Alvin Cullum York (December 13, 1887 – September 2, 1964)
During World War I, a man with mixed emotions about killing became a killing machine and a national hero. Praised for his godliness and piety, Alvin York refused to fight at first because he had claimed conscientious objector status. Born in rural and impoverished Tennessee, Pall Mall, Tennessee, Alvin was the third of eleven children and worked all his childhood to help his family out. He joined the Army rather late at the age of 29, already a walking contradiction, a violent alcoholic and determined pacifist whose church was a reaction against the Methodists who supported the Civil War.
During the Meuse Argonne Offensive, York’s company came under heavy machine gun fire and was pinned down. In a daring move, he was left the only NCO and took command. He ordered a charge on a machine gun nest. A handful of his men followed him and managed to take the nest, and 132 German prisoners.
He returned a much-feted hero and a reluctant hero at that. He granted few interviews regarding his battle experiences and a he became an advocate for education in middle Tennessee where he grew up.
He died in Nashville and was buried in Pall Mall Cemetery.
He won the following military decorations: The Medal of Honor, The Distinguished Service Cross, The Victory Medal, The Campaign Medal, The Legion Of Honor, and the Croix De Guerre.
- Medal of Honor
- Distinguished Service Cross
- World War I Victory Medal
- American Campaign Medal
- World War II Victory Medal
- French Légion d’honneur
- French Croix de guerre with Palm
- Italian Croce di Guerra
- Montenegrin War Medal