18. When Alvin York Suddenly Found Himself in Charge of the Remnants of a Raider Party
On October 8, 1918, amidst the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, recently promoted Corporal Alvin York was sent across no-man’s-land in a party of four non-commissioned officers and thirteen privates. Their mission: to infiltrate German lines and silence a machine gun position. However, the German position turned out to be far stronger than intelligence had indicated. As the Americans made their way through broken terrain, they entered the kill zone of over 35 well hidden machine guns. The Germans opened up a lethal crossfire, and within seconds, nine Doughboys, including the other three non-commissioned officers, were cut down.
York suddenly found himself the most senior non-com, in charge of the survivors. As he described what happened next: “You never heard such a racket in all of your life. â¦ As soon as the machine guns opened fire on me, I began to exchange shots with them. There were over 30 of them in continuous action, and all I could do was touch the Germans off just as fast as I could. I was sharp shooting. â¦ 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.”