Alvin C. York
Alvin C. York wasn't a likely candidate to be one of the most decorated war heroes in American history. The third of eleven children born in a small, backwoods Tennessee farming town to an impoverished family, York's early life centered around plowing fields, bulls-eyeing womp rats in his T-16, and occasionally going into town to have a few dozen drinks at the saloon and get into some crazy Wild West style bar fights where guys would get hit over the head with whiskey bottles and wooden chairs. While the idea of this guy pounding countless shots of Jack and then cracking hillbillies in the face with a ten-ton knuckle sandwich sounds pretty sweet, Alvin York’s hard-drinkin' hard-fightin' lifestyle came to an abrupt end one evening, when his best friend was killed during a particularly rowdy Double Dragon-style brawl. York swore off alcohol, became a hardcore Christian and Pacifist, and vowed never to fight again. When the United States began drafting soldiers to go fight overseas in a massive war that was kicking more European ass than a Pelé-led Brazilian World Cup team, York filed as a conscientious objector.
Of course, back in the days of World War I the Army didn't really give a crap if you were ethically opposed to fighting for some horsehockey moral reasons - as long as you could shoot straight, had at least two functioning limbs, and weren’t allergic to crazy shit like bee stings or ant bites you were good enough to go face-first into the meat grinder. York was drafted into the 82nd Infantry (the precursor to the balls-out elite 82nd Airborne) and shipped off to the sunny French countryside - only in the Fall of 1918 the rolling hills of Northern France weren't blossoming with fragrant crops of Vitis Viniferae, chirping turtledoves and busty mademoiselles in see-through white sundresses, they were littered with dead bodies, mustard gas and fucking giant smoking craters filled with the dismembered appendages of millions of unlucky bastards. York was ideologically opposed to the idea of fighting, but once he got out in the Sheiße and the Germans started taking potshots at his head, he was more than happy to return the favor. It was on the afternoon of 8 October 1918 that York would forge a legend that would make him the most famous American war hero of the First World War.
Corporal York and his totally sweet 'stache were part of an American unit that was tasked with capturing the heavily-fortified Decauville Railway as part of the Allied Meuse-Argonne Offensive. This railway was a vital source of supplies and munitions for the Jerrys, so it was crucial that Allie forces capture this position if they wanted to press the attack without having all of their men stabbed in the heads with bayonets or shot in the nuts by German heavy-duty machineguns.
York’s 328th Infantry Regiment was steadily moving through the countryside when all of a sudden a nearby ridgeline erupted with the sound of machine gun fire. Over thirty gun nests had been skillfully concealed on the ridges, and when the Americans got too close the Germans just opened up on them. The initial barrage of molten lead nearly wiped out the entire detachment before the US troops managed to get withdraw to safety. When it became apparent that there was no way for the Americans to take these guns head-on, and with the rest of the Americans pinned down by constant machinegun and mortar fire, York's platoon was ordered to quietly move into a flanking position and attack the German guns from the rear. York and the rest of his men quietly maneuvered around the enemy guns, and before long they came upon a small German trench located just behind the ridgeline. The Americans quickly overran the enemy’s position, killing two of the enemy and capturing several more. It looked as though things were going smoothly when all of a sudden, above the din of battle they heard a shrill German scream.
The gunfire abruptly stopped. The seventeen Americans in York's detachment looked up and saw fucking thirty-two German machine guns swinging around to face them. They pretty much only had time to say, "oh fuck--", before gunfire ripped through the US ranks. Within seconds, nine GI’s were cut down like a rainforest on an episode of Captain Planet. York's squad-mates ducked into the German bunker and took cover, but he quickly found himself standing alone, with little cover, staring down an entire regimental German machine gun company.
It was then that Alvin York decided to act like a real badass. He drew a bead on the enemy with his standard infantry service rifle and opened fire on anyone he could see. Initially, he was firing from a standing position, but before long he managed to get prone and continue capping any German heads the popped out of the top of their machine gun nests, all the while being the sole target of several dozen fully-automatic Maxim machine guns and a few hundred German infantry rifles and pistols.
“And those machine guns were spitting fire and cutting down the undergrowth all around me something awful. The Germans were yelling orders. You never heard such a 'racket in all of your life. I didn't have time to dodge behind a tree or dive into the brush, I didn't even have time to kneel or lie down. I had no time nohow to do nothing but watch them-there German machine gunners and give them the best I had. Every time I seed a German I jes teched him off. At first I was shooting from a prone position; that is lying down; jes like we often shoot at the targets in the shooting matches in the mountains of Tennessee; and it was jes about the same distance. But the targets here were bigger. I jes couldn't miss a German's head or body at that distance. And I didn't. Besides, it weren't no time to miss nohow.”
York was dishing up more headshots than a LAN party, taking out motherfuckers left and right and avoiding bullets like he was Steven Segal in a bad action movie. He blew through several clips of ammunition, the brush around him was so chopped up by gunfire that it looked like it had just gone through a goddamned wood chipper Steve Buscemi-style, and he still continued to coolly pick of the Germans one by one. At one point, a squad of German infantrymen popped out of a nearby trench and charged York with fixed bayonets, looking to impale him with pointy death like a kebab at a barbecue cookout in Hell. York had just fired the last round of his clip and didn't have time to reload, so he whipped out his badass Colt M1911 .45-caliber service pistol and opened up on them:
“I teched off the sixth man first; then the fifth; then the fourth; then the third; and so on. That's the way we shoot wild turkeys at home. You see we don't want the front ones to know that we're getting the back ones, and then they keep on coming until we get them all. I knowed, too, that if the front ones wavered, or if I stopped them the rear ones would drop down and pump a volley into me and get me.”
Incidentally, I love the phrase "teched him off" to refer to capping motherfuckers. I'm going to try to bring that back, and from here on out will be using that as yet another synonym for asskicking.
Anyways, after single-handedly teching off a squad of rampaging Krauts the machine gun fire suddenly stopped. A German Major rose up from the trenches with both hands in the air and slowly approached the blood-lusted York. The major pleaded (in perfect English), "If you don’t shoot anymore, I will make them give up." York, being a pacifist at heart, had no desire to continue killing Germans, so he accepted the surrender and escorted the German commander back to where the rest of the American squad was holed up (they hadn't fired a single shot during the entire battle). When the Major saw the US situation, he incredulously asked, "how many men have you got?!" York said, "I got a-plenty."
When all was said and done, Alvin York had single-handedly killed 28 enemy soldiers and captured 128 enlisted men, 4 officers and 32 machine guns without suffering so much as a scratch on his body. With this regimental-sized enemy machine gun Company out of the way, the American 77th Division was able to capture the railroad that evening,. For his 1337 azzkicking skillz, York was lauded as a hero by the Allied forces - he received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Croix de Guerre, the Legion of Honor, and the Croce di Guerra. As all of the POWs were being marched back to the American HQ, Brigadier General Lindsay walked up and said something to the effect of, "Jesus Christ York, I hear that you captured the whole fucking German Army!" York responded, "No sir, just 132 of them."
The Diary of Alvin York
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