The York Patrol: The Real Story of Alvin York and the Unsung Heroes Who Made Him World War I’s Most Famous Soldier

Morrow. Feb. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9780062975881. $28.99. HIST
The latest book by historian Nelson (Five Lieutenants) tackles three interrelated subjects: a recounting of the military experience of Sergeant Alvin York (1887-1964), the origins and dissemination of the legend of York’s heroism, and a description of the post-war lives of York and his compatriots. Nelson utilizes a wide range of primary source material in order to describe the experiences of York and his comrades, and, in the process, creates a vivid profile of what later generations would term the “all-American” platoon. While his narration of the movement of York’s unit, and the wider strategy of the American Expeditionary Forces, are sometimes ponderous, his reconstruction of the details of the “York Patrol,” and how the York legend developed are solidly done. However, Nelson’s work is marred by an overuse of colloquialisms; for example, repeating phrases such as “hick from Tennessee.” In addition, Nelson does not take advantage of recent World War I historiography. It would have been beneficial if Nelson explained why German soldiers were more willing to surrender by the fall of 1918. In addition, numerous veterans organizations founded after 1919 challenge the assumption that returning soldiers did not speak of their wartime experiences.
VERDICT A flawed work that will probably best suit World War I completists.
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