America's forgotten heroes: 100 years ago, the U.S. finally agreed to send soldiers to join the Allies in the trenches and help turn the course of WWI. So why, asks a top historian, is their awesome bravery barely remembered today?

Mail Online | 10/8/1918 | Sir Hew Strachan For The Daily Mail
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The morning of October 8, 1918, dawned misty with the promise of a better day to come in the trenches of north-eastern France. At 6.10am, Corporal Alvin C. York went over the top with the 2nd Battalion, 328th Infantry Regiment, part of the 82nd Division in the American Expeditionary Force.

As it cleared its initial objective, a hill, York’s platoon entered an open valley surrounded by the trees of the Argonne forest. They provided excellent cover for the Germans, who opened fire.

York - Platoon - Commander - Charge - Soldiers

By mid-morning York’s platoon commander was among the dead and he found himself in charge of the seven soldiers still fit to fight.

An evangelical Christian, York had been turned down for exemption from military service on religious grounds. That morning, the deaths of his comrades resolved his doubts about violence: he was later to attribute his survival to divine intervention, as he came under heavy German gunfire.

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‘As soon as the machine-guns opened fire on me, I began to exchange shots with them,’ he recalled. ‘There were over 30 of them in continuous action, and all I could do was touch the Germans off just as fast as I could.

Hunting - Childhood - Tennessee - Germans - Time

Using the hunting skills he had acquired from his childhood in rural Tennessee, he was personally credited with killing more than 20 Germans — ‘Every time I seed a German I jes teched [touched] him off,’ his published diary read — and silencing 35 machine-guns.

Eventually the Germans surrendered and with what remained of his platoon, York took an astounding 132 prisoners.

Allied - Generalissimo - Ferdinand - Foch - France

The Allied generalissimo, Ferdinand Foch of France, in awarding him two French gallantry awards, called it ‘the greatest exploit ever accomplished by a common soldier of all the armies in Europe’.

His own country gave York, who was immediately promoted to sergeant, the Medal of Honor and...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Mail Online
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