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Yates Stirling, Jr.
Rear admiral, United States Navy

Yates Stirling, Jr.

Yates Stirling, Jr.
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Rear admiral, United States Navy
Was Sailor Military officer Soldier Officer Submariner
From United States of America
Field Military
Gender male
Birth 30 March 1872, Vallejo
Death 27 January 1948, Baltimore (aged 75 years)
The details (from wikipedia)


Yates Stirling, Jr. (April 30, 1872 – January 27, 1948) was a decorated and controversial Rear Admiral in the United States Navy whose 44-year career spanned from several years before the Spanish American War to the mid-1930s. He was awarded the Navy Cross and French Legion of Honor for distinguished service during World War One. The elder son of Rear Admiral Yates Stirling, he was an outspoken advocate of American sea power as a strong deterrent to war and to protect and promote international commerce. During Stirling's naval career and following retirement, he was a frequent lecturer, newspaper columnist and author of numerous books and articles, including his memoirs, Sea Duty: The Memoirs of a Fighting Admiral, published in 1939.

Early life and education

Naval Cadet Yates Stirling, Jr.

Yates Stirling, Jr. was born in Vallejo, California in 1872 to Lieutenant Commander Yates Stirling, Sr. (1843-1929) (United States Naval Academy Class of 1863) and his wife, Ellen Salisbury (née Hale) Stirling (1843-1929). At the time of Yates Jr.'s birth, his father was assigned to the USS Independence, receiving ship at Mare Island Naval Shipyard. From an established Maryland family, Stirling was a great-grandson of Thomas Yates (1740-1815), Captain, Fourth Battalion, Maryland Regulars during the American Revolutionary War. When he was about four, Stirling's family moved to Baltimore, Maryland the home of his father and grandfather. He was one of five children that survived to adulthood and the oldest of two boys, both of whom followed their father's footsteps to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. His younger brother, Commander Archibald G. Stirling (1884-1963) (United States Naval Academy Class of 1906) retired in 1933 but returned to active duty from 1942-45 during World War II. The Yates Stirling family was the second in U.S. Naval history to have father and son flag officers (rear admirals) living at the same time. The first were Rear Admirals Thomas O. Selfridge, Sr. and Jr.

As a boy living in Baltimore's upper west side, Stirling attended public schools where despite a professed dislike of physical combat, he had a reputation of being a fighter. While his father was at sea for as long as three years at a time, Stirling had a happy home life with a mother that instilled a love for reading and provided private teachers that enabled him to skip grades at school, though Stirling admitted he was not a good student. During his father's cruise absences, the family's only knowledge of his well-being came in bulky packets of letters arriving in bunches over long intervals that Stirling's mother, Ellen, would read aloud to her children. The exciting details of life on a warship- "gales, tropical coral reefs, savage people, hunting, and yellow fever"- influenced Stirling's desire for the naval life. But he saw that it was not without sacrifice. A younger brother was about three when Stirling's father left Baltimore for a long cruise. A few months later, the boy contracted diphtheria and died. Stirling's younger brother, Archie, was born shortly after that. Yates Stirling, Jr. wondered how his father must have felt when he returned home and saw a new son that was nearly the same age as the one he had lost.

Passed Naval Cadet Yates Stirling, Jr. (top row, second from left) with members of USNA Class of 1892, taken in 1894. Note the officer cap and collar insignia but without rank that designated passed naval cadets prior to commissioning as ensigns.

When Stirling was nearly fifteen, his father was given command of the old sloop-of-war USS Dale, the receiving ship at the Washington Navy Yard. CDR Stirling moved his family from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., where the family set up comfortable, but cramped living quarters on the Dale. Stirling was delighted with the change, and when he wasn't at school, enjoyed sailing on the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers in a boat that the Dale's sailors had rigged for him. Thrown in with the sons of naval officers at the Navy Yard, he soon realized that like himself, most aspired to naval careers. When Yates, Jr. was fifteen, his father had taken him to the White House for the purpose of meeting President Grover Cleveland and requesting an appointment to Annapolis for his son. Dressed in shorts, that Stirling later regretted wearing since they accentuated his youthful looks, he recalled Cleveland telling his father, "Why, Commander, your son looks too young to go to Annapolis this year. Maybe next, it will be possible. Shall I have his name put down for an appointment then?"

Although a Marylander, Stirling secured his appointment to the Naval Academy the following year from William Whiting, congressman from Massachusetts's 11th congressional district. Whiting was a family friend and Stirling's frequent ice-skating companion on the Potomac. Since no one from Whiting's district had sought an appointment that year, it could be filled by the Secretary of the Navy at the Congressman's request. Whiting wrote the Secretary and it was done. Stirling reported for examinations that he passed and entered Annapolis on September 6, 1888. Naval Cadet Stirling continued his less than stellar academic endeavors at Annapolis. "I lacked fundamental grounding in the various basic subjects, but, even worse, I had not formed the habit of close application and was much keener for games and pranks than for my studies. At times, however, things seemed easy enough, showing that after all my brain was sound but that it needed much disciplining."

Yates Stirling, Jr. (seated, upper left) with members of USNA Class of 1892.

During the three-month, first-class training cruise on the pre-Civil War sloop-of-war USS Constellation, before beginning his final academic year, Stirling and another cadet were ordered aloft during a severe squall to shorten sail and send down the topgallant and royal sail yards. "[s]queezing out tar on every handhold to prevent being blown out into space by the great force of the wind and the pressure of the solid sheets of rain", Stirling climbed up two vertical shrouds and Jacob's ladders to the top gallant yard, one-hundred and twenty feet above the deck. Succeeding in furling the sails and lowering the yards by "exerting every ounce of strength we could muster and while the gale was at its height", Stirling wrote in his memoirs forty years later, "The physical condition and the confidence acquired that enable you to hang, without batting an eye, by one hand in space with a yawning drop below you are things the modern sailor never attains. That sense of exaltation was well worth the price paid." Having been in the bottom third of his class during the first three years at Annapolis, in his final year of studies, Stirling found the courses more practical to the knowledge and skill he would need as a naval officer. Applying himself to ensure his standing would be high enough to be offered a commission, he improved his academic ranking that year and graduated from the United States Naval Academy on 3 June 1892, twenty-second in a class of forty.

Naval career

Early years

USS San Francisco, program of 4 July 1892 Independence Day festivities.

During the two years at sea then required of a naval cadet that had passed his academic studies before commissioning as an ensign, Stirling was first assigned to the protected cruiser USS San Francisco (C-5) that he and four other cadets joined in the Sandwich Islands, (as the Territory of Hawaii was also known) in July 1892. Seeing these exotic islands that he had heard about in his father's stories, despite the tropical setting Stirling was somewhat disappointed to find no "truly Hawaiian villages" and that "Hawaiian life even then had merged into Western civilization or Oriental." Observing the miscegenation of whites with the indigenous Hawaiians during the few weeks his ship was at Hawaii, he later wrote in his memoirs, "I found them most wholesome companions, although I had the feeling that I must be careful not to fall in love. It seemed strange to see a dignified white official surrounded by children with skins as dark as a mulatto." Stirling's nineteenth century ethnic and cultural beliefs aside, he noted the geopolitical undercurrents of the importance of Hawaii to the United States, Great Britain and Japan as each maintained a naval presence. "All three nations were watching each other to be sure no one would obtain advantage over another and become too powerful in Court circles. Hawaii was known to be an important strategical location with great commercial prospects. The United States would not have permitted any other nation to seize the Islands, yet at that time, the Administration in Washington, under President Cleveland, did not feel itself strong enough to take them for this country. Our method, therefore, was one of watchful waiting and maintaining friendly relations with the Hawaiian Queen (Liliuokalani) and her government." Japan's long-standing ambitions in the Pacific were driving a naval buildup for the First Sino-Japanese War two years later and eventually for war with the U.S., as Stirling would predict in articles and lectures in the 1930s and as others such as Homer Lea, had foretold as early as the first decade of the twentieth century.

San Francisco was relieved of duty in Hawaii in mid-August 1892 and set out for repairs at Mare Island. Following repairs, Stirling's ship joined a squadron of two other cruisers, USS Baltimore (C-3), USS Charleston (C-2) and a gunboat, USS Bennington (PG-4) bound for a large naval review at New York as part of the following year's (1893) Chicago World's Fair. At Acapulco Bay, Mexico, "celebrated for its man‑eating sharks", Stirling was visiting Charleston and accepted the challenge of the Catholic chaplain to swim off the anchored ship. "We donned our bathing trunks. The chaplain dove first off the gangway, and I followed him. When I struck the water, all the ghastly stories I had ever heard of sharks came into my mind. I swam swiftly back to the gangway, getting there just as (chaplain) Rainnie reached it. He said, breathlessly: 'I don't think we should put too much confidence in the Lord's being able to protect us from our own stupidity.'" Back aboard, the officer of the deck pointed out several black fins where Stirling had been swimming moments earlier. During the voyage around South America and through the Straits of Magellan, the ship made ports of call at Callao, Peru, Valparaiso, Chile and Montevideo, Uruguay to show the flag and cement generally good relations "where considerable American gold was spent" and where the local officials lavishly entertained the Admiral and officers.

San Francisco arrived at Hampton Roads, Virginia in February 1893 and with other U.S. and foreign ships, assembled for the naval review. "I was much impressed by the smartness and cleanliness of the British warships. No others seemed as well kept, with the exception of our own. The peculiarities of the French construction and arrangement came in for considerable attention. The appearance of their ships seemed almost grotesque. The Italian ships seemed to be modeled after the British. The discipline of the German tars caused much comment. It seemed so unnecessarily strict." Stirling transferred to the Charleston in October 1893, when the cruiser steamed south from Hampton Roads towards the Strait of Magellan and return to the Pacific Coast. Charleston anchored at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where it was ordered to protect American interests and shipping from disturbance during the Brazilian Naval Revolution that had erupted in September with Brazilian Admirals Custódio José de Melo and Saldanha Da Gama commanding a rebel force that included the formidable battleship Aquidaban, several cruisers, Republica, Tamandaré, Trajano, Guanbara and a few smaller frigates and gunboats blockading the port of Rio de Janeiro in a mutiny against the government of General Floriano Peixoto whose regime was recognized by the United States. When Charleston arrived, there was a British gunboat and two Portuguese cruisers in the harbor. Charleston's captain, Henry F. Picking, due to his rank, became senior of the foreign navies in port and by international custom was regarded as the leader in concerted actions. To determine whether the city could be bombarded by the rebel navy under the rules of war, it was necessary to determine whether the city was fortified. Picking ordered Stirling and Ensign H. E. Smith ashore to find out.

Foreign warships in Rio de Janeiro Harbor, seen from USS Charleston, which hosted a celebration on Thanksgiving Day, 1893.

Dressed as civilians to conceal their naval affiliation, the pair separated to reconnoiter the city. Smith was arrested and later released following intervention by the American consul. Posing as a tourist from one of the American schooners in the harbor, Stirling gained the confidence of several Brazilian soldiers who obliging showed him several "fairly large" concealed artillery emplacements. "They kept me for lunch, and we drank many toasts in some very fair brandy. They were so openly cordial and trusting that my conscience pricked me when, from memory, I sketched for Captain Picking the positions of the guns I had seen. The foreign captains then removed the ban on bombardment, notifying both sides that they considered the city was fortified and therefore not a defenseless city as the government had been claiming. The Brazilian Navy, however, never used its authority to bombard. I was glad of this, for the city was so beautiful and belonged to the navy as well as to its defenders."

Stirling later recounted, that while on Charleston, where he made numerous forays on the ship's steam launch into the harbor, "I was under more dangerous gunfire in Rio Harbor during that revolution than during the whole of the Spanish War". On one occasion as he prepared to return to ship on the steam launch from the marine arsenal quay, Stirling's curiosity got the better of him as he lingered to observe a skirmish between Brazilian troops and rebels on Villegagnon Island, location of the Brazilian Naval Academy. While Stirling was "foolishly exposing myself to stray bullets", a well-dressed man approached and introduced himself as a Brazilian naval officer and ordinance expert, just returned from England on a British merchant ship. The man told him that he would be shot if captured and implored Stirling to ferry him to Admiral de Gama at Enchades Island. Stirling had been to this small island in the center of the city many times before, delivering messages for Captain Picking. With little thought of the consequences to himself, and noting that "youth is ever romantic and trusting", Stirling bade the rebel, "'I cannot offer you asylum, but if you should get into my boat, I could not put you out.' " The man dove into the launch. Ordering the coxswain to steer in close to the seawall for the Brazilian to jump off, Stirling told his passenger, "A word to the wise is sufficient" and wished him good luck. The next day, as the new Brazilian cruiser Tamandaré began shelling the marine arsenal and the Nictheroy battery, the "enormity of [his] crime" dawned on Stirling. "I had given aid to a rebel. The rebel I had aided was now firing at the government my country recognized. I worried for a while afterward over this most unneutral service I had given, because, if it became known to our captain, he would have no other recourse than to order me before a court-martial. However, I have never regretted my action and have often wondered what became of my Brazilian. I did receive word from him once through one of our medical officers who had seen him on board the Tamandaré after an explosion on that vessel when we had sent medical aid."

As the months passed and the naval blockade of Rio harbor continued, Charleston was joined by other American cruisers, San Francisco, USS Newark (C-1), USS Detroit (C-10) and the armored cruiser USS New York (ACR-2), flagship of Rear Admiral Andrew E. K. Benham, who assumed command of the squadron from Captain Picking. In January 1894, the revolution ceased. After a leisurely cruise from Montevideo, Uruguay, Charleston arrived in San Francisco on 8 July 1894 to prepare for a return to the Asiatic Station. Promoted to ensign on 1 July 1894 upon his final graduation, Stirling next reported for duty on board USS New York on 16 August 1894. In 1896 and 1897, he served on the USS Thetis and the Fish Commission steamer USS Albatross. In 1898 and 1899 he was assigned to the USS Badger.

Stirling's first published fiction, a short story titled, The Battle off the Hook, appeared in the August 31, 1897 edition of Harper's Roundtable. A contemporary review described it as, "[a] vivid account by Ensign Yates Stirling, Jr. U.S.N. of a great sea fight off Sandy Hook, in which the United States fleet engages that of a first rate power. The date is tantalizingly vague, the identity of the enemy only hinted, but the issue of the battle is what every patriotic American boy will anticipate."

Spanish-American War

During the Spanish-American War in 1898, Stirling was attached to the converted gunboat USS Dolphin, which his father had commended a few years earlier. Stirling, along with Ensign William C. Cole, each commanded whaleboats that daily engaged in the difficult and dangerous clearing of Spanish mines from Guantánamo Bay. Dolphin's captain, Henry W Lyon later wrote of Stirling and Cole's small boat forays, "It was as plucky an enterprise as ever I witnessed. Day after day these young officers ventured close in shore within pistol shot of a defense chaparral, where Spaniards could have fired with certain aim upon them with impunity, yet they went about their work as unmindful of their peril as if demonstrating a problem in geometry in a classroom."

Philippine insurrection

During the native insurrection in the Philippines he commanded the gunboat USS Paragua, as a lieutenant from January 1900 to December 1900.

Inter-war years

Lieutenant Yates Stirling, Jr, about 1904.

On 23 February 1900 he joined the USS Celtic (AF-2), and on November 21 of the same year, reported for duty to his father, then a captain and the commandant of the Naval Station, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Following his father's promotion to rear admiral in June 1902, the elder Stirling was named commandant of the Puget Sound Navy Yard, where Yates, Jr. joined him shortly thereafter as an officer of the yard. The elder Stirling was commander-in-chief of the United States Asiatic Fleet from 11 July 1904 to 23 March 1905 before retiring from the Navy on 6 May 1905 at the mandatory age of 62. During the time he commanded the Asiatic Fleet, his flag was on the USS Wisconsin (BB-9) and Yates, Jr. served as his flag lieutenant. While he was with the Asiatic Fleet, Stirling also had staff duty on the USS Rainbow (AS-7). In mid-April 1905, Stirling, his father and their wives returned to the United States from Yokohama, Japan aboard the steamship S.S. Korea after the elder Stirling detached from command of the Asiatic Fleet. In 1905-1906, Stirling remained at sea in the USS Massachusetts (BB-2) and later, USS Indiana (BB-1). In the rank of Lieutenant Commander he reported on October 1, 1906 to the Naval Academy and while on duty there made a cruise on the USS Arkansas (BB-33) in the summer of 1907. Detached from the Naval Academy in June 1908 he next served on the USS Connecticut (BB-18), flagship of Admiral Charles S. Sperry Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet as gunnery officer. Stirling joined Connecticut, at San Francisco, where it was then en route as flagship of the Great White Fleet on a global circumnavigation. Following refit at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, the fleet stood out on the next leg of the voyage on 7 July, reaching Hawaii on 16 July. Sailing from Hawaii, the fleet made ports of call at Auckland, New Zealand; Sydney and Melbourne, Australia; Manila, Philippines; Yokohama, Japan; Colombo, Ceylon; arriving at Suez, Egypt, on 3 January 1909.

While the fleet was in Egypt, word was received of a severe earthquake in Sicily that presented an opportunity for the United States to show its friendship to Italy by offering aid to the survivors. Connecticut, Illinois, Culgoa, and Yankton were dispatched to Messina, Italy at once. Scorpion, the Fleet's station ship at Constantinople, and Celtic, a refrigerator ship fitted out in New York, were hurried to Messina, relieving Connecticut and Illinois, so that they could continue on the cruise. Leaving Messina on 9 January 1909 the fleet stopped at Naples, Italy, thence to Gibraltar, arriving at Hampton Roads on 22 February 1909. There President Roosevelt reviewed the fleet as it passed into the roadstead and delivered an address to Connecticut's officers and crew. Stirling detached from Connecticut in 1910.

The following year, he commanded the Eighth Torpedo Division, Atlantic Torpedo Fleet, his pennant in the USS Paulding (DD-22) which he also commanded as the plank owner captain. Promoted to commander in June 1912, over the following two years, after completing the course at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, he had duty on the staff. Later in 1912 he joined the USS Rhode Island (BB-17) as Executive Officer.

Submarine Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet and Submarine Base, New London

In 1914, Stirling assumed command of Submarine Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet, attached successively to the USS Ozark (BM-7) and USS Prairie (AD-5). In April 1914, he led a flotilla of torpedo boats into Mexican waters off Vera Cruz during the Tampico Affair. In April 1915, Stirling along with Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt and Admiral Bradley A. Fiske appeared before Congress concerning the deplorable condition of the Atlantic submarine fleet. Stirling testified that of the twelve submarines under his command outside of the Canal Zone, only one could get under way when the fleet was mobilized in November 1914 during World War I. From June 1915 until June 1916 he commanded the USS Columbia (C-12) and served additionally as Aide on the Staff of Commander Submarine Flotilla, Atlantic. Speaking before private groups, Stirling continued to raise the ire of Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels with statements criticizing the inadequate readiness of the Navy, "It is because the Navy has been the "ham bone" of politicians that the United States finds itself so unprepared on the seas. Aside from giving us ships and men we must get action from Congress that will let the Navy conduct its own affairs. We have had to take what they gave us- navy yards where we didn't want them, ships of a type we didn't need. During the last 10 years we have spent more money on our navy than Germany, yet the German navy is twice as large and twice as efficient." Stirling's critical outspokenness prompted the press to speculate, not if but when Daniels would order him court-martialed.

Next assigned as Commander of the newly established Submarine Flotilla, New London, Connecticut, he was also the first commander of the Submarine Base New London and the Submarine School during the period June 1916 until July 1917. In December 1916, "hydro-aeroplanes" were flown from the sub base to test their ability to spot submarines under water. Taking off from the Thames River, Stirling rode along in flights at 1000' altitude where the fliers were able to spot the boats submerged at depth of 30-40' in the harbor. Stirling had additional duty after the American entry into World War I in April 1917 commanding the USS Chicago (CA-14). During that time, he advocated for and eventually chaired a board on submarine design. Stirling was at ease with the press and had a good relationship with them throughout his long and outspoken public life. He was described by the New York Tribune in July 1917 near the end of his high-profile command of the New London submarine base and flotilla as "a fine specimen of the typical navy officer: tight lipped, kind eyed and keen faced [who] had nothing to say about the plans of the base, though willing to discuss the importance of the submarine." Stirling authored a comprehensive article on the modern history, design, operation, and strategic applications of the submarine and submersible for the United States Naval Institute Proceedings (magazine) in July 1917. Asserting that "In the past the instruments of sea power have consisted of surface ships. New instruments now exist-- the aircraft and the submarine. Air power can be overcome by superior air power. Undersea power can not be overcome by undersea power alone. To destroy this new power-- fast surface vessels and aircraft offer the best chance of success," Stirling maintained that, "The submarine is the weapon of the weaker belligerent. It constantly points a dagger at the heart of the stronger fleet; provided it actively enjoys its command of the sea."

World War I

He then fitted out and assumed command of the USS President Lincoln (1907) at her commissioning on 26 June 1917. Stirling detached from President Lincoln on 12 December 1917 and assumed command of USS  Von Steuben (Id. No. 3017), the ex-German raider, SS Kronprinz Wilhelm, on 20 December 1917. He was awarded the Navy Cross for World War I service and cited as follows: “For distinguished service In the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the USS PRESIDENT LINCOLN and the USS VON STEUBEN, engaged in the important, exacting and hazardous duty of transporting and escorting troops and supplies to European ports through waters infested with enemy submarines and mines.”

Post- war

In March 1919 he was ordered to duty in command of the USS Connecticut and in April of the next year was detached for duty as Captain of the Yard, Navy Yard, Philadelphia. While at Philadelphia, he received his Navy Cross in October 1920 that had been awarded him the previous year. In a 1921 letter to the Secretary of the Navy, during angry disagreements over technical flaws in the diesel systems supplied by Electric Boat, Stirling forcefully pointed out numerous design and reliability problems of the boats then in service, especially the new 800-ton S class. His comments sparked a tumultuous strategy, mission, and design debate that lasted for another decade, coming to a climax between 1928 and 1930 when then Commander Thomas Withers, Jr., Commanding Officer of Submarine Division Four, called repeatedly for an offensive strategy and solo tactics similar to those employed by the Imperial German Navy during World War I. He remained at Philadelphia for two years, then served from June 1922 until June 1924 as Commanding Officer the USS New Mexico (BB-40). On July 20, 1924, he became Captain of the Yard, Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., with additional duty as Assistant Superintendent of the Naval Gun Factory. In December 1926 he was designated Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, Navy Department, Washington, D.C.

Yangtze Patrol

Relieving Rear Admiral Henry H. Hough, Stirling commanded the Yangtze Patrol of the Asiatic Fleet from 5 December 1927 until May 1929 and upon his return to the United States, was appointed President of the Naval Examining Board, Navy Department.

Fourteenth Naval District, Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii

In September 1931 he was designated Commandant, Fourteenth Naval District, with additional duty as Commandant Naval Operating Base, Pearl Harbor, T.H. In 1932, the Massie Trial took place in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Hawaiian Islands were at the time part of the 14th Naval District, commanded by Stirling. Stirling's strong belief of the guilt of the five men charged with rape and assault was well-known, as was his displeasure at the result of a mistrial. "Our first inclination is to seize the brutes and string them up on the trees," though he later tempered this statement with "we must give the authorities a chance to carry out the law and not interfere," Later, he defended the actions of those involved in the events that led to the homicide of Joseph Kahahawai. In the 1986 made-for-television movie about the trial, Blood & Orchids, the name of the character representing Stirling was changed to Glenn Langdon.

Third Naval District, New York, NY

On June 30, 1933, he became Commandant, Third Naval District, Headquarters at New York, New York and of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He served in the latter capacity until May 1, 1936, when he was transferred to the Retired List of the U, S. Navy, having reached the statutory retirement age of sixty-four years.

Post Naval career

Admiral Stirling, self-styled "stormy petrol" of the Naval Service, devoted his energies after retirement to writing books, newspaper articles and lecturing. Outspoken and critical of naval policies and procedures as well as U. S. international policies, he had long urged a two- ocean Navy second to none. He published a controversial anti-Soviet article in 1935 while still on active duty that evoked a proclamation from the Secretary of the Navy that active duty naval officers were not to speak out on international policy. He urged U.S. intervention against Germany in 1939 and failing to interest the country, pleaded that the American people at least pray for a British-French victory. Just two days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Stirling wrote a prescient article wherein he laid out eight predicted Japanese strategic goals and concluded ultimate Japanese defeat, "To this naval observer, intimately familiar with the whole pattern of events in the Pacific--- military, political and economic-- for many years, the Japanese action appears suicidal. We may be in for a long and hard war, but the Japanese can not win. We are likely to suffer initial reverses but for them we will obtain a terrible vengeance."

During the war, Stirling penned scores of articles as a syndicated columnist expressing his opinions on war-time strategies and tactics, under the byline, "United Press Naval Critic" or "United Press Naval Analyst". When Stirling sought to return to active duty during World War Two, the Secretary of the Navy wrote back that there were no suitable positions for his experience. In 1942, he advocated building a fleet of small, wooden, V-bottom, 30-60' long craft, capable of 30 knots, with two machine guns and six depth charge racks, manned by 3 to 7 men, to patrol the 35,000 miles of U.S. coastline and protect shipping. In 1944 he wrote, "Why Sea Power Will Win the War, published in 1944.

Personal life

CAPT Yates Stirling, Jr.; RADM Yates Stirling, Sr.; MIDN Yates Stirling, III, about 1925

He married his wife, the former Adelaide Egbert, daughter of Brigadier General Harry C. Egbert, in 1903. They had five children. His eldest son, Yates Stirling, III became a captain in the Navy. His younger son, Harry, also served in the Navy and attained the rank of commander. He was a hereditary companion of the California Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States by right of his father's service in the American Civil War having been elected to membership while an ensign in 1899.


Rear Admiral Stirling died on January 27, 1948, after three months’ illness in Baltimore, Maryland, his home for many years, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He was survived by his wife, two sons, Captain Yates Stirling, III, USN (Ret.) of Norfolk, Virginia, and Commander Harry E. Stirling USN; and three daughters, Katharine (Mrs. William R. Ilk) of Los Angeles, California and Misses Ellen and Adelaide Stirling of Baltimore. Also surviving was his younger brother, Commander Archibald G. Stirllng, USN (Ret.) of Newport, Rhode Island.

Dates of rank

Navyacademylogo.jpg United States Naval Academy Passed Naval Cadet –June 3, 1892
Ensign Lieutenant Junior Grade Lieutenant Lieutenant Commander
O-1 O-2 O-3 O-4
US Navy O1 insignia.svg US Navy O2 insignia.svg US Navy O3 insignia.svg US Navy O4 insignia.svg
July 1, 1894 March 3, 1899 October 24, 1900 July 1, 1906
Commander Captain Commodore Rear Admiral
O-5 O-6 O-7 O-8
US Navy O5 insignia.svg US Navy O6 insignia.svg US Navy O7 insignia.svg US Navy O8 insignia.svg
June 7, 1912 August 10, 1917 Never Held October 6, 1926
  • Commodore – no longer a rank in the United States Navy, was previously reserved for wartime use and was not in use at the time of Stirling's promotion to Flag Rank in 1926. Currently, a Captain who is promoted to pay grade O-7 becomes a Rear Admiral (Lower Half) and uses the abbreviated rank designation RDML as opposed to RADM, which designates a Rear Admiral (Upper Half), O-8.
  • Stirling was promoted to Rear Admiral "lower half" in December 1926, with date of rank October 6, 1926. He was advance to Rear Admiral (upper half) on 1 June 1931.


Rear Admiral Yates Stirling, Jr. was awarded these decorations and service awards:

Bronze star
Bronze oak leaf cluster
1st Row Navy Cross Sampson Medal (USS Dolphin) Navy Spanish Campaign Medal
2nd Row Philippine Campaign Medal Mexican Service Medal World War I Victory Medal with Transport clasp
3rd Row French Legion of Honour, Grade Officer Venezuela Order of the Liberator, Grade Commander Order of the Crown of Italy, Grade Commander

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