Historic Markers Across Tennessee



Sgt. Alvin C. York - America's Greatest Civilian Soldier



Marker ID:  
Location: on N. York Highway (US 127), Pall Mall, TN
County: Fentress
Coordinates: N 36° 32.532    W 084° 57.564
  36.5422    -84.9594
Waymark: None
 



Text:

On Oct. 8, 1918, outside the French village of Chatel-Chenery, Alvin C. York took his fateful walk into history during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive against the German forces. As the sharpshooter for Company G in the 328th Infantry of the U.S. Army, he and 16 other soldiers were given the unenviable task of silencing the machine guns that halted the advance the day before. It was a cold, wet morning. Rain mixed with sleet added to the gloom of fog that draped the landscape. As the soldiers worked their way around the hill, the men on the left flank stood exposed in the creek bottom. German machine gunners opened fire, wounding or killing nine Americans, including York’s best friend Murray Savage. York was on the right flank beneath the crest of the hill in a natural depression, which he used to kill nine of the men who operated the guns. In the meantime his comrades opened fire on the Germans, and in a few minutes 25 were dead. The Germans surrendered to what they thought was a superior force, and York and the American survivors escorted 132 prisoners to American forces at Varennes some 10 miles away. For that he won the Congressional Medal of Honor and a host of other medals. Upon his return from France, he remained an influential state and national figure for the remainder of his life. General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), called him “the greatest civilian soldier” of World War I. Upon York’s death in 1964, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson called him “a symbol of American courage and sacrifice” who epitomized “the gallantry of American fighting men and their sacrifices on behalf of freedom.”

Sgt. York in World War II. *Gov. Prentice Cooper appointed York to the Tennessee Preparedness Committee in 1940-1941 that created plans for transition from peace to wartime. *York tried to re-enlist for service in WWII, but his health was poor, and it was determined that his efforts were best utilized on the home front. *He and his personal assistant, Arthur Bushing, headed up the local draft board. *York spent fewer than eight weeks at home during WWII, traveling the U.S. for the Signal Corps, rallying troops and encouraging enlistment. * He battled verbally with the 800,000-member, anti-war America First Committee and aviator Charles Lindbergh, who urged for US non-involvement in the European war. *York hosted a weekly radio program, “Tennessee Americans,” on the Mutual Broadcasting System, interviewing such prominent guests as Gen. Douglas MacArthur. If he was home, the show was broadcast by remote from the York Institute auditorium. *He wrote a weekly syndicated column, “Sergeant York Says,” to boost morale during wartime . York toured with the Camel Caravan, a Grand Ole Opry and Camel Cigarettes variety show hosted by Minnie Pearl and Eddie Arnold, which visited every training camp in the lower 48 states. *He sold War Bonds, gave blood to the Red Cross and assisted in any manner requested by the Roosevelt Administration. *The 1941 move Sergeant York played a significant role in persuading Americans to enlist in World War II.

The M247 Sgt. York SPAAG-Often mistaken for a tank, the M247 “Sgt. York” Division Air Defense Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun you see here failed when it was introduced in 1983, contributing to the dismissal of longtime U.S. Secretary Caspar Weinberger. This is one of the few remaining and it has never seen action.

(Inscriptions below the photos on the left side)
Alvin C. York during WWI at Camp Gordon with his friend, Pvt. Carl F. Swanson; York wanted to re-enlist for WWII service, but his efforts were best utilized on the home front; George Edward York at Camp Forrest during WWII with his father, Sgt. York; Alvin C York’s Draft Registration Card; WWI Congressional Medal of Honor winner York with WWII Medal of Honor Winners (Sgt. Huff, Sgt Coolidge, Sgt Cooley)

(Inscriptions below the photos on the right side)
Sgt. York and wife Gracie (third from left) fundraising for the Red Cross; Sgt. York served as Fentress County Draft Board Director during WWII; Sgt York (seated) during “Tennessee Americans” radio broadcast from York Institute during WWII; York was admirer of fellow Tennessean Cordell Hull, America’s longest-serving Secretary of State, who held the position for 11 years (1933-1944) in the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during much of World War II. Hull received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 for his role in establishing the United Nations and was referred to by Roosevelt as “the Father of the United Nations.” The Cordell Hull Birthplace State Historic Park is in nearby Pickett County and includes a replica of Hull’s log cabin birthplace, his museum and archives, and historic Bunkum Cave.

Erected by Tennessee State Parks-Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park.



Notes:

Explore more:
Wikipedia: Alvin C. York
Dr. Michael Birdwell: Sergeant Alvin York
History dot com: U.S. soldier Alvin York displays heroics at Argonne
Wikipedia: Meuse-Argonne Offensive
Wikipedia: Forest of Argonne
Wikipedia: World War I