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Tue Oct 8, 2019, 08:55 AM

101 Years Ago Today; Sgt Alvin York kills 28 German soldiers and captures 132, wins MoH

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvin_York


York in uniform, 1919

Alvin Cullum York (December 13, 1887 – September 2, 1964), also known as Sergeant York, was one of the most decorated United States Army soldiers of World War I. He received the Medal of Honor for leading an attack on a German machine gun nest, taking at least one machine gun, killing at least 25 enemy soldiers and capturing 132. York's Medal of Honor action occurred during the United States-led portion of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France, which was intended to breach the Hindenburg line and force the Germans to surrender. He earned decorations from several allied countries during WWI, including France, Italy and Montenegro.

York was born in rural Tennessee. His parents farmed, and his father worked as a blacksmith. The eleven York children had minimal schooling because they helped provide for the family, which included hunting, fishing, and working as laborers. After the death of his father, York assisted in caring for his younger siblings and found work as a logger and on construction crews. Despite being a regular churchgoer, York also drank heavily and was prone to fistfights. After a 1914 conversion experience, he vowed to improve and became even more devoted to the Church of Christ in Christian Union. York was drafted during World War I; he initially claimed conscientious objector status on the grounds that his religious denomination forbade violence. Persuaded that his religion was not incompatible with military service, York joined the 82nd Division as an infantry private and went to France in 1918.

In October 1918, as a newly-promoted corporal, York was one of a group of seventeen soldiers assigned to infiltrate German lines and silence a machine gun position. After the American patrol had captured a large group of enemy soldiers, German small arms fire killed six Americans and wounded three. York was the highest ranking of those still able to fight, so he took charge. While his men guarded the prisoners, York attacked the machine gun position, killing several German soldiers with his rifle before running out of ammunition. Six German soldiers charged him with bayonets, and York drew his pistol and killed all of them. The German officer responsible for the machine gun position had emptied his pistol while firing at York but failed to hit him. This officer then offered to surrender and York accepted. York and his men marched back to their unit's command post with more than 130 prisoners. York was immediately promoted to sergeant and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross; an investigation resulted in the upgrading of the award to the Medal of Honor. York's feat made him a national hero and international celebrity among allied nations.

After Armistice Day, a group of Tennessee businessmen purchased a farm for York, his new wife, and their growing family. He later formed a charitable foundation to improve educational opportunities for children in rural Tennessee. In the 1930s and 1940s, York worked as a project superintendent for the Civilian Conservation Corps and managed construction of the Byrd Lake reservoir at Cumberland Mountain State Park, after which he served for several years as park superintendent. A 1941 film about his World War I exploits, Sergeant York, was that year's highest-grossing film; Gary Cooper won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of York, and the film was credited with enhancing American morale as the US mobilized for action in World War II. In his later years, York was confined to bed by health problems. He died in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1964 and was buried at Wolf River Cemetery in his hometown of Pall Mall, Tennessee.

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Medal of Honor action


328th Infantry Regiment line of advance in capture of hill 223, October 7th, 1918, 82d Division, Argonne Forrest, France. (World War I Signal Corps Collection)

In an October 8, 1918, attack that occurred during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, York's battalion aimed to capture German positions near Hill 223 (49.28558°N 4.95242°E) along the Decauville rail-line north of Chatel-Chéhéry, France. His actions that day earned him the Medal of Honor. He later recalled:

The Germans got us, and they got us right smart. They just stopped us dead in our tracks. Their machine guns were up there on the heights overlooking us and well hidden, and we couldn't tell for certain where the terrible heavy fire was coming from ... And I'm telling you they were shooting straight. Our boys just went down like the long grass before the mowing machine at home. Our attack just faded out ... And there we were, lying down, about halfway across [the valley] and those German machine guns and big shells getting us hard.


Under the command of Sergeant Bernard Early, four non-commissioned officers, including recently promoted Corporal York, and thirteen privates were ordered to infiltrate the German lines to take out the machine guns. The group worked their way behind the Germans and overran the headquarters of a German unit, capturing a large group of German soldiers who were preparing a counter-attack against the U.S. troops. Early's men were contending with the prisoners when German machine gun fire suddenly peppered the area, killing six Americans and wounding three others. The loss of the nine killed and wounded put York in charge of the seven remaining U.S. soldiers. As his men remained under cover, guarding the prisoners, York worked his way into position to silence the German machine guns. York recalled:

And those machine guns were spitting fire and cutting down the undergrowth all around me something awful. And the Germans were yelling orders. You never heard such a racket in all of your life. I didn't have time to dodge behind a tree or dive into the brush... As soon as the machine guns opened fire on me, I began to exchange shots with them. There were over thirty of them in continuous action, and all I could do was touch the Germans off just as fast as I could. I was sharp shooting... All the time I kept yelling at them to come down. I didn't want to kill any more than I had to. But it was they or I. And I was giving them the best I had.



Sergeant Alvin C. York by Frank Schoonover, 1919

During the assault, six German soldiers in a trench near York charged him with fixed bayonets. York had fired all the rounds in his M1917 Enfield rifle, but drew his M1911 semi-automatic pistol and shot all six soldiers before they could reach him.

Imperial German Army First Lieutenant Paul Jürgen Vollmer, commanding the 120th Reserve Infantry Regiment's 1st battalion, emptied his pistol trying to kill York while he was contending with the machine guns. Failing to injure York, and seeing his mounting losses, he offered in English to surrender the unit to York, who accepted.

By the end of the engagement, York and his seven men marched 132 German prisoners back to the American lines. Upon returning to his unit, York reported to his brigade commander, Brigadier General Julian Robert Lindsey, who remarked: "Well York, I hear you have captured the whole German army." York replied: "No sir. I got only 132."

York's actions silenced the German machine guns and were responsible for enabling the 328th Infantry to renew its attack to capture the Decauville Railroad.

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Reply 101 Years Ago Today; Sgt Alvin York kills 28 German soldiers and captures 132, wins MoH (Original post)
Dennis Donovan Tuesday OP
Blue_Tires Tuesday #1
planetc Tuesday #2
quickesst Tuesday #3

Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Tue Oct 8, 2019, 09:31 AM

1. He also got Gary Cooper to play him in the movie...

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Response to Blue_Tires (Reply #1)

Tue Oct 8, 2019, 10:13 AM

2. And that was an inspired choice.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Tue Oct 8, 2019, 11:18 AM

3. I've got Sergeant York....

.... Recorded on my DVR right now. It is a must-watch every couple of years for me. Alvin York American Hero.

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