Alvin Cullum York is one of the most famous Tennessee war heroes ever. York was born in a two-room log cabin near Pall Mall, Tennessee, on December 13, 1887, the third of eleven children born to Mary Elizabeth Brooks (8 August 1866 – 21 May 1943) and William Uriah York (15 May 1863 – 17 November 1911). He was drafted into the U. S. Army in 1917. The next year, in the Battle of the Argonne Forest, he reportedly killed 25 Germans and captured 132 prisoners almost single handedly.
When he came home from the war, parades were held in Alvin York’s honor all over the country. York was constantly offered large amounts of money to make speeches or to endorse products. However he refused to accept money for speaking about the war or writing about it, because he thought it was wrong to profit from what he had done. “This uniform ain’t for sale,” he told someone once.
The Meuse-Argonne offensive — the last great push of the war [World War I] — began on Oct. 2, 1918. The dawn of Oct. 8 found Corporal York’s company on Hill 223 near Chatel Chehery, France, with the assignment of advancing on a railway two miles in front.
As the company moved across a valley and a stream toward the objective it was met by withering machine-gun fire. Most of the first wave was killed or injured, and 17 men in the second wave who were still fit for battle made a detour along the valley to get behind the German guns.
The commander was Sgt. Bernard J. Early of New Haven [Conn.]. Corporal York was the next-ranking man left. The detail picked its way through heavy underbrush and came up on the side of the machine-gun battalion.
“One of our men shot at them, and he sure started something,” the corporal recalled later. “They fired on us from every direction.” The burst killed or wounded 10 of the 17 men, including Sergeant Early.
Six of the remaining seven men took cover. Corporal York stayed put. “I sat right where I was, and it seemed to be that every machine gun the Germans had was shooting at me,” he said. “All this time, though, I was using my rifle, and they was beginning to feel the effect of it, because I was shootin’ pretty good.”
The corporal picked off 18 Germans with 18 shots. “Every time one of them raised his head, I jes’ teched him off,” was the way he put it. Seven more members of the German battalion, realizing they faced only one man, charged with bayonets. The corporal shot them with his pistol.
At this point the commander of the German troops surrendered. Corporal York collected his own men and marched the column back to his own lines. Along the way, several more groups surrendered. By the time he reached American territory the corporal had 132 prisoners in tow, including three officers. He had killed 25 — some said even more — and silenced 35 machine guns.
Note: Alvin C. York was promoted to Sergeant for his actions during the Meuse-Argonne offensive and received the Medal of Honor.
Some information for this article was obtained from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvin_C._York
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