On October 8, 1918, seventeen soldiers from the 82nd Division, American Expeditionary Force, led by acting Sgt. Bernard Early, flanked a German machine gun nest that had inundated their unit with withering fire. In this sneak attack, they successfully surprised and captured more than 80 German soldiers before an unseen machine gun suddenly opened fire and killed six men.
Acting Cpl. Alvin York, a member of the patrol, received the credit for taking control of the squad and single-handedly killing 20 Germans, capturing 132 prisoners, and eliminating 35 machine guns, all before leading the men back to Allied lines. For this act of bravery, York not only received the Medal of Honor and was promoted to sergeant, but he also rose to fame and glory. The 1941 movie Sergeant York, starring Gary Cooper, solidified York as a legend and one of the most well-known military figures in American history.
In Unraveling the Myth of Sgt. Alvin York, historian James P. Gregory Jr. tells the story of the other sixteen soldiers who took part in the battle, capture, and return before fading into relative obscurity in the shadow of Sergeant York. As the tale reached mythological proportions, the other survivors began to speak out, seeking recognition for their parts in the engagement, only to be stymied by improper investigations, cover-ups, and media misrepresentations. Here, Gregory recovers the story of these other men and the part they played alongside York while revealing the process of mythmaking in twentieth-century America.
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Published by Texas A&M University Press