The 1941 movie entitled “Sergeant York,” starring Gary Cooper, depicts the life of Alvin York, the most decorated soldier in World War I. Born near Pall Mall, Tennessee in 1887 he romped through the hills of Tennessee learning to hunt to help put meat on the family table. He became an expert marksman, the best in his County.
Alvin, the third eldest of 11 children, following the death of his father, became the main support of the family. Well known for hard work at railroad construction and logging, he was also known to drink and brawl with the boys in town.
His mother a member of a pacifist protestant denomination, persuaded him to change his habits. He took her advice and became a born again Christian and was baptized in the Wolf River, near his home.
His new found religion opposed warfare and violence and encouraged him to follow the dictates of the Bible. At age 20 he was inducted into the United States Army. Alvin was opposed to war because the Bible said “killing was wrong.” However, he refused to request any exemption, for either religious beliefs or family responsibilities. After a struggle with his religion, his superior officers convinced him that the Bible also justifies war.
On October 8, 1918, four non-commissioned officers, Alvin York and 12 other privates were ordered to infiltrate behind German lines to secure positions along the
Decauville rail-lineChatel-Chehery, France. With his unit under heavy machine gun fire, some wounded or killed, Corporal York took a brave stand. Armed with a rifle and an automatic revolver, he almost single handedly, wiped out a German machine gun unit and forced 132 Germans to surrender. For this brave act Alvin C. York was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Medal of Honor citation
Text of Medal of Honor Citation: “After his platoon suffered heavy casualties and 3 other noncommissioned officers had become casualties, Cpl. York assumed command. Fearlessly leading 7 men, he charged with great daring a machine gun nest which was pouring deadly and incessant fire upon his platoon. In this heroic feat the machine gun nest was taken, together with 4 officers and 128 men and several guns.”
Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, WWI Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal, the French Croix de Guerre, the French Legion d’ honneur, Italian Croice di Guerra, and the Montenegrin War Medal.