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Alvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne

by Douglas V. Mastriano

Availablecloth$36.95 978-0-8131-4519-8
AUSA Books - American Warriors Series
336 pages  Pubdate: 03/25/2014  6 x 9  43 b&w photos, 8 maps

Alvin C. York (1887–1964)—devout Christian, conscientious objector, and reluctant hero of World War I—is one of America’s most famous and celebrated soldiers. Known to generations through Gary Cooper’s Academy Award-winning portrayal in the 1941 film Sergeant York, York is credited with the capture of 132 German soldiers on October 8, 1918, in the Meuse-Argonne region of France—a deed for which he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

At war’s end, the media glorified York’s bravery but some members of the German military and a soldier from his own unit cast aspersions on his wartime heroics. Historians continue to debate whether York has received more recognition than he deserves. A fierce disagreement about the location of the battle in the Argonne forest has further complicated the soldier’s legacy.

In Alvin York, Douglas V. Mastriano sorts fact from myth in the first full-length biography of York in decades. He meticulously examines York’s youth in the hills of east Tennessee, his service in the Great War, and his return to a quiet civilian life dedicated to charity. By reviewing artifacts recovered from the battlefield using military terrain analysis, forensic study, and research in both German and American archives, Mastriano reconstructs the events of October 8 and corroborates the recorded accounts. On the eve of the WWI centennial, Alvin York promises to be a major contribution to twentieth-century military history.

Douglas V. Mastriano, Ph.D., is a Colonel in the U.S. Army.

Not only illuminates York’s heroism but provides insights on small unit tactics and on the shortcomings of the American Expeditionary Forces. One of the more interesting aspects of the book is how York’s civilian life was changed by the events in France. A truly useful and interesting account. -- Timothy K. Nenninger, editor of The Way of Duty, Honor, Country: The Memoir of General Charles Pelot Summerall

Reveals both the complexity of York and the authenticity of his achievements on the battlefield. The use of German documents is first-rate and adds a new dimension to our understanding of the Argonne battlefield in 1918. Mastriano's knowledge of the terrain is excellent. -- John Mosier, author of Verdun: The Lost History of the Most Important Battle of World War I, 1914–1918

A compelling American story of Sergeant York’s heroism and character just in time to commemorate the centennial of World War I. This account of faith, duty, courage, and humility will resonate with soldiers as well as those in whose name soldiers fight. -- H.R. McMaster, author of Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Lies that Led to Vietnam

Mastriano applies the tools of the professional military intelligence officer to the information from his exhaustive research in both American and German archives and his on-site battlefield analysis to confirm the historical veracity of the major elements of the Sergeant York legend as they have come down to us today. Just as importantly, he also brings to light new facts about that battle fought almost 100 years ago. The result is a tour de force of historical detective work. -- Major General David T. Zabecki, AUS (Ret.)

One of the best compilations of my Grandfather's early life, environment, and battle descriptions from both the American and German archives. Mastriano has captured Sergeant York's life from youth through his experiences during the war and afterwards. It is evident from his writings he has spent years researching and studying all aspects of my grandfather's life. The family appreciates his work and documenting so much of his life. -- Colonel Gerald York, USA (Ret.)

Outstanding book and extensive research which lifts the veil of myth and legend that has surrounded my great-grandfather and his legacy for almost a century. The first-hand quotes and documentation provide a realistic look at the moral struggles he faced both before and after the war. The timeless story of faith and dedication that Mastriano tells is an inspiration to my generation. -- LTC Gerald York, MD

Mastriano dives deep into Alvin York’s life before and after the exploits of October 1918, taking the reader on an authentic American journey to reveal a man sincere in his faith, true in his courage, and genuine in his humility. Mastriano mined American and German archival resources with a keen eye on placing the York story in a broader context. Exceptionally well researched and vividly written, this important, fresh consideration of York will appeal to anyone interested in The Great War. -- William Thomas Allison, General Harold K. Johnson Visiting Chair in Military History, US Army War College, and Professor of History, Georgia Southern University

This is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of General Pershing's AEF. --

Both the most comprehensive and the first serious biography of York in over 85 years. -- Remington Country

Deftly integrating the results of battlefield analyses and archival studies, Mastriano settles longstanding questions about Sergeant York's actions at the Meuse-Argonne and humanizes the hero with rich details of his early life. -- Quarterly Journal of Military History

A readable, thoroughly documented addition to the extensive literature available on an authentic and admirable war hero. -- Library Journal

Alvin York is a well-written biography that honors the memory of one of America's greatest heroes. -- J.W. Thacker -- Bowling Green Daily News

Mastriano gives readers exactly what the book's title suggests—a new and insightful biography. This book is strongly recommended for any World War I aficionado, or those who simply enjoy a great biography. -- On Point

The most detailed biography of York to date. -- Roane County News

Douglas Mastriano's investigative zeal makes his Alvin York a singular achievement in the small library of York biographies, indeed definitive... -- Michigan War Studies Review

This book sets the standards in archival research, battlefield archaeology and forensics. It should have a place on every bookshelf. -- Past in Review

[The book] really is a remarkable story of human development and virtue, and Mastriano tells it well.

This book is invaluable to both the general reader and the scholar. -- US Army War College Quarterly Parameters

Mastriano uses York’s life to provide an engaging narrative of the American experience in World War I, interwar American culture, and the mobilization for World War II. -- West Virginia History

Winner of the 2015 William E. Colby Award given by the Tawani Foundation

Winner of the 2015 Crader Family Book Prize in American Values

Winner of the 2014 Army Historical Foundation Distinguished Writing Award for Biography

Winner of the 2014 Madigan Award given by the US Army War College

A well-researched analysis of the man and his decisions that fateful day in the Argonne.

Mastriano offers the best evaluation so far of York’s life, including his struggle with fame, why he retained such notoriety, and his attempts to appropriate it for his community, but not for personal gain. Mastriano’s last chapter detailing the excellent interdisciplinary analysis of the York battlefield with the Sergeant York Discovery Expedition is invaluable to any military historian. Scholars will find Alvin York an enjoyable read and a satisfactory supplement to the larger historical debates. -- Journal of Military History

Mastriano marshals impressive new evidence from German battle records and his own detailed battlefield forensic research. -- Historian

Mastriano offers a very solid and detailed evaluation of York’s military career while applying it to the overall context of his life, as well as the role that religion played in York’s worldview and decisions during the war. Alvin York is an invaluable asset to any scholar looking for an enjoyable read and broadens the historical understanding of what happened in the Argonne Forest on October 8, 1918. -- US Military History Review

A very coherent and readable account of the life of Alvin Cullum York. Using the archeological evidence uncovered, Mastriano gives the most detailed and complete description of York's action I have ever encountered. In addition to the archeology, the author has done extensive research in German Army archives to help flesh out many new details. -- Roads to the Great War

This stunning work is a great read on many different levels, each as good as the next: biography, gripping combat narrative, inspiring human interest saga, quasi-religous tract, Americana tale, investigative verification, and, finally, confirmation that York did exactly what both he and the United States Army said he did. The dedicated author is to be commended for producing what I feel will stand the test of time as one of the very best such works ever penned, probing deeply as well into all the possible negative aspects of the story to boot....Finally, this informative, detailed, and highly readable, engrossing text is well complimented by 10 outstanding maps and over 40 well-chosen black-and-white photographs. Truly, this is biography at its best, and not be missed! -- Blaine taylor," The Military Advisor"