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Meet the American who inspired the nation in two world wars: Christian soldier Sgt. Alvin York!!!

Meet the American who inspired the nation in two world wars: Christian soldier Sgt. Alvin York

Tennessee backwoodsman sought exemption from WWI as conscientious objector, battlefield heroics astounded Europe’s toughest soldiers

Sergeant Alvin York was a reluctant Christian soldier.

Yet the battlefield heroics of the born-again backwoodsman and Tennessee sharpshooterastounded even the most hardened soldiers of World War I.

“What you did was the greatest thing accomplished by any private soldier of all the armies of Europe,” he was reportedly told by French military hero Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the commander of Allied forces in the Great War.

York’s actions, for which he earned the Medal of Honor, still astound Americans today.

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Leading seven men behind enemy lines — the remnants of a U.S. Army platoon slaughtered in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive on Oct. 8, 1918 — York killed an estimated 20 Germans, took 132 prisoners and silenced as many 25 machine guns.

He brazenly marched his captors past enemy trenches back to American lines.

Full-length portrait of Sergeant Alvin C. York (1887-1964), of the 328th Infantry Regiment, who with the aid of 17 men captured 132 German prisoners and became one of the most decorated American soldiers of World War I, near Cornay, France, February 1919. The location of the photo shows the hill upon which the raid took place. 

Full-length portrait of Sergeant Alvin C. York (1887-1964), of the 328th Infantry Regiment, who with the aid of 17 men captured 132 German prisoners and became one of the most decorated American soldiers of World War I, near Cornay, France, February 1919. The location of the photo shows the hill upon which the raid took place.  (Photo by Interim Archives/Getty Images)

Sergeant York earned the acclaim of the nation.

Yet he suffered a personal battle much of his life, fearing condemnation in the eyes of God for taking the lives of other human beings.

Young Alvin York “lived a life of drinking and gambling and smoking,” his grandson, retired U.S. Army Colonel Gerald York, told Fox News.

“His fortunes changed when he gave his life to Christ” around 1915.

“I wanted to be a good Christian and a good American too.” — Sergeant Alvin York

York first refused to fight when the United States entered World War I in 1917. He filed as a conscientious objector, but ultimately submitted to Uncle Sam.

His World War I heroics inspired the World War II generation.

The movie version of his life, “Sergeant York,” starring Gary Cooper, hit the silver screen in 1941.

It earned 11 Academy Award nominations and two Oscar wins, including Best Actor for Cooper, and was the top-grossing movie of the year.

“Sergeant York” was being shown in theaters on Dec. 7 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, launching America into World War II.

Marshall Ferdinand Foch of France at his desk. The commander of all Allied forces in World War I said U.S. Army Sgt. Alvin York's heroic capture of 132 Germans "was the greatest thing accomplished by any private soldier of all the armies of Europe."

Marshall Ferdinand Foch of France at his desk. The commander of all Allied forces in World War I said U.S. Army Sgt. Alvin York’s heroic capture of 132 Germans “was the greatest thing accomplished by any private soldier of all the armies of Europe.” (Getty Images)

“There were numerous reports of young men leaving movie theaters and going to enlist, so fervent was their patriotism,” reported the Knoxville Focus.

York may have doubted his deadly actions — but never his patriotism. Among his eight children: Woodrow Wilson, Sam Houston, Andrew Jackson, Betsy Ross and Thomas Jefferson York

“He was just daddy to me,” daughter Betsy Ross York, now 89 and a resident of Bowling Green, Kentucky, told Fox News Digital.

“He never did talk about the war, and we didn’t ever ask him.”

Born in backwood poverty

Alvin Cullum York was born in Pall Mall, Tennessee, on Dec. 13, 1887, to William and Mary (Brooks) York.

“The Yorks struggled in poverty, which only worsened when York’s father died in 1911,” writes the National Museum of the Army.

Sergeant York, poster, Gary Cooper on a "Style A" half-sheet poster, 1941. 

Sergeant York, poster, Gary Cooper on a “Style A” half-sheet poster, 1941.  (Photo by LMPC via Getty Images)

“York only had nine months of schooling but had gained a variety of skills exploring and hunting for game in the mountains of Tennessee. York became a skilled marksman and continued to work jobs around Pall Mall to support his family.”

He became a member as an elder at the Church of Christ in Christian Union following his awakening, adopting pacifism.

“He told producers that he felt like he was struck by lightning when he found Christ.”

The movie shows York’s conversion come as he was nearly struck by lightning. But that was Hollywood’s dramatization of the event.

“He told producers that he felt like he was struck by lightning when he found Christ,” grandson Gerald York said.

The future Sergeant York was of fighting age — 29 — when the U.S. entered World War I.

Preview of film “Sergeant York” at Knickerbocker Theatre, Nashville, Tennessee, July 1941. Front row, left to right: Joe Oehmig, Gov. Prentice Cooper, Mrs. Gracie York, Sergeant Alvin York, Mayor Thomas L. Cummings.  (Courtesy Sergeant York Patriotic Foundation)

“My religion and my experience … told me not to go to war, and the memory of my ancestors … told me to get my gun and go fight,” York wrote of his inner conflict.

“I wanted to be a good Christian and a good American, too. I was not a Sunday Christian. I believed in the Bible, and I tried in my own way to live up to it.”

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Uncle Sam gave him little choice.

Alvin C. York, who had rarely if ever left his little corner of heaven in rural Tennessee, shipped off across the ocean for hell.

Mowed down like blades of grass

York entered the war in France as a member of the 82nd Division — which become the 82nd Airborne Division of paratroopers. They rose to fame jumping into Normandy in World War II.

He awoke on the morning of Oct. 8, 1918, to find himself in the midst of a savage battle, which he recorded in a diary published in 1922.

Portrait of U.S. Army Sergeant Alvin York (1887-1964) seated in his military uniform, between 1915 and 1920. 

Portrait of U.S. Army Sergeant Alvin York (1887-1964) seated in his military uniform, between 1915 and 1920.  (Photo by Library of Congress/Interim Archives/Getty Images)

His unit was struck by artillery and gas attacks and then marched on a German position heavily fortified with machine guns.

“Our boys just went down like the long grass before the mowing machine at home,” the hillbilly soldier wrote metaphorically of watching his comrades slaughtered.

“Our boys just went down like the long grass before the mowing machine at home.” — Sergeant York

“I just knew that we couldn’t go on again until those machine guns were mopped up. So we decided to try and get them by a surprise attack in the rear. We figured there must have been over 30,” he also wrote — meaning 30 machine guns.

York was in charge of the few remaining men after all their officers were killed.

Frighteningly outnumbered and behind enemy lines, York found a firing position and began picking off German soldiers one by one.

Photograph of the 326th Infantry, 82nd Division, advancing on enemy positions in Choloy, France. Dated 1918. 

Photograph of the 326th Infantry, 82nd Division, advancing on enemy positions in Choloy, France. Dated 1918.  (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

“Every time a head come up, I done knocked it down … I was giving them the best I had.”

He likened it to the way he shot turkeys back home.

“In the middle of the fight a German officer and five men done jumped out of a trench and charged me with fixed bayonets … I only had about half a clip left in my rifle; but I had my pistol ready. I done flipped it out fast and teched them off, too.”

The Germans were stunned after seeing six men dropped so quickly. They began surrendering en masse, fearing they faced a larger American unit.

American actor Gary Cooper (center) on the set of the film "Sergeant York," directed by Howard Hawks. 

American actor Gary Cooper (center) on the set of the film “Sergeant York,” directed by Howard Hawks.  (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

A German major, who spoke fluent English, facilitated the surrender and the march back to American lines.

“There was so many [Germans] there was danger of our own artillery mistaking us for a German counter-attack and opening up on us,” York wrote.

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“Lieutenant Woods came out and counted 132 prisoners. And when he counted them he said, ‘York, have you captured the whole German army?’ And I told him I had a tolerable few.”

York’s exploits became legend on the battlefront. But he never shared his story in his many letters back home.

Close-up of American soldiers of the 18th Infantry, 1st Division holed up on the side of Hill 240 in the Ardennes, during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, France, Oct. 11, 1918. 

Close-up of American soldiers of the 18th Infantry, 1st Division holed up on the side of Hill 240 in the Ardennes, during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, France, Oct. 11, 1918.  (Photo by PhotoQuest/Getty Images)

His family only learned of his heroics when the exploits were written up in the April 26, 1919, edition of the Saturday Evening Post, then one of the most widely read publications in America.

“He outfought the machine-gun battalion with his rifle and automatic pistol,” enthused Canadian war correspondent George Pattullo.

“It stands out as the greatest individual feat of the war, not only because of the amazing things he did that day, but because of the man’s deep religious convictions and scruples.”

‘Sense of peace before he died’

Sergeant Alvin C. York died on Sept. 2, 1964, in Nashville after a long illness that left him incapacitated in his later years.

World War I hero Alvin C. York. "He outfought the machine-gun battalion with his rifle and automatic pistol," enthused Canadian war correspondent George Pattullo in the Saturday Evening Post. 

World War I hero Alvin C. York. “He outfought the machine-gun battalion with his rifle and automatic pistol,” enthused Canadian war correspondent George Pattullo in the Saturday Evening Post.  (Getty Images)

President Lyndon B. Johnson led a long list of dignitaries who attended his funeral.

York is buried in his hometown of Pall Mall.

His legacy lives on an incredible number of ways, both big and small.

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The 82nd Airborne gifted one of its most famous veterans in his later years a 1957 Pontiac. The York family still keeps and cherishes the automobile today.

Sergeant York used his royalties from the movie to support his church and fund a short-lived Bible school.

The 82nd Airborne Division gifted Sgt. Alvin York with a 1957 Pontiac in his later years. The family still keeps it as a possession. Shown here with the vehicle are two of his children, late son Andrew Jackson York and daughter Betsy Ross York. 

The 82nd Airborne Division gifted Sgt. Alvin York with a 1957 Pontiac in his later years. The family still keeps it as a possession. Shown here with the vehicle are two of his children, late son Andrew Jackson York and daughter Betsy Ross York.  (Courtesy York Family)

He also founded the Alvin C. York Institute in 1926. It was transferred to state management in 1937 and still teaches high school students today,

“It is the only comprehensive secondary school in the United States that is financed and operated by a state government,” according to the school website.

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The Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park is a Tennessee attraction that includes the York Farm, a National Historic Landmark.

His descendants run the Sergeant York Patriotic Foundation. Pall Mall hosts a Veterans Day celebration on his property each November 11. His family will attend.

York Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side appears to be just another New York City landmark attributed to its namesake community in England. However, it was named for Sergeant York in 1928.

A book, a movie, a sketch and post stamps featuring Alvin York, a U.S. sergeant in World War I, are on display on a table in Alexandria, Virginia, on Oct. 2, 2018. Sergeant York received the Medal of Honor for leading an attack on a German machine gun nest during the United States-led portion of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France, taking 35 machine guns, killing at least 25 enemy soldiers and capturing 132 men.  

A book, a movie, a sketch and post stamps featuring Alvin York, a U.S. sergeant in World War I, are on display on a table in Alexandria, Virginia, on Oct. 2, 2018. Sergeant York received the Medal of Honor for leading an attack on a German machine gun nest during the United States-led portion of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France, taking 35 machine guns, killing at least 25 enemy soldiers and capturing 132 men.   (EVA HAMBACH/AFP via Getty Images)

York’s second child, George Edward Buxton, was named for the sergeant’s commanding officer in the army.

George answered the call of Christ and became a minister. Sergeant York asked his son for forgiveness for his sins in battle as death approached, according to Col. Gerald York.

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“My dad told him, ‘You did what you did out of service to your country and your fellow soldiers. You didn’t do it out of malice or hate. You did it to save lives, to stop the carnage of your own men.'”

Added Colonel York, “I think it helped. I think it gave my grandfather a sense of peace before he died.”

To read more stories in this unique “Meet the American Who…” series from Fox News Digital, click here

I was born in Tennessee and everyone in Tennessee knows the name of Alvin York. Above is a clip about his accomplishments in War World I.

Cara Gist of Shannon Hills tells me that her grandfather Herbert S. Apple of Salado, Arkansas (near Batesville) fought in World War I. He served in France and fought in the trenches. Apple was actually a victim of a mustard gas attack by the Germans. Also he  was wounded by machine gun fire in both the hip and back and stayed in a military hospital in New Mexico for two years. He later went back to his farm and raised chickens until his death while in his seventies.

Cara’s husband Alan said his father served in World War II. Charles E. Gist was born on January 7, 1919 in Solgahachia, Arkansas. He served in the US Army, 65th Bombardment Squadron, 43 rd Bombardment Group. At one point the plane he was traveling in was shot down and had to make an emergency landing. He was honorably discharged on July 22, 1945 at Camp Chafee, and later he married and went to work at Little Air Force Base in Jacksonville.

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President Reagan and Senator Barry Goldwater present the fourth star to General Jimmy Doolittle during a White House ceremony in the Indian Treaty room, OEOB. 6/20/85. I love the movie “Pearl Harbor” with Ben Affleck and it tells the story of Jimmy Doolittle.  He was born in 1896 and died in 1993. He is pictured […]

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CWO Donavan L “Bull” Briley

Photo added by Christina Atkinson

CWO Donavan L “Bull” Briley

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The movie Black Hawk Down was based on an actual event that took place in Mogadishu, Somalia. This documentary explains the event.

_______________________________

On October 3, 2003 my son  played quarterback at the Arkansas Baptist High School Football game that night. However, I can not remember how he performed that night, but I vividly remember the singing of the national anthem. That is because his fellow student Jordan Briley sang the national anthem on the 10th anniversary of the day her father Donavan “Bull” Briley gave his life for his country.

CW3 Donavan “Bull” Briley grew up in North Little Rock, Arkansas.He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for gallantry in action during combat operations in Mogadishu, Somalia on October 3, 1993 in operation Gothic Serpent.  His actions as the pilot of an assault into a highly contested urban objective were heroic.  After a brilliant assault of the objective, he held his position and fought to support the ground forces during their actions.  His “Black Hawk” aircraft was subsequently downed by enemy fire and, through his exceptional skill, the passengers’ lives were saved. The movie Black Hawk Down (2001) directed by Ridley Scott shows his heroic actions.

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War Hero Joe Speaks and D Day pictures

 Below I have the story of Joe Speaks who fought in Europe and was captured twice by the Germans. Photo by Associated Press American GI’s clamber into a landing craft as they prepare to hit the beaches along France’s Normandy coast in June 1944. The World War II operation was part of the massive Allied […]

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I was born in Tennessee and everyone in Tennessee knows the name of Alvin York. Above is a clip about his accomplishments in War World I.

Cara Gist of Shannon Hills tells me that her grandfather Herbert S. Apple of Salado, Arkansas (near Batesville) fought in World War I. He served in France and fought in the trenches. Apple was actually a victim of a mustard gas attack by the Germans. Also he  was wounded by machine gun fire in both the hip and back and stayed in a military hospital in New Mexico for two years. He later went back to his farm and raised chickens until his death while in his seventies. 

Cara’s husband Alan said his father served in World War II. Charles E. Gist was born on January 7, 1919 in Solgahachia, Arkansas. He served in the US Army, 65th Bombardment Squadron, 43 rd Bombardment Group. At one point the plane he was traveling in was shot down and had to make an emergency landing. He was honorably discharged on July 22, 1945 at Camp Chafee, and later he married and went to work at Little Air Force Base in Jacksonville.

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The Background Facts of The Black Hawk Down (1/7) Uploaded by WarDocumentary on Feb 14, 2011 The movie Black Hawk Down was based on an actual event that took place in Mogadishu, Somalia. This documentary explains the event. _______________________________ On October 3, 2003 my son  played quarterback at the Arkansas Baptist High School Football game […]

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 Below I have the story of Joe Speaks who fought in Europe and was captured twice by the Germans. Photo by Associated Press American GI’s clamber into a landing craft as they prepare to hit the beaches along France’s Normandy coast in June 1944. The World War II operation was part of the massive Allied […]

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Leon McDaniel’s picture Okinawa – At the Emperor’s Doorstep” episode from “WWII: GI Diary”….. This old 1978 TV docu-drama was narrated by Lloyd Bridges and told the stories of real soldiers/sailors/pilots and their first-hand experiences in battle. Archival footage and good background music really made the stories come alive…..about 25 episodes were made. Video converted […]

Real American Heroes Series part 1 Leon A. McDaniel of Mt Ida, Ark (part A)

President Reagan and Senator Barry Goldwater present the fourth star to General Jimmy Doolittle during a White House ceremony in the Indian Treaty room, OEOB. 6/20/85. I love the movie “Pearl Harbor” with Ben Affleck and it tells the story of Jimmy Doolittle.  He was born in 1896 and died in 1993. He is pictured […]

 

Like this:

Veterans Day 2011 (Black Hawk Down and North Little Rock’s Donavan “Bull” Briley)

—-

—-

—-

——

CWO Donavan L “Bull” Briley

Photo added by Christina Atkinson

CWO Donavan L “Bull” Briley

-_

The movie Black Hawk Down was based on an actual event that took place in Mogadishu, Somalia. This documentary explains the event.

_______________________________

On October 3, 2003 my son  played quarterback at the Arkansas Baptist High School Football game that night. However, I can not remember how he performed that night, but I vividly remember the singing of the national anthem. That is because his fellow student Jordan Briley sang the national anthem on the 10th anniversary of the day her father Donavan “Bull” Briley gave his life for his country.

CW3 Donavan “Bull” Briley grew up in North Little Rock, Arkansas.He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for gallantry in action during combat operations in Mogadishu, Somalia on October 3, 1993 in operation Gothic Serpent.  His actions as the pilot of an assault into a highly contested urban objective were heroic.  After a brilliant assault of the objective, he held his position and fought to support the ground forces during their actions.  His “Black Hawk” aircraft was subsequently downed by enemy fire and, through his exceptional skill, the passengers’ lives were saved. The movie Black Hawk Down (2001) directed by Ridley Scott shows his heroic actions.

Related posts:

War Hero Joe Speaks and D Day pictures

 Below I have the story of Joe Speaks who fought in Europe and was captured twice by the Germans. Photo by Associated Press American GI’s clamber into a landing craft as they prepare to hit the beaches along France’s Normandy coast in June 1944. The World War II operation was part of the massive Allied […]

D-Day Landings,”Saving Private Ryan” most frightening and realistic 15 minutes ever

Saving Private Ryan – Omaha Beach Part 1 – HD Saving Private Ryan – Omaha Beach Scene Part 2 – Super High Quality Saving Private Ryan – Omaha Beach Scene Part 3 – Super High Quality Saving Private Ryan opens with a 30-minute cinematic tour de force that is without a doubt one of the […]

Real American Heroes Series part 1 Leon A. McDaniel of Mt Ida, Ark (part B)

Leon McDaniel’s picture Okinawa – At the Emperor’s Doorstep” episode from “WWII: GI Diary”….. This old 1978 TV docu-drama was narrated by Lloyd Bridges and told the stories of real soldiers/sailors/pilots and their first-hand experiences in battle. Archival footage and good background music really made the stories come alive…..about 25 episodes were made. Video converted […]

Real American Heroes Series part 1 Leon A. McDaniel of Mt Ida, Ark (part A)

President Reagan and Senator Barry Goldwater present the fourth star to General Jimmy Doolittle during a White House ceremony in the Indian Treaty room, OEOB. 6/20/85. I love the movie “Pearl Harbor” with Ben Affleck and it tells the story of Jimmy Doolittle.  He was born in 1896 and died in 1993. He is pictured […]