Sergeant Alvin York
Pall Mall, Tennessee
Who is America’s Most Decorated World War I Soldier?
We are traveling to Pall Mall to see the home of this famous soldier. Known for his heroic acts, he struggled between his religious belief and his patriotic duty. His life captured the heart of the nation.
Pall Mall is the hometown of a famous American soldier from World War I. His name is Alvin York.
If you don’t know the story that made Alvin York famous, then you’ll be surprised to hear that he didn’t believe in killing due to his religious beliefs. Yet he also believed that he had a patriotic duty. Alvin York’s son, Andrew Jackson York recalls the story.
"He didn’t believe in killing. He agreed to sign up if he didn’t have to kill anybody. So he enlisted and went to France. Then there was that fateful day that made history, Oct 8, 1918."
"The outcome ended up with 132 Germans and 25 dead on the Hill."
York’s marksmanship and his belief in God and country led to his incredible battlefield action.
Andrew York continues, "He said they were spitting bullets off around me. Lord protected him. 90 prisoners by himself."
The Greatest Thing Accomplished
York’s feat was described as “the greatest thing accomplished by any private soldier of all the armies of Europe.”
He arrived back to America greeted with a New York ticker tape parade, a banquet in his honor and an invitation to the White House.
When he returned to his hometown, he was surprised home that was completely “paid for” by the state. He was also awarded more than 40 Allied decorations including the Congressional medal of Honor.
He married his long-time sweetheart, Miss Gracie Williams. The Governor of Tennessee, A.H. Roberts, performed the ceremony in front of hundreds of guests.
The Movie of his Life
Warner Brothers wanted to produce a movie from his life story. He declined initially but later agreed only to use the money to benefit others.
He wanted to build a bible school so he agreed to do a movie on his terms.
York picked Gary Cooper and John Wesley to play in the movie. According to his agreement, they weren’t supposed to smoke or drink…and when Gary cooper broke the agreement by smoking on the set.
Andrew York comments, "Gary Cooper apologized to Daddy and Daddy let him finish the movie."
The movie, named Sergeant York, became an American film classic. Gary Cooper won an Oscar for his performance.
York’s primary vision however was to build a bible school which he began in 1943 then build a High School in 1927. To raise funds, he traveled around the country giving lectures. He was dedicated to education since he had not received a full education himself.
Andrew continues, He only got to the 3rd grade. Educated himself.
York believed that God had spared his life and chosen him to help improve conditions for the people who lived in the mountains. He felt that building the school was his greatest accomplishment.
In the years to follow, York was honored with statues and buildings named after him. There’s a 10 ft statue at the state capitol, as well as a state park, a Highway, a Veterans Hospital, a bridge, a chapel, and even a place in France named after him.
At his homestead in Pall Mall, his son Andrew still lives in the area. Everything there is owned by the family and has been loaned to the state for the historic landmark which opened in 1995. It’s named “the Alvin York State Historic Area at Pall Mall.” Andrew is the Park Ranger.
Andrew York explains, "Everything is original on this site including me."
We discovered a special treasure at Alvin York’s Home. Stashed away in a family briefcase are York’s original letters and dog tags. Andrew showed us these treasures that he had preserved for all of these years. There were special treasures in this briefcase. Each artifact had a story to share.
York’s burial site at the Wolf River Cemetery is a short distance away as well as the grist mill that York operated in the 1940’s.
Sergeant Alvin York. America’s Most Decorated World War I Soldier, lived all of this life in Pall Mall, Tennessee.
Now you know the story of this American War Hero who upheld his patriotic duty and his religious beliefs.