By Susan Spano
November 9, 2008
After a crisis of conscience resolved on a mountaintop, York performs an act of bravery and master marksmanship in the Meuse-Argonne offensive that wins him the Medal of Honor and the French Legion of Honor (not to mention an Oscar for Cooper).
The real Alvin C. York (1887-1964) was a hard-drinking Tennessee rabble-rouser before being born again into the fundamentalist Church of Christ in Christian Union. His commander (Company G, 328th Infantry Regiment, 82nd Infantry Division) who could quote chapter and verse talked him into taking up arms in the Argonne Forest, where York single-handedly subdued a German machine-gun nest, killed 28 enemy soldiers and took 132 prisoners.
Last month a path cut by American Boy Scouts was opened in the Argonne Forest near the French hamlet of Châtel Chéhéry (about a 20-minute drive from the Meuse-Argonne American Military Cemetery). There I followed York's steps of Oct. 8, 1918. It was a short, muddy hike to the spot where he hit the ground under fire and waited for his adversaries to stand up so they could shoot him.
Then he just ticked them off, one by one, like wild turkeys in the woods, and rounded up prisoners.
Later he met Gen. Julian R. Lindsey, who said, "Well, York, I hear you have captured the whole German army."
"No, sir," York said. "I only have 132."
For info: www.sergeantyorkproject.com
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