The idea for the magazine came from Egbert White, who had worked on the newspaper Stars and Stripes during World War I. He proposed the idea to the Army in early 1942, and accepted a commission as lieutenant colonel. White was the overall commander, Major Franklin S. Forsberg was the business manager and Major Hartzell Spence was the first editor. White was removed from the Yank staff because of disagreements about articles which had appeared. Soon afterward, Spence was also assigned to other duties and Joe McCarthy became the editor.
The first issue was published with the cover date of June 17 1942. The magazine was written by enlisted rank (EM) soldiers with a few officers as managers, and initially was made available only to the US Army overseas. By the fifth issue of July 15 1942, it was made available to serving members within the US, however it was never made available on the newsstands for public purchase. YANK's circulation exceeded 2.5 million in 41 countries with 21 editions. The last issue was published on December 28 1945. Joe McCarthy remained the editor of Yank until the official closure of the office on New Year's Eve 1945.
In 2014, the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas, revived Yank as the official publication for the brigade. Each cover of the 1/1 Yank features Soldiers from the brigade recreating a cover photo from the original Yank magazine.