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Hero on the Western Front (Hardback)

Discovering Alvin York's WWI Battlefield

WWI Frontline Books Photographic Books Frontline: WWI 1918 WWI Photographic Books

By Michael Kelly
Frontline Books
Pages: 343
ISBN: 9781526700759
Published: 3rd August 2018


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They knew it was the end. Weakened by four years of war, the reality had finally dawned on the Germans that their armies could never stop the combined might of the Allied forces, now bolstered by the fresh, enthusiastic Americans, who were now determined to be involved in the conflict that had engulfed the world.

The US effort in 1918, in what became known as the Hundred Days Offensive, was focused on the Argonne Forest. It was there that 1,200,000 men were deployed in what was to be the largest offensive in the United States’ military history.

It was in the fighting in the Argonne Forest that one of the most remarkable incidents in the entire First World War took place. In October 1918, Corporal Alvin Cullum York single-handedly captured 132 Germans and killed twenty-one in a desperate fire-fight.

York’s battalion of the 328th Infantry Regiment had become pinned down by heavy machine-gun and artillery fire. Its commander sent Sergeant Bernard Early, four non-commissioned officers, including the recently promoted Corporal York, and thirteen privates to infiltrate the German positions and neutralise the machine-guns.

The small American force came upon a large group of enemy troops having breakfast, and these were taken prisoner. They then came under fire from German machine-guns which left eight men were killed or wounded and York as the senior NCO. York and the survivors returned fire and silenced the enemy, allowing the Americans to rejoin their battalion with the 132 prisoners in tow.

York was promoted to Sergeant and he received the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The site of this famous action was believed to have been identified in 2009 and a memorial erected by the French authorities. However, a team of archaeologists, with help from the French Department of Archaeology and the use of modern day Geographic Information Science, believe that the memorial is incorrectly situated, and have uncovered thousands of exhibits to support their claim.

Complete with detailed plans and diagrams, and a rich variety of photographs of locations and artefacts, Michael Kelly presents not only a fascinating account of York’s determined courage, but also a detective story as the team unravels the evidence to reveal the exact ravine where the most famous US military action of the First World War took place.

★★★★★ I highly recommend Michael Kelly's book, which I have eagerly awaited since pre-ordering back in March. It has exceeded my expectations...

impressively thorough and well-documented. Chapter organization is outstanding. Information is presented clearly and concisely. The many maps and color photos are exceedingly well-chosen. Very readable style and I even find the publisher's choice of font to be very pleasing. I highly recommend Hero on the Western Front to any reader interested in Sgt. York. My suggestion is to read this book, as well as the 2014 title. and decide for yourself. In my judgment, the reader will see the superior strength of the arguments for the Nolan site, compared with those for the official "Circuit du Sgt. York." The evidence will speak for itself. If you are planning to travel to France to visit the location, please read Michael Kelly's Hero on the Western Front, which I am very happy to see finally published.

Read the complete review online here.

Amazon Reviewer, Dennis Heritage

Click here to listen to interview (2nd part)

NOTE: set cursor to 2:12:00

BBC Radio Humberside with presenter Lara King, 6th July 2018

Click here to listen to interview (1st of 2 parts)

NOTE: set cursor to 2:07:17

BBC Radio Humberside with presenter Lara King, 2nd July 2018

As featured 'ON THE SHELF'

Wargames Illustrated, August 2018

About Michael Kelly

MICHAEL KELLY was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. Educated at the University of Hull, he served for twelve years in the Royal Navy before joining the British police and working as a detective in the Regional Crime Squad, Major Crime and Surveillance Units for twenty-five years. After a serious injury on duty, he was retired from the police in 1999. Since then Michael has been a guide and a military historian on the battlefields of the Western Front and Normandy. He is founder member of the Nolan Group, which is engaged in the exploration of the site and action where Alvin C. York was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in the Argonne Forest, France. Michael is former chair of the H.M.S. Ganges Association, a past president of Grimsby Rugby Union Football Club and President of the Lincolnshire Rugby Football Union.

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