Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Swift Boating Alvin York

I remember watching the movie Sergeant York with Gary Cooper as the titled Alvin York who served in World War I despite claiming he was a pacifist. Cooper won an Oscar and York won the Congressional Medal of Honor and later a boondoogle of an air defense system was named after him beforeit was canceled. Alvin York must be running for president since he is being swiftboated.

The story goes that on Oct. 8, 1918, Cpl. Alvin Cullum York and 16 other Americans came across more than a dozen German soldiers having breakfast. The ensuing firefight ended with the surrender of 132 Germans and won Corporal York a promotion to sergeant and the Medal of Honor. His exploits grew until he had single-handedly silenced 35 German machine gun nests and killed 25 enemy soldiers. Now some researchers are questioning the long-accepted story.

There were conflicting accounts at the time from people in the firefight and there were claims that a flamboyant soldier turned writer helped embellish the account written for magazine serialization in the 1920s. What seems not be in dispute is that six of the Americans were killed and three others were wounded, leaving then Corporal York the officer in charge. He is credited with overcoming the superior force by using his sharpshooting skills, honed during turkey shoots and squirrel hunts in the Tennessee woods.

So myth hunters are back in France trying to find the actual battle site looking for spent cartridges from a Colt .45 that York and several witnesses said he used to fire at seven German soldiers who charged him with fixed bayonets. "The question is, what is really York and what is after-the-fact addition and what is plain fabrication?" said Michael Birdwell, a historian who is part of a team searching for the exact location of the battle.

There are some things in the account that raise questions and maybe he didn't take out 35 machine gun nests or 25 Germans. Maybe the number is less. There is no denying that York was in the middle of a horrific firefight that resembled hand to hand combat and there is no dispute that he and his comrades exhibited extraordinary courage that day. It's a good thing York isn't running for political office today. He'd be swiftboated as a war criminal most likely by the Republican political consultant credited with an anti-Gore ad in 2000 who is now charged with molesting two young girls. Rest in peace Alvin York. Thank god you're not around to be smeared by child molesters.

3 Comments:

Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

I can't believe anyone cares about this stuff enough to go to France to look for 60-year-old spent cartridges.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Crankybro said...

or even 89 year old ones

7:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not only did someone care enough but they actually found the .45 shells shot by York. The arguments are very convicing.

6:45 AM  

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