Ranger Steve P. Yambor – 1D
Written by Alex “Swoose” Worth, Former C.O. F Company, 1st Bn. on March 17, 1987.
I was stunned to read the notice of the death of my friend and former compatriot, Steve Yambor, in the March 1987 issue of Ranger News. I have the very high honor of being Company Commander, F Company, 1st Bn during the time of the Sicilian Campaign and at Salerno and Naples. Any success enjoyed by F Company during this time can be attributed to “a few good men” among whom were two sergeants who were acting Platoon leaders at the time. They were Steve Yambor and John Van Skoy. Other of Steve’s friends from that time may appreciate a recount of his actions on the night of July 1943, during the invasion of Gela, Sicily, which earned him the Silver Star and eventually contributed to his qualification for a battlefield promotion to 2nd Lieut.
Everyone present at the time will remember clamoring down those rope nets into the bobbing assault craft below, forming up into lines abreast for the race to that hostile shore 2/3 miles away, the batteries of searchlights reaching out towards us as our assault boats approached the beach, the machine gun fire from fortified emplacement there, the mortar fire which made a direct hit on one of our assault craft nearby, the thrill of seeing and hearing our own devastating rocket fire directed at the jetty which extended far out from the beach itself, the fire from heavy shore batteries directed at the convoy, the returning counter fire from our naval support vessels and the great relief when, as a result, the enemy’s search lights were extinguished just before we touched shore.
Our objective was to eliminate two fortified machine gun emplacements in our company sector and then advance up the slope upon which Gela was situated, then through the town to establish defensive positions north of the town, Van Skoy’s platoon had the right-hand gun position and Yambor’s the one on the left. The one on the right was down at beach level and was quickly overrun and captured. The left hand position was more difficult. The gun was positioned inside a thick, dome shaped, concrete pill box in an elevated position about halfway up the slope with narrow gun slits in front and I think, on each side. That gun had us pinned down so that we could not advance. Sgt. Smith (bazooka man) and I moved over behind a large mound of manure on the beach which was directly in front of the pill box, having the thought in mind to try to lob a round into the slit (practically impossible at 50 feet). Just as we got into position, our second wave approached from the sea and began firing directly into us. I can’t vouch for Smith’s actions at this unexpected turn of events, but without hesitation, I burrowed into the manure pile. When the fire lifted somewhat, we again began to get into position for a possible hit on the enemy position. At this point, Van Skoy, having accomplished his mission ran over to me saying, “Don’t fire the bazooka, Yambor is going up there now”. I couldn’t believe my ears. Here in the middle of all this commotion, enemy fire from the front, friendly fire from the rear and plenty of firing seemingly from all directions, the question to me was, “How could he possibly make it alive.” Almost at once we had the answer, tremendous explosion came from inside the pill box, to our great relief the firing stopped. Then another grenade explosion for good measure.
Then a figure rose up beside the destroyed gun position. Steve Yambor waved us forward and we moved safely to our defensive positions without further resistance. That picture is indelibly imprinted in my mind; that figure, alone, dark silhouette against the breaking dawn sky, beckoning us forward. He wasn’t acting on orders. He just saw a job that needed to be done and without hesitation, on instinct, went forward to do it at the risk of his life. As we moved forward he merged in with us without ever any word or sign that he expected recognition for performing what I though was especially heroic act.
The Rangers lost another brave soldier. So long old friend – may you always rest in peace in God’s care.