When I got a little bit older, I went out and worked on the railroad awhile. I might say, too, that in my early days I got in bad company and I broke off from my mother's and father's advice and got to drinking and gambling and playing up right smart. I read about Frank and Jesse James. I thought if Frank and Jesse could be crack shots I could too. I used to gallop my horse around a tree with a revolver and muss up that tree right smart. And I got tolerably accurate, too.
And one night, after being very drunk and fighting, I got in after midnight, and found my mother sitting up waiting for me, and I asked her, "Why don't you lie down?" And she said, "I can't lie down. I don't know what's going to become of you when you are out drinking, and so I wait until you come in." And then she asked me, "Alvin, when are you going to be a man like your father and your grandfathers?" I promised my mother that night I would never drink again; I would never smoke or chew again; I would never gamble again; I would never cuss or fight again. And I have never drunk any whiskey, I have never touched cards, I have never smoked or chewed, and I have never fought or rough-housed since that night. I was very fond of tobacco, too.
I had already told my mother I would quit the things I had been doing, and at that time I had already quit gambling and drinking and fighting and was ready to begin another life. I joined the church and became an elder. I was teaching singing schools and led all the singing in the church before I went in the army. That is why they used to call me the Singing Elder.
OCTOBER 8th 1918
I don't know whether it was the German major, but one yelled something out in German that we couldn't understand. And then the machine guns on top swung around and opened fire on us. There were about thirty of them. They were commanding us from a hillside less than thirty yards away. They couldn't miss. And they didn't!
They killed all of Savage's squad; they got all of mine but two; they wounded Cutting and killed two of his squad; and Early's squad was well back in the brush on the extreme right and not yet under the direct fire of the machine guns, and so they escaped. All except Early. He went down with three bullets in his body. That left me in command. I was right out there in the open.
And those machine guns were spitting fire and cutting down the undergrowth all around me something awful. And 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 don't know what the other boys were doing. They claim They didn't fire a shot. They said afterwards they were on the right, guarding the prisoners. And the prisoners were lying down and the machine guns had to shoot over them to get me. As soon as the machine guns opened fire on me, I began to exchange shots with them.
There were over thirty of them in continuous action, and all I could do was touch the Germans off just as fast as I could. I was sharpshooting. I don't think I missed a shot. It was no time to miss.
In order to sight me or to swing their machine guns on me, the Germans had to show their heads above the trench, and every time I saw a head I just touched it off. All the time I kept yelling at them to come down. 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.
Suddenly a German officer and five men jumped out of the trench and charged me with fixed bayonets. I changed to the old automatic and just touched them off too. I touched off the sixth man first, then the fifth, then the fourth, then the third and so on. I wanted them to keep coming.
I didn't want the rear ones to see me touching off the front ones. I was afraid they would drop down and pump a volley into me.
--and I got hold of the German major, and he told me if I wouldn't kill any more of them he would make them quit firing. So I told him all right, if he would do it now. So he blew a little whistle, and they quit shooting and come down and gave up.
I had killed over twenty before the German major said he would make them give up. I covered him with my automatic and told him if he didn't make them stop firing I would take off his head next. And he knew I meant it. He told me if I didn't kill him, and if I stopped shooting the others in the trench, he would make them surrender.
He blew a little whistle and they came down and began to gather around and throw down their guns and belts. All but one of them came off the hill with their hands up, and just before that one got to me he threw a little hand grenade which burst in the air in front of me.
I had to touch him off. The rest surrendered without any more trouble. There were nearly 100 of them.
Sgt Alvin C. York used to be known to every American. This Veterans Day I would like to honor this forgotten hero. I would also like to honor my Dad who landed on Normandy with the 474th Fighter Group two weeks after D-day when it is was still pretty hot. I have a picture of Bob Hope in a P-38 supposedly wearing my Dad's service cap. Likewise I would like to honor my son who went all over the world in the Army and had to take a medical discharge because his knees gave out after 7 years of service. Had they not he would have gotten his Ranger Tabs. My brother in law who as a Lt. in Nam took a round in the ear and lost a thumb. My two nephews, one a graduate of the Air Force Academy and one currently a cadet.