Alvin Cullum York (December 13, 1887 – September 2, 1964) was a United States soldier, famous as a World War I hero. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for leading an attack on a German machine gun nest, taking 32 machine guns, killing 28 German soldiers and capturing 132 others during the U.S.-led Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France.
Alvin Cullum York was born to an impoverished farming family in Tennessee on December 13, 1887, the third of eleven children. Up until a few years before the war, York was hard drinking and prone to fighting in saloons. His mother, a member of a pacifist Christian denomination, tried to convince York to change his ways to no avail. Then during a night of heavy drinking when he and a friend got into a fight with other saloon patrons, York's friend was killed. The event shook York so much that he finally followed his mother and became a Christian, no longer fighting or drinking. On June 5, 1917, at the age of 29, Alvin York received a notice to register for the draft. From that day until he arrived back from the War on May 29, 1919, he kept a diary of his activities.
World War I 1917-1918
York was inducted into the United States Army and served in Company G, 328th Infantry Regiment, 82nd Infantry Division at Camp Gordon, Georgia. Discussion of the Biblical stance on war with his company commander, Captain Edward Courtney Bullock Danforth (1894–1974) of Augusta, Georgia and his battalion commander, Major Gonzalo Edward Buxton (1880–1949) of Providence, Rhode Island, eventually convinced York that warfare could be justified.
Medal of Honor citation
Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Army, Company G, 328th Infantry, 82nd Division. Place and date: Near Chatel-Chehery, France, October 8, 1918. Entered service at: Pall Mall, Tenn. Born: December 13, 1887, Fentress County, Tenn. G.O. No.: 59, W.D., 1919.
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.
On June 7, 1919, York married Gracie Williams. They had 7 children, all of whom were named after famous American historical figures.
Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross
World War I Victory Medal
American Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
French Légion d'honneur
French Croix de guerre with Palm
Italian Croce di Guerra
Montenegrin War Medal