“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.”
– Sergeant Alvin York
Quite possibly the best remembered soldier of World War I, Alvin York won his fame by almost single-handedly silencing 32 German machine guns and capturing 132 prisoners in just one day. For this brave action, Sergeant York received a multitude of medals and awards… including a Congressional Medal of Honor.
Born on December 13th, 1887, Alvin C. York did not appear to be destined for greatness. Although Alvin’s parents were Christians, he became an uneducated, rough young man. At the age of twenty, he was an unregenerate alcoholic, smoker, and brawler. In his own words, he was “hog-wild”.
Thankfully, however, God did not allow him to continue his sinful life for long. On January 1, 1915, Alvin York, influenced by his mother, his local pastor, and a circuit-riding preacher, turned to Christ for forgiveness.
Immediately, York’s life changed. His old, riotous ways deserted, York grew active in his local church where he became known as the “Singing Elder” because of his strong tenor voice.
Only two years after his conversion, Alvin York was drafted into the United States Army during World War I. Believing that war was against the Bible, Alvin tried to get an exemption based on his religious convictions. However, his request was denied, and he reported for training at Camp Gordon.
After his training, Alvin received a few days leave to go home and decide whether he could, as a Christian, participate in this war. After praying and studying the Bible, Alvin decided he should fight.
After crossing to France, Alvin entered the trenches and, on October 8, 1918, performed the amazing feat that catapulted him into the international spotlight.
Together with sixteen other American soldiers, York was participating in an expedition against the German trenches when a sudden machine gun attack killed six and wounded three – leaving only eight unwounded.
Leaving the others to guard the prisoners already taken, York set out by himself to silence the attacking machine guns. Using his rifle, York shot down any enemies who showed their heads above the trenches. Then, when six Germans charged him with fixed bayonets, pulled out his pistol and stopped them.
Finally, the Germans surrendered. York had not only rescued his fellow soldiers, but he had captured 132 enemy soldiers.
After the war ended, Alvin returned to civilian life. Marrying his pre-war fiancé, Grace Williams, Sergeant York led a busy life ministering to his fellow citizens, writing about his experiences, and participating in politics.
On September 2, 1964, this great personification of manliness died at the age of 76.
When Alvin York was saved by the blood of Christ, his life completely changed. Rather than spending his time drinking and rioting, Alvin began devoting most of his spare time to his church.
Becoming an elder, Alvin York soon was leading the singing and teaching a children’s Sunday school class.
Having completely changed his ways, York later wrote, “I am a great deal like Paul [the apostle], the things I once loved I now hate.”
Alvin York’s dedication to the cause of Christ is an encouraging inspiration to men of all times.
During World War I, Alvin York bravely risked his life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.
When he suddenly gained command following the incapacitation of his superior officers, Alvin, pinned down with seven soldiers and three wounded men, immediately set about to free them.
Leaving his men in comparative safety, Alvin bravely crawled out of cover to face the enemy alone.
This manly display of valor is worth much more than the resulting victory.
After World War I, Sergeant York was a hero of the American people. Rather than using that fame for personal gain, Alvin remained a remarkably humble man.
When he first returned to the U.S., York was offered a total of $185,000 dollars through various contracts for endorsement requests, newspaper articles, and movie ideas. The unsophisticated Alvin York wrote, “They offered so much money that it almost takened my breath away.”
York, disliking the greedy motives behind these requests, refused the seemingly-perfect offers.
Unlike the celebrities of today, Alvin York showed himself to be a true hero by refusing to sacrifice honor for money.
Alvin York stands out as a shining example of a manly Christian: dedicated, courageous, and humble. We need more men like him today!