Many Americans are familiar with the name of Alvin Cullum York because of the 1941 film Sergeant York. What you may not know, however, is that his American hero was a native son of Tennessee, born in a log cabin in Pall Mall.
As a young man, York was a member of the Church of Christ. He initially declared himself a conscientious objector at the outbreak of World War I, but his petition was denied. The thirty-year old York found himself assigned to the 82nd division on the Western Front.
On November 8th, 1918, Corporal York and his company were entrenched in the Argonne Forest in France. York made a daring attempt to capture a German machine gun nest, killing many enemy soldiers and taking 132 prisoners.
When his division General asked him how many Germans he might have killed, York answered, “General, I would hate to think that I missed any of them shots; they were all pretty close range.”
York’s bravery earned him a Medal of Honor and promotion to sergeant, and his story of heroism catapulted him to national attention.
He rejected offers from advertisers and Hollywood, choosing instead to return to his home state, where he focused his efforts on creating educational opportunities for the mountain people of Tennessee. York died in Nashville on September 2, 1964.
To learn more about Alvin York, visit the Pink Palace Museum’s exhibit, In the Footsteps of Sgt. York, which is part of our From Swords To Plowshares experience this summer on the 99th anniversary of the beginning of World War I.