Joseph Langham Yon was born in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, on 13 September 1912, son of Charles and Jessie K. (Yuille) Yon. He attended Virginia Military Institute, at Lexington, Virginia, and the University of Virginia and the University of Virginia Medical School at Charlottesville, Virginia, receiving the degree of Doctor of Medicine from the latter in 1937. Commissioned Lieutenant (junior grade) in the Medical Corps of the US Navy on 2 August 1938, he subsequently advanced in rank to that of Rear Admiral to date from 1 July 1964.
Reporting first to the US Naval Hospital, Newport, Rhode Island, he served there as Ward Medical Officer until February 1939, when he was detached for nine months’ duty as Medical Officer for the World Fair Detachment, in New York, NY. From January to November 1940 he served as Ward Medical Officer at the US Naval Hospital, Cavite, Philippine Islands, and, remaining in the Orient until March 1942, after the outbreak of World War II, he served as Medical Officer on board USS Pecos. Wounded in action when the Pecos was sunk on 1 March 1942, he was awarded the Purple Heart Medal.
Reporting to the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Navy Department, Washington, DC, he served for two months in the Physical Qualification Section, then had four months’ duty as Executive Officer, National Naval Medical Center. From October 1942 until July 1943 he served in the Personnel Division of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, after which he was assigned as Senior Medical Officer of the Commissioning Detail of USS Miami (CL-89). When that light cruiser was commissioned in December 1943 he became her Senior Medical Officer and in that capacity participated in action in the Marianas, Western Carolines, at Leyte, Luzon, Iwo Jima and Okinawa Gunto.
Detached from the Miami in June 1945, he reported as Base Medical Officer, at the Naval Ammunition Depot, Hingham, Massachusetts, where he remained until October 1945, after the cessation of hostilities in August. He then had successive service as Base Medical Officer of the Naval Operating Base, Bermuda, BWI, and as Medical Officer (Surgeon) at the Naval Hospital, Corona, California, during the period October 1945 until July 1948, and for a year thereafter was a graduate student in Surgery at Northwestern University.
In August 1949 reported to the Naval Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he served as Resident Surgery, later transferring to duty as Surgeon at the Naval Hospital, St. Albans, New York. Detached from the latter in January 1953, he went aboard USS Consolation, hospital ship, as Chief of Surgery, in February of that year. There he also served for some months before his detachment in April 1954 as Assistant Officer in Command of that floating hospital, which participated in combat operations in Korean waters. “For outstanding performance of duty as Assistant Officer in Command and Chief of the Surgical Service of the Naval Hospital in the USS CONSOLATION from February 11, 1953 to April 39, 1954…” he was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal.
In June 1954 he reported as Chief of Surgical Service at the Naval Hospital, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and in March 1960 assumed command of the Naval Hospital, Naval Base, Newport, Rhode Island. In October 1962 he transferred to command of the Naval Hospital, St. Albans, Long Island, New York and in November 1964 became Commanding Officer of the Naval Hospital, Portsmouth, Virginia, with additional duty as District Medical Officer, Fifth Naval District. He was awarded the Legion of Merit “for exceptionally meritorious service from January 1966 to July 1970…” In June 1971 he was designated Director/Commanding Officer of the newly-established Naval Regional Medical Center, Portsmouth, Virginia and continued to serve as Commanding Officer of the Naval Hospital and as District Medical Officer until relieved of active duty pending his retirement, effective 1 April1972.
He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and cited in part as follows: “…As the guiding force behind the development and inception of the Naval Regional Medical Center, Rear Admiral Yon has been in the forefront of this innovation in the delivery of health care to the members of the Navy and Marine Corps and their dependents and the extensive Armed Forces retired Community in the Tidewater area…”
In addition to the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Purple Heart Medal, Rear Admiral Yon had the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one silver star and two bronze stars (seven operations); American Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; National Defense Service Medal with bronze star; Korean Service Medal with two stars; United Nations Service Medal; the Philippine Defense Ribbon with one star; Philippine Liberation ribbon with two stars, and the Philippine Independence Ribbon. He also had the Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation Badge and the Korean Presidential Unit Citation Badge.
He was a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the International College of Surgeons and a Diplomat of the American Board of Surgery.