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Remembering ‘Sergeant York’

I am in Nashville, Tennessee, this week doing interviews for the “BreakPoint” and “Listening In” podcasts. As we have been pushing around center Tennessee, we keep coming on a name critical in American history, but which sent me to the Internet for a refresher march in the life of one of the many conspicuous “common men” of the 20th century. That name is Alvin C. York.

Alvin Cullum York, also famous as “Sergeant York,” was innate in this partial of Tennessee in 1887. Despite unchanging church attendance, York grew up to be a rowdy, combative immature man, disposed to complicated drinking. However, in 1914 he gave his life to Christ and became some-more active in church, a tiny description with Wesleyan roots called the Church of Christ in Christian Union. (Motivational orator and author John Maxwell also grew up in this denomination.)

York was drafted into World War I, despite being scarcely 30 years old. At first, he claimed responsible agitator status, but after a deteriorate of acid his own demur and the Scriptures, he resolved that he could honorably offer in the military. The U.S. Army shipped him off to France in 1918, and on Oct. 8, accurately 99 years ago this week, York participated in a section that changed his life, and became a partial of the American Myth.

York’s section had taken complicated casualties from a German appurtenance gun position, so York and 16 other soldiers got a tough assignment: Infiltrate the rivalry line and vacate that appurtenance gun. The tiny section immediately encountered resistance. Six Americans died in an initial gunfight, with 3 some-more wounded. York, then a new corporal, was unexpected the top ranking robust soldier. He systematic his men to ensure prisoners they had taken in that first gunfight, and he pounded the appurtenance gun position. When York ran out of purloin ammunition, he pulled out a semi-automatic pistol and continued fighting at German soldiers who had bound bayonets for a charge against York. The German major in charge of the appurtenance gun nest saw his waste and suspicion he was up against a much incomparable force, so he surrendered his position to Corporal York. In the end, York took the appurtenance gun nest, along with 132 prisoners: 4 officers and 128 enlisted men.

News of York’s attainment quick spread, and the medals poured in immediately, including the Distinguished Service Cross, America’s second-highest fight medal. York’s commanders sought to have that endowment upgraded to the Medal of Honor, and that recognition happened quick too (at slightest by the standards of such processes).


York became an general luminary for his heroism, but also for his homespun appearance and common eremite faith. Read, for example, this mention from his journal, widely circulated in the issue of York’s heroics:

And those appurtenance guns were spitting fire and slicing down the undergrowth all around me something awful. And the Germans were yelling orders. You never listened such a pole in all of your life. we didn’t have time to evasion behind a tree or dive into the brush . . . As shortly as the appurtenance guns non-stop fire on me, we began to sell shots with them. There were over thirty of them in continual action, and all we could do was hold the Germans off just as quick as we could. we was pointy shooting. . . . All the time we kept yelling at them to come down. we didn’t wish to kill any some-more than we had to. But it was they or I. And we was giving them the best we had.

Two exchanges between York and his autocratic officer perceived widespread attention. Immediately on returning with his prisoners, General Julian R. Lindsey summoned York, and said, “Well York, we hear you have prisoner the whole damn German army.” York replied, “No sir. we got only 132.”

The movement was so remarkable, and a Medal of Honor endowment so rare, that a after exploration into the occurrence brought Lindsey and York together a second time, in 1919. General Lindsey asked York how he could presumably have achieved such a feat.

York answered: “A aloft energy than man guided and watched over me and told me what to do.”

To which Lindsey replied, “York, you are right.”

I wish to be clever not to paint a “happily ever after” picture of York, or to worship war. Alvin York had financial and other struggles after the war. Critics pronounced some of his “homespun” utterances incited out to be the work of ghostwriters. In short, York was human.

But he lived a good life, for all that. A week after York returned home from Europe, he married his beloved Gracie Loretta, to whom he remained married until his death in 1964. Some of his financial problems came since he refused to take income for product endorsements, offers that would have done him a rich man. He refused to concede Hollywood to spin his life into a film until 1940. By then, universe fight had once again broken out, and Hollywood and supervision officials told him a film would assist the fight effort. Also, York wanted to financial an undenominational Bible school. For all these reasons, York concluded to concur with the making of the film. The ensuing film perceived 11 Academy Award nominations, and won Gary Cooper an Oscar for Best Actor. York’s gain from the film, about $150,000, helped start that Bible college.

Today, a outrageous statue of York adorns the Tennessee state capitol grounds. The plantation he shared with Gracie Loretta and his eight children after returning from World War we is now a state park. Other reminders of York dot 20th-century informative history. Among them: The riderless equine at President Ronald Reagan’s wake was named “Sgt. York.”

But maybe the many engaging description of York came from one of my favorite writers, Robert Penn Warren. In Warren’s 1943 novel “At Heaven’s Gate,” a impression patterned after York comes home from World War we to a successful career as a politician and banker. He is an honest and decent man, but others feat him. A major thesis of the novel is the dispute between such normal values as valor, honor, and piety and the cynical, self-promoting tendencies of the Modern Man.

Said another way: Alvin York’s life and bequest have much to learn us about the benefaction age, as well.

Image pleasantness of Wikipedia.

Warren Cole Smith is an inquisitive publisher and author as good as the Colson Center clamp boss for goal advancement.

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