Monday, October 8, 2018

Sergt. Alvin York Feted as the War's Greatest Soldier -- October 8, 2018

Literary Digest, 11-June-1919
One hundred years ago today, on 08-October-1918, Corporal Alvin C York performed a remarkable deed.  

I don't remember what class I was in at San Francisco State, but we were talking about conscientious objectors and someone brought up Alvin C York.  One person said "How can a conscientious objector serve in the military and kill 20 people and capture hundreds?"  I said "He changed his mind."  Or, did I first say "He surrounded them"?  People back home didn't hear much about York's accomplishment until after the war.  He is probably remembered best today for the biopic Sergeant York, which starred Gary Cooper.  

This article is from the 29-March-1919 Bamberg, South Carolina Herald.

Sergt. Alvin York Feted as the War's Greatest Soldier
Killed Twenty Germans, Took 132 Prisoners and Put Thirty-six Machine Gun Nests Out of Business in Argonne

New York, May 23. -- Sergt. Alvin C. York, who received the congressional medal of honor for the highest single-handed achievement of the war. in which he killed 20 Germans, took 132 more prisoner, and put 36 enemy machine gun nests out of business in the Argonne, wound up a day of unsuccessful effort to "get into New York city's subway" by hearing himself proclaimed the "greatest soldier in history" at a dinner of the Tennessee society in his honor at the Waldorf-Astoria tonight.

From Little Village.

York, second elder in the Church of Christ and Christian Union in the little Tennessee village of Pall Mall, on the Lone Wolf river, was flanked on either side at the speaker's table by Major General George Duncan, who commanded the eighty-second (all-American) division, in which York fought, and Vice Admiral Albert Gleaves. commander of the cruiser and transport force of the navy who "sent him overseas and brought him back." Not only that but a telegram from the Secretary of War was read to him in which Mr. Baker asked that his "very sincerest regards" be personally conveyed to the "distinguished soldier."

York's toast was drunk standing, sandwiched in between one to President Wilson and another to Major General Duncan, and so many times was Sergeant York eulogized and spoken that he heard the toastmaster hesitate as he started to introduce the eighty-second division's commander as "Sergeant -- er -- that is -- Major General Duncan."

Sergeant York's Speech.

When it came York's turn to stand up and address the diners he showed his modest simplicity:

"I guess you all understand that I'm just a soldier and not a speaker," he said. "I'm just a soldier boy -- but I want to thank the society and General Duncan, and I want you all to know that what you all have done for me is highly appreciated and I never shall forget it. I thank you very much."

Round of Festivities.

Today was one round of festivities for Sergeant York. From morning until long after his "regular bed time" he was hurried about the city in taxi-cabs, touring cars and limousines. He was shunted from one place of interest and one reception to another until "eating time" at the Waldorf-Astoria gave him a breathing spell. Then he announced modestly, and with no offense intended, that all day long he had wanted to do "just one thing -- get into the subway."

"That's one place I sure do want to see," he sighed tonight.

At dinner Sergeant York was hailed as the soldier who has distinguished himself above all men in the war. in the achievement of the greatest individual deed-in history."

Artist's Opinion.

Joseph Cummings Chase, who was sent by the war department to "paint the portraits of all the generals in the army and Sergeant York," pointed to what a fine thing it is to see "General Duncan sitting beside Sergeant York," and General Duncan said he was proud to have at his side the "most distinguished soldier the world war has produced."

"Sergeant York's deeds are of the character that go down in history and make our boys patriots in time of stress," continued General Duncan. "He is not only a very unpretentious soldier, but an unassuming, modest man. His achievement was the most outstanding act of gallantry, not only that this world war has produced, but that I ever heard of. He is not only modest absolutely, but unabashed, unafraid in the presence of any gathering of the enemy."

The first words of the German major captured by York when he rounded up 132 prisoners in the Argonne forest were told by General Duncan:

"British?" asked the German major.

"American!" said Sergeant York.

"Good Lord!" exclaimed the major.

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