Earl Preston Yates was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on 23 December 1923, son of Earl Preston and Elizabeth Pool (Holton) Yates. He attended Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, prior to entering the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, on appointment from his native state in 1940. Graduated with the Class of 1944 on 9 June 1943 (accelerated course due to World War II) and commissioned Ensign, he subsequently advanced in rank to that of Rear Admiral, to date from 1 July 1970.
Following graduation from the Naval Academy in 1943, he joined USS Dyson (DD-572) and served in that destroyer until December 1944. He is entitled to the Ribbon for the Presidential Unit Citation awarded Destroyer Squadron TWENTY-THREE, of which the Dyson was a unit. The citation follows in part:
“For extraordinary heroism in action against enemy Japanese forces during the Solomon Islands Campaign, from November 1, 1943 to February 23, 1944. Boldly penetrating submarine-infested waters during a period when Japanese naval and air power was at its height, Destroyer Squadron TWENTY-THREE operated in daring defiance of repeated attacks by hostile air groups, closing the enemy’s strongly fortified shores to carry out sustained bombardments against Japanese coastal defenses and render effective cover and fire support for the major invasion operations in this area. Commanded by forceful leaders and manned by aggressive, fearless crews, the ships of (that squadron) coordinated as a superb fighting team; they countered the enemy’s fierce aerial bombing attacks and destroyed or routed his planes; they intercepted his surface task forces, sank or damaged his warships by torpedo fire and prevented interference with our transports…”
Returning to the United States in December 1944, he had flight training and in December 1945 was designated Naval Aviator. He next served with Bombing-Fighting Squadron EIGHTY-TWO and June 1948 was detached for instruction in aeronautical engineering at the Postgraduate School, Annapolis, Maryland. He had further instruction with the Fleet all Weather Training Unit, Atlantic, from June 1951 until January 1952, after which he served with Experimental Squadron THREE. In June 1953 he transferred to Fighter Squadron FORTY-ONE to serve as Executive Officer and Commanding Officer until June 1955, then had duty in the Armament Division, Bureau of Aeronautics, Navy Department, Washington, DC.
From June 1958 to June 1960 he was Executive Officer and Commanding Officer of Heavy Attack Squadron NINE, then attended the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. In June 1961 he reported for instruction with Carrier Air Group EIGHT. In November 1962 he was detached from command of that squadron for an assignment with the Joint Staff Office, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, D C. In July 1963 he reported as Administrative Aide to the Secretary of the Navy and in July 1964 became Executive Assistant and Naval Aide to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research and Development).
In June 1965 he assumed command of USS Raleigh (LPD-1). He was officer in Charge of Commander SEVENTH Fleet Staff Detachment CHARLIE during the period July 1966 to July 1967, and was awarded the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious service.
He next had duty on the Staff of Commander Naval Air Force, Atlantic Fleet and in October 1967 was named Prospective Commanding Officer of USS John F. Kennedy (CVA-67), building at the Newport News (Virginia) Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. He assumed command of that attack aircraft carrier upon her commissioning, 7 September 1968. In September 1969 he reported as Commander Fleet Air, Whidbey, with headquarters at the Naval Air Station, Whidbey Island, Oak Harbor, Washington. In July 1971 became Commander Amphibious Operations Support Command, US Atlantic and in May 1972 was ordered detached for duty as Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans, Commander in Chief, Pacific.
In addition to the Legion of Merit and the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon, Rear Admiral Yates has the American Defense Service Medal; American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; National Defense Service Medal with bronze star and the Vietnam Navy Distinguished Service Order with Bronze Star and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device.