Alvin York and Henry Johnson- Two of the Most Notable American Military Heroes of WWI

Greatness, it is often said, comes out of the most trying and rather difficult times. This is probably the reason why some of the most inspiring stories are embedded in times of human suffering such as war and genocide. Crisis in such times is not only restrained to the front line battle between two opposing parties and their conflicting ideologies; it is also the moral crisis which seeps deeper into societies. The ones who are remembered as great are those who held onto their moral responsibility by responding, in words and action, in a way that’s right and just.

Some of the WW I heroes of the United States Armed Forces are remembered for just these reasons; for persevering and staying steadfast and honest in the role they were given. Continue reading to know about two of the most notable ones, Sergeant Alvin Cork and Henry Johnson.

Alvin York

Many would be surprised to know that he opposed the idea of fighting in a war on ground because it conflicted with his religious ideology which was focused on peacefulness and nonviolence. Belonging to Tennessee, York was actually forced to join the ground troops. It was October 8th, 1918 when during the well known Meuse Argonne Offensive, York along with his team had been able to capture seventeen German troops. It is here that they were attacked with heavily loaded machine guns from all sides which reportedly killed nine of his companions. He responded promptly by first escaping the sight and then targeting German shooters one after the other with the help of his rifle. Bringing his 0.45 pistol to good use, he killed six of the German shooters when they tried to attack him with bayonets. He eventually made the remaining ones to surrender and captured them while killing some 20 during the combat. When the war was over, he got back to his original occupation of farming even after receiving a Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross.

Henry Johnson

Belonging to the National Guard of black soldiers famously called the Harlem Hellfighters, Johnson and some of his black companions did unskilled labor during the initial war stages. But when the French army ranks were swiftly getting exhausted, they were sent over to fill in for them. He secured a spot for himself in the books of history on 14th May, 1918 when attacked by twenty German troops in the wee hours of the night. Henry Johnson, along with Needham Roberts, was serving the duty of sentinel when the attack took place. While Roberts was injured to the point of immobility, Johnson stayed steadfast and attacked back consistently with rifle as well as hand grenades. When he could no longer use his weapons due to being jammed, he utilized them for hand to hand combat, not stopping even once. Upon seeing the Germans trying to take away Roberts, he started stabbing them with the only weapon left with him; a bolo knife, attacking until they retreated.

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