Sergeant Alvin Cullum York (December 13, 1887 – September 2, 1964) is an iconic American hero from World War I. He was born in a two room cabin in Tennessee. As a young man, like Audie Murphy he took on responsibility for supporting the family from a very early age. A man of deep religious convictions he was troubled by the prospect of serving in the Army and killing. He had a mixed life after surviving the war and finally had to have President John F Kennedy stop the IRS from hassling him for back tax from the movie made about his exploits.
He won the Medal of Honour on October 8, 1918 leading an attack with only seven men on a German machine gun position. They killed 28 German soldiers, captured a number of machine guns and took 132 prisoners. This action occurred during the U.S.- led portion of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, which was part of a broader Allied offensive under the overall command of Marshal Ferdinand Foch to breach the Hindenburg Line.
York's diary extracts...an amazing read...
"The Germans got us, and they got us right smart. They just stopped us dead in our tracks. Their machine guns were up there on the heights overlooking us and well hidden, and we couldn't tell for certain where the terrible heavy fire was coming from... And I'm telling you they were shooting straight. Our boys just went down like the long grass before the mowing machine at home. Our attack just faded out... And there we were, lying down, about halfway across [the valley] and those German machine guns and big shells getting us hard.
After the action..."The next morning Captain Danforth sent me back with some stretcher bearers to see if there were any of our American boys that we had missed. But they were all dead. And there were a lot of German dead. We counted twenty-eight, which is just the number of shots I fired. And there were thirty-five machine guns and a whole mess of equipment and small arms".
The film "Sergeant York" based on York's diaries directed by Howard Hawks and starring Gary Cooper in the role of York began being screened in the United States in July 1941 five months later the Japanese launched the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 7. The patriotic impact of the film was such that many young men left cinemas to enlist in the US Army as soon as the film was over. In 2008 "Sergeant York" was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".