The German Artifacts Gallery
If you have already visited our York Gallery then you have read some of the story behind The Sergeant York Discovery Expedition's quest to find the York Spot. It was a long journey, one that started years before in the US and German Archives. The next step was the field research; taking the knowledge gained from the many documents, diaries, photographs, and books and putting it to the test on the ground of the Argonne Forest.
Doug Mastriano, along with whoever he could drag along to the Argonne, began by walking the terrain west of Châtel Chéhéry as early as 2005. His training in strategic and tactical analysis of enemy operations helped to narrow the ground area where the fight on 8 OCT would have most likely taken place. Next, it was the goal to discover artifacts to support the descriptions of the events surrounding York's actions. These would include: a place of German surrender, a machine gun position, evidence of fighting between the 17 Americans and that of the machine unit, and the two static firing positions from Corporal York. The first position being a rifle position and the second where York fought off the bayonet attack using his .45 Caliber ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol). All of these "points of interest" should be on logical military terrain and agree with the written descriptions as a whole.
York described crossing a stream and meadow to capture a large number of German soldiers behind the front lines who, at the time, had laid down thier weapons and were eating breakfast. What happened next was the attack on the Americans by a machine gun unit belonging to the 2nd Landwehr Division, 125th Regiment under Lt. Paul August Lipp. The task now was to find a stream and meadow in close proximity to a hillside suitable for machine gun positions whose primary target would have been the advancing American force attacking from Hill 223 (Castle Hill)
Below are two views from the south flank of Castle Hill looking toward what the SYDE team nick-named "The Pocket", an area just behind the front lines of 2nd Wurttembergische Landwehr Division 120th Regiment lead by Lt. Paul Vollmer. This area was the prime location where York described the german surrender.
Now that the area where the surrender might have taken place was identified, the SYDE team began looking for remains of a machine gun position that would make sense of York's story. In April 2006, after the discovery of a US bullet tip on the ridge above the meadow, SYDE found the distinct artifacts of a German Machine gun position. A machine gun position in 1918 would have been a small crew covered by a canvas tent cover. One should expect to find numerous spent rounds without the accompanying rifle clips, some un-fired rounds, tent rings from the cover and perhaps remnants of uniform.
These photos show the artifacts found at the machine gun position above the meadow.
These two photos show evidence of the 2nd Landwehr Division, 125th Regiment under Lt. Paul August Lipp.
Lt. Lipp was one of the officers captured by York after Lt. Vollmer signaled to surrender.
Over 100 rounds, tent eyelets and an American mess kit pan were found at the machine-gun position on the hill above the "York Spot".
Uniform parts and tent rings from the canvas cover over the position.
At the foot of the hill, known by the German army as Humserberg where machine gun position was found, was the meadow. After days of searching the area covered with small shrubs and only a few large trees and finding nothing of significance, we moved just to the west and turned our attention to an area approximately 130 meters by 70 meters, dubbed "The Block". This area could still be considered part of the meadow however, it was covered in thick pine trees to the south and an ivy carpet sprinkled with blackberry bushes to the north. Not the most convenient area for metal detecting and the subsequent digging required to find an object. It was the kind of work that often took 20 min to unearth an artifact only to discover it was small piece of the splintered brass ring from an artillery round. These were numerous and had the same signature on a metal detector as a shell casing. They became sarcastically known as, "a few of our favorite things".
In May 2006 another find helped to propel us on our quest through the seemingly unending grid of The Block. The discovery of several pairs of un-fired german rifle rounds. This was fantastic! The record states that a large number of german soldiers surrendered to York and his fellow Doughboys thus dropping thier ammo belt where they stood. The fact that most of these 5 round clips were found in pairs was a perfect match to the York story.
Unfired 5-round clips found near the "York Spot" are an indication of troop surrender.
Most of the clips were found in pairs like these pictured above.
Over the next several months the SYDE team meticulously moved through the grided area of The Block discovering a multitude of german artifacts. These German artifacts were important pieces to the puzzle that led SYDE to the discovery of the "York Spot", the exact location where Alvin C. York earned the Medal of Honor. The list of evidence is long and complete including; the clips above, buttons, pieces of german uniforms, german bullet tips some bent indicating they may have hit thier mark, the remains of a stove, trash pit, buckets, a padlock and hasp and nails marking a wooden structure. Individually they are interesting no doubt but all together in the same area and the picture of the battlefield becomes clear. Each piece of the York account fell into place, the surrender, the machine gun attack, the subsequent fight and eventual failed bayonet attack that was a turning point in the battle. SYDE discovered positive evidence of every aspect of the events of 8 OCT 1918 in the form of artifacts.
This German Bayonet was likely dropped here almost 90 years ago by a member of the 125th Wurttembergische Landwehr Regiment. Discovered between the two York firing positions only 10 meters from the York trail.
A buckle found in the meadow and a collection of un-fired 5-round clips (left), showing evidence of surrender.
The following pictures show more evidence of German uniforms and life in the Argonne.
Uniform buttons, a thimble, a "trench art" ring, a crown insignia. All found in "The Block"
A Thimble Crown insignia
Soldiers sometimes had hours to sit and wait. To occupy thier time, many worked with what they had to create jewelry, tools or simple vases made of artillery shells known as trench art..
This ring, for example, was probably made from a bolt as faint threads can be seen on the inside.
Buttons from Germany army uniforms
This is part of a German whistle found near the York Spot. Because of its close proximity to the York Spot and the remains of small wooden HQ, it is possible that this whistle belonged to Lt. Fritz Endriss. Endriss led the bayonet attack against York and was mortally wounded by a shot to the stomach. This incident led Lt. Paul Vollmer, a long time friend of Endriss, to approach York and negotiate the surrender of his troops from the 120th regiment and elements of 125th regiment under Lt. Lipp. After a short negotiation, Vollmer blew a whistle similar to the one pictured above to signal the surrender.
A horseshoe, brush, and bit show not only men but horses were present here.
An Artillery insignia, the crossed cannons and cannonball, can be seen on the side of this bit indicating it was probably used on one of the horses to move artillery cannons.
York indicated he captured an officer (Lt. Paul Vollmer) near a small wooden Headquarters building.
These photos show some of the artifacts consistent with an HQ.. Notice the lock, bits of wire and stove,
and part of a harmonica. (the flat metal piece with many slots) The spoon here is American.
SYDE found many belt and gear loops which still retained bits of leather. (left)
More signs of life in the form of an American spoon found near the German HQ artifacts. (right)
Trash dumps were commonly used near more "permanent" rear areas.
Found in a small hole, these bottles (above) were just 30-40 meters away from the headquarters artifacts.
A leather belt, more shells, and the back of a pocket watch (lower-right)