Alvin C. York went out on a routine patrol an ordinary, unknown American doughboy of the First World War. He came back from no-man's-land a hero. In a brief encounter on October 8, 1918, during the Argonne offensive, York had killed 25 German soldiers and, almost singlehandedly, effected the capture of 132 others. Returning to the United States the following spring, he received a tumultuous public welcome and a flood of offers from businessmen eager to capitalize on his acclaimed feat. But York, true to his character, went quietly back to his home in the Tennessee mountains, where he spent the remainder of his life working to bring schools and other services to those remote valleys where his neighbors lived.
In this definitive biography, David D. Lee has firmly established the simple facts of Alvin York's life, distinguishing them from the myths which have grown up around the man. He has reexamined the sometimes conflicting accounts of the famous exploit, finding in his research a hitherto unknown report of the skirmish from German military archives. Lee goes beyond that single wartime episode, however, to consider its consequences on York's later life—his efforts, not always successful, to better his mountain community; his involvement in making a motion picture of his life; his difficulties with money and taxes. But Sergeant York is better known as a symbol than as an individual, and in this study Lee connects the man and his life to an American heroic ideal. With his rural background, his refusal to take commercial advantage of his fame, and his simple piety, Alvin York exemplified the traditional values of an agrarian America that was in his own day already receding into the past. He claimed a special place in the hearts of his countrymen, Lee concludes, because his life seemed to show that the virtues of the common man continued to be a vital part of American society.
Should become the standard reference on the red-haired Tennessean who, in the final days of World War I, emerged from the Argonne Forest by himself with 132 German prisoners.~Gun Week
York, as brought to life in the riveting book, made greatness out of simplicity and personified America and its values at their best—a true hero.~Military Heritage
This well-written, carefully researched study reveals the man and the often puzzling values that made him a hero.~American Studies
A valuable look at the man, the times, and—most important—at the process of creating a national legend.~Appalachian Journal
Lee's description and analysis of York's heroic deed will stand as definitive.~Edward M. Coffman
An impeccably researched account of what fame can do to a simple and good man.~Jerusalem Post
A highlight of American World War I literature.~Library Journal
A finely written and appealing biography of Alvin C. York, the man and American hero.~McCormick (SC) Messenger
It is to David Lee's credit that he has shown us the power and poverty of York the symbol and York the man.~Reviews in American History
David D. Lee strips away the ticker tape-and-bravado image and takes us back to the early days that shaped the man who initially resisted going to war—back to the unruly youth whose companions were alcohol and firearms until religion took their place. Reads like a good novel.~Southern Living
The most thoroughly researched and satisfying account yet published on Sergeant Alvin C. York, one of the nation's greatest war heroes.~Tennessean
A biography which fits his hero into his times, illuminating both of them.~Tennessee Historical Quarterly
Clearly written and thoroughly researched in both American and German sources.... Its definitive account of York's life and its elaboration of what hero status and the hero-making process illustrate about American society make it a worthwhile addition to the literature on modern America.~The Historian