"Greatest Soldier in History"
Alvin Collum York was born to an impoverished farming family in Tennessee on December
13, 1887, the third of eleven children. On June 5, 1917, at the age of 29, Alvin York received a notice to register
for the draft. From that day, until he arrived back from the War on May 29, 1919, he kept a diary of his activities.
York was inducted into the United States Army and served in Company G, 328th Infantry Regiment, 82nd Infantry Division
at Camp Gordon, Georgia.
After the war:
On June 7, 1919, Alvin York married Gracie Williams. They had 7 children, all of whom were named after famous American
historical figures. York founded the Alvin C. York Agricultural Institute, a private agricultural institute in
Jamestown, Tennessee, that was eventually turned over to the State of Tennessee. York also opened a Bible School,
and later operated a mill in Pall Mall on the Wolf River.
During the Second World War, York was called to active duty with the rank of major. He was involved with recruiting
and war bond drives as well as inspection tours of American soldiers in
For his military service York received the following military awards:
Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, World War Two Victory Medal,
the French Legion of Honor, the French Croix de Guerre with Palm, the Italian Croce di Guerra and the Montenegran
Alvin York died at the Veterans Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee on September 2, 1964, of a cerebral hemorrhage
and was buried at the Wolf River Cemetery in Pall Mall.
Newspaper Articles about Sgt. York
HUN-SMASHER IS INVITED HERE
Sergeant Alvin C. York, "Greatest Soldier in History;" Asked to Make W. S.S.Speech in Lexington
WON FAME IN ARGONNE
Sergeant Alvin C. York of the 328th Infantry, who at the head of a detachment of seven men killed twenty Germans,
captured 132 prisoners including a major and three lieutenants and put thirty-six machine guns out of commission,
has been invited to stop over in Lexington on the way to his home in Pall Mall, Tenn. The invitation was telegraphed
to him yesterday by John Skain, chairman of the Fayette County War Savings Stamp Committee, who believes that Sergeant
York could add
greatly in the W. S. Work.
York, who was proclaimed the "greatest soldier in history," at a dinner given in his honor in New York
where he landed last week, has the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest honor awarded by the United States
government, and the French Croix- de-Guerre. High officials of the government, the army and the navy were present
at the dinner to do him honor, and his exploits
have been heralded throughout all the allied countries by returned service men
Sergeant York won his fame in the Argonne Forest last October when he was a corporal and sent out with a detachment
of sixteen men under command of Sergeant Early. The sergeant and seven men were killed almost instantly and York
took command. His exploits did not originate in the brains of war correspondents, but have been officially credited
by his division commander and men who were with him.
York is second elder of the Church of Christ and Christian Union at the little village of Pall Mall, in the mountains
He went into the army as a conscientious objector, but was convinced of his error by his captain, and declared
on landing in New York that he "felt a heap stronger spiritually" since killing and capturing so many
He is now at Camp Merritt, N.J. awaiting discharge and Mr. Skain has asked Congressman J. Campbell Cantrill to
see if it will not be possible to have him stop over in Lexington for at least a day. He will be the guest of Mr.
Skain during his stay here and it is expected that Lexington will accord him honors in keeping with his heroic
deeds as other cities in the East have already done.
The Lexington Herald, 28 May 1919
SERGEANT YORK, HERO, MARRIES
Pall Mall, Tenn., June 7.- Sergeant A. C York, hero of the Argonne, was married today to Miss Grace Williams, his
boyhood sweetheart. The ceremony, conducted by Governor Roberts of Tennessee, took place in an open air amphitheater
on the York farm, before 3,000 people, including many of his army comrades and visitors who traveled, many miles
to witness the ceremony. Sergeant York wore a colonel's uniform, in accordance with the title which has been conferred
upon him since his return by Governor Roberts and the Tennessee legislature.
Joins Red Head Club.
Spokane, Wash., June 7. - Sergeant Alvin C. York, of Pall Mall, Tennessee, "the war's greatest hero,"
is proud of his red head "because he got
it honestly," and for that reason he has accepted a membership in the Clemmer Red Head Club of Spokane, according
to telegrams received here
Dr. Howard S. Clemmer president of the club, has sent Sergeant York a membership certificate bearing the inscription:
"Conferred upon Sergeant Alvin C. York by virtue of the color of his hair and in recognition of his services
to this, our glorious country."
"We are the only organization of reds in the country that waves the American flag," commented Dr. Clemmer
Date: 8 June 1919
Grand Forks Herald, North Dakota
York to Be Guest Of War-Time Buddy
Dallas will be host Friday to the outstanding hero of the World War with the reception here Friday morning of Sergeant
Alvin C. York, Tennessee mountaineer, who will relate his war experiences Friday night at North Dallas High School
The noted soldier will arrive at 7:40 a. m. to be greeted by a committee representing the Dallas schools and various
patriotic organizations, by the Dallas R. O. T. C. Band and by an escort of honor chosen from the city high schools.
He will then be driven to the Baker Hotel, where he will be a guest of Fenton Baker, who served with the Sergeant
The proceeds from Sergeant York's lecture will be used by the Dallas grade teachers in relief work among the needy
children in the local schools.
Date: 30 Oct 1931
Dallas Morning News
Mountaineer Comes Calling
Simple Tennessee Life
Glorified by War
Sergeant Alvin C. York, who left his Tennessee mountaineer neighbors only long enough to write his name into history
as one of the greatest soldiers of all time, delighted an audience that crowded the North Dallas High School auditorium
Friday night with his own account of his experiences in war and peace.
Now president and manager of the Alvin C. York Agricultural Institute, a vocational school he founded in his home
county after his return from the war, Sergeant York's talk was devoted
principally to the cause of education.
Dr. N. R. Crozier, superintendent of schools, recalled in his introduction that Sergeant York had been forced to
overcome his scruples as a conscientious objector before he joined the army.
Backs "Us Mountaineers."
For Sergeant York, his one excursion into the world covered with glory not himself, but his mountaineer neighbors.
He resents any implication that his folk are backward or ignorant, and in a high-pitched voice that sounds strange
emanating from so virile and vigorous a frame, he drives home successfully the argument that "us mountaineers"
are the secret of America's greatness.
Meeting the "higher-ups" in the world-people like Queen Marie of Rumania and King George of England,
whom he accuses of having adulterated the King's English- and being forced to speak with them through interpreters,
convinced Sergeant York of the value of an education.
Strengthened with his own difficulties in acquiring any "l'aran'" in the rough mountaineer schools, the
determination to bring his people as many educational benefits as possible has become Sergeant York's lifework.
Hence his school, supported by State and county aid and by his own lecturing.
Pleads for Simple Life.
For a while Sergeant York was a rural missionary in the Tennessee mountains. There was something of that in him
as he addressed a plea to his audience Friday night not to neglect the underprivileged boys and girls. In his own
school, he said, co-operation, neighborliness, community spirit and the personal touch are the aims sought. He
pleaded also for the simple, religious life which has kept his own folk contented in their unchanging ways for
The soldier's appearance here was sponsored by the Dallas Grade Teachers Council, represented by the president.
Miss Josephine Wilson, and Mrs. Morgan H. Cox. Among those on the platform were Congressman Hatton W. Sumners,
who, a native of Tennessee; Lawrence Melton, Principal E. B. Comstock of the school; Alvin M. Owsley, Col. James
Ronayne, Dr. John O. McReynolds, C. ?. Matthaei and Mrs. Crozier.
During the ? he was entertained by American Legion posts here and by Fenton Baker at the Baker hotel Mr. Baker
was a buddy of Sergeant York's.
In the morning Sergeant York visited Arlington to address the students at
North Texas Agricultural College.
Date: 31 Oct 1931
Dallas Morning News
SGT. YORK LISTED AS BIT IMPROVED
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Sgt. Alvin C. York, an old soldier who has known long odds before, Monday battled both heart
and lung ailments in a fight for his life.
The 75-year old World War I hero who won the Medal of Honor for single-handedly killing 25 Germans and taking 132
prisoners in the battle of Argonne Forest, was reportedly "slightly improved, but still critical" at
St. Thomas Hospital.
York, who has been fighting a variety of illnesses for more than 20 years, was
admitted to the hospital Saturday.
Date: 16 Apr 1963.
Dallas Morning News
Obituary - Sgt. York
Sgt., Alvin C. York, a one-time conscientious objector who became America's most famous soldier In World War I,
has lost his last battle with the infirmities of age. In an era that has freely applied heroic superlatives to
everything from flagpole sitters to crooners, the Tennessee mountain man was the real thing, a genuine America
In the closing days of the war, York single-handedly put a German machine-gun battalion out of action, a feat unequaled
anywhere on the world's battlefields. This mountaineer who did not really want to fight had not been reared, as
had many of the soldiers of the Great Powers, on a steady diet of chauvinism nor had he been painstakingly indoctrinated
to seek the glories of military conquest. But the qualities of courage and determination were part of him and when
his country needed them, they were there.
He was held in high regard by his countrymen, not only for his gallantry in combat but for his conduct afterward.
When the sergeant returned to this country he was greeted by a ticker-tape parade in New York, a standing ovation
from both houses of Congress. He was given offers of up to a million dollars to capitalize on his fame. His answer
to these was simple and to the point: "This uniform is not for sale."
Instead, he returned to his home and the brown-haired girl he'd left to go to France. He settled back into the
quiet life of a farmer.
At 76, the Tennessean could look back on a long life of service to his country and his community. The end was not
unexpected, for he had fought his way back from serious illness 10 times in the past two years. But when it came
all Americans were saddened to see him go. He was one of our great ones.
Date: 4 September 1964
Dallas Morning News
Reluctant Warrior Dies
Sgt. Alvin York, Legend In His Own Time, Was 76
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Sgt. Alvin C. York, the reluctant Tennessee mountain boy whose World War 1 exploits made
him a legend in his own time, died Wednesday in Veterans Hospital. The specter of death had hung over the 76-year-old
Medal of Honor winner for two years. He fought his way back from serious
illness 10 times during that period.
Death came at 10:40 a.m., the result of "general debility" in the w
ords of a terse hospital announcement.
At his side during his closing hours was his wife, "Gracie," the childhood sweetheart who had greeted
him when he returned home a hero from the battlefields of France, and his seven
A conscientious objector, York finally resigned himself to the war, and on Oct. 8, 1918, single handedly killed
25 Germans and captured 132 more. That feat put his name alongside Davy Crockett and Sam Houston as idols of schoolboys
and a nation.
An offer by Gov. Frank Clement to have the body lie in state at the state capitol was declined with thanks by the
family. "We think it's best just to take him on back to Jamestown," said a son, the Rev. George Edward
The Rev. Mr. York said the funeral would be at 2 p.m. Saturday at York's Chapel at Pall Mall, where York taught
Sunday school for many years before he became ill. Burial will be in Wolf Creek Cemetery, Pall Mall, and Jamestown
are about 140 miles east of Nashville, in the Cumberland Mountains.
An American Legion guard of honor stood by as the body of the old soldier was taken from the hospital to a waiting
ambulance. Mrs. York accompanied the body to Jamestown just as she had gone with him on his many trips to hospitals
in the last dozen years.
York's last hospitalization came Saturday and his final days were spent in a coma. Multiple diseases, including
a stroke which left York partially paralyzed and bedridden, finally took their
toll, doctors said.
York tried to" enlist in World War II when he heard some Tennesseans were turned down by the Army because
"Give me some of these Tennessee and Kentucky riflemen that the Army says are illiterate," he said. "I'd
like to take a battalion of those boys and train them for combat duty ....
they're the best soldiers in the world."
The War Department agreed and commissioned York a major, but the project had to be abandoned when York failed to
pass the physical tests. He had suffered several heart attacks.
He made appearances and speeches in behalf of the war effort instead.
It was on Oct. 8, 1918, that York won everlasting fame. As a corporal of Company G, Second Battalion, 328th Infantry
he was a member of a detail of 17 men including a sergeant and three corporals ordered to silence German machine
guns pinning down Yanks in the, battle of the Argonne Forest in France. All but seven of the Americans were cut
down by enemy fire. York took command.
"Sergeant York" was the title of a 1941 motion picture based on his life. Gary Cooper won an Academy
Award for the title role, and another generation of Americans learned of York.
Date: 3 Sep 1964
Dallas Morning News
Off-site link to transcription of