CHATEL, France. (September 28, 2022): It is hard to believe that one of our nation’s greatest heroes during World War I started out as a conscientious objector, refusing to fight as a matter of moral principle. Yet Sergeant Alvin York of the 82nd Infantry Division initially objected to serving in the Army, yet he would become one of the most famous American soldiers in history, and the subject of books and movies still celebrated today.
Known as the “All American” Division, York was part of the American Expeditionary Forces sent to fight against the German Imperial Army in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, France during World War I. Sgt. York (Corporal at the time) was assigned to G Company, 328th Infantry Regiment of what would later become the 82nd Airborne Division and was on patrol with his battalion on October 8, 1918, when they ran into a German unit. After a brief firefight, York and his comrades captured the 5 enemy soldiers but not before they called out for help. An enemy machine gun mowed down nine Americans , including all the sergeants.
Corporal York took command.
As the survivors returned fire, York took on the machine gun singlehandedly. A hunter back home, York worked his way towards the machine gun nest but before he could reach it he was rushed by a group of German soldiers. York defeated his attackers and eliminated the machine gun nest. The German commander decided to surrender rather than lose more men and York and his band bagged 132 German prisoners that day making it safely back to the American line.
York’s bravery shattered the Germans, triggering a retreat from the Argonne Forest that saved his battalion from defeat.
For his heroism, York was awarded the Medal of Honor and several other U.S., French and Italian decorations. Authorized by Congress in 1863, the Medal of Honor is given to members of the armed forces for “gallantry and bravery in combat at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.” Some 126 Medals of Honor were awarded for actions performed during World War I.
His exploits were later celebrated in his autobiography, Sergeant York, His Own Life Story, and War Diary (T. Skeyhill) published in 1928 which was made into the Movie Sgt. York in 1941. After the war, York returned to his farm in Tennessee where he established a youth Bible school.
It is difficult not to feel a sense of pride reading about the selfless bravery of such men. At Support Our Troops, our mission is to support our active-duty, deployed military by providing comfort items they would not ordinarily enjoy and to provide recreational activities at bases around the world.
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