A Gentleman and a Rogue

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veterans Day: Thank a Vet #veteransday

Sgt. Alvin C. York, WWI



In honor of Veterans Day, I thought I'd share the story of Alvin c. York, a World War I veteran who became one of the most decorated soldiers of World War I.

York was born in the hills of Tennessee in December 1887. He was the 3rd of 11 kids. Poor to the bone, the Yorks grew their own food. Alvin's mom knitted their clothes, and Alvin's dad worked as a blacksmith to supplement their income. The family hunted small game as well, which probably helped developed Alvin's extraordinary sharpshooting skills.

In 1911, Alvin's father died. Alvin went to work at the railroad to support his family. He also earned a reputation as a violent alcoholic. In June 1917, he registered for the draft. (as all young men had to) There's some controversy round him asking for conscientious objector status, but in his diary he stated he never asked for conscientious objector status. (His mother was a known and passionate pacifist, so I bet that had something to do with it.)

In October 1918, near Chatel-Chehery, France, Alvin earned the Medal of Honor. As a Corporal, York and his unit of men, roughly 15 total, snuck behind a heavily fortified German position. Half were killed. Under heavy machine gun fire, York and his squad fired back. 6 German soldiers in a nearby trench changed him with fixed bayonets. York shot and killed them all with his .45 Colt automatic pistol. As the losses mounted for the Germans, 1st Lieutenant Paul Vollmer surrendered to York. York and his squad of 7 men marched 132 German prisoners back to American lines.

General John J. Pershing presented York with his medal of honor and he was promoted to Sergeant. Alvin received approximately 50 military decorations for his service in World War I.

Upon his return to the States, York's bravery made the headlines. He received tours of New York City and Washington DC. When he entered the US House of Representatives, they gave him a standing ovation.

In June 1919, York got married. He's a busy bee and has 8 children: Woodrow Wilson, Sam Houston, Andrew Jackson, Betsy Ross, and Thomas Jefferson just to name a few. He died in September 1964 after a series of health related problems. He'd gained weight and was plagued with strokes.

His story was told by Hollywood in 1941. The movie was called "Sergeant York," and it was based on the diary Alvin kept during World War I. Gary Cooper won an academy award for his role in the movie.

Who are your military heroes? I'd love to hear your stories. Thank a Veteran today. It means a lot to them. 

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