Alvin York

Alvin York (2)

Alvin York was born in 1887 in Pall Mall , in the Tennessee mountains .

You might have seen the movie . Gary Cooper played Alvin , a hillbilly sharpshooter with a crush on a girl and determined to get some “bottom land” so he and she can get married and build a house . He had reformed his life from his fighting and drinking days and had become a devout Christian and a pacifist .

The USA gets into the world war and begins Selective Service .alvin york (3)

York reluctantly joined the Army during The Great War and was sent to France. He had tried to get out of the draft as a conscientious objector . Alvin York was by then a determined pacifist .  “He were agin’ it ,”  someone in the 1941 movie might have said .

1941 was another hot year for world wars . The draft had begun again , too , and the country desperately needed soldiers , sailors , and airmen . The movie SERGEANT YORK  was not-so-subtle symbolism for reluctant peace-loving young American men who were not hot on fighting someone else’s war somewhere across the ocean . After all , Alvin York hadn’t  wanted to go , either , but he did his duty to God and country , and he became the most highly decorated American soldier in WWI .

How he became a war hero is quite an amazing story . Corporal York took command of seven surviving men on patrol when the non-coms were killed and York attacked the German positions single-handed . Pacifist York shot 28 German soldiers , one at a time , before a German officer surrendered his 128 men and 32 machine guns . ” I teched-off the one in the back of the line first , ” York explained . Just like hunting turkeys back home , he had said .

alvin york older

In later years York was reluctant to talk about his exploits . He wanted to forget the war and he tried to explain that he had only experienced  a tiny bit of it  , ” a fifty mile stretch “.

Alvin York was on the local draft board during WWII . He had tried to re-enlist , but he was too old and in poor health by then to be successful . He died in 1964 .Sergeant York

4 Comments

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4 responses to “Alvin York

  1. I’m not sure Alvin York was done a service by the movie made about him. That he’s a hero, has a certain something not many human beings have, is undoubtedly true and comes across, certainly, but how it was directed panders to American patriotism in a caricatured sense, ironically undermining understanding and appreciation of true courage and valor in the field of battle, turning death and carnage into popular entertainment and frankly propaganda. I recall watching the movie and finding it a stretch that Gary Cooper played Alvin York. I snickered at Cooper’s affected southern hillbilly accent. The scene where York truly distinguished himself heroically in battle with his sharp-shooting is turned into something of a slapstick comedy, with Cooper as York doing a turkey call to get german soldiers to poke their heads up. How the whole sequence was choreographed turned it from realism into a cartoon.

    Alvin York deserved a better movie made about him. Then again, this probably could be said of so many movies made about certain notable and unique characters.

    • John , I agree with you 100% . The government needed a hero in WWI and York fit the bill . WWII had its similar heros , eg Ira Hayes . They are made into caricatures , I think , for propaganda reasons ( or movie motives ) . York apparently never wanted the celebrity that came along with his service . No one sees these hero guys as whole people , complicated humans with their particular lives and problems . Sometimes it turns to tragedy . On the other hand , it was a good , although a smaltzy , film , seen from our time perspective if you see it as entertainment only . But , you probably are right — York deserves a better film made about him . That would be an interesting project . Thanks for the interest .

  2. I’ve always enjoyed the movie and the story but I missed to timing connection with the draft for WWII – thanks.

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