Officer donates WWI hero's artifacts
February 6, 2009
By Ian Graham
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 6, 2009) -- Ninety years ago, then-Cpl. Alvin York helped lead a charge against a battery of German machine guns. He and a group of 17 Soldiers managed to capture a German lieutenant and force the surrender of 132 German troops.
The 82nd Infantry didn't break into the Argonne that day, Oct. 8, 1918, as they intended, but York's actions directly contributed to the later German withdrawal from the area. For his bravery, he was awarded a Medal of Honor.
Artifacts related to York's attack were presented Thursday to the Army's Center for Military History at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., and to York's living descendents.
Lt. Col. Doug Mastriano presented his private collection of artifacts related to York's attack to to the Center for Military History. Sgt. York's grandson, retired Lt. Col. Gerald York of Alexandria, Va., was on hand for the presentation.
Mastriano, branch chief of Current Operations & ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaisance) for Allied Land Component Command in Heidelburg, Germany, has spent the past six years researching York's exploits in the war. In October, 2006, he found evidence he believes is conclusive proof of the location of the attack.
According to York's recounting of the attack, he fired 21 rounds from his .45-caliber weapon at a group of oncoming Germans; Mastriano found 21 empty .45 casings scattered over a 10-foot area near the base of the hill. Among the other artifacts are a variety of American and German personal effects (mirrors, combs, a harmonica, etc.), weaponry, tools and ammunition from the area that support different accounts of the day.
"It's hard to believe, after all of these years, that this much was still there," Gerald York said as said as he surveyed the collection of artifacts from his grandfather's battle. "This is great."
(Ian Graham writes for the Pentagram newspaper at Fort Myer, Va.)