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The Story of Sergeant York: The Religious Pacifist Who Became One of America’s Greatest War Heroes

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
May 8, 2024 3:00 am

The Story of Sergeant York: The Religious Pacifist Who Became One of America’s Greatest War Heroes

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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May 8, 2024 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Sgt. Alvin York— the reluctant World War I infantryman who became an American legend—has stood as a symbol of courage and sacrifice for over a century.The Tennessee mountaineer whose religious convictions at first kept him from fighting became the recipient of the Medal of Honor and nearly 50 other decorations for single-handedly capturing (132) or killing (28) an entire German machine‐gun battalion.Here to tell the story is JD Phillips, who runs the popular YouTube channel, The Appalachian Storyteller.

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I'm Katja Adler, host of The Global Story. Over the last 25 years I've covered conflicts in the Middle East, political and economic crises in Europe, drug cartels in Mexico. Now I'm covering the stories behind the news all over the world in conversation with those who break it. Join me Monday to Friday to find out what's happening, why and what it all means.

Follow The Global Story from the BBC wherever you listen to podcasts. The wait is almost over. Get ready for the 2024 NFL season as the full schedule is announced. Every rivalry, every rematch, every rookie debut, every game revealed. The 2024 NFL schedule release presented by Verizon coming in May. Live on NFL Network, ESPN2 and streaming on NFL Plus. Terms and conditions apply to NFL Plus.

Visit NFL.com slash schedule release to learn more. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories, the show where America is the star and the American people. Sergeant Alvin York, the reluctant World War I infantryman who became an American legend has stood as a symbol of American courage and sacrifice for well over a century.

The Tennessee Mountaineer whose religious convictions at first kept him from fighting became the recipient of the Medal of Honor for single-handedly capturing or killing an entire German machine gun battalion. Here to tell a story is J.D. Phillips who runs the popular YouTube channel, The Appalachian Storyteller. J.D. will be telling the story of Alvin York as Alvin himself using York's own words from his autobiography, Sergeant York.

Let's take a listen. Truth be told, I couldn't tell you how long my ancestors have called these mountains home. It's further back than I could ever know. You see, they were the first white people to ever set foot on this land, dating back to my great-great-grandfather. When he first arrived, he lived in a cave near the Wolf River in an area now known as Palm Isle Valley in East Tennessee after somehow getting past the Cherokees. And, since he was the first white man here, he had the first choice of the land.

And that's how it came to be that my family owns all the valley and most of the mountains surrounding it. Like most mountain men back in those days, my grandpa was a fighter. He left this valley to go and fight in the Great Mexican War, where he served with skill and honor.

However, war can kill a man, even while his heart still beats, leaving a soulless man, the equivalent of a dead man walking. And when my grandpap returned from Mexico, he was a shadow of himself, and he soon died. Now, my grandpap on my mama's side was also a fighter, a northerner who fought with the cavalry. After the war, he had made enemies with rival clans. Now, back in those days, there was no law to speak of, and every man put on a pistol every morning, just as sure as he put on his pants and his boots. When one of those leaders of the rival clan died, folks pointed fingers at grandpap, and even though there was no evidence, they killed grandpap.

They hooked a mule to his body, and they drug him through the dirt streets of Jamestown, and they shot his body to pieces as a warning to anyone who might ever cross them. So, you see, my ancestors were all pioneers and soldiers, God-fearing people like most mountain folk. I grew up in a one-room log cabin, the same one my father and his father before him lived in. I sat in the same spot where our ancestors first cleared the land, viewing the logs with a broad axe.

The walls were chinked with horsehair, mud, and sticks, and the inside of the cabin walls was covered in newspapers and pages of magazines to help keep the bitter winter cold out. My pa was a blacksmith, and his shop was located in the very same cave where my great-great grandpap had spent his first night when he first came into this valley. Like many of my ancestors, it came before me.

This cave is where I cut my teeth as a blacksmith apprentice. While work was a necessity of daily life, my father's first love was hunting with his trusty muzzleloader. He spent most of his days hunting and blacksmithing at night. Pa was the best shot I'd ever seen in my life, and he taught me how to shoot. He loved competing with other shooters, and Pa would win every match. A popular game back then was to tie a turkey behind a log, and the marksmen would position themselves about a hundred yards away, and they would take turns shooting.

Each time the turkey would poke his head up from behind the log, the winner would get ten cents and get to keep the turkey. Now, Pa's advice to me would always be, just be accurate on the first time, and when you shoot a muzzleloader, well, we all learn how to make each shot count. I love my Pa. I grew up with him, and I worked in the blacksmith shop with him. Like all mountain women, my Ma was a hard worker, and she loved the Lord, her man, and her children. Even though we didn't have much, she did her best to raise me right, and Lord knows she had her hands full with eleven boys and three girls.

Even though I was the third oldest of the boys, I was the biggest and the strongest of all my brothers. All of us kids had a hard time going to school, mainly because back in those days, there were hardly any schools in these remote mountains, and even if there was a school, it would be three miles away, through the rugged terrain, on a road that was barely more than an animal trail. Most folks needed their kids at home, helping with tending to the animals and the crops. So school, oh, it was mostly an afterthought.

It only ran for about three months a year, but when it was in session, there would be a hundred or so barefooted mountain children piled into a small one-room schoolhouse with primitive bench seating with no backs. By the time I was in the third grade, my Pa suddenly died. Life could never be the same, so I quit school, and I never went back. All totaled, I had just nine months of schooling, and with me being the biggest boy in the house, I would suddenly task with somehow bringing money into the household to help us survive. When I wasn't working on our farm or in the blacksmith's shop, my Ma would hire me out to work on neighboring farms for forty cents a day, and by the time I was in my teens, and with my Pa's stern hand no longer around to guide me, it wasn't long before I started getting into trouble and developing a reputation for being a bit of a hell raiser. Ma did her best to keep me in line, but every day after work, I'd spend all night drinking and gambling.

Just because I'd quit school in third grade didn't mean I couldn't read. Oh heck, I loved to read about the outlaws, like Frank and Jesse James. I admired the way those boys could shoot, and I still loved to shoot, just like my Pa had taught me.

I'd put a target up on a tree, and I'd ride my horse around and around that tree, shooting it up. Before long, I could shoot as well as my Pa ever did, and although I was working as much as possible, my downfall proved to be the powerful combination of moonshine and cards. And you've been listening to J.D. Phillips, the Appalachian storyteller, using the words of Sergeant York himself, when we come back, more of this remarkable story, here on Our American Stories. This is Lee Habib, host of Our American Stories, the show where America is the star in the American people, and we do it all from the heart of the South, Oxford, Mississippi. But we truly can't do this show without you.

Our shows will always be free to listen to, but they're not free to make. If you love what you hear, consider making a tax-deductible donation to Our American Stories. Go to our American stories dot com.

Give a little, give a lot. That's our American stories dot com. From BBC Radio 4, Britain's biggest paranormal podcast is going on a road trip. I thought in that moment, oh my God, we've summoned something from this board. This is Uncanny USA. He says somebody's in the house and I screamed.

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Phillips, the Appalachian storyteller telling the story of Alvin York in Alvin York's own words from his autobiography. Let's pick up where we last left off. Week after week, I would gamble all my money away out all night drunk. And naturally that led to fist fighting. Now I can't tell you how many grown men I fought when I was a teen, but I can tell you this.

I never got whipped unless it was by my mom. Night after night, month after month, this went on for nearly six years until I was in my early 20s. Yet each time I'd stare at the bottom of another empty bottle. I realized that no matter how much I drank, it would never be able to fill the void inside my soul. Folks around me were living their lives, but I was stuck in a drunken stover constantly. I knew I needed to change.

But like so many great men before me, I was a slave to the poison contained in each sip of moonshine. The only person in my life who hadn't given up on me was my mother. There she was constantly telling me, son, you best go easy down that road and get right with the Lord.

One night, my best friend was killed in a bar fight, and I'd staggered home, drunk and numb. I got in after midnight, and I found my mom sitting up waiting for me. Mom, why aren't you in bed? I asked.

I can't. I can't never sleep for worrying about the day that somebody's gonna come walking through that door and telling me that you're dead, she said. And in that moment, my mother stood up and she looked deep into my eyes and she said, Son, when are you gonna become a real man like your father and your grandfathers? And those words hit me hard, and I promised her that night that I would never drink again. I would never smoke, chew, cuss, or fight or gamble again. And so it was. From that moment on, I never drank any whiskey, touched any cards, or fought against any man.

My mom saved my life that night. Just like Paul in the Bible, the things I once loved, I now hate. One night, there was a revival and an evangelist from Indiana was preaching at the small church down the road. His words spoke to me, and for the first time, I really listened. I mean, I had grown up Methodist, but there was something different about this preacher, and after the meeting, I spent many days talking with him, and I respected the words that this man spoke. He spoke in a way I had never heard before, and I believed what he said, and he drew me closer to God. He always spoke with the strict words from the scriptures. It was far different than my Methodist upbringing.

He spoke a punishment for the wicked and a place of happiness for those who lived for the Lord. And before long, I got saved in the Wolf Creek Church of Christ, and eventually, I became an elder in the church. Heck, I had always had a good singing voice, and soon, I was leading the singing choir. Somehow, I had turned my entire life around from the road of destruction that I was bound for. Now, even though we didn't have many newspapers or major roads out in our little area, the railroads were quickly being built, and they became the primary source of how folks first got word of news going on in the outside world. I was working on the railroad in Harriman, Tennessee when I heard about this great war that was going on. A few weeks later, I got a postcard in the mail telling me to go register just in case the government wanted me to go fight in the war. And there I was, a grown man, thirty years old.

I was driving still and blasting dynamite in mountains hoping to build the railroad for one dollar and sixty cents a day. While I loved my country, I was a devout Christian, and I'd swore off fighting many years ago, and the very thought of killing a man went against every fiber of my being. I simply wrote on that postcard that I wouldn't go and fight because it was against my religion, and I mailed it back to him.

Yet, a few months later, I got an official letter notifying me that the Church of Christ wasn't recognized by the government as an official religion. Therefore, my request not to fight was denied, and I was ordered to report to Jamestown, Tennessee to be shipped off to Army Basic Training in Atlanta, Georgia immediately. For the next two nights, I wrestled deep within my soul on what I should do.

I couldn't find assurance in the thought of fighting and killing foreign men who I harbored no ill will or hate for. Suddenly, on the third day, I found myself standing on my grandpa's favorite spot on our farm. It was here that after two and a half days, the voice of God spoke to my heart, and he assured me that the calling was right and that it was all right for me to go. And God assured me that I would return to my family without a single scratch upon my head. And while it was very hard for my mother and my brothers and my sisters to accept just like that, I left the mountains of East Tennessee for the first time in my life, bound for the unknown of the other side of the world. Within a few days, I arrived at Camp Gordon. After several days of traveling on a train, I was exhausted. The first morning, they made all the new recruits pick up cigarette butts in the yard.

I looked around, and I saw nothing but sandy flatness. I never realized how much I loved those mountains that I grew up in until that moment. Before long, they assigned me to Company G, 328th Infantry, the 82nd Division. Now, this division was made up of men from every state in America.

There were rural folk and city folk, all just blended together. Yet, I was the only mountain man in the entire company. The only thing we all had in common was we were all poor. Or, as the drill sergeants kept telling us, the best that America had to offer to defend freedom. They put me in the bunks near a bunch of Italian and Greek men. None of us could understand what the other fellow was even saying.

Every night was a sleepless night. I had never been so homesick in my entire life. Before long, they put a gun in my hand, and they seemed proud at the quality of the weapon. All those city boys being with pride. Most of them, they had never held a gun before. Me, my first thought was how greasy it was. My pa taught me how to keep a rifle as clean as a newborn baby. Because, back home, our lives depended on these guns.

First thing I did was to take that thing and break it into a million parts and clean it squeaky clean. The looks on the drill sergeants' faces seemed like they had never seen someone clean a gun like that before, and one of them asked me how I knew how to do it, and I replied, sir, we make our own rifles back home, sir. We make our own rifles back home, sir, Alvin York said to his commanding officer at the time.

What a scene that must have been, right? All these city slickers holding a gun for the first time, and here's York looking at it with semi-disgust, needing, feeling the urge to take it apart and clean it up, and everybody just watching in amazement. What a beautiful, simple, sort of hillbilly answer to a straight question.

You're listening to J.D. Phillips, who runs the popular YouTube channel the Appalachian Storyteller, and he's using Sergeant York's own words from his autobiography, his own life story and war diary. And, my goodness, what a story, growing up in a one-room log cabin, the father of blacksmith, and a great shot. When you shoot a muzzleloader, his dad told him, you make each shot count.

And, boy, they did. His dad dies when he's in the third grade. He quits school, and he never goes back, only nine months of education.

But he's the oldest boy in the house. He has to hit the streets. He has to hustle.

And he's got this void. He's lost his dad, and he just starts to drink. He starts to gamble, and he just starts getting into trouble. Then, one night, his best friend gets killed. He goes home, and he sees his mom.

She says to him, son, when are you going to become a real man like your father and grandfather? And those words cut through him. The next thing you know, he was getting his life in order. An evangelist, a traveling evangelist, came through town, and he rediscovered his faith and a spirit in him and just gave up the bad things in his life and started anew. Then came the call for the military. He tried to get out of it, tried to claim a religious exemption.

It didn't happen. And then he heard this sense and voice from God. The next thing you know, he finds himself overseas, ready for war. The story of Alvin York continues here on Our American Stories. From BBC Radio 4, Britain's biggest paranormal podcast is going on a road trip. I thought in that moment, oh my God, we've summoned something from this board. This is Uncanny USA. He says somebody's in the house, and I screamed.

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Let's pick up where JD last left off. Most of the new recruits were city boys and I'll tell you, they couldn't hit nothing with those guns. Not only would they miss the entire target, but they'd miss the entire hill that the target was mounted on. Me, I'd been shooting squirrels since I was five and killing turkeys at 150 yards by the time I was nine. Seems like all I remember doing in basic training was shooting, but mostly hiking while carrying as much weight as a man could possibly haul by himself.

Days of endless marching and hikes and toting that gun, I never saw so many folks fall out from exhaustion. Yet, before long, I got a letter telling me that I'd been assigned to the front lines on the other side of the world in France. Before long, I was on a train to New York City and a few days later, Boston, Massachusetts, an officer came through and he asked every man in the company if they objected to going across the ocean and fighting. When he asked me, I told him I didn't object because I love my country. However, to be honest, I wasn't sure who was even in the right or the wrong in this war. He simply replied to me that blessed are the peacemakers and that we were the peacemakers. After hearing that, we all thought that as soon as we got over there, we would be keeping the peace.

And I'll tell you right now, nothing could have been further from the truth. At four o'clock the next morning, we all loaded onto an old ship and we started for France. This was the first time I'd ever seen the ocean. Water. Everywhere I looked, water. And when I looked back towards America, all I saw was water.

While the Greeks and Italians and the Jews withstood the voyage just fine, the rocking back and forth of the ship kept me sick the entire time. We went to sleep wearing our full gear and life preservers 24-7. Just in case we were attacked, I had never wanted to go back to those mountains more than I did in that moment. Sixteen days later, as the sun was setting on the water behind us to the west, we arrived in Liverpool, England. Within three days, we were on the move, traveling towards France.

By now, I was making friends with all the other fellas in the company. My three friends were named Corporal Murray Savage and Sergeant Harry Parsons. They were both from Brooklyn, New York, and then there was Lieutenant Stewart from Georgia. Anyway, we arrived in France and the first thing they gave us was gas masks. For the first month, it seemed that all we would do was take a train to some small town or village and hike around until we would suddenly get orders to board another train to some small town or village and repeat the process. Finally, we got orders to relieve the 26th Division boys in the Mont-Sec sector in Rameau Court. We moved during the middle of the night and we would stay there for the next ten days. Apparently, this is where the army would send all the new troops for one final training session before sending them into no man's land.

Tennessee started to seem like something I had only dreamed in my mind and I started to question if it ever really existed or if I would ever see it again. Occasionally, fire would come in from artillery shells. Putting on gas masks became second nature because of the constant gas shells and then there was the constant threat of snipers.

Some of us new meat, we would constantly be ducking our heads as the sounds of bullets whizzed by but after a few boys were shot, we soon realized that it was no use to duck since no one ever hears the bullet that hits them. At first, there was the endless waiting in the trenches and that seemed to be the hard part for the Greeks and the Italians. They wanted to go on the offensive. Every time one of them would do something foolish like sneaking out of the trench trying to get a better look at things, someone would die and that was the trouble with my platoon. Everyone was so antsy and they couldn't sit still. They wanted to attack and get the war over with.

Me? I spent most of my time reading a small bible that I kept in my pocket. I must have read that thing at least five times. We spent the next two months constantly moving positions in the trenches. We never knew what was the grand scheme of things. It was hurry up and wait and always do what you're told. Suddenly, without warning, we were part of a big American offensive. We captured a small town named Norrie and we kept clawing our way forward. Our whole battalion found ourselves right in the heart of the St. Michael Drive and suddenly, we were on the front lines when the enemy launched into an all out offensive. We began losing men immediately to machine gun fire. Our biggest problem was we were too anxious to get to the enemy and we kept pushing forward when we should have shown more patience.

I'll say this though, those Greeks and Italians, they moved full steam ahead no matter what the cost was. After we captured this town, we went house to house looking for any prisoners or anything of value that we might use. Most soldiers were looking for booze and they quickly drank any they found and while we were dug in here, there was a huge grape vineyard in the distance and the longer we stayed dug in those trenches, the hungrier we all got and the better those grapes looked. Finally, we couldn't stand it so we all went into the vineyard unaware that there was a German observation balloon high above. They unleashed an assault on us and they killed several more of our men and once we made it back to the trenches, the captain ordered us all to stay out of those grapes but I have to tell you, I was starving and man, I couldn't get those grapes out of my mind. So that night, I snuck back into the vineyard as quiet as a mouse when suddenly, a mortar shell exploded nearby me. I started running for my life when I ran into another man and we both fell to the ground. I quickly realized that it was the captain himself. Turns out, he couldn't get those grapes off his mind either.

It seems like all of us tried hard to find some humor to maintain our sanity. Constantly wearing gas masks for hours a day, constant bombing, sharp shooters and machine gun nests killed me in every day and when a man was dead, dying or badly injured, no one came for him. They lay there beside you for days at a time. Soon, we had orders to move to prepare for the battle of Argonne. We hiked for miles through the woods that were shot up something terrible.

Even the ground was all tore up from the shelly. By daybreak, we had made it to the main road and airplanes were buzzing our heads while we crawled over dead men and horses. All the while, shells were exploding all around us. Somehow we made it to the side of the road and some small holes that served as makeshift bunkers. We weren't yet close enough for the machine gun nests to reach us but the constant shelling from the airplanes was non-stop and I saw a lot of men just blown to pieces.

When the orders finally came in, it was our job to take Hill 240 and Hill 223 by the next day and that day started wet with a slow drizzle but that didn't stop the shells from falling. And you've been listening to J.D. Phillips, who runs the popular YouTube channel, The Appalachian Storyteller, and he's telling the story of Alvin York as Alvin himself, using York's own words from his autobiography, Sergeant York, his own life story and war diary.

And my goodness, what a story you're hearing. Thinking little in the beginning of what was to come because, well, he hadn't seen combat yet. Being moved from place to place within the United States, seeing the ocean for the first time, meeting people from all kinds of different ethnic backgrounds, thinking he was going to go over there and quote keep the peace. And as he said, nothing could have been further from the truth when he finally entered real combat.

And my goodness, what kind of combat those World War I vets faced. When we come back, more of the remarkable story of Sergeant Alvin York here on Our American Stories. I'm Katja Adler, host of The Global Story. Over the last 25 years, I've covered conflicts in the Middle East, political and economic crises in Europe, drug cartels in Mexico. Now I'm covering the stories behind the news all over the world in conversation with those who break it. Join me Monday to Friday to find out what's happening, why and what it all means.

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All you can stream with Zumo Play. And we continue with our American stories and the story of Sergeant Alvin York. Let's pick up with JD Phillips where we last left off. Our machine gun battalion was moving alongside us on the opposite side of the road and we saw bomb after bomb fall on them. The whole area looked like a tornado had tore through it.

All day and all night long, the machine gun nest flashed and fired non-stop. Somehow in that moment, my mind traveled back home to the other side of the world. I was standing on the porch of our log cabin watching an old time thunderstorm roll across the mountains.

All I had in this moment was my faith in God. Somehow though, we mobilized with orders to take Hill 223. The orders were to begin the push at 6am just before sunrise, take the hill and advance across the valley to the mountains on the other side to try to take the railroad which was an important lifeline for the German army supplies.

By 610, we reached the top of the hill. The German machine guns were firing at us from both sides and in the front of us. One by one, I watched as my buddies were hit and soon we secured Hill 223 and we set our eyes towards the push, towards the railroad but the valley was several hundred yards wide and machine gun nests dug in on the opposite sides with more guns perched on the mountain flanks and the ridges. To even try and run across that valley seemed like suicide. The first wave of American troops took off across the field.

Never cut down, the second wave came and suffered the exact same fate. Almost every man was killed. Suddenly, the order was given to dig in. We were stopped dead in our tracks, the artillery shells kept falling and thirty machine gun nests kept firing non-stop. We were trapped and they knew exactly where we were. Somehow, we had to get to those machine guns that were located about 300 yards in front of us. We decided we would send a small group to try to go around and somehow attack the guns from the back so I was one of seventeen men ordered to carry out the surprise attack. Now the valley, it had lots of trees and brush and hilly terrain for us to move stealthily and quickly and quietly.

We moved as our hearts were beating out of our chest. Before long, we had crossed over the hill and positioned ourselves in a gully behind them. We were now in no man's land behind enemy lines. The brush was so thick we couldn't even see the Germans but the sound of the machine guns was a nightmare.

We kept moving until we crossed a small stream when suddenly we stumbled upon fifteen Germans who were eating their breakfast in the middle of all this carnage. They jumped up and to our surprise, they threw their hands up and surrendered. Amazingly, not one shot was fired. However, by now we had been spotted by the machine guns on top of the hill and they turned their guns around and started shooting at us.

They were only thirty yards away. Six of us were killed instantly and three more wounded that left only eight of us. My friend Corporal Savage was among the dead. All of my commanding officers were dead.

They left me in charge and I was all alone out in the open. The machine guns were cutting down the brush all around me like a lawn mower. All the while, the Germans were yelling orders to one another and I couldn't understand anything they were saying. I didn't know where my other seven men were but most of them were holding guns on the German prisoners. I knew that the Germans would have to pop their heads up to see where I was and point their machine gun at me and some calm came over me like a rush of hot water. As I laid there in the grass, I began to fire back at the machine gun nest. I never blinked and every time I saw a German pop his head up from behind those sand bags, it was like I was shooting turkeys tied behind a log back in the mountains except those German heads were much bigger than turkey heads and there was no way I could miss.

Anytime one of them is so much as moved, I fired and never missed the mark. It all went on for nearly 5 minutes, nearly 30 machine guns firing all around me. I emptied several clips and the barrel of my gun was red hot. Suddenly, six Germans jumped up out of a nearby trench about 25 yards away and they charged me with bayonets attached to their rifles.

They were screaming and running full speed. I only had about a half a clip left in my rifle so I pulled out my pistol and I shot every one of them. I immediately returned to firing with my rifle at those machine guns. By now I had killed over 20 of them before a German major appeared with his hands up out of the trench in front of me yelling English, English and I replied no American and he yelled if you'll stop firing, I'll make them surrender. I quickly pointed my rifle at him and I said if you don't make them surrender, I'll blow your head off.

The major began blowing a whistle and one by one, they came down with their hands up and they threw down their guns and their belts. One man was taken off his belt when he threw a hand grenade at me and it exploded in the air right in front of me. Somehow I wasn't hurt and I killed him instantly. Seeing that, every man on the hill surrendered, nearly 100 of them and as I stood and looked around me, every tree, every bush and every bit of grass was gone. Every area except the spot where I hid during the assault had been shot up. There I stood without a hair harmed on my head. God had truly kept me from harm. All told, the mountain boy from East Tennessee, Alvin York, had captured 132 German soldiers in one of the greatest battles of World War I. He returned home to America, hailed as the greatest war hero in history and for his actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

A Hollywood movie was made about him. Now, supposing these here cartridges is a flock of wild turkeys are flying across the ridge, coming this way, see, right at me. Now, which one of them would you shoot first? I'd take a crack at all of them and trust the luck. Well, you wouldn't have no luck that way, Pusher.

No? Well, then I'd pick the motorman. The what? The motorman, the guy out in front. Well, that ain't right either if you want to get more than one turkey.

Which one of them's got the most meat on them? Yeah, what's the answer? Well, if you shoot this one here, the leader, the rest of them will see him drop and fly off, see? So, you draw down on the last turkey gap, and then the next one, see, kind of coming from back to front, then the rest of them won't know they're being hit. And, of course, they might flare off some when the shooting starts, but if a feller's got himself a repeating rifle, he's got a good chance of getting the whole flock.

Sounds all right. Turkey sure is dumb animals. Seems you picked up a good bet down in the hills, Alvin.

Well, anybody that's done any hunting knows that. And every consumer product in America wanted his endorsement. Yet, Alvin turned his back on all of the fame, and he returned home to his farm in Tennessee.

He dedicated the remainder of his life establishing schools and educational opportunities for the mountain children of East Tennessee. And a terrific job on the editing, production, and storytelling by our own Greg Hengler. And a special thanks to J.D. Phillips, who runs the popular YouTube channel, The Appalachian Storyteller. And, again, a special thanks to J.D.

Phillips for playing the part of Alvin and reading from and performing parts of his remarkable life story. And what a story it was. The description of those battlefield scenes are remarkable. Those machine gun nests, the flashing lights from those machine guns going day and night, and all the while memories rekindled about home.

And Alvin said, all I had in these moments was my faith in God. And of course, he was relying on his faith in God, facing the full force of a mighty German army and a mechanized German army. And the world had never seen mechanization like this before, combined with the savagery of bayonets.

So it was sort of an old war, World War I and a new war, and the combination and horrors of both. Remember, the first thing he was issued was a gas mask, because the use of gas in this war was prominent as well, a barbaric type of warfare that the Geneva Convention outlawed in World War II was not used the way it might have because of that, and because of the experience with nerve gas. Then what he was known for, that remarkable battle, in which essentially he captured over 130 Germans almost single-handedly. For his bravery, York was awarded the Medal of Honor, and all because of that crack shooting that he learned in the hill country of Tennessee. Turkey hunting.

As he put it, the heads of the Germans were a lot bigger than those turkey heads. When he came back home, every consumer product company in the world wanted his image, wanted his likeness, wanted his endorsement. But he turned his back on fame, Sergeant Alvin York did, returned home to his farm in Tennessee, and spent his adult life working on educational opportunity for the East Tennessee mountain kids who've grown up just like him. The story of Sergeant Alvin York, here on Our American Stories. I'm Katja Adler, host of The Global Story. Over the last 25 years, I've covered conflicts in the Middle East, political and economic crises in Europe, drug cartels in Mexico. Now I'm covering the stories behind the news all over the world in conversation with those who break it. Join me Monday to Friday to find out what's happening, why, and what it all means.

Follow The Global Story from the BBC wherever you listen to podcasts. The wait is almost over. Get ready for the 2024 NFL season as the full schedule is announced. Every rivalry, every rematch, every rookie debut, every game revealed. The 2024 NFL schedule release presented by Verizon coming in May. Live on NFL Network, ESPN2, and streaming on NFL Plus. Terms and conditions apply to NFL Plus.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-08 04:21:18 / 2024-05-08 04:37:34 / 16

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