Howard Leyland Young was born in Brooklyn, New York, on 23 November 1901, son of Howard and Minerva Catherine (Bolling) Young. He attended St. Albans School, Washington, DC, prior to his appointment to the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, from the First District of Utah in 1919. As a Midshipman he participated in baseball. Graduated and commissioned Ensign on 7 June 1923, he subsequently progressed in rank, attaining that of Captain to date from 1 May 1943. On 30 June 1953 he was transferred to the Retired List of the US Navy and was advanced to the rank of Rear Admiral on the basis of combat awards.
Following graduation from the Naval Academy in 1923, he joined USS Florida, and in June 1924 was detached for brief instruction at the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, Rhode Island. In December of that year he reported on board USS Sturtevant, and after completing flight training at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, was designated Naval Aviator, 24 April 1926. He was assigned in August to Observation Squadron TWO, based on USS Langley, and in June 1928 transferred to Fighting Squadron TWO.
He served at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, between August 1929 and June 1931, after which he had lighter-than-air training at the Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey. Qualifying as a Naval Aviator (LTA) on 28 September 1932, he was assigned to the heavier than air unit attached to airship Akron. Following the loss of the Akron off Barnegat Light in April 1933, he transferred to the airship Macon for duty with her heavier-than-air unit. In August 1934 he joined the aviation unit of USS Tuscaloosa, and from June 1935 until June 1936 served with Scouting Squadron TWELVE on board that cruiser.
For the next year he served with Bombing Squadron TWO based on USS Saratoga, and in June 1937 became Officer in Charge of the Experimental Division, Operations Department, at the Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia. There he conducted rough water tests and accelerated tests of experimental and new production planes. In June 1939 he assumed command of Fighting Squadron SIX based on USS Enterprise, and in April 1941 became Commanding Officer of Air Group SIX, attached to that aircraft carrier.
At the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941, planes from Enterprise, which was returning to Hawaii from Wake Island, were the only carrier based aircraft to take part in the Pearl Harbor action, arriving during the middle of the first Japanese attack Air Group SIX, under his command, made the first attack on enemy held territory in February 1942, during the raids on the Marshall and Gilbert Islands, and in the latter part of that month participated in the raids on Marcus and Wake Islands.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for “heroic conduct in aerial combat, as Commander of a carrier air group, when during the hours of darkness on the morning of February 1, 1942, in enemy waters, he successfully led the scouting and bombing squadrons one hundred and seventy-five miles over enemy controlled waters to their objectives, which all planes reached and attacked on schedule, surprising and inflicting great damage on the enemy. Again after successfully returning his squadrons to the carrier, he led another flight of bombers against a fully alerted enemy stronghold and this attack, which was made in the face of heavy antiaircraft fire, caused great destruction to enemy installations.”
He also received a Letter of Commendation with authorization to wear the Commendation Ribbon and Combat “V”, from the Commander in Chief, US Pacific Fleet, and is entitled to the Ribbon for, and a facsimile of the Presidential Unit Citation awarded the USS Enterprise.
Returning to duty ashore in April 1942, he was assigned to the Advanced Carrier Training Group, Pacific Fleet, commanding that group from May to October 1942. He then became Commanding Officer of the newly-established Naval Air Station, Vero Beach, Florida where he remained until July 1943. In August he assumed command of USS Tangier, and in January 1944 reported for fitting out duty in USS Ommaney Bay at the Kaiser Shipbuilding Company, Vancouver, Washington. He assumed command of that escort aircraft carrier upon her commissioning, 2 February 1944, and for outstanding services while commanding that vessel was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”, and the Navy Cross. The citations following in part:
Bronze Star Medal: “For meritorious achievement as Commanding Officer of the USS OMMANEY BAY prior to and during operations against enemy Japanese forces on the Palau Islands in September and October 1944. Tireless and thorough in his detailed preparation for hazardous invasion operations, Captain Young welded his command into a strong fighting unit ready and competent to provide necessary air support for our assault forces despite previous lack of experience in combat. Under his skilled and forceful leadership, the officers, men and air personnel of the OMMANEY BAY were responsible for severe and costly damage inflicted upon the enemy in facilities, installations and material destroyed, carrying out their missions with splendid teamwork despite difficult and unfavorable operating conditions…”
Navy Cross: “For extraordinary heroism…in action against major ships of the Japanese Fleet in the Battle off Samar, October 25, 1944…Captain Young conducted his command gallantly and with courageous initiative, inspiring his officers and men and the OMMANEY BAY air personnel throughout the critical and fiercely fought battle for Leyte Gulf against a powerful force of Japanese battleships, cruisers and destroyers. His superb seamanship and indomitable fighting spirit in the face of overwhelming odds were important factors in turning potential defeat into a decisive victory over the Central Japanese Force…”
Detached from command of the Ommaney Bay in January 1945, he was assigned the next month to Fleet Air, West Coast, and during April and May 1945 and duty in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department, Washington, DC. Following service as Chief of Staff and Aide to Commander Fleet Air, Seattle, Washington, he reported in August 1946 as Commander Fleet Air Wing FOUR. He was Commanding Officer of the Naval Air Station, Whidbey Island, Washington, from December 1946 until September 1947, when he joined the staff of Commander Carrier Division SIX as Chief of Staff and Aide.
He became Commanding Officer of USS Tarawa in February 1948 and in April 1949 reported as Navy Liaison Officer with the Air Defense Command, US Air Force, Mitchell Field, Long Island, New York. In September 1949 he transferred, in a similar capacity, to the Continental Air Command, Mitchell Field, Continuing to serve there until July 1950, when he joined the staff of Commander Naval Forces, Far East. Returning to the United States in January 1951, he was in Command of the Naval Air Station, New Orleans, Louisiana, until September 1952, after which he had duty in connection with General Court Martial in the Twelfth Naval District, with headquarters in San Francisco, California. He was serving there when ordered relieved of all active duty, pending his retirement, effective 30 June 1953.
Rear Admiral Young died on 4 April 1954, in Chula Vista, California.
In addition to the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” Commendation Ribbon, also with “V” and the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon, Rear Admiral Young had the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; American Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; the China Service Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Korean Service Medal; the United Nations Service Medal; and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two bronze stars.