Early Life

Joining the Merchant Marine

Boot Camp

First Voyage

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Reflections

Annotation

David Yoho was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in August 1928 and grew up in the inner city. He had two sisters. Yoho lived with his parents until he was 16 years old. His mother was a housewife and his father drove a delivery truck when he had employment. The Great Depression resulted in 27 percent unemployment and his father was one of them. Rent for their home was seven dollars per month. Hand me downs were a way of life. His father would not take social assistance. Yoho and his sisters attended schools during this time. There were no lunches provided by schools. Torn clothing was worn by some pupils and that was looked on as a shameful thing. Yoho’s parents did the best they could. His home was 14 foot wide and 26 foot long. Neighbors helped each other emotionally and that helped them get through the depression. His father only had one brother and they sometimes did not speak to each other. Following the news of the war prior to America’s entry was encouraged in school. It was not the topic of conversation at home but keeping up with the newspaper was used to developed reading and social skills in school. Yoho’s father did get the Sunday papers but the youngsters were mainly interested with the funny papers. Yoho was 13 years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Most people did not know where Pearl Harbor was. The war was also viewed through War Cards that came with bubble gum. Called the Horrors of War, the cards showed the major external wartime events such as the Japanese invasion of China, the Rape of Nanking, and the Italian invasion of Ethiopia were highlighted on these small cards. The war over there seemed similar to the fighting the United States did in World War 1. President Franklin Roosevelt’s radio messages gave Americans an image of what was going on worldwide. Otherwise, the attack on Pearl Harbor did not seem to relate to the young people. It was not until the newsboys hawked the news and loud speakers announced the war declaration. Prior to World War 2 the draft was enacted. America was not prepared for the war. With the struggle to make ends meet during the depression, the commencement of the war did not have an immediate impact on Yoho. He was busy making money to support himself at the time. The Yoho family began to see young neighborhood men leaving for the service. That was the way the impact of the war was first felt. Yoho would work on farms near his grandparents in order to earn money. After that, he was inventive about earning money. He earned enough to help his sisters along the way. 

Annotation

As a 13 year old, David Yoho did not have friends of draft age. He did keep company with older boys and took on a tough attitude. He found ways to get jobs to replace the older boys who were going into the service. At 14 years old, he took a job with the National Biscuit Company. He had working papers that allowed him to work. He did, on occasion, get into trouble. He was placed on jobs that required hard work. Yoho could move 100 pound bags of flour at age 13. He developed physically and in character. When he saw his friends going into the service, Yoho decided he wanted to enlist. He tried at 14 years old but was told he was too young. He faked a birth certificate but it was not accepted. In a population of 130 million people in the United States, 16 million people would serve in the armed forces. There was a desire to get back at the enemy and there was also an allure of the uniform. Girls liked the uniforms so Yoho decided that that was for him. He decided to go into the U.S. Maritime Service [Annotator’s Note:  the US Maritime Service was also known as the U.S. Merchant Marine] which was formed by President Roosevelt in 1938. It was to provide merchant ships to transport goods to the war front. Patriotism was high during this period. People like Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable went into the service [Annotator’s Note:  James Stewart and Clark Gable were well known movie actors at the height of their careers when they volunteered for service. Stewart eventually attained the rank of Major General in the United States Air Force Reserve.]. Many young people felt eager to join the service. The reality of what the service meant only caught up with the individual when he was in a combat zone. Yoho was excited to serve. He had no opportunity to choose where he was going. He was 15 and knew very little about the enemy. At this point, he knew little about where Japan was located. Okinawa would have been even less known.

Annotation

When David Yoho went through boot camp, it was great except for his troubled background. He kept getting into trouble but overcame that by virtue of his ability to quickly learn new assignments. As a youth, Yoho seemed to always be running away from control by others. After enlisting, he went to Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, New York for his training. He had never been to New York before or anywhere far from home. The great story of World War 2 was that the United States fought on five continents. The women who were in the WASPs [Annotator’s Note:  Women Air Force Service Pilots] were veterans of the war. People worked together because it was serious business. Yoho was a street fighter from Philadelphia. At Sheepshead Bay he learned that he could not get away with rowdiness when he was brought before a court martial. He was assigned to be in the amateur boxing squad. That assignment saved his life. Jack Dempsey was an instructor for the squad. Dempsey was a famous boxer of the time. Being able to interact with people of that caliber helped Yoho turn his life around. In boot camp, Yoho decided he wanted to be a part of the engine room crew. It was dangerous and adventurous so he wanted to do that assignment. The first ship he was assigned to was a tanker and his duty station was well below waterline. It suddenly hit him that he would never get out of the ship if it was attacked by the enemy. Yoho does not like to be considered a hero. The real heroes are those who were killed in the line of duty. The Murmansk Run to Russia to bring war supplies had 33 ships in convoy with the loss of 11. Those men who were killed outright or died of hypothermia never had a chance. [Annotator’s Note:  Yoho is likely referring to convoy PQ17 which steamed to Murmansk in July 1942. That convoy consisted of 35 ships of which 11 were lost. German U-boats and commerce raiders, including aircraft, were the nemesis of the merchant marine convoys.]

Annotation

David Yoho had his first voyage on a tanker shakedown trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia. After the shakedown, the ship went to Philadelphia for degaussing, installation of radar, and to load up the armed crews who would defend the ship. [Annotator’s Note:  degaussing is a method of demagnetizing vessels in defense against magnetic seaborne mines. The armed crews Yoho mentions were members of the U.S. Navy Armed Guard who manned defensive weapons onboard merchant vessels.] Yoho began to assimilate himself into the military. It changed the pattern of his life. He had duty in the engine room for four hours and then he was off for eight hours. After a time, a person adjusts to it. He went through the Panama Canal and was amazed by it. From the Canal, he went to Ulithi in a modern tanker fully loaded with Bunker C  [Annotator’s Note: Bunker C fuel oil was the standard fuel used by U.S. naval vessels during World War 2]. The tanker was capable of fueling other vessels. At Ulithi, convoys were formed to go other directions. There was little free time on the tanker initially because of the adjustments needed to the work schedule with the four hours on duty and eight hours off duty. Yoho was a fireman water tender on the tanker. He had to keep the boilers fed with fuel, maintain the water level, and keep the burners clean. After relief, he had eight hours off but he had to be awake at least half hour before his next shift started. As time went on, he would spar under the aft five inch, 38 caliber gun tub. He would also work out there with homemade weights. The USO [Annotators Note: United Service Organization] put up a library in the ship. Yoho studied the dictionary. Every week, he would learn three new words and put them in his vocabulary. When he went ashore, he would box. At Ulithi, the low combat or non combat ships would be surrounded by destroyers and destroyer escorts to protect them while in convoy. The cargo Liberty ships and tankers like Yoho’s T-2 tanker were war emergency ships for the war effort. They formed the nucleus of the convoy that was protected by the destroyers. The Liberty ship could only go nine knots while the T-2 tankers could make eighteen miles at flank speed. The life of a seaman was easier than that of the common soldier. Amphibious invasions were very difficult [Annotator’s Note: Yoho becomes emotional when he talks of the veterans of World War 2]. Yoho is concerned that the youth of today are not taught the real meaning of what people did in the Second World War. When Yoho returned home, he had malaria and post traumatic stress. Normal sleep routine was not possible. The National World War II Museum has to continue to tell the story since the mortality rate is high for World War 2 veterans.

Annotation

David Yoho remembers the huge fleet off Okinawa and the explosion of an ammunition ship. It had been attacked by a Japanese kamikaze airplane. The pilots were inexperienced but intensely devoted to Japan. It was difficult for them to hit a moving ship but the ammunition ship was hit and exploded. Many American ships were firing at the kamikaze attack airplanes so it was often impossible to tell who actually destroyed the attackers. Yoho describes battlefield conditions and home front production successes during the war. He also describes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder conditions brought on by war. Yoho describes himself as a grain of sand in the effort to defeat the Axis. He had a friend in the navy who was in demolition and sabotage who could not adjust to returning home. He was placed in a homicidal ward and was heavily medicated as a result. The youth of the country gave away their youth and their dreams. Yoho had problems adjusting to society when he returned. He had to find a way to control himself both in civilian and military life. His internal clock was interrupted because he lived in an abnormal world during the war. This happened to other veterans as well. He is thankful to God for all of his experiences including his military service.

Annotation

David Yoho was on a fleet oiler in World War 2. The ship took on fuel sometimes from a fuel barge in order to refuel other ships. After transferring the fuel to other ships, the oiler would return to the barges where it would take on more fuel and repeat the cycle. The replenishment point was the staging area at the atoll of Ulithi. The fleet oiler also transported military vehicles on its top deck. When they left the Panama Canal, it took 25 days to reach the war zone. They were unescorted until reaching the staging areas. During that voyage, the ship was vulnerable to submarine attack. Yoho took psychology courses when he returned home in order to ascertain why he acted the way he did. He learned that actions demanded by warfare are the antithesis of what is expected in society. He did not qualify for the GI Bill but he is not disappointed with his fortune in life. Yoho did well in life, but many veterans cannot claim the same. Yoho’s most vivid memory of World War 2 was when an officer described to him how the atomic bombs destroyed the two Japanese cities. He felt it could not be possible. There were huge numbers of casualties on Iwo Jima in order to reach a bombing base closer to Japan. World War 2 matured Yoho rapidly. He is sad that some veterans are not as well off physically and financially as he is. He feels that his generation sacrificed their youth in the war. To Yoho, capturing the voices of the war is an important aspect of what The National World War II Museum accomplishes.

All oral histories featured on this site are available to license. The videos will be delivered via mail as Hi Definition video on DVD/DVDs or via file transfer. You will be purchasing the oral history in its entirety but will be free to use only specific clips. Please contact the Museum at digitalcollections@nationalww2museum.org if you are interested in licensing this content. Please allow up to two weeks for file delivery or delivery of the DVD to your postal address. See more information at http://ww2online.org/faqs.