Alvin York: American War Hero?


Alvin York: American War Hero?

A war hero is an important figure who helped determine the outcome of the war for the better. Someone who is admired for their courage, nobility, or exploits in combat. A war hero is admired for their qualities and achievements completed in their time of duty and are regarded as a model for the average soldier. An example of a war hero is Alvin York, a skilled laborer who was a great marksman. York was a World War I soldier who helped overtake the Germans before they could do any harm towards others. On October 8, 1918, York led an attack on a German machine gun nest that took 32 machine guns, killed 28 German soldiers, and captured 132 others in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France. York was known as a deeply religious man who didn’t believe in the aspects of war. Despite his unwillingness to fight when he was first drafted, he managed to overcome his fears and beliefs and thus managed to receive the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions. While his heroism went unnoticed in the United States until 1919, he is considered by some to be one of the greatest American soldiers in World War I. Alvin York deserves credit as an American war hero who managed to overcome his fears both physically and psychologically.

    Alvin York had to overcome many psychological events before becoming a war hero. York, who was born in an impoverished family of thirteen, had to drop out of school to help supplement to the family by working on the family farm and hunt game. However, when his father died, York had to provide an income for his family. He became a day laborer on a railroad followed by being a logger. However, York was not very good with handling money as he suffered from chronic fiscal problems, such as spending money when he had it, giving it away to other people who he believed needed it, and invested poorly.  As a result from this, he became a heavy alcoholic who would gamble and get into bar fights often. However, York changed his ways when his best friend, Everett Delk, was killed in a bar fight in 1914. His death convinced York that he needed to change his ways or else suffer a fate similar to Delk’s. As a result of this, York attended a revival at the Church of Christ in Christian Union, which made him change his ways. Once he joined the Church of Christ, he quit drinking, gambling, and fighting. However, in 1917, he received notice from his close friend, Rosier Pile, that he was drafted. York wasn’t very happy with this, as he didn’t believe in violence since joining the Church of Christ. Pile encouraged York to seek conscientious objector status, the right to refuse to perform military service on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, or religion. When York did, he was denied because the Church of Christ in Christian Union was not recognized as a legitimate Christian Sect. While he was first upset with this decision, York later on accepted that he was being drafted since he knew he would be ok “in God’s hands”.

While York had to overcome many psychological problems during the early part of his life, he also overcame physical problems by killing and capturing the German enemy. Since joining the Church of Christ, York did not want to inflict any more pain on other people. It went against his own will to harm and kill others. When he first reported to training in Georgia, he had established himself as a great marksman who had no stomach for war. However, in 1918, the same year his famous battle occurred, York managed to overcome his fears of fighting. On October 8, 1918, York and sixteen other soldiers were dispatched before sunrise to take command of the Decauville Railroad in the Meuse-Argonne sector. However, due to a misreading in their map, the soldiers wound up behind enemy lines. A brief fire fight occurred which resulted in the confusion and the unexpected surrender of a superior German force to the seventeen soldiers. However, once the Germans realized that the American contingent was limited, machine gunners overlooking the scene turned their guns away from the front and towards York and his men. After ordering the German soldiers to lie down, the machine gun opened fire which resulted in the deaths of nine Americans, including York’s best friend in the group, Murray Savage. When Sergeant Early received seventeen bullet wounds, he turned the command over to corporals Harry Parsons and William Cutting. They ordered York to silence the machine gunners, which he was successful at. He killed all the German gunners before they could even reach him and his men. German First Lieutenant Paul Jürgen Vollmer had even tried to kill York himself. However, with his inability to reach York along with seeing his mounting losses, Vollmer surrendered his unit to York. By the end of the battle, York and his men marched 132 German prisoners back to American territory. York’s actions silenced the German machine guns while saving his own guys from uncertain deaths. York later received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions. His actions in this battle should be considered heroic because of how he helped contribute to the United States side in terms of killing their enemies. His contributions in helping defeat the Germans in World War I is very important and vital in the United State’s victory in battle.

York deserves to be remembered as an American war hero because of his heroic actions that showed leadership when his sergeants went down. Even though he experienced major setbacks early in his life, York managed to become a war hero by overcoming his personal fears both physically and psychologically. Because he managed to overcome his beliefs about not fighting, he ended up becoming a war hero even though it was against his personal judgment. However, it is a bit far-fetched to say that he was one of the greatest American soldiers in World War I as he only led one attack during his time on duty. However, even though it was only one attack, it was an important one as it saved many lives of Americans who could have been killed. York’s actions during that crisis show what leadership skills York had and how he managed to save lives right on the spot. For this, York’s actions during his time should be remembered not only as an achievement, but also for overcoming his personal problems to become what he is remembered for today: an American war hero.