & Steel Corp., Terminal Island, Calif., the hulk of the former high-speed transport was scrapped subsequently.
Yokes received one battle star for her World War II service.