On October 8, 1918, Corporal Alvin C. York of the
328th Infantry fought a desperate battle with a German machine gun detachment and brought into camp 132 prisoners. He was
promoted to a sergeancy, awarded the D.S.C., the French Croixde de Guerre, many other decorations, and generally acclaimed
the greatest individual hero of the war. Much has been written about him, but here, he tells his own story.
How long my ancestors have lived in Tennessee
is farther than I can tell. They were the first persons that settled this country. My great-great grandfather was the first
white man to settle here. When Grandpap first came he lived in a rock house, a cave, near Wolf River in the Pall Mall Valley.
We live under the mountain, down in the river-bottom sections, a little over 500 feet from the top of the mountain, a distance
of five miles. The Pall Mall Valley is located in the northeast part of Middle Tennessee, three miles from the Kentucky line.
My great-great-grandfather, Coonrod Pile,
took up this land and owned all of the valley and part of the mountain. He was the first white man there and took first choice.
There is a bunch of Piles still around here.
Grandpap York was in the Mexican War and
helped storm the heights of Chapultepec. When he came back from Mexico he was taken sick at the head of the creek and died
there. They call it Rock Creek. My grandpap on my mother's side, William Brooks, was a Northerner. He came down with the cavalry
from Detroit, Michigan, and after the war he got into it with some bushwhackers. There was no law and everybody toted a gun.
And they said he shot down one of their leaders; but they never proved it. But they killed him just the same. They hooked
him to a mule and dragged him through the streets of Jamestown, the county seat, and they shot him to pieces. So, you see,
my ancestors were all pioneers and soldiers and God-fearing people, too, like most all mountain people. We lived in a one-room
log cabin. I can't say for certain whether grandpap built the cabin or not. I think he did. It was built out of hewn logs,
hewn with a broad ax. They cut down the trees, hewed the logs, and built the cabin right there. The logs were chinked with
clay and sticks. The inside was pasted with newspapers and colored magazine covers.
My father was a blacksmith. He ran his
shop in the same cave where my great-great-grandfather spent his first night when he came into the valley, the first white
man to get by the Creeks and Cherokees. In that same cave is where I got my early days of blacksmith training. He was very
fond of hunting and shooting. Father would do his hunting every day, and if he had any blacksmith work he had to catch up
with he would do that of a night. He was a good shot. He loved shooting very much, and always won every match. His advice
was always to be accurate in shooting. He would always advise me to take more time and study this more. I grew up with him,
hunted with him and worked in the blacksmith shop with him.
My mother was a hardworking woman, a good
mother, and very religious. She always tried to instruct us to do the right thing. There was eleven of us, eight boys and
three girls. We were all tolerable sized. I was the third boy, and the largest of the bunch. We are all living today, all
except my father. God took him a few years before the war.
In my young days we had practically no
schools in the mountains at all. The roads were bad and we had no money. The schools that were there were run about two and
a half or three months a year. I got about to the third grade. There were over 100 of us in a little room and our seats were
split logs with no backs on them. After I left school I never did get to go to school anymore. I worked on the farm and in
the blacksmith shop. And I hired out to my neighbors and worked on their farms for forty cents a day. When I got a little
bit older, I went out and worked on the railroad awhile. I might say, too, that in my early days I got in bad company and
I broke off from my mother's and father's advice and got to drinking and gambling and playing up right smart. I read about
Frank and Jesse James. I thought if Frank and Jesse could be crack shots I could too. I used to gallop my horse around a tree
with a revolver and muss up that tree right smart. And I got tolerably accurate, too. I used to drink a lot of Moonshine.
I used to gamble my wages away week after week. I used to stay out late at nights. I had a powerful lot of fist fights. I
never was whipped, except when my mother and father whipped me. I was wild and bad for five or six years. Then I saw it was
no use, that I was missing the better things, and I decided to change my life and be a better boy. I knew all the time I was
going along this kind of life, deep down in my heart, that I was doing things that were not right. Mother was continually
pleading with me to quit my way of doing and change my way of life and be a better boy. And one night, after being very drunk
and fighting, I got in after midnight, and found my mother sitting up waiting for me, and I asked her, "Why don't you lie
down?" And she said, "I can't lie down. I don't know what's going to become of you when you are out drinking, and so I wait
until you come in." And then she asked me, "Alvin, when are you going to be a man like your father and your grandfathers?"
I promised my mother that night I would never drink again; I would never smoke or chew again; I would never gamble again;
I would never cuss or fight again. And I have never drunk any whiskey, I have never touched cards, I have never smoked or
chewed, and I have never fought or rough-housed since that night. I was very fond of tobacco, too. I used to smoke and chew.
And there was plenty of cheap whisky. You could always get it. And I was big and hard, over six feet and weighed upwards of
180 pounds. And when I quit, I quit all. I am very glad I did. I am a good deal like Paul, the things I once loved, I now
hate. And then I was saved. My conversion was under the preaching or during the revival of the Rev. M. H. Russell, from Indiana,
an evangelist to the mountains. He was an evangelist who preached very close. All that was not right he fought.He had a wonderful
meeting there. He had more conversions than any one man that has ever been through the valley. Well, the way he impressed
me was by his true speaking of the Scriptures. I knew the Scriptures, and when he spoke from them he spoke truly, giving the
punishment for the wicked and the place of happiness for those who are in Christ Jesus.
I had already told my mother I would quit
the things I had been doing, and at that time I had already quit gambling and drinking and fighting and was ready to begin
another life. I joined the church and became an elder. I was teaching singing schools and led all the singing in the church
before I went in the army. That is why they used to call me the Singing Elder. Pastor Pile was the pastor of the church I
belonged to. Pile is a very pleasant and a very handsome man. He is not the pastor of the church at present. He is first elder,
and superintendent of the Sunday School. He also has a store and a farm. He practically runs the store himself. His wife and
sister-in-law oversee the farm.
I don't remember whether I was working
on a farm or on a road when war first broke out. But when we came in I was driving steel and blasting on the road that is
now called the York Highway. I was earning a dollar and sixty cents a day. Had anybody at the time said the road was going
to be named for me, I would have told him that I didn't believe it ever would. After the war was going on, before America
declared war, we were continually reading the papers. I thought it was a very, very tough war. We decided long before we received
our call that America would be in it. Then I got notice to register at R. C. Pile's store at Pall Mall, the post office.
I kept a diary right through the war. I
kept a little notebook in America and then when we went to France I bought one of those little black French notebooks. I carried
this little diary in my pocket. I wrote in it in camp, on the ships, and in the fox holes and trenches at the front. No soldier
in the American army was permitted to keep a diary. It was against the rules, and anyone caught carrying it with him was subject
to court-martial, because the carrying of the diary, telling places you had been, what happened, and what outfit you belonged
to, if you happened to be captured, would give such information to the Germans as we did not want them to have. The captain,
when the company was lined up, would ask if any man had a diary. He was Captain Danforth of Augusta, Georgia. And one day
he asked me if I was keeping a diary. I told him I was not admitting whether I did or didn't, and he told me it would betray
a lot of valuable information to the Germans if I was captured. And I told him that I didn't come to the war to be captured,
and I wasn't going to be captured, and that if the Germans ever got any information out of me they would have to get it out
of my dead body. And so the captain kept going, and I kept the little diary, and I have it right now in a safe-deposit box
in my bank in Jamestown, Tennessee.
A history of the places where I have
been. The beginning of this story will start from the time I got my first notice in 1917.
JUNE 5, 1917
Pall Mall, Tennessee: Well,the first notice I received was to go and register.So I did, and then I began to think that I was going to
be called to be examined.
OCTOBER 28, 1917
Jamestown, Tennessee: So I was called to report to the local board for examination. I went and when they looked at me they weighed me and
I weighed 170 pounds. and was 72 inches tall. So they said I passed all right. Well, when they said that I almost knowed that
I would have to go to the army. I was lean and hard at that time. I had no fat on me at all. Up to that time I had never been
sick; only once, in 1906, when I got wet throughout from fencing, and had pneumonia.
NOVEMBER 10, 1917
Pall Mall, Tennessee: So I just went on with my work and I received a little blue card that told me to be ready for a call at any time.
NOVEMBER 14, 1917
Jamestown, Tennessee: So later I sure received a card that said report to your local board. So I went to Jamestown and reported to the
local board, and I stayed all night that night at Dr. Alexander's. I knew now I was in it. I was bothered a plenty as to whether
it was right or wrong. I knew that if it was right, everything would be all right. And I also knew that if it was wrong and
we were only fighting for a bunch of foreigners, it would be all wrong. And I prayed and prayed. I prayed two whole days and
a night out on the mountainside. And I received my assurance that it was all right, that I should go, and that I would come
back without a scratch. I received this assurance direct from God. And I have always been led to believe that He always keeps
his promise. I told my little old mother not to worry; that it was all right, and that I was coming back; and I told my brothers
and sisters; and I told Pastor Pile, and I prayed with him; and I told everybody else I discussed it with. But it was very
hard on my mother, just like it was on all mothers, and she didn't want to see me go.
NOVEMBER 15, 1917
Oneida, Tennessee: The morning of the 15th I started for the camp, which was Camp Gordon, I went to Oneida, Tennessee and stayed there
at the hotel until about 2 A.M. next morning when I entrained for Atlanta, Georgia.
NOVEMBER 16, 1917
Atlanta, Georgia and Camp Gordon: I got to Atlanta and there I entrained for Camp Gordon on the night of the 16th.
NOVEMBER 17, 1917
I was placed in the 21st training battalion, and there I was called out the first morning of my army life to police up in
the yard all the old cigarette butts, and I thought that was pretty hard, as I didn't smoke. But I did it just the same.
I had never traveled much before going
to camp. I had never been out of the mountains before, and I'm telling you I missed them right smart down there in that flat,
sandy country. And my little old mother and Pastor Pile wanted to get me out. Pastor Pile put in a plea to the government
that it was against the religion of our church to fight; and that he wanted to get me out on these grounds. And he sent his
papers up the War Department, and then filled them out and sent them to me at the camp and asked me to sign them. They told
me all I had to do was to sign them. And I refused to sign them, as I couldn't see it the way Pastor Pile did. My mother,
too, put in a plea to get me out as her sole support. My father was dead and I was keeping my mother and brothers and sisters.
And the papers were fixed up and sent to Camp Gordon and I was asked to sign them. But I didn't sign them.I knew I had plenty
of brothers back there that could look after my mother, that I was not the sole support, and I didn't feel I ought to do it.
And so I never asked for exemption from service on any grounds at all. I never was a conscientious objector. I am not today.
I didn't want to go and fight and kill. But I had to answer the call of my country, and I did. And I believed it was right.
I have got no hatred toward the Germans and I never had.
DECEMBER and JANUARY, 1917-18
So I stayed there and done squads right and squads left until the first of February and then I was sent to Company G, 328th
Infantry, 82nd Division. The 82nd Division was known as the All-American Division. We wore the insignia A.A. on our shoulder.
We were made up of boys from every state in the Union. My battalion was the second under the command of Major Buxton of Rhode
Island. I was in Company G, under Captain Danforth of Augusta, Georgia.
So there they put me by some Greeks and Italians to sleep.I couldn't understand them and they couldn't understand me, and
I was the homesickest boy you have ever seen. Ho ho.
Well, they gave me a gun, and oh my, that old gun was just full of grease and I had to clean that old gun for inspection.
So I had a hard time to get that old gun clean, and oh, those were trying hours for a boy like me, trying to live for God
and do His blessed will. So when I got this gun, I began to drill with the gun, and we had to hike once a week. So I have
seen many boys fall out of the hikes. We would have to take long hikes with all our stuff on our back and carry that old gun.
Ho ho. And we would have to go out before daylight and have sham battles. So I began to want a pass to go home. That first
Army rifle they issued me was all full of grease. Of course I didn't like that. The rifles we used in the mountains were always
kept clean. They were muzzle-loading rifles, cap and ball. They make their own guns there in the mountains. They are the most
accurate guns in the world, up to 100 or 150 yards. I would rather have had a clean army rifle than a muzzle loader for what
we were going to use them for, on account of the repeating shots, but they are not any more accurate than the muzzle-loading
rifles. The Greeks and Italians came out on the shooting range and the boys from the big cities. They hadn't been used to
handling guns. And sometimes at 100 yards they would not only miss the targets, they would even miss the hills on which the
targets were placed. In our shooting matches at home we shot at a turkey's head. We tied the turkey behind a log, and every
time it bobbed up its head we let fly with those old muzzle loaders of ours. We paid ten cents a shot and if we hit the turkey's
head we got to keep the whole turkey. This way we learn to shoot from about sixty yards. Or we would tie the turkey out in
the open at 150 yards, and if you hit it above the knee or below the gills you got it. I think we had just about the best
shots that ever squinted down a barrel. Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett used to shoot at these matches long ago. And Andrew
Jackson used to recruit his Tennessee sharpshooters from among our mountain shooters. We used to call our most famous matches
"beeves." We would make up a beef, that is, we would drive up a beef and then each pay, say a dollar until we had made up
the value of the beast. The owner got this money. And we were each allowed so many shots. The best shot got the choice of
the hind quarters, the second best the other hind quarter, the third the choice of the fore quarters, the fourth the other
fore quarters, and the fifth the hide and tallow. Our matches were held in an opening in the forest, and the shooters would
come in from all over the mountains, and there would be a great time. We would shoot at a mark crisscrossed on a tree. The
distance was twenty-six yards off hand or forty yards prone with a rest. You had to hit that cross if you ever hoped to get
all of that meat. Some of our mountaineers were such wonderful shots that they would win all five prizes and drive the beef
home alive on the hoof. Shooting at squirrels is good, but busting a turkey at 150 yards--ho ho. So the army shooting was
tolerably easy for me.
MARCH 21-31, 1918
Pall Mall, Tennessee: So I got a pass after while for ten days. I went home, and while I was home I had several services at Greers Chapel,
and the Lord blessed us and we had a fine little meeting. Rev. R. C. Pile and others were helping, and there were a number
of people saved during this little meeting. So the Lord was with us. Bless His Holy Name. I went home by train and then got
a lift part of the way and hiked the last twelve miles over the mountains. And I had to carry my suitcase, Ho, ho.
MARCH 29, 1918
Pall Mall, Tennessee: So I had to start back to my company, and that was a heartbreaking time for me, as I knew I had to go to France.
But I went back to my company trusting in God and asking Him to keep me although I had many trials and much hardship and temptation.
But as I could look up and say:
O God, in hope that sends a shining
Far down the future broadening way,
In peace that only Thou can give,
With Thee, O Master, let me live.
Then it was that the Lord would bless
me and I almost felt sure of coming back home for the Lord was with me.
APRIL 19, 1918
So we left Camp Gordon in the afternoon.
APRIL 21, 1918
Camp Upton, New York: We got to Camp Upton, N.Y. So we stayed there a few days and drilled.
APRIL 30, 1918
Boston, Massachusetts: And then we went to Boston. Captain Danforth came around and asked every man in the company if he objected to going
across to fight, and if he did what his objections were. He came to me, and I told him I didn't object to fighting, but the
only thing that bothered me was, were we in the right or wrong? He and I had a short conversation. Then he asked me again
if I objected and I told him I did not. He quoted, "Blessed are the peacemakers," and I replied that if a man can make peace
by fighting he is a peacemaker. We thought when we got over there, it would not be very long before peace was made, and it
was not very long after we got there that there was peace.
MAY 1, 1918
4 o'clock we got on board the old Scandeven ship and started for France. We left Boston and sailed down around to New York
harbor, and we stopped there until we got our convoy. That was the first time I had ever seen the open sea. Well, it was too
much water for me. Mark Twain's father drew the plans for the first courthouse and the first jail in Jamestown, Tennessee,
the county seat of my county, and he hunted with my great-grandfather. Mark Twain's novel, The Gilded
Age, is written about my country. His Obed's Town is really Jamestown. And his famous Tennessee Land
Grant is where I live. Mark Twain, of course, was born inland in Missouri, and, like myself, he had never seen the ocean until
he was taken out. And when he first saw the ocean they asked him what he thought of it, and he said it was a success.Well,
when Mark said that, he wasn't on the ocean. He was on the shore. And when our old boat began to pitch and toss I just knew
Mark was wrong. The Greeks and Italians and New York Jews stood the trip right smart. We had a very quiet time going across,
no real storms. But it was too much water just the same. We went through the submarine sector all right, and the greatest
excitement we had was at that time. We had a guard on the deck and if he was to blow the danger signal. During the night we
had orders to keep on all our clothing and wear our life preservers. The guard, and I think he was one of the Greeks or Italians,
didn't understand the danger signal very well, and he blew the fog whistle and hollered "Everybody on deck." Some of the boys
had disobeyed the orders and had no clothing on, and no life preservers; and the greatest excitement was to see some of those
boys climbing up on deck without any clothing on and hollering for their mess kits. Ho ho.
MAY 16, 1918
Liverpool, England: We got off the boat in the evening.
MAY 17, 1918
Camp Knotteash, England: We stayed at a little camp called Knotteash on the 17th.
MAY 18th 1918
Southampton, England: We went to Southampton.
MAY 20, 1918
Southampton, England: We started from England to France.
MAY 21, 1918
So we got to France at Le Havre. There we turned in our guns and got British guns. Well, we went out from Le Havre to a little
inland camp. I had taken a liking to my gun by this time. I had taken it apart and cleaned it enough to learn every piece
and I could almost put it back together with my eyes shut. The Greeks and Italians were improving. They had stayed continuously
on the rifle range for a month or two and got so they could shoot well. They were fairly good pals, too. But I missed the
Tennesseans. I was the only mountaineer in the platoon. I didn't like the British guns so well. I don't think they were as
accurate as our American rifles. Ho ho.
My buddies were some boys from the East. There was Corporal
Murray Savage--he got killed in the Argonne-- and Harry Parsons from Brooklyn, New York. I think he was a vaudeville actor.
And there were a lot of other Eastern boys who were in my platoon.
It sure was a mixed platoon, with the Greeks and Italians
and New York Jews, and there were some Irish and one German. I sure did miss the mountain boys from Tennessee and Kentucky.
But I got to like those other boys in my platoon. I was the largest in the platoon.
We got our first gas masks in Le Havre. I was still
a private. The man in charge of my platoon was Lieutenant Stewart from Georgia. The company commander was Captain Danforth
of Augusta, Georgia. Our platoon sergeants were Sergeant Early and Sergeant Harry Parsons.
Early was busted for being A.W.O.L. after we left Le
Havre. After that he was acting corporal. He was a good soldier. Parsons was never busted. He was a good soldier, too. I was
made a corporal just before we went into the St. Mihiel drive.
MAY 22nd 1918
Ev, France--Taken the train at Le Havre
and come to a little place called Ev.
MAY 24th 1918
Floraville, France-- We eat our breakfast at Ev and then
hiked to Floraville. And we stayed here a few days.
JUNE 4th 1918
Mons Babert, France-- Hiked here and stayed
a few days.
JUNE(no date) 1918
Fresseneville, France-- Went on
JUNE (no date) 1918
Toul, France-- Entrained for
Toul and we got to Toul and got off the train.
JUNE 26th 1918
Lucey, France-- Hiked to Lucey.
JUNE 26th 1918
Rambucourt, France-- We hiked a little
ways and then took the train for a short ride and then we got off the train and hiked to Rambucourt, and we stayed at Rambucourt
until after dark, and then we went up and took over the front line trenches for the first time.
JUNE 27th 1918
Montsec Sector, France-- And we relieved
the 26th Div. boys at night in the Montsec Sector at Rambucourt and we stayed there until the 4th of July.
It was a quiet sector, where they put new troops to
train them before sending them out into no man's land. The Greeks and Italians did fairly well. I was out in no man's land.
I did a right smart piece of patrolling, handling an automatic squad.
We had a lot of big stuff from the artillery coming
over, and now and then a gas shell. The only firing we had then was from the snipers. We were new troops and we were nervous
and jumpy at first. And when those pesky bullets came humming and buzzing a round our ears, just like a lot of mad hornets
or bumblebees when you rob their nests at home in Tennessee, we used to do a powerful lot of ducking.
But soon we realized it was no use. You never hear the
one that gets you.
JULY 1st 1918
Montsec Sector, France--
A few words on Christian witness in war and why a Christian does worry. Yet there is no use worrying about anything except
the worry of so many souls who have passed out into the Deep of an unknown world and have left no testimony as to the welfare
of their souls. There is no use of worrying about shells, for you can't keep them from busting in your trench, nor you can't
stop the rain or prevent a light from agoing up jest as you are half-way over the parapet.
So what is the use of worrying if you can't alter things?
Just ask God to help you and accept them and make the best of them by the help of God. Yet some men do worry, and by doing
so they effectually destroy their peace of mind without doing anyone any good. Yet it is often the religious man who worries.
I have even heard those whose care was for the soldier's soul deplore the fact that he did not worry. I have heard it said
that the soldier is so careless, he realizes his position so little.
Oh, yes; I felt before I left home-- in fact, I told
them when I left-- I was coming back, and I felt I was going to get back safely, and I never did doubt it in the least, because
I had my assurance that I would return home safely.
I carried a Testament with me. I have the Testament
I carried with me during all my fighting at home now. I read it through five times during my stay in the army. I read it everywhere.
I read it in dugouts, in fox holes, and on the front line. It was my rock to cling to. It and my diary. I didn't do any cursing,
no, not even in the front line. I cut all of that out long ago, at the time I was saved.
The trouble with the boys when we were in the quiet
sector was, they would want to go out on top of the trenches and start something. They wanted to get into it and get it over.
Those Greeks and Italians and the New York Jews! Ho ho. They didn't want to lie around and do nothing, and they would get
on top and get the Germans out. They were always asking, where was the war?
They were always ready to go over the top in time of
battle, almost too anxious to go over the top. The trouble with my platoon, it was too ambitious. It seemed like it got too
far in front and had no protection on the sides sometimes.
Well, we would stay in a quiet sector a few days and
pull out, and then we were sent to another and then into another, until we got into the real fighting sectors.
JULY 4th 1918
Cormeville, France-- Then we Come out
to Cormeville and stayed there until July 17th.
JULY 17th 1918
Rambucourt, France-- Went back in
the lines again and stayed until July 25th.
AUGUST 2nd 1918
Mandres, France-- We went in again
in the sector of Mandres and stayed until August 8.
AUGUST 16th 1918
Pont-A-Mousson, France-- Went to
Pont-A-Mousson and stayed there in the front until August 24th.
AUGUST 24th 1918
Liverdun, France-- Come out to Liverdun
and stayed there until Sept. 1st.
SEPTEMBER 1st 1918
Pont-A-Mousson, France-- Went
back to Pont-A-Mousson.
SEPTEMBER 12th 1918
St. Mihiel, France-- And the
big American drive started and we went over the top the night of the 12th. Then we took a little town by the name of Norroy
and went on to the top of another hill beyond Norroy.
We were right in the thick of the St. Mihiel drive.
My battalion was in it right. We went into the front line trenches and were in there about a day and a night, waiting for
the artillery to get in action. Then the artillery started a barrage the night of the 12th, about 1 A.M. We went over at daybreak.
We lost several men right off. We were advancing on
the village of Norroy, and the Germans mussed up many of our officers and men; but we kept going and captured the town of
Norroy. There was plenty of machine gun and artillery fire.
We lost a lot of our men because they were so anxious
to get to the enemy that they kept pushing forward. We continued through Norroy on to the top of the hill beyond until we
got in advance of our own flank. And the Germans were enfilading our right flank and shooting at us from the rear.
Those Greeks and Italians and New York Jews were sure
turning out to be good soldiers. They sure kept on going.
But ho ho, they burnt up a lot of ammunition. When we
captured Norroy, we mopped up the houses and went through the town looking for prisoners. And a lot of our boys knocked the
bungs out of some barrels of wine and drank some; and then they wanted to keep going right on to Berlin.
And there was one big house there, all locked up. It
looked like headquarters, but when we surrounded and stormed it we found it was a storehouse and it was full of Belgian hares.
Ho ho. And when we started back in the night one of the boys took a milk goat that was captured and was leading it back to
Pong-a-Mouson, when one of the officers called to him and asked him what he was doing with that goat. He answered, "Sir, I'm
just going back to put a little cream in my coffee."
While we were dug in on the hillside beyond Norroy we
saw a little vineyard. We were very hungry and I'm telling you those grapes just naturally made our mouths water. So we began
to slip back after the grapes. But the Germans had an observation balloon up in the air, and they saw us in the vineyard and
directed the German artillery to touch us off.
Several of our boys were mussed up, and we had orders
not to go back there any more. Well, that night I decided to go back and get me some of those grapes. I just stalked back,
and was keeping very quiet so I wouldn't be seen, when a shell landed near, and I jumped and ran--and I ran right into my
own captain! He liked grapes too. Ho ho. And we both fled together.
The Germans threw a lot of gas shells into Norroy and
we had to wear our gas masks for several hours. Many of the boys were gassed or killed. Well, seeing the boys all shot up,
gassed, blown to pieces, and killed lying about us, there is no tongue or human being who can ever tell the feeling of a man
during this time. But I never doubted in the thickest of the battle but what God would bring me through safe.
I had the assurance before I left home. And never did
doubt it. I had the assurance and I have always been taught that all of God's promises are true.
The St. Mihiel offensive opened of September 12th, and
I think it was as complete a drive and as well arranged as ever could have been arranged by any general of any army. It was
a great success.
The majority of the boys were 100 percent for General
Pershing. Of course, there were a few that didn't think so much of him. but as a whole the army was back of him.
Our battalion in the drive at St.Mihiel kept pressing
on so fast, and the battalions that relieved us, too, that we were all shot to pieces and had to be taken out after a few
days for replacements.
We rested right back of Pont-A-Mousson in a little valley
just over the hill. But I never heard of that goat any more. I don't know whether the boy got the cream for his coffee or
We came out of the front line on September 17th, after
about a week of tough fighting.
SEPTEMBER 17th 1918
St. Mihiel, France-- We came
out to some woods and camped there and got us something to eat.
SEPTEMBER 24th 1918
St. Mihiel, France-- We started
for the Argonne Forest.
We went in some old French buses driven by Chinese drivers. Ho ho. Lots of the boys had never seen
a Chinese before. And afterwards they were telling the story-- I don't know how true it was-- that one of the Chinese kept
pestering one of our doughboys for a souvenir.
The doughboy took a Mills grenade out of his pocket--one
of those pesky little things that you pull the lever and in five seconds it explodes. Well, he pulled the lever and then handed
it to the Chinese and told him to put it to his ear and listen to it tick. Ho ho.
OCTOBER 3rd 1918
Zona Woods, France-- We camped overnight
on a high hill in the woods.
October 4th 1918
Argonne Forest, France-- We went
on into the Argonne Forest where we stayed overnight.
The Battle of the Argonne started the night of the 28th
of September. Well, we started on a hike, going on into the Argonne, and camped in the Zona Woods on October 3. The woods
about here hadn't been shot up much. We hadn't yet reached the main battle grounds. But we moved up on the 4th, and I'm telling
you the woods were shot all to pieces and the ground was all torn up with shells.
OCTOBER 5th 1918
Argonne Forest, France-- We went
out on the main road and lined up and started for the front and the Germans was shelling the road and the airplanes was humming
over our heads, and we were stumbling over dead horses and dead men, and the shells were bursting all around us.
And then it was I could see the power of God helped
men if they would only trust Him.
Oh, it was there I could look up and say:
"O Jesus, the great rock of foundation
my feet were set with sovereign grace.
Through shells or death with all their agitation.
Thou wilt protect me if I will
only trust in Thy grace.
Bless Thy Holy Name!"
OCTOBER 7th 1918
Argonne Forest, France-- We lay
in some little holes by the roadside all day. That night we went and stayed a little while and come back to our little holes
and the shells busting all around us. I saw men just blown up by the big German shells. So the order came for us to take hills
223 and 240 the 8th.
It was raining a little bit all day, drizzly and very
damp. Lots of big shells bursting all around us. We were not up close enough for the machine guns to reach us, but airplanes
were buzzing overhead most all the time, just like a lot of hornets. Lots of men were killed by the artillery fire. And lots
We saw quite a lot of our machine gun battalion across
the road from us blown up by the big shells. The woods were all mussed up and looked as if a terrible cyclone had swept through
But God would never be cruel enough to create a cyclone
as terrible as that Argonne battle. Only man would ever think of doing an awful thing like that. It looked like "the abomination
of desolation" must look like. And all through the long night those big guns flashed and growled just like the lightning and
the thunder when it storms in the mountains at home.
And, oh my, we had to pass the wounded. And some of
them were on stretchers going back to the dressing stations, and some of them were lying around, moaning and twitching. And
the dead were all along the road. And it was wet and cold. And it all made me think of the Bible and the story of the Anti-Christ
And I'm telling you the little log cabin in Wolf Valley
in old Tennessee seemed a long long way off.
That night the orders came for us to take Hill 223.
The zero hour was set for 6 o'clock, which was just before daylight. We were to go over the top, take the hill, and advance
across the valley to the ridges on the other side, and take them and press on to the Decauville Railroad, which was our objective.
It was a very important railroad for the Germans.
And the Lost Battalion was in there somewhere, needing
help most awful bad!
OCTOBER 8th 1918
Argonne Forest, France-- So on the
morning of the 8th, just before daylight, we started for the hill of Chattel Chehery. So before we got there it got light,
and the Germans sent over a heavy barrage and also gas, and we put on our gas masks and just pressed right on thought those
shells and got to the top of Hill 223 to where we was to start over the top at 6:10 A. M.
And they was to give us a barrage. So the time came,
and no barrage, and we had to start without one. So as we started over the top at 6:10 A.M., and the Germans was putting their
machines guns to work all over the hill in front of us and on our left and right. So I was in support and I could see my pals
getting picked off until it almost looked like there was none left.
This was our first offensive battle in the Argonne.
My battalion was one of the attacking battalions. My platoon was the second. We were in support of the first. We advanced
just a few yards behind them. We got through the shells and the gas all right, and occupied Hill 223, which was to be our
jumping off place for the advance on the railroad. When the zero hour came, we went over the top and started our advance.
We had to charge across a valley several hundred yards
wide and rush the machine gun emplacements on the ridge on the far side. And there were machine guns on the ridges on our
It was kind of triangular shaped valley. So you see
we were getting it from the front and both flanks. Well, the first and second waves got about halfway across the valley and
then were held up by machine gun fire from the three sides. It was awful. Our loses were very heavy.
The advancement was stopped and we were ordered to dig
in. I don't believe our whole battalion or even our whole division, could have taken those machine guns by a straightforward
The Germans got us, and they got us right smart. They
just stopped us dead in our tracks. It was hilly country with plenty of brush, and they had plenty of machine guns entrenched
along those commanding ridges. And I'm telling you they were shooting straight. Our boys just went down like the long grass
before the mowing machine at home. And, to make matters worse, something had happened to our artillery and we had no barrage.
So our attack just faded out. And there we were, lying
down, about halfway across, and no barrage, and those German machine guns and big shells getting us hard.
I just knew that we couldn't go on again until those
machine guns were mopped up. So we decided to try and get them by a surprise attack in the rear.
We figured there must have been over thirty of them,
and they were hidden on the ridges about 300 yards in front and on the left of us.
OCTOBER 8th 1918 (continued)
So there was 17 of us
boys went around on the left flank to see if we couldn't put those guns out of action. So when we went around and fell in
behind those guns, we first saw two Germans with Red Cross bands on their arms. So we asked them to stop, and they did not.
So one of the boys shot at them and they run back to our right. So we all run after them--
Sergeant Harry Parsons gave the command to what was
left of our squads-- my squad, Corporal Savage's squad, Corporal Early's, and Corporal Cutting's-- to go around through the
brush and try and make the surprise attack.
According to orders, we advanced through our front line
and on through the brush and up the hill on the left. We went very quietly and quickly. We had to. And we took care to keep
well to our left.
Without any loss and in right smart time, we were across
the valley and on the hill where the machine guns were emplaced. The brush and the hilly nature of the country hid us from
We were nearly 300 yards in front of our own front line.
When we figured we were on top of the hill and on their left flank, we had a little conference.
Some of the boys wanted to attack from the flank. But
Early and I and some of the others thought it would be best to go right on over the hill and jump them from the rear. We decided
on this rear attack.
We opened up in skirmishing order and flitting from
brush to brush, quickly crossed over the hill and down into the gully behind. Then we suddenly swung around behind them. The
first Germans we saw were two men with Red Cross bands on their arms. They jumped out of the brush in front of us and bolted
like two scared rabbits.
We called to them to surrender, and one of our boys
fired and missed. And they kept on going. We wanted to capture them before they gave the alarm. We were now well behind the
German trench and in the rear of the machine guns that were holding up our big advance.
We were deep in the brush and we couldn't see the Germans
and they couldn't see us. But we could hear their machine guns shooting something awful. Savage's squad was leading, and mine,
Early's and Cutting's followed.
OCTOBER 8th 1918 (continued)
--And when we jumped
across a little stream of water that was there, they was about 15 or 20 Germans jumped up and threw up their hands and said,
"Kamerad!" So the one in charge of us boys told us not to shoot: they was going to give up anyway.
It was headquarters. There were orderlies, stretcher
bearers and runners, and a major and two other officers, They were just having breakfast and there was a mess of beef-steaks,
jellies, jams, and loaf bread around. They were unarmed, all except the major.
We jumped them right smart and covered them, and told
them to throw up their hands and to keep them up. And they did. I guess they thought the whole American army was in their
rear. And we didn't stop to tell them anything different. No shots were fired, and there was no talking between us except
when we told them to "put them up."
OCTOBER 8th 1918 (continued)
So by this time some
of the Germans from on the hill was shooting at us. Well I was giving them the best I had, and by this time the Germans had
got their machine guns turned around and fired on us. So they killed 6 and wounded 3 of us. So that just left 8, and then
we got into it right by this time. So we had a hard battle for a little while--
I don't know whether it was the German major, but one
yelled something out in German that we couldn't understand. And then the machine guns on top swung around and opened fire
on us. There were about thirty of them. They were commanding us from a hillside less than thirty yards away. They couldn't
miss. And they didn't!
They killed all of Savage's squad; they got all of mine
but two; they wounded Cutting and killed two of his squad; and Early's squad was well back in the brush on the extreme right
and not yet under the direct fire of the machine guns, and so they escaped. All except Early. He went down with three bullets
in his body. That left me in command. I was right out there in the open.
And those machine guns were spitting fire and cutting
down the undergrowth all around me something awful. And the Germans were yelling orders. You never heard such a 'racket in
all of your life. I didn't have time to dodge behind a tree or dive into the brush, I didn't even have time to kneel or lie
I don't know what the other boys were doing. They claim
They didn't fire a shot. They said afterwards they were on the right, guarding the prisoners. And the prisoners were lying
down and the machine guns had to shoot over them to get me. As soon as the machine guns opened fire on me, I began to exchange
shots with them.
There were over thirty of them in continuous action,
and all I could do was touch the Germans off just as fast as I could. I was sharpshooting. I don't think I missed a shot.
It was no time to miss.
In order to sight me or to swing their machine guns
on me, the Germans had to show their heads above the trench, and every time I saw a head I just touched it off. All the time
I kept yelling at them to come down. I didn't want to kill any more than I had to. But it was they or I. And I was giving
them the best I had.
Suddenly a German officer and five men jumped out of
the trench and charged me with fixed bayonets. I changed to the old automatic and just touched them off too. I touched off
the sixth man first, then the fifth, then the fourth, then the third and so on. I wanted them to keep coming.
I didn't want the rear ones to see me touching off the
front ones. I was afraid they would drop down and pump a volley into me.
OCTOBER 8th 1918 (continued)
--and I got hold of
the German major, and he told me if I wouldn't kill any more of them he would make them quit firing. So I told him all right,
if he would do it now. So he blew a little whistle, and they quit shooting and come down and gave up.
I had killed over twenty before the German major said
he would make them give up. I covered him with my automatic and told him if he didn't make them stop firing I would take off
his head next. And he knew I meant it. He told me if I didn't kill him, and if I stopped shooting the others in the trench,
he would make them surrender.
He blew a little whistle and they came down and began
to gather around and throw down their guns and belts. All but one of them came off the hill with their hands up, and just
before that one got to me he threw a little hand grenade which burst in the air in front of me.
I had to touch him off. The rest surrendered without
any more trouble. There were nearly 100 of them.
OCTOBER 8th 1918 (continued)
So we had about 80 or
90 Germans there disarmed, and had another line of Germans to go through to get out. So I called for my men, and one of them
answered from behind a big oak tree, and the others were on my right in the brush.
So I said, "Let's get these Germans out of here."
of my men said, "it is impossible."
So I said, "No; let's get them out."
So when my man said that, this German major
said, "How many have you got?" and I said, "I have got a-plenty," and pointed my pistol at him all the time. In this battle
I was using a rifle and a .45 Colt automatic pistol.
So I lined the Germans up in a line of twos, and I got
between the ones in front, and I had the German major before me. So I marched them straight into those other machine guns
and I got them.
The German major could speak English as well as I could.
Before the war he used to work in Chicago. And I told him to keep his hands up and to line up his men in column of twos, and
to do it in double time. And he did it. And I lined up my men that were left on either side of the column, and I told one
to guard the rear. I ordered the prisoners to pick up and carry our wounded.
I took the major and placed him at the head of the column,
and I got behind him and used him as a screen. I poked the automatic in his back and told him to hike. And he hiked.
The major suggested we go down a gully, but I knew that
was the wrong way. And I told him we were not going down any gully. We were going straight through the German front line trenches
back to the American lines.
It was their second line that I had captured. We sure
did get a long way behind the German trenches! And so I marched them straight at that old German front line trench. And some
more machine guns swung around and began to spit at us. I told the major to blow his whistle or I would take off his head
and theirs too. So he blew his whistle and they all surrendered--all except one. I made the major order him to surrender twice.
But he wouldn't. And I had to touch him off. I hated to do it. But I couldn't afford to take any chances and so I had to let
him have it.
There were considerably over 100 prisoners now. It was
a problem to get them back safely to our own lines. There were so many of them, there was danger of our own artillery mistaking
us for a German counterattack and opening upon us. I sure was relieved when we ran into the relief squads that had been sent
forward through the brush to help us.
OCTOBER 8th 1918 (continued)
So when I got back to
my major's p.c. I had 132 prisoners.
We marched those German prisoners on back into the American lines to the battalion
p.c. (post of command), and there we came to the Intelligence Department. Lieutenant Woods came out and counted 132 prisoners.
And when he counted them he said, "York, have you captured the whole German army?" And I told him I had a tolerable few.
We were ordered to take them out to regimental headquarters
at Chattel Chehery, and from there all the way back to division headquarters, and turn them over to the military police. On
the way back we were constantly under heavy shell fire and I had to double time them to get them through safely.
There was nothing to be gained by having any more of
them wounded or killed. They had surrendered to me, and it was up to me to look after them. And so I did.
I had orders to report to Brigadier General Lindsey,
and he said to me, "Well, York, I hear you have captured the whole damned German army." And I told him I only had 132.
After a short talk he sent us to some artillery kitchens,
where we had a good warm meal. And it sure felt good. Then we rejoined our outfits and with them fought through to our objective,
the Decauville Railroad.
And the Lost Battalion was able to come out that night.
We cut the Germans off from their supplies when we cut that old railroad, and they withdrew and backed up.
OCTOBER 8th 1918 (continued)
So you can see here
in this case of mine where God helped me out. I had been living for God and working in the church some time before I come
to the army. So I am a witness to the fact that God did help me out of that hard battle; for the bushes were shot up all around
me and I never got a scratch.
So you can see that God will be with you if you will
only trust Him; and I say that He did save me. Now, He will save you if you will only trust Him.
The next morning Captain Danforth sent me back with
some stretcher bearers to see if there were any of our American boys that we had missed. But they were all dead. And there
were a lot of German dead. We counted twenty-eight, which is just the number of shots I fired. And there were thirty-five
machine guns and a whole mess of equipment and small arms.
The salvage corps was busy packing it up. And I noticed
the bushes all around where I stood in my fight with the machine guns were all cut down. The bullets went over my head and
on either side. But they never touched me.
From the official report made by officers of the Eighty-Second
Division to General Headquarters:
The part which Corporal York individually played in this attack (the capture of the Decauville
Railroad) is difficult to estimate. Practically unassisted, he captured 132 Germans (three of whom were officers), took about
thirty-five machine guns, and killed no less than twenty-five of the enemy, later found by others on the scene of York's extraordinary
This story has been carefully checked in every possible detail from headquarters of this division and is entirely
Although York's statement tends to underestimate the desperate odds which he overcame, it has been decided
to forward to higher authority the account given in his own name.
The success of this assault had a far reaching effect
in relieving the enemy pressure against American forces in the heart of the Argonne Forest.
Following are the affidavits of Privates Donahue, Sacina,
Beardsley, and Wills, unwounded members of York's patrol. These affidavits are among the records Lieutenant Colonel G. Edward
Buxton, junior official historian of the Eighty-second Division.
AFFIDAVIT OF PRIVATE PATRICK DONAHUE
During the shooting I was guarding the mass of Germans
taken prisoners and devoted my attention to watching them. When we first came in on the Germans, I fired a shot at them before
they surrendered. Afterwards I was busy guarding the prisoners and did not fire a shot. I could only see Privates Wills, Sacina,
and Sok. They were also guarding prisoners as I was doing.
AFFIDAVIT OF PRIVATE MICHAEL A. SACINA
I was guarding the prisoners with my rifle and bayonet
on the right flank of the prisoners. I was so close to these prisoners that the machine gunners could not shoot at me without
hitting their own men. This, I think saved me from being hit. During the firing, I remained on guard, watching these prisoners,
and unable to turn around and fire myself for this reason. I could not see any of the other men in my detachment.
this point I saw the German captain and had aimed my rifle at him when he blew his whistle for the Germans to stop firing.
I saw Corporal York, who called out to us, and when we all joined him, I saw Americans besides myself. These were Corporal
York, Privates Beardsley, Donahue, Wills, Sok, Johnson and Konotski.
AFFIDAVIT OF PRIVATE PERCY BEARDSLEY
I was at first near Corporal York, but soon after thought
it would be better to take to cover behind a large tree about fifteen paces in rear of Corporal York, Privates Dymowski and
Warcing were on each side of me and both were killed by machine gun fire. I saw Corporal York fire his pistol repeatedly in
front of me. I saw Germans who had been hit fall down.
I saw the German prisoners, who were still in a bunch together,
waving their hands at the machine gunners on the hill as if motioning for them to go back. Finally the fire stopped and Corporal
York told me to have the prisoners fall in column of twos and take my place in the rear.
AFFIDAVIT OF PRIVATE GEORGE W. WILLS
When the heavy firing from the machine guns commenced,
I was guarding some of the German prisoners. During this time I saw only
Privates Donahue, Sacina, Beardsley, and Muzzi.
Private Swanson was right near me when he was shot.
I closed up very close to the Germans with my bayonet on my rifle and
prevented some of them who tried to leave the bunch and get into the bushes from leaving.
I knew my only chance was to
keep them together and also keep them between me and the Germans who were shooting. I heard Corporal York several times shouting
to the machine gunners on the hill to come down and surrender, but from where I stood I could no t see Corporal York. I saw
him, however, when the firing stopped and he told us to get alongside of the column. I formed those near me in column of twos.
FROM THE OFFICIAL HISTORY OF THE EIGHTY-SECOND DIVISION,
SECOND DIVISION, AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES.
One exploit in this day's work will always be retold
in the military tradition of our country. It is entitled to a place among the famous deeds in arms in legendary or modern
Early in the attack of this battalion, the progress
of G Company on the left was seriously impeded by heavy machine gun fire from a hill directly southwest across the valley
from Hill 223. Although this territory was south of the zone of action assigned the Eighty-second Division, it was necessary
to reduce this fire or suffer disastrous consequences.
A force of four noncommissioned officers and thirteen
privates was sent from the left support platoon of G Company to encircle the hill and silence the enemy guns. This detachment,
under Acting Sergeant Early, encircled the hill from the southeast and by a skillful reconnaissance passed through the heavy
woods on the east crest and descended to the wooded ravine on the west side of the hill.
The detachment, in working through the underbrush, came
upon a German battalion estimated to contain about 250 men, a considerable number of whom were machine gunners. Orders taken
later from the pocket of the German battalion commander proved that the mission of this battalion was to launch a counterattack
against the left flank of our attack at 10 hours 30 minutes.
About seventy-five Germans were crowded around their
battalion commander, apparently engaged in receiving final instruction. A force of machine gunners and infantrymen, however,
were lying in fox holes fifty yards away on the western slope of the hill. Other machine gun detachments were located on the
north and northeast slopes of this same wooded hill.
The handful of Americans, led by Corporal Early, appeared
as a complete surprise to this German battalion. The large body of Germans surrounding the German battalion commander began
surrendering to our men, whom the enemy supposed to be the leading eleme nt of a large American force which had enveloped
German machine gunners on the hillside, however, quickly
reversed their guns and poured a hail of bullets into the bottom of the ravine, killing six and wounding three of the American
detachment. All of the noncommissioned officers were killed or seriously wounded except Corporal Alvin C. York of Pall Mall,
With Corporal York were seven privates, four of whom
were mostly occupied in covering with their rifles the large group of German infantrymen who had thrown down their arms at
the first surprise. A few shots were fired by the remaining three Americans, but the chief burden of initiative and achievement
fell upon Corporal York.
Crouching close to the huddle of German prisoners, he
engaged in a rapid-fire action with the machine gunners and infantrymen on the hillside. The return fire struck just behind
him, due to the fact that careful shooting from the hillside was necessary by Germans to avoid injuring their own men a few
feet in front of Corporal York.
The American fired all of the rifle ammunition clips
on the front of his belt and then three complete clips from his automatic pistol. In days past he won many a turkey shoot
in the Tennessee mountains, and it is believed that he wasted no ammunition on this day.
Once a lieutenant on a hillside led a counterattack
of a dozen gunners and infantrymen against this extraordinary marksman, who shot the lieutenant through the stomach and killed
others before the survivors took cover.
German morale gave way entirely and the battalion commander
surrendered his command.
Corporal York placed himself between two officers at
the head of the column and distributed the seven Americans on guard along the flanks and in rear of the hastily formed column
On his way back over the hill he picked up a considerable
number of additional prisoners, from the north and northeast slopes of the hill. When he reported at the battalion p. c.,
Lieutenant Woods, the battalion adjutant, Second Battalion, 328th infantry, counted the prisoners and found they totaled three
officers and 129 enlisted men. The prisoners proved to be part of the Forty-fifth Reserve Division.
The three wounded Americans were brought in with the
column. The six dead Americans were buried later where they had fallen. During the forenoon Lieutenant Cox passed the scene
of this fight with a portion of F Company. He estimates that approximately twenty dead Germans lay on the hillside.
After the Armistice, Corporal York received the personal
thanks of Major General Duncan, the division commander the Fifth Corps, and General Pershing, the Commander in Chief. He also
was given the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Croix de Guerre.
Among Sergeant York's most treasured honors is the following
letter, written by Lieutenant Colonel Buxton to the girl whom York married as soon as he returned:
Hq. 82d Div., A.P.O. 742,
American E. F., France
Miss Gracie Williams,
Pall Mall, Tenn.
My Dear Miss Williams:
It has come to my attention that you are one of the
people at home who, by virtue of friendship, is interested in Sergeant Alvin C. York, Company G, 328th Infantry.
Entirely without any suggestion on the part of my friend,
Sergeant York, I should like to tell you and his mother something of the very high esteem in which he is held by the officers
and men of this division.
Until the 82nd Division entered the fight in the Argonne,
it was my privilege to command the battalion of which Sgt. York's company was a part. During those many trying days Sgt. York
grew daily in our esteem as very efficient noncommissioned officer and as an unusual influence for duty and good conduct among
his comrades. Not only was this record maintained during the terrible battles in the Argonne, but on the 8th of October, 1918,
Sgt. York performed acts of extreme heroism and presence of mind which won him the Distinguished Service Cross and the personal
thanks of Major General Duncan, Major General Summerall, and General Pershing himself.
With a little detachment of men from G Company, he faced
an entire German Battalion in an isolated ravine, far from any American assistance. Nine Americans were at once shot down,
but Sgt. York fought on until the German major and 131 German officers and men surrendered as prisoners. There were only seven
Americans left besides Sgt. York, who had himself personally borne the heaviest brunt of the fighting. This achievement on
his part came at a very critical time and unquestionably saved the lives of large numbers of his comrades, who would have
later been attacked by this captured battalion.
I will be a great satisfaction to Mrs. York and yourself
to know of the respect which all of us feel for the manly Christian Character displayed by this splendid American.
* * * * *
After the Armistice was signed, I was ordered to go
back to the scene of my fight with the machine guns. General Lindsey and some other generals went with me.
We went over the ground carefully. The officers spent
a right smart amount of time examining the hill and the trenches where the machine guns were, and measuring and discussing
And then General Lindsey asked me to describe the fight
to him. And I did. And then he asked me to march him out just like I marched the German major out, over the same ground and
back to the American lines.
Our general was very popular. He was a natural born
fighter and he could swear just as awful as he could fight. He could swear most awful bad.
And when I marched him back to our old lines he said
to me, "York, how did you do it?" And I answered him, "Sir, it is not man power. A higher power than man power guided and
watched over me and told me what to do." And the general bowed his head and put his hand on my shoulder and solemnly said,
"York, you are right."
There can be no doubt in the world of the fact of the
divine power being in that. No other power under heaven could bring a man out of a place like that. Men were killed on both
sides of me; and I was the biggest and the most exposed of all. Over thirty machine guns were maintaining rapid fire at me,
point-blank from a range of about twenty-five yards.
OCTOBER 9th 1918
Argonne Forest, France-- Well now,
as we went on fighting our way through the thick forest of the Argonne woods, we could hear the cries of our boys who were
getting shot, and oh my, we has to sleep by the dead and with the dead. But when we were seeing so many of our boys being
shot, all we could say was just to say as we saw our fallen comrades--
"Good-by, pal; I don't know
where you're camping
Whether you've pitched your
tent 'neath azure skies
Or whether o're your head the
bleak storm winds blow.
only know that when your final
call came for you
It almost broke my heart to see
But I trust pal, that you were ready to meet that last
call. Yes, and now you be careful that the last final call don't find you not ready to meet your God in peace.
OCTOBER 10th 1918
Fleaville, The Argonne Forest.--
We got to Fleville.
OCTOBER 12th 1918
Sommerance, The Argonne Forest.--We
had got to Sommerance, and during this time we had lost many of our men and were still losing them, as you know that you can't
fight in war without losing men, and the Germans was shelling us awful with big shells, also gas, and the boys laying there
that they couldn't bury. Oh my, I can't tell you how I felt, and when those big shells would come over and bust, then I heard
my comrades crying and mourning. All we could do was to trust God to protect us and look up and say--
"Good-by, old pals, your body sleeps here
Your soul, I pray, has gone home to God."
So we stayed in the front at Sommerance until we got
relieved by the Eightieth Division boys.
We stayed in actual fighting in the Argonne from the
time we went in, which was the morning of October 8, to November 1. Over three weeks. Fighting in the front line all the time
and through those terrible woods. And we were mussed up right smart-the woods and us.
There were not many of the Greeks and Italians left.
But what were left were still fighting like a sackful of wildcats. I sure did like those boys now.
The nearest I came to getting killed in France was in
an apple orchard in Sommerance in the Argonne. It was several days after the fight with the machine guns. We had a very heavy
barrage from the Germans suddenly drop down on us and we were ordered to dig in and to lose no time about it. Some of us were
digging in under an apple tree. The shells were bursting pretty close. But we didn't take much notice of them. Just kept right
It's funny: after you have been at the front a right
smart while you can almost tell where the shells are going to burst and what size they are. And this morning they were close,
but not close enough to scare us. And then they got closer. And we dug faster.
I have dug on farms and in gardens and in road work
and on the railroad, but it takes big shells dropping close to make you really dig. And I'm telling you the dirt was flying.
And then , bang!- one of the big shells struck the ground right in front of us and we all went up in the air. But we all came
down again. Nobody was hurt. But it sure was close.
NOVEMBER 1st 1918
Argonne Forest-- So we came out
of the lines to a German rest camp and there we got something to eat.
I was made a sergeant just as quick as I got back out
of the lines. But, oh my! so many of my old buddies were missing and we scarcely seemed the same outfit.
NOVEMBER 2nd 1918
Argonne Forest-- And then we started
out and hiked to a French camp.
NOVEMBER 7th 1918
Aix-Les-Bains--I took train for
Aix- Les-Bains. I had a furlough for 10 days.
NOVEMBER 8th 1918
Aix-Les Bains--So I got to Aix-Les-Bains
and went to the Hotel De Albion and I stayed at this hotel from the 8th to 16th and I went around and saw some fine scenery.
I got on a motor boat and went over to Italy and there I saw some good scenery.
There was a bunch of us had been given a ten day leave
to Aix-les- Bains. We went down there for a rest. We had been in the Argonne for several weeks. Without any relief and were
tired and worn out.
We were staying in private places. There were no military
places there. We just went around seeing the historical places, the old Roman baths, and up on the mountain.
NOVEMBER 11th 1918
Aix-Les-Bains.-- and the Armistice
was signed. And they sure was a time in that city that day and night. Yes. Say, did you think that the Armistice was signed
on the eleventh month on the eleventh day and the eleventh hour of 1918? And another thing, did you ever know that the war
just lasted 585 days from the time that the President declared war against Germany until the Armistice was signed? And did
you ever know that in this little short time of 585 days that the Americans was over here in France holding a seventy-seven
mile front in the Argonne Forest?
I don't know that I can just exactly tell my feelings
at that time. It was awful noisy. All the French were drunk, whooping and hollering. The Americans were drinking with them,
all of them. I never did anything much, just went to church and wrote home and read a little.
I did not go out that night. I was all tired. I was
glad the Armistice was signed, glad it were all over. There had been enough fighting and killing. And my feelings were like
most all of the American boys. It was all over, and we were ready to go ho me. I felt they had done the thing they should
have done, signing the armistice.
NOVEMBER 17th 1918
Champlitte, France--Well, I'll
go on. I stopped at Champlitte and the French had a dance there that night and they had to go by my bed to where they was
dancing, and the girls would pull my feet until I couldn't sleep.
DECEMBER 25th 1918
Langres, France-- I went to see
President Wilson and his wife at Langres, where they had a review. So there was a large crowd there. I enjoyed myself very
well. But I didn't get any dinner. So I was not enjoying a Xmas dinner, you see. Ho ho. So I went back to my company that
night and it was after dark. So Mrs. Wilson was dressed very nice and she had a smile on her face all the time.
She was wearing a smart seal skin coat with a big fox
collar and a close fitting seal skin toque with a bright red rose trimming on one side and a little bunch of holly at her
throat. So she looked very pleasing. And Mr. Wilson was wearing a large black silk hat with a light gray fur coat. He also
had a smile on his face. So that cheered the boys to see Mr. and Mrs. Wilson and hear them talk. Ho ho.
That was on Christmas day, 1918. We went out to parade
at a town named Langres and had a review for President and Mrs. Wilson. I don't know how I came to be selected. Divisional
orders came for me and the corporal who had been decorated with the D.S.C. to be color bearers for the review to be given
for President Wilson.
I didn't have any conversation at all with the President
at that time. I think President Wilson is one of the greatest Presidents America has ever had. There is much that could be
said about him as a great men.
There is his great leadership of the nation. There is
the way he understood all about the war and what we were all fighting for. The Germans, too. But the greatest thing about
him was his spiritual side. He believed in God.
JANUARY 2d 1919
Fouvent-Le-Bas-I went to school and
stayed there until the 12th.
JANUARY 12th 1919
La Frette.-I come back to my company
JANUARY 16th 1919
Prauthoy.-I went to Prauthoy and
remained there until the 18th
I didn't begin to go out and travel over France and
talk to our soldier boys until January. I don't know why they picked me. I was called to divisional headquarters, and I stayed
around there for a week or ten days.
Their idea was to have me talk to the boys. I was traveling
around, in and out, from my division headquarters, something like six weeks.
I spoke in the Y huts and out in the open to the battalions
and to the assembled troops on the ground. I got good representation everywhere.
Our division chaplain, Rev. C. Tyler of Milwaukee, often
traveled with me. He was a nice man and a powerful preacher. I first talked to the boys in our Eighty-second Division and
then I went to other outfits.
FEBRUARY 1st 1919
Prauthoy.-I rode a horse and carried
the Eighty-second Division flag in a horse show.
FEBRUARY 3d 1919
Argonne Forest.-I went back to the
FEBRUARY 11th 1919
Prauthoy.-They had a Div. review
and I got my D.S.C. that day.
During the fighting in the Argonne, right at Fleville
and at Sommeance and St. Juvin, Headquarters sent a man up there and he asked me a lot of questions, and questioned my captain
and the lieutenants. And that was the first I knew I was to get anything.
The first decoration I got was the D.S.C. That was on
February 11. They lined up the whole division, and General Pershing pinned the D.S.C. on me. He decorated two or three more
men at the same time. He decorated one of the stretcher bearers of my platoon.
General Pershing is a great man in my estimation. He
is a clean-cut military man. He made a wonderful leader for the American Troops. I would just as soon or a little rather follow
General Pershing's command in battle as any man I ever saw or heard of, because I think he is a wonderful commander.
FEBRUARY 16th 1919
Prauthoy-- I went to church. It
was Sunday and a rainy day and we had a nice talk.
FEBRUARY 19th 1919
Prauthoy-- At 6:30 P.M. I had
service at 325 Inf. Headquarters, and we had a large crowd and a very good time.
February 21st 1919
Luxeuil-- I had service at Luxeuil
with the 326 Inf. at 3:45 P.M. And to have services at 7 P.M. But we started, and the car got out of shape and we couldn't
get there. So I had to call up back to Prauthoy and get another car to come out and get me and take me back to Prauthoy. It
was about daylight next morning. Ho ho.
FEBRUARY 22d 1919
La Frette-- I went to La Frette
to my company to get some things I had there and to see my pals.
FEBRUARY 23d 1919
Prauthoy-- I went to church there
in the Y.M.C.A. We had services there at 10:30 A.M. and also at 7 P.M. as it was Sunday.
February 24th 1919
Champlitte-- I went to Champlitte
to have service at 7 P.M. There was dancing. So I had to wait until they got their dance over, and that was about 7:30 P.M.
So we sing and we had prayer and I went ahead with my little service. So we had a very nice time.
FEBRUARY 25th 1919
Prauthoy-- I had services at Prauthoy.
Had a large crowd and good order.
FEBRUARY 26th 1919
Prauthoy-- On the night of the
26th of February I started for Bordeaux.
FEBRUARY 27th 1919
En Route to Bordeaux-- I was on
the train and it came on awful cold with a snowstorm about 3 P.M. We was in box cars and it was cold and tough. But that was
better than sleeping in those old French barns where the cows sleep in the parlor and the chickens in the dining room. Ho
FEBRUARY 28th 1919
Bordeaux-- On the night of the
28th we got to Bordeaux.
MARCH 1st 1919
Bordeaux-- We waited until daylight
and then we got out, and I went up in town and got me a nice room and bed.
MARCH 2d 1919
Bordeaux-- It was Sunday and I went
to church at Y.M.C.A. at 7 P.M.
MARCH 3d 1919
Bordeaux-- I never did anything until
night and there was to be a Bible class at 6:30 P.M., and at 7 P.M. I give a lecture after we sang and had prayed. We had
a large crowd and good order.
MARCH 4th 1919
BORDEAUX.--I went to 327 Inf. at 7
P.M. and gave a lecture. Before I gave the talk we sang and I prayed and then gave the talk, and then they wanted me to come
back and give another talk on the 5th.
MARCH 5th 1919
BORDEAUX-- But I couldn't get any
car out, so I didn't go. It was a fine day, so I just stayed around town and took things as easy as I could. But yet, when
I wasn't at work I got homesick.
MARCH 6th 1919
BORDEAUX.--I went out to 327 Inf.
and gave them a lecture at 4 P.M. and then come back to my billet.
MARCH 9th 1919
BORDEAUX--It was Sunday. I went to
church at 10:30 A.M. and we had a very good service and a very good crowd to preach to, and the morning lesson was on Matthew
(4) and we had a very good lesson. So we had a talk given to us by Chaplain Tyler. So I went to church again at 7 P.M. and
we had a large crowd for service, and the evening lecture was from 1st Corinthians, 3d Chapter, and 9th verse. So we had a
good service and we had a number of brief prayers by the boys, and then our Y.M.C.A. girls served hot chocolate to the boys
So we have services at 10:30 A.M. and 7 P.M. every Sunday
and our Bible class is on Monday at 6:30 P.M. So we are having some good services. And I pray that we will have good results.
You know that in Hebrews, second chapter, that Paul says, "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things
which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression
and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation..."
MARCH 14th 1919
ST. SILVA.--I returned back to my
company at St. Silva.
ST. SILVA.--Went to a ball game.
CASTRES. --It was Sunday. I went back
to Castres to church. And I got back to St. Silva about 10 P.M.
En Route to Paris-- I started to Paris.
I went to Bordeaux and from there to Paris.
Paris-- I got to Paris.
Paris-- I was traveling around looking
at the city.
Paris-- I rode on the Paris wheel and
took a train ride down to St Louis 14 Plait at night.
Paris-- I went to the Opera House. I went
to Gare du Nord in the morning and I went to Hall De Voige in the afternoon, and then I took the train at 7:26 at night.
This first trip to Paris was on a furlough for five
days. Three or four of us went from the same place. I don't remember the other fellows' names.
Well, when I was in Paris I just went in and went to
a place where all the boys went to on leave there. I spent my five days looking about seeing the most historic places.
I went to the tomb of Napoleon. I went to the soldier's
grave where Perishing placed the wreath on it -the unknown soldier, it was. I went to Versailles where the kings' palaces
are. I went to the Grand Opera. I disremember what opera it was.
I liked Paris all right. It was a right smart place.
The Eiffel Tower was not running at the time. I went to see it but I didn't climb it. It was tolerably high.
I went to most all the historical places. I walked several
miles through town. I remember I got up there and got lost, Ho Ho. I got all turned around in my directions. HO ho. So I got
a mademoiselle to tell me what street to go to and where to stop. Some of the people knew me. I got good representation everywhere.
St. Silva.-I got back to my company.
APRIL 6th .
En. Route to Paris to Bordeaux and I
left Bordeaux for Paris on the 8:30 train.
Paris--I arrived in Paris at 8:30 A.M.
and 10:30 A.M. was our meeting. I was there on time at the Hotel De Babriel. So we had the meeting all day until 5:30 P.M.
This second time I went to Paris was to attend the first
meeting that was called to organize the American Legion. I represented my division as a noncommissioned officer. Captain Williams
of the machine gun company represented the commissioned officers of our division. And we all organized the American Legion
that day in the Hotel. And there were officers and men representing all of the different American outfits in France. So I
am a charter member of the American Legion.
I went out to Versailles the next day and they were
signing a peace treaty, and I saw Clemenceau, Foch, and Pershing. I had a couple of talks with Marshal Foch, and I also had
a talk with him when he pinned a little medal on me.
I think he is a very great man and a man of great intelligence.
He is a fine leader for an army and I think Europe had no better leader in command than Marshall Foch.
He impressed me very much each time I met him, although
he could not speak English. We had to speak through an interpreter. Like our own Woodrow Wilson, he is a very spiritual man.
He is very religious and always goes to church and believes in prayer, which is a fine example.
It is significant that there two great leaders and General
Pershing, too, are all religious men who believe in prayer. So the men that led us in the war were put in charge was the war
ended. so you see here is proof that the spirit is mightier than the sword.
Paris--I saw the queen of Rumania. She
is a very good looking lady. So I stayed in Paris until 8:26 on the night of the 9th.
Paris--I was at the grave of Lafayette.
I also saw the wreath of flowers that John J. Pershing laid on his grave on the 4th day of July, 1918, when he said, "Lafayette,
we are here." These words are long to be remembered.
And I also saw a wreath of flowers President Wilson
put on the grave on the 20th day of November, 1918, and I also saw the little village where they are going to lay the bodies
of 50,000 American Soldiers. The place should always be near and dear to all Americans. The place is Montfaucon.
St. Silva--I got to Bordeaux at 8:30 A.M.
So I went from Castres to division headquarters. And I got to my company the night of the 10th.
St. Silva -- We had a review with full
packs in the morning, and in the afternoon I didn't do anything. So I was the sergeant of the guard from 12th at 4 P. M. until
13th at 4 P. M.
St. Silva--Sunday. I went to church at
7:30 P. M. We sang and had a good service. The reading was the 16th chapter of St. John. Subject of text, "Whosoever shall
lose his life for My sake, he shall save it."
St. Silva--We had a review and I got my
medal of honor, and then I went to division headquarters and had my photo made.
St. Silva--Easter Sunday. Me and two more
of my pals went to a French house and had us a fine Easter dinner fixed, and then we went to church.
St Silva--We didn't do anything but police
up in the morning, and in the afternoon we had a review, and then Marshal Foch pinned the Palm Croix De Guerre on me.
St. Silva--We took a bath in the morning
and in the afternoon we didn't do anything much.
Entrance Camp--We left St. Silva and went
to the entrance camp and I went to the Salvation Army hut.
Permanent Camp--We went into the permanent
camp, and went through the Goodir Mill in the afternoon.
Permanent Camp--On the morning of the 9th
all of my company left but 70 men. So I had to stay with them
We stayed there around Bordeaux for several weeks before
our time to go across the waters. I wanted all the time to get back to the mountains where I belonged. I wanted to live the
quiet life again and escape from the mad rush of the world. It was all over. We had done the job we set out to do, and now,
like all of the other American soldiers, I wanted to get back home.
We got ready to sail from Bordeaux, and the ship that
was to bring our division across couldn't bring all the men. There were sixty-six that couldn't get on the ship, together
with some more noncommissioned officers, and we waited over and sailed the next day on the U.S.S. Ohio.
On board U.S.S. Ohio.--In the morning we went down to
the docks and ate a little, and then we got on the Ohio, and at 2:26 P.M. we broke from the shores of France and by dark we
was out of sight of land.
At Sea.--Sunday. Sick. We had awful rough
At Sea.--Awful rough seas. Sick.
At Sea.--Awful rough. Sick.
At Sea.--Awful rough. Sick.
At Sea.--Awful rough.
We had about three
or four days of storms and most awful rough seas. I was right smart sick for several days. Had to stay down part of the time
in my berth and part of the time on the top deck.
I sure would have liked to see some trees or those old
mountains. That old devil sea. I didn't feel like talking or doing anything but lying down and being left tolerably alone.
And then I knew, too, they were going to give me a big reception when I arrived in New York.
They had wired out to sea. And that had me more scared
than those machine guns in the Argonne. I would have got out and walked if I could have.
At Sea.--Was Sunday. We had services in
At Sea.--Had a storm and the sea was rough.
At Sea.--Was pretty.
MAY 22nd .
Hoboken, N.J.--At 2 P.M. I landed, and
the Tennessee Society had a 5 day furlough for me to see New York City. So I stopped at Waldorf Hotel.
The Tennessee Society met me at the boat with a car.
There was quite a number of newspaper men met me and photographed me. And so I was under fire again. Ho ho. and the questions
they asked me!
By the time they had finished writing about me in their
newspapers I had whipped the whole German army single handed. Ho ho. Those newspaper men! But they were very nice. They gave
me a right smart reception on my arrival. They drove me through the streets in an open car, and the streets were crowded and
we could only go slow.
It seemed as though most all of the people in the streets
knew me and when they began to throw the paper and the ticker tape and the confetti out of the windows of those great big
skyscrapers, I wondered what it was at first. It looked just like a blizzard. Ho ho. I didn't know it was for me until the
Tennessee Society told me.
I don't know what all they did for me, but they did
plenty. They took me to the Waldorf Astoria the night of my arrival and we had a little dinner there. I tried to get my mother
over the long distance telephone, but we couldn't get through. I wanted to ride in the subway, and , sure enough, next day
they had a special train for me. Ho ho.
It was very nice. But I sure wanted to get back to my
people where I belonged, and the little old mother and the little mountain girl who were waiting. And I wanted to be in the
mountains again and get out with hounds, and tree a coon or knock over a red fox. And in the midst of the crowds and the dinners
and receptions I couldn't help thinking of these things. My thoughts just wouldn't stay hitched.
New York City.-- I was looking at New York
City. On the night of the 23d I took the train for Washington, D.C. Honorable Hull had come to get me.
Washington, D.C.--So I got to Washington
this morning about 6 A.M.
So we drove a car all over Washington almost, looking at the city, and I had the honor to meet
Secretary of War Baker and shake hands with him.
In Washington, D.C., I went in to meet the President,
and he was out. I had a nice talk with Secretary of War Baker. I went to Congress. Both houses came together and met me.
From Washington I returned to New York and went out
to Camp Merritt and got my transportation papers to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, where I got my discharge and my papers and transportation
I came on home to Pall Mall, Tennessee, on the 29th
of May. My people from all over the mountains, thousands of them, were there to meet me. And my big red headed brothers were
there. And we all had a right smart time. And then I lit out for the old log cabin and the little old mother. And then I went
to see Gracie--
I didn't do any hunting for a few days. I'm telling
you I went hunting Gracie first.
And then, when it was all over and I had taken off the
old uniform of the all American Division and got back into the overalls. I got out with the hounds and the old muzzle loader;
and I got to thinking and wondering what it was all about.
And I went back to the place on the place on the mountain
where I prayed before the war, and received my assurance from God that I would go and come back. And I just stayed out there
and thanked that same God who had taken me through the war.