Alvin C. York was born in 1887 to a very poor family in Tennessee. His father died when Alvin was 24 years old, and Alvin had to help his mother raise eight of his younger brothers and sisters. He was drafted into the Army at age 29 and fought in World War I. Alvin didn’t want to go to Europe and fight, but eventually, he decided that he had to answer the country’s call to duty along with everyone else.
On October 8, 1918, Alvin’s squad of seventeen men had to find a route to a railroad line in France that the Germans were using to supply their troops. To get there, they had to cross a valley and the Germans had defended it with machine-gun nests and over two hundred troops. Half the soldiers were killed by the German troops, leaving Corporal Alvin York in charge.
He stormed the German machine guns head-on. Imagine what it’s like to run directly at a machine gun that an enemy soldier is firing at you. But Alvin got to the nest, only to find eight Germans coming at him with bayonets, long knives at the end of their rifles. He kept on fighting until he ran out of ammunition, and then the Germans surrendered. He took 132 prisoners and opened up the rail line for the U.S. and its allies.
When Alvin came home after the war he got married and had five children. He founded a school for young farm boys in Tennessee, and a movie was made of his life. He tried to enlist for combat duty again in World War II even though he was 55 years old, but the Army said he was too old and would more do good for the country helping recruit younger soldiers. He lived to be 75 years old and is one of America’s greatest war heroes.
The Sixty-Second Patriot series of posts is intended to provide teachers who are required to engage in patriotic exercises with truthful, age-appropriate, meaningful, educationally-rich, non-controversial, secular alternatives to rote recital of the Pledge of Allegiance, as well as brief meditations on American history, civics, and values accessible to all people. Suggestions and contributions to this series from Readers are welcome.