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Sgt Alvin C. York, US Army - Colt .45 M1911 Or German Luger?

October 27 2006 at 3:36 PM
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GyG  (Login Dick Gaines)
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Sgt Alvin C. York - Colt .45 M1911 Or German Luger?
by GyG (Login Dick Gaines)
Forum Owner



http://www.voicenet.com/~lpadilla/york.html

Medal of Honor Recipients

Portrayed On Film Classic Heroism

ALVIN CULLUM YORK (1887-1964)

Rank, duty position and unit at time of action:

Corporal, Assistant Squad Leader, Company G 328th Infantry, 82nd Infantry Division, American Expeditionary Force War: World War I Place and date of action: Chatel-Chehery, France, 8 October 1918 Portrayed by: Gary Cooper In the film: Sergeant York (1941)

Text of Citation: YORK, ALVIN C. Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Army, Company G, 328th Infantry, 82d Division. Place and date: Near Chatel-Chehery, France, 8 October 1918. Entered service at: Pall Mall, Tenn. Born: 13 December 1887, Fentress County, Tenn. G.O. No.: 59, W.D., 1919. Citation: After his platoon had 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 machinegun nest which was pouring deadly and incessant fire upon his platoon. In this heroic feat the machinegun nest was taken, together with 4 officers and 128 men and several guns. Remarks: Ironically, while having earned the reputation of being the best marksman and hunter in Fentress County, Tennessee before the war, York applied for Conscientious Objector status due to his religion when drafted; as his church denomination did not specifically prohibit service in war, the application was turned down.

Although he performed well in basic training, tutoring his fellow draftees in marksmanship, he repeatedly sought exemption from combat. An open and frank discussion with his company and battalion commanders, debating religion and patriotic duty, ended with York being given two weeks' leave to decide. The battalion commander, Major Gonzalo E. Buxton Jr., agreed to discharge him if he still held to his convictions after the leave, but York returned and went overseas with the 82nd "All American" Division. He attributed his decision to Matthew 22:21 "...Then sayeth he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things which are God's."

York rose to the rank of Corporal and, during the final offensive in the Meuse-Argonne region, found himself facing the German machine gun nest with 35 machine guns at Chatel-Chehery. Armed with an Enfield rifle and a Colt .45 automatic pistol, he pushed out alone ahead of his depleted squad and began sniping at the Germans as they stuck their heads out of the nest to aim. He then killed six Germans who were sent to flush him out.

(He used his Colt .45 M1911 automatic for this task, but as the slide of the M1911 does not recoil properly to reload when firing blank ammunition, a problem the filmmakers couldn't get around in 1941, he is shown using a captured German Luger in the movie.)

York then positioned himself at the end of the German trench and began shooting them as they stood in line in the trench, prompting their surrender. (Not mentioned in the citation is that a total of 25 Germans were killed before the remaining 132 gave up the fight.)

The highest-decorated American of World War I, York returned home with, in addition to the Medal of Honor, a promotion to Sergeant, the French Croix de Guerre and a gift of 400 acres of good farmland from the grateful people of Tennessee. In 1941, on the eve of the United States' entry into the Second World War, York consented to having his diary adapted to film, personally selecting Gary Cooper to portray him as a condition for the filming. The film would be universally acclaimed as one of the best film biographies of all time, earning an Oscar for Best Actor for Cooper and an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.

It was a straightforward adaptation of the diary with very little Hollywood embellishment; the only embellishment which York acknowledged was that the film showed his born-again Christianity as due to being struck by lightning on his way to a confrontation with a rival, whereas it was actually simply his meeting his future wife and falling in love. (This would become the first of two films in which Gary Cooper would have the title role playing a Medal of Honor recipient, the second being The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell.) Upon America's entry into World War II, York declared himself available to return to uniform, but served out the war, ironically enough, as president of the local draft board. Next Back to Intro

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New York Times
October 27, 2006
Pg. 8

Officer Says He Found Site Of York's Heroics In 1918

By Craig S. Smith

PARIS, Oct. 23 - An American military officer based in Germany says that he has located with some certainty the spot on which the World War I hero Sgt. Alvin C. York carried out his famous exploit in the Argonne forest of northeastern France.

On Oct. 8, 1918, Sergeant York, then a corporal, crept behind enemy lines with 16 other soldiers to attack German machine gunners who were holding up an American advance. They came under fire, and Sergeant York was credited with overcoming the superior force by using sharpshooting skills he had honed during turkey shoots and squirrel hunts in the Tennessee woods.

Competing camps of scholars and military historians have long debated the exact site of this legendary stand, which ended with the capture of 132 German soldiers and was immortalized in a 1941 film starring Gary Cooper. Until now, no one had found what seemed to be such striking material proof that the exploit might have taken place as described.

“We nailed it,” said Lt. Col. Douglas Mastriano, an American military intelligence officer working for NATO, who has spent six years researching the Sergeant York story using American and German military archives.

The general area where the fight took place, near the village of Châtel-Chéhéry, is well known, but vague and conflicting battlefield accounts made it impossible to say exactly where it occurred.

Most people involved in the hunt have agreed, however, that Sergeant York was the only one who emptied a sidearm in the narrow valley that day, and students of the issue have said that finding a concentration of empty Colt .45 cartridges would be the best proof of where he stood.

Over the past year, Colonel Mastriano, his wife, Rebecca, his son Josiah and his friends Kory O'Keefe, Lt. Col. Jeff Parmer and Gary Martin spent nearly 1,000 hours walking the battlefield with metal detectors. On Oct. 14, Colonel Mastriano and Mr. O'Keefe found two .45 caliber rounds, one live and one that had been fired.

They returned the next weekend and found more evidence: 19 empty .45 cartridges scattered over a 10-foot-wide area at the base of a hill, along with German and American rifle rounds. Many of the German rounds had not been fired. They found more .45 slugs 20 yards away near the remains of a German trench together with hundreds of German rifle and machine gun cartridges, many of them live rounds, and bits of gun belts and debris consistent with soldiers surrendering.

The material fits closely with Sergeant York\'s account, in which he described firing his rifle toward machine gunners on a hill before pulling out his Colt .45 to pick off seven German soldiers who charged him with fixed bayonets. Colonel Mastriano had the casings examined by a ballistics expert, who confirmed that they all had come from the same gun.

“I honestly never thought that we would recover the .45s and was stunned when we dug them up,” Colonel Mastriano said this week from his home in Heidelberg, Germany. “The find means that the search for the York spot is over.”

They returned the next weekend and found more evidence: 19 empty .45 cartridges scattered over a 10-foot-wide area at the base of a hill, along with German and American rifle rounds. Many of the German rounds had not been fired. They found more .45 slugs 20 yards away near the remains of a German trench together with hundreds of German rifle and machine gun cartridges, many of them live rounds, and bits of gun belts and debris consistent with soldiers surrendering.

The material fits closely with Sergeant York's account, in which he described firing his rifle toward machine gunners on a hill before pulling out his Colt .45 to pick off seven German soldiers who charged him with fixed bayonets. Colonel Mastriano had the casings examined by a ballistics expert, who confirmed that they all had come from the same gun.

“I honestly never thought that we would recover the .45s and was stunned when we dug them up,” Colonel Mastriano said this week from his home in Heidelberg, Germany. “The find means that the search for the York spot is over.”

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