Military Review English Edition September-October 2014 - Page 116

earned the Medal of Honor. Mastriano then provides an overview of York’s remaining years and his efforts to help his community prepare to meet the challenges of a new world. Mastriano ends his book with a thorough discussion defending his research. Alvin York was born into a typical hard-scrabble existence common to many Americans raised in the backwoods areas of the country in the late 1880s. The Cumberland Valley of Tennessee was in many respects a good representation of the predominantly rural America of that time. Families scratched out a living from the land with subsistence farming, augmented by hunting and fishing. There was a strong religious element within rural communities as well as a brawling, moonshine-drinking element that took to the bars on weekends. Alvin York was intimately familiar with both elements before he took his place at the “mourners’ bench” on New Year’s Day, 1915, when he accepted the Lord as his savior. Alvin’s relatively strict brand of religion led him to request status as a conscientious objector and, despite numerous appeals his request was never accepted. Alvin was lucky that some of early military leaders were also men of strong religious convictions. They had many discussions that eventually enabled Alvin to reconcile fighting for his country with his religious views. Like many new soldiers from rural backgrounds, Alvin had little difficulty with the physical rigors and discomforts of soldier training; in fact, his exposure to men from different parts of the country and recent immigrants was probably the greater challenge. Many rural soldiers had difficulty with sea sickness while traveling to first England and then on to France. Once in France, his unit had experiences typical of most American expeditionary forces as they moved from the coast of France into training areas where they learned tactics, techniques, and procedures from French and British veterans. Alvin’s unit, the 328th Regiment of the 82nd Division, was eased into the lines of a “quiet sector” east of Verdun. Known as the Woevre Front, Lagny Sector, this quiet sector nonetheless afforded York’s 328th Regiment the complete laundry list of experiences to be expected in the coming battles. They patrolled in no-man’s land, endured artillery barrages and gas attacks, and both conducted and defended against trench line raids. 114 After its baptism by fire, York’s unit moved to the vicinity of Châtel Chéhéry to play their role in the Argonne Offensive. York’s unit attacked on 8 October 1918 and he took his place among the great warriors in American history. Mastriano takes the reader step by step, rush by rush, through York’s actions in the fight. York used his hunting skills, honed by placing food on his family’s table, and his faith in God to take him through the fighting—to accomplish one of the greatest recorded feats on a battlefield in American military history. With source materials from both German and U.S. historical files, Mastriano provided details of the fight such that readers will feel they are part of the battle. When York marches his 132 captives back into friendly lines he is asked if has captured the whole German army. Mastriano takes the reader through the remainder of York’s service until his return to the United States on 22 May 1919. Mastriano details how York’s fame grows—despite York’s incredible personal humbleness and refusal to make any fuss over his actions. The story of York’s homecoming—complete with ticker tape parade in New York City—is almost comical. The simple soldier York only wanted to go home and resume his life but he was tugged in various directions by many looking to take advantage of his fame. Upon his return home York continues to refuse offers that would have made him a rich man and Mastriano details York’s efforts to bring education and opportunity to the young people of his rural community as well as his efforts to warn of the dangers posed by Hi ѱ