Alvin York: American World War I Hero

Home Inspiring Story Alvin York: American World War I Hero

“The Bible said ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ That was so definite a child could understand it.”[1] Alvin York faced the greatest dilemma of his life when his nation called him to war in 1917. Even when the nations rage, God knows our internal battles.

“There were two reasons why I didn’t want to go to war. My own experience told me that it weren’t right. And the Bible were agin it too.”[2] He had admittedly lived a hard life of sin and promised he’d never return to that life. A battle raged within him as his conscience told him war was wrong, but his beloved ancestors had fought and killed for his country. He readily identified with the Apostle Paul’s struggle when he wrote that, “…I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members (Romans 7:23 ESV).

He wanted to be both a good Christian and a good American. He trekked through the mountains of his native Paul Mall, TN in prayer and contemplation, and he spent hours reading his Bible. “I jes couldn’t make up mind that that the Bible were wrong. And I couldn’t make up my mind Uncle Sam were right. I was a soul in doubt.”[3]

He wrote his local draft board seeking conscientious objector status, but they refused. After numerous failed appeals, and in consultation with his pastor, York reported for duty. During training, he continually informed his superiors of his objection to killing another person in any form. It pleased York that one of his commanders—Major Edward Buxton—also shared faith in Christ. They exchanged their beliefs and Bible passages. Buxton enlightened York with several verses on just causes for war such as Jesus’s command to buy a sword.

“I believed the Lord was in that room,” York said.[4] He left knowing Major Buxton would relieve him from frontline duty if that’s what York decided. The Army issued York a pass home, and he spent more time in the Bible and praying in the mountains. The Lord answered him on that mountain and met him in his burden. A peace came over York. He returned for duty. In due time for his heroic actions on the battlefield, York became one of the most decorated soldiers of World War I and a national hero.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-7, ESV). God delivered York from his internal battle so that he could lead others to victory on a European battlefield. God knows your struggles. Don’t labor over them. Take them to the Lord and ask him to free you for greater battles.


[1] Alvin Cullum York et al., Sergeant York: His Own Life Story and War Diary (New York, NY: Racehorse Publishing, 2018), 154.

[2] Ibid, 154.

[3] Ibid, 155

[4] Ibid, 171.


Recommended Reading: Sergeant York: His Own Life Story and War Diary by Alvin C. York, edited by Tom Skeyhill.