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Alvin York

A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne

Douglas V. Mastriano

Publication Year: 2014

Alvin C. York (1887--1964) -- devout Christian, conscientious objector, and reluctant hero of World War I -- is one of America's most famous and celebrated soldiers. Known to generations through Gary Cooper's Academy Award-winning portrayal in the 1941 film Sergeant York, York is credited with the capture of 132 German soldiers on October 8, 1918, in the Meuse-Argonne region of France -- a deed for which he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

At war's end, the media glorified York's bravery but some members of the German military and a soldier from his own unit cast aspersions on his wartime heroics. Historians continue to debate whether York has received more recognition than he deserves. A fierce disagreement about the location of the battle in the Argonne forest has further complicated the soldier's legacy.

In Alvin York, Douglas V. Mastriano sorts fact from myth in the first full-length biography of York in decades. He meticulously examines York's youth in the hills of east Tennessee, his service in the Great War, and his return to a quiet civilian life dedicated to charity. By reviewing artifacts recovered from the battlefield using military terrain analysis, forensic study, and research in both German and American archives, Mastriano reconstructs the events of October 8 and corroborates the recorded accounts. On the eve of the WWI centennial, Alvin York promises to be a major contribution to twentieth-century military history.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-viii

Contents

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pp. ix-

List of Illustrations

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pp. x-xii

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1. A Life Well Lived

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pp. 1-8

The life and legacy of Alvin C. York continues to have an influence on the American psyche. This fixation has as much to do with his battlefield heroism as it does with his lifelong legacy of trying to make a lasting contribution to improve the lives of his people. It is...

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2. Without Prospect

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pp. 9-20

For Alvin York, growing up in the Cumberland Valley of Tennessee was little different from what the pioneers of the early 1700s experienced. It was a foreign place to most Americans, a land that time seemed to have forgotten. In many ways, York’s world was little...

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3. At War with the Army

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pp. 21-42

Alvin York’s life completely changed after he “got religion,” and he left church on 1 January 1915 a different man. York’s family, and above all his mother, was elated at his decision to become a Christian....

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4. Marching as to War

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pp. 43-56

Alvin returned on 31 March 1918 to Camp Gordon just as his unit received orders to deploy to France. The division had a farewell parade on 4 April that was reviewed by Georgia governor Hugh M. Dorsey and the widow of the celebrated Confederate Civil War...

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5. Into the Trenches!

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pp. 57-66

Orders were issued to the 82nd Division to move to Rambucourt and man the front lines on 26 June. This “quiet sector” east of Verdun was known as the Woevre Front, Lagny Sector. The last heavy fighting here had occurred in 1915 during a French attempt to reduce this...

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6. Prelude to Battle

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pp. 67-92

On 26 September 1918, the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) launched the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The AEF initially had the support of one hundred thousand French soldiers, encompassing six of their divisions. These men reverted to French control after additional...

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7.One Day in October

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pp. 93-116

The concept of American operations for 8 October 1918 was to launch a three-prong attack into the Argonne, with York’s battalion advancing in the center while the 1st Battalion pushed from its position on Castle Hill to the right.1 The 3rd battalion would serve in...

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8. The War without End

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pp. 117-144

Corporal York and his detail would not return to their unit until 10:00 a.m. the next day, 9 October, and throughout this time the 82nd Division continued to face fierce German resistance.1 What occurred dispels notions that the German units in the Argonne were merely...

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9. Emergence of a National Hero

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pp. 145-160

The SS Ohioan arrived in New York at 2:00 a.m. on the 22nd of May, but a heavy fog prevented the ship from proceeding to the dock. With that, the ship dropped anchor, waited for the fog to clear, and did not get under way again until 10:00. The trip up the channel...

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10. Back on the Farm in Pall Mall

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pp. 161-172

The war forever radically changed the world. Four Old World empires vanished (the Ottoman, German, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian), and four ancient dynasties ended (the Hohenzollerns of Germany, the Hapsburgs of Austria, the Romanovs of Russia, and...

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11. Another War with Germany

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pp. 173-190

Alvin’s odyssey in the Great War changed his life and his understanding of the world. Like most veterans, he desired that the nation not be involved in another war. However, as the international situation darkened in the 1930s, York was not easily led...

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12. Honoring a Hero

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pp. 191-216

Although the battle near Châtel Chéhéry was not York’s only fight in the war, it was the one that defined him. With the exact location of where York fought on 8 October 1918 seemingly lost to history, it was imperative to locate it to ascertain the truth of what happened...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 217-222

Alvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne is the culmination of a decade of labor. I am blessed to have a family that actively participated in this adventure. Therefore, this work is dedicated to the two most important people in my life: my wife, Rebbie, and son....

Notes

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pp. 223-282

Bibliography

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pp. 283-306

Index

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pp. 307-324


E-ISBN-13: 9780813145211
E-ISBN-10: 081314521X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813145198

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: American Warriors Series

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Subject Headings

  • York, Alvin Cullum, 1887-1964.
  • Soldiers -- United States -- Biography.
  • Argonne, Battle of the, France, 1918.
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Campaigns -- France.
  • United States. Army -- Biography.
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