Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Congressional Medal of Honor Awardee


The other day, Emma and I visited the Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Site in Pall Mall, TN.  I’m sure most of us have seen the movie “Sergeant York” starring Gary Cooper that was made in 1940.  Turns out I even recorded it over the Memorial Day Weekend, so I’m about half way through watching it again.  Of course, it’s a Hollywood dramatization of a real hero’s life.


Never having been here before, I of course did the tour out of order of the way it is supposed to be done.  This is where you should start.  This building is the original Alvin C. York and Sons General Merchandise store that was also the Wolf River Post Office at one time.  If you stop here first, I would recommend the video narrated by Walter Cronkite.  It is well worth watching to get your mind straight on the life of Sgt. York.  (I’ll include a mini-biography at the end of this post for those that are interested)


Across the street from the Mercantile is the home that the movie says was given to Alvin in gratitude by the people of the United States to honor his heroic service in WWI.  That’s not quite right.  He was given the house and some land by the people of Tennessee, but it was not free and clear.  It was eventually paid for due to a huge fund raiser in his honor.

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The furnishings inside are from Alvin and Gracie’s life here where she bore ten children.  It is a humble abode.

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A very short distance away is the York Gristmill on the Wolf River which was built in the early 1880’s.


It seems to me that Alvin York was a humble Christian man that rose above and beyond the call of duty to save his comrades under dire circumstances.  The fact that he never capitalized on his fame can best be felt by his attitude that “This uniform can’t be sold.”  After his return from the war he tried to help the young people in the Tennessee hills with their education by establishing schools.

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I also visited his and Gracie’s final resting place on a back road outside of the community.  It is a very peaceful place, and Alvin’s beloved mountains surround him.

I hope you’ll take the time to read a bit about how he came to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor and forty other awards.  It is rather an amazing tale.

Alvin Cullum York was born in rural Pall Mall, Tennessee. Raised in the mountains, he learned to shoot guns when he was just a boy, becoming an expert with both a pistol and rifle before his teens. Under the influence of his high school girlfriend--and his future wife--Gracie Williams, he also became a devout born-again Christian and gave up the drinking, brawling, smoking, gambling and bare-knuckle fighting that marked his early days. When the US declared war on Germany in April 1917, York was drafted into the army, where he sought exemption as a conscientious objector, but was turned down. Inducted into the 328th Infantry Regiment on November 24, 1917, he distinguished himself in basic training until he was ordered to shoot at human forms on the target range. After days of soul-searching, York reconciled himself to military service and completed his training, and his unit sailed to France the following spring. His regiment was assigned to the Meuse-Argonne salient during the final great Allied offensive from September to the war's end on November 11, 1918. On October 8, 1918, York, then a corporal, was part of a company assigned to attack a heavily defended hill near Chatel-Chehery. Pinned down by intense machine-gun fire, York joined a squad of 17 men that attempted to outflank the German position from the rear of the hill. After capturing 20 German soldiers, the Americans were discovered by other German troops in neighboring trenches, who opened fire on them. Within minutes the squad was down to seven unwounded men, York included. The squad's officers and NCOs had all been killed or wounded, meaning that York was now in charge of the squad's survivors. He took his rifle and worked his way to a point near the occupied German trenches that were firing on his squad. From that position he shot and killed 17 Geman soldiers one after the other, then shot eight more with his pistol, killing three and wounding five. The surviving Germans had had enough and surrendered en masse to York; the final tally of captured German soldiers, counting the 20 the squad had taken earlier, was 132. Alvin York managed to work his way with his squad and the 132 prisoners through the bombed-out wasteland and back to the headquarters of the 328th Regiment. York was promoted to sergeant and awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his amazing feat. At the end of the war he returned to Tennessee, in 1919, married Gracie and settled on a farm presented to him by his home state. The modest hero turned down many offers for endorsements, claiming "this uniform ain't for sale," and used the proceeds from the book and movie of his life Sergeant York (1941)) to establish schools for poor mountain children. During World War II York served on the Tennessee draft board and was a colonel in the Tennessee State Guard, commanding the 7th Regiment. Alvin York died in his home in Nashville, Tennessee, on September 2, 1964.

IMDb Mini Biography By: Matthew Patay"

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy