William Alexander Zobel was born in Charleston, South Carolina, on 27 December 1901, son of William Robert and Viola Waring (Alexander) Zobel. He was graduated from The Citadel with the degree of Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 1923, and subsequently received the degree of Civil Engineer from the University of South Carolina, at Columbia. He entered the US Naval Reserve as a Civil Engineer in the rank of Lieutenant on 11 April 1936, and attained the temporary rank of Captain, CEC, USNR, on 20 November 1945. Transferring to the US Navy in 29 August 1946, he continued duty in the rank of Captain until 1 January 1948, and was appointed to that permanent rank to date from 25 January 1950. He was transferred to the Retired List of the US Navy on 1 April 1954.
Prior to his Naval Service, Captain Zobel worked as a Draftsman with the South Carolina Highway Department (1924), and for the American Bridge Company and the Ingalls Iron Works Company in 1925 and 1926. He was Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering at The Citadel in 1926-1928, had a year as Assistant Field Engineer for Waddell and Hardesty, was designer for Louisiana Highway Commission 1930-1933, and for a year was Chief of Party and Computer for the US Geological Survey. From 1934 to 1939 he was Assistant Engineer on Bridge Design for the Tennessee Valley Authority at Chattanooga, and Knoxville, Tennessee.
Called to active duty in August 1939, he served until October 1940 at Headquarters, Thirteenth Naval District Seattle, Washington. He was the first assigned and served as Officer in Charge of Construction at the Naval Air Station, Tongue Point (Astoria), Oregon, with additional duty as Public Works Officer. Detached in November 1942, he next had duty until June 1943 at the Naval Operating Base, Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and for ten months thereafter served at Headquarters, Alaskan Division of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, Seattle, Washington.
He reported in May 1944 to the Naval Air Training Center, Corpus Christi, Texas, and remained there throughout the latter period of World War II, being detached in October 1945. From January to August 1946 he served in the Public Works Department at the Naval Gun Factory, Washington, DC, with additional duty in the Public Works Office of the Potomac River Naval Command.
From August to October 1946 he was assigned to the staff of Commander Naval Air Training Bases, Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, Texas, then until January 1948 served on the staff of Commander Naval Air Basic Training. In February 1948 he was ordered to the Bureau of Yards and Docks, Navy Department, Washington, and in August of the same year was transferred to the Office of Industrial Relations, Navy Department. After two years there he was assigned from September 1950 until March 1951 to Headquarters Battalion, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia.
He was a member of the Naval Group, Joint Military Mission for Aid to Turkey, at Ankara, Turkey, from 30 March 1951 to 25 May 1953, and in August of that year reported for duty as District Civil Engineer, Eighth Naval District, New Orleans, Louisiana. He was hospitalized later that year at the Naval Hospital, Philadelphia, and on 1 April 1954, was retired for temporary physical disability.
Captain Zobel had the Naval Reserve Medal; the American Defense Service Medal; American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; and the National Defense Service Medal. He was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, The Society of American Military Engineers; and the US Naval Institute.
He passed away on 3 December 1987 in Charleston, SC and is buried in Magnolia Cemetery.