Dorsey Yearley, a decorated World War II B-24 aircraft pilot who flew in battles over the Pacific Ocean and was later a broker at the old Alex. Brown & Sons, died in his sleep of heart failure June 16 at Roland Park Place. The former Ruxton resident was 106.
His son, Graham Yearley, said his father was also a survivor of both the1918 influenza pandemic and the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
“Until he was 105 he retained his mental acuity,” his son said.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Roland Park, he was the son of Alexander Yearley, a patent attorney, and his wife, Helen Durant Church, a homemaker. His father died when he was in school and his grandfathers assisted in helping raise him and his siblings.
“He was the most family-oriented person I’ve ever known,” said Graham, a Ruxton resident. “He visited his younger siblings in their last years daily.”
Mr. Yearley attended Roland Park Public School and was a 1934 Baltimore Polytechnic Institute graduate. He was awarded a trustees scholarship to the Johns Hopkins University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in economics. He was a past president of the Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity.
Mr. Yearley, a Baltimore City 100-yard-dash track champion, also played varsity lacrosse and was named to the all-state team.
In 1937 he moved to New York City and worked in the financial industry at Morgan Guaranty Trust and the First Boston Corp. He traded stocks and bonds.
He enlisted in the 101st Cavalry of the New York National Guard before World War II. After the outbreak of the war he was commissioned a second lieutenant and underwent additional training at Craig Field in Selma, Alabama.
Mr. Yearley trained American, British, French and Chinese pilots to fly single-engine fighter planes.
After being promoted to captain in 1944, he was assigned to the 494th Bombardment Group. He was sent to the Pacific theater and flew combat missions in bombers over the Philippines.
“As a pilot of a B-24 bomber he flew 40 missions from a base in the Palau Islands against Japanese targets in the Philippines,”Graham said. “On his 31st mission, an engine exploded and caught fire over the Japanese-held island of Mindanao.
“The fire was extinguished, but the crew was unable to feather [stop] the propeller. The added drag caused by the windmilling of the propeller made it difficult to make air speed and the plane was forced to leave the formation.
“To keep the plane aloft, the bombs and auxiliary fuel tanks were jettisoned and the plane was stripped of its machine guns, armor plate and ball turret.
“The plane headed toward the Philippine island of Leyte where the only airstrip in American hands was located.
“After two hours the added strain on the remaining engines caused another engine to explode and catch fire. Unable to stop the fire, Capt. Yearley ordered the crew to bail out just as the plane reached Leyte,” his son said.
The 11 men on board landed in the jungle. Within a few days, all were rescued by Philippine residents who carried two of the injured airmen to safety.
“Capt. Yearley, unable to walk, was brought out on the back of a large water buffalo, a source of great amusement among the American soldiers when he arrived at the air base,” his son said.
All crew members later completed the required 40 missions. He survived a dead-stick landing in a fighter plane, two crash landings and the bailout over the jungle.
All of Mr. Yearley’s brothers served in the military during the war. The family home on Hawthorne Road carried a pennant with four service bars.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with seven Oak Leaf Clusters.
Mr. Yearley returned to Baltimore after the war and joined Alex. Brown, where he was named a partner in 1962. He was the brokerage’s expert on insurance securities and headed the firm’s retail sales and research department.
His son said his father handled the investments for individuals, churches, retirement communities and hospitals. He was a founding director and treasurer of the Fairhaven retirement community in Sykesville. He also served the Pickersgill Retirement Community as a financial adviser.
He retired in 1989.
Mr. Yearley was an active member of the Ruxton residential community and at one time served as a volunteer on the boards of the L’Hirondelle Club and the Ruxton Association and the vestry of the Church of the Good Shepherd.
“It was said you couldn’t accomplish much in Ruxton without sending my father a check,” his son said.
A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. July 14 at the Church of the Good Shepherd, 1401 Carrollton Ave. in Ruxton.
In addition to his son, Mr. Yearley is survived by his wife of 32 years, Laura Vogeler; two other sons, Alexander G. Yearley of Baltimore and M. Church Yearley of Lutherville; a daughter, Mallory Waterman of Marion, Massachusetts; five grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter. He had been married to the former Janet Grosset, who died in 2001, and while they divorced, they remained friends.