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On This Day… The Soldier Who Captured 132 Prisoners

Written by: George Chittenden : 08 Oct 2019

It was on this day, 8th Oct, back in 1918 when one of the US Army's most notable heroes of World War I, Alvin C. York, led an attack on a German machine gun nest and captured 132 German soldiers during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France. York’s heroic actions occurred after the Americans managed to capture Hill 223 along the Decauville rail-line north of Chatel-Chéhéry, France. York was part of the 328th Infantry, 82nd Division.

Alvin C. York

Alvin C. York

Moving forward they came under heavy fire by German machine guns. York, along with sixteen other men was sent to eliminate the machine guns. German machine gun fire killed six of them which placed York in charge. Starting in a prone position, York began taking out the German gunners with his sharp shooting skills. During the attack six German soldiers emerged from their trenches and charged at him, forcing him to draw his pistol and shoot all six before they reached him. Switching back to his rifle, he returned to sniping at the German machine guns. Eventually he began calling for them to surrender. Then York, and the men under his command delivered 132 prisoners to his battalion headquarters.

One of the interesting things about Alvin C. York is that he was a conscientious objector and claimed the right to refuse to perform military service on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, or religion. When he was drafted his conscientious objector status was denied, as during WWI conscientious objector status did not exempt one from military duty. Another interesting fact is how inaccurately this story is reported, with most accounts making out that he carried out the attack single-handedly. Alvin C. York deserves credit for his heroism, however he never claimed that he acted alone, nor was he ever proud of what he did. He received the Medal of Honour for his brave actions.

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