American History: April ’99 Letters


In 1995 I went with several friends on a week-long tour of the Meuse-Argonne Battlefield when we drove into the small town of Châtel-Chéhery. If you didn’t know what went on there during World War I, you would pass through these small towns without giving them much thought. As we drove into the center of town we saw a fine new marble monument. Slowing down, we saw the name York inscribed on the plaque, which stated in English and in French that it was presented by the State of Tennessee “on the occasion of the centennial of his birth. Tennessee remembers her heroic native son.” We knew this was the area where the 82nd Division fought, but we had no idea that a monument had been erected.

Several cemeteries and a monument at Montfaucon are taken care of by the United States government, but a few state monuments, such as the Pennsylvanian memorial in Varennes, are in poor shape. I hope that the Sergeant York monument will be looked after.

William J. Munday
Lincoln Park, Michigan


Your article on author James Jones in the November/December 1998 issue reminded me of the most unforgettable movie moment I have experienced. It happened in Tokyo about eight years after World War II, when I watched From Here to Eternity playing in English with Japanese subtitles. Wearing my U.S. Army uniform in a theater filled with people who had been pained and humbled by a war their nation started, I began to fidget when the Pearl Harbor scene appeared on the screen. When the movie ended and the lights went on, I did not sense any agitation other than my own. Presumably, the Japanese moviegoers were able to separate art from life.

Robert L. Caleo
Bayonne, New Jersey


Could you please provide further information on your Alvin York farm story (“A Gift for Sergeant York,” January/February 1999)? Who owns the property today? Is it still in the family? I’m sure that other readers would be interested too.

Catesby B. Cannon, Jr.
Canfield, Ohio

Editor’s note: Michael E. Birdwell, the York archivist from the Tennessee Technological University, informed us that when Alvin York died in 1964, his widow agreed to sell 200 of the farm’s 400 acres to the state of Tennessee. The state did not assume control, however, until her death in 1984. Sergeant York’s home was opened to the public in 1994, though the upstairs rooms are still not on view. It is operated by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and is tangentially connected to Pickett State Park. The home is open 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. every day except Christmas and New Year’s. Following further restoration, the upstairs and some of the farm’s other buildings will be opened to the public. A friends organization, the Sergeant York Historical Association, assists the site and is currently raising funds for capital improvements and minor restoration work.

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