Alvin C. York (1887—1964) — devout Christian, conscientious objector, and reluctant hero of World War I — is one of America's most famous and celebrated soldiers. Known to generations through Gary Cooper's Academy Award-winning portrayal in the 1941 film Sergeant York, York is credited with the capture of 132 German soldiers on October 8, 1918, in the Meuse-Argonne region of France — a deed for which he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

At war's end, the media glorified York's bravery but some members of the German military and a soldier from his own unit cast aspersions on his wartime heroics. Historians continue to debate whether York has received more recognition than he deserves. A fierce disagreement about the location of the battle in the Argonne forest has further complicated the soldier's legacy.

Final look of the trail from the stairs at sign 6.

One more piece of this project was to add small pamphlet boxes to the sign at the start of the trail. The pamphlets are in French, German and English and give more information for visitors to take with them.

One final touch was to replace the 90th anniversary signs with new "Curcuit du Sergeant Alvin York" signs at the entrance points to Chatel Chehery.

Team members moved the gravel one wheel barrow at a time from the pile to the trail eventually covering nearly 300 meters of trail 4 feet wide and 4 inches deep. Each load would cover only about 3 feet of trail. If you do the math, this makes for somewhere around 300 loads with each one traveling a greater distance from the pile. A monumental task.

Lance Milsted and his son Luke (above) repair and replace trail barrier logs in preparation for the coming gravel.

The Monument site.


Before the weekend was over, Josiah spent a little time with MSG Tom Mills and Sean Patrick who had come down from AFN Benelux in Belgium to cover the story of the Boy Scouts continuing improvement of the York Trail.
And now the fruits of our labor.
Here are some awesome before and after looks at the trail.

Thank you for visiting the SYDE Special Reports page. This page contains reports about newsworthy events related to the Sergeant York Discovery Expedition.   

Current and Up-Coming Reports: 

York Biography wins 2015 William E. Colby Award:
Named for the late ambassador and former CIA director William E. Colby, the Colby Award recognizes a first work of fiction or non-fiction that has made a significant contribution to the public’s understanding of intelligence operations, military history or international affairs. The William E. Colby Award began at Norwich University in 1999. Read More

Released in March 2014:   "Alvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne" 

Late in the day, the final load of gravel was wheeled to the base of the steps leading up the slope to sign 6. An amazing achievement; 300 or more individual trips, hauling literally tons of gravel, to provide a most excellent new surface for all future visitors to enjoy. Pictured below is what we called "The Golden Moment"

Josiah Mastriano (left) awaits the next load of gravel as it makes its way up the narrow logging roads of the Argonne.

The day began with the assignment of duties as the workers assembled at the York Monument.

Artifacts go to the Center for Military History in Washington D.C.

Sergeant York battlefield artifacts to go on display in the Pentagon and museums across the United States. In February 2009, the actual artifacts recovered from where Sergeant York earned the Medal of Honor on 8 October 1918, were transferred to the Center of Military History (CMH). 

As the dual-wheeled dump trailer brought the gravel to the drop zone in 30 minute increments, the pile grew ever larger until it eventually blocked the entrance to the trail. 

Discovering History Through Research

Erosion is always an enemy of trails like this and over time it can turn a beautiful park into a washed out meadow.  In addition to the gravel spread throughout the monument area, team members dug a drainage channel around the uphill edge of the park and placed yet more curb stones to divert the water flow away from the memorial stones.

In Alvin York, Douglas V. Mastriano sorts fact from myth in the first full-length biography of York in decades. He meticulously examines York's youth in the hills of east Tennessee, his service in the Great War, and his return to a quiet civilian life dedicated to charity. By reviewing artifacts recovered from the battlefield using military terrain analysis, forensic study, and research in both German and American archives, Mastriano reconstructs the events of October 8 and corroborates the recorded accounts. On the eve of the WWI centennial, Alvin York promises to be a major contribution to twentieth-century military history. Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Eagle Scout Project improves York Trail.

The York trail continues to improve as another Eagle Scout candidate completes his project. On the weekend of May 20 - 22, 2011, Josiah Mastriano and his team headed out to the Argonne with the following goal:

- Clear existing weeds from the trail and monument area.
- Cover the trail between signs 4 and 5 with heavy gravel.
- Improve drainage at the artesian well (spring) near sign 5.
- Replace, repair or reposition and secure trail border logs.

The work is part of a series of Eagle Scout projects aimed to continue improving the York Trail. The unique partnership between SYDE and the Boy Scouts gives young men the opportunity to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, while at the same time, contribute to the preservation of this important piece of American History. With the help of many scouts and parents including Doug Mastriano Josiah's father (co-founder of SYDE and leader of the efforts to locate the York spot), Josiah attained his goal to complete his Eagle Scout Project. In all, 37 tons of gravel were used to cover some of the wettest parts of the trail, curbstones weighing between 50 and 80 pounds were used to improve drainage and weeds were pulled in massive quantities. Beyond the initial goal, the team also had enough gravel left to cover about 75% of the monument area and place more curbstones around the parameter which will help fight erosion problems. Josiah and his team made a lasting improvement that visitors will enjoy for years to come.   
SYDE and all the visitors to the York Trail wish to thank Josiah and his team of supporters for a job very well done!  The following pictures are a small selection of the weekend activities.

Flower seeds were planted in anticipation of next spring to help beautify the border of the monument area, 

"The Golden Moment" 

~ Work continued the next day ~

David, Barbra and Nathaniel Barber, Fabien Bon, Lars and Hunter Braun Troop 4, Rodolphe Brichot, Chris, Declan, and Shane Colbert, Nick, Jenna, and Elena Gallardo, Adam, Brian and Scott Jostt, Doug, Rebbeca and Josiah Mastriano, Lance and Luke Milsted, Jeffrey, Jonathan, Michael and Shauna Moffett, Grace, Kathryn, Cameron and Paul Noble Troop 324 (Stuttgart), Kory O’Keefe, Jeff and Pete Perkins, Denise and Michael Rayl Troop 4.
The Sergeant York Discovery Expedition Team thanks everyone who helped make this
chapter in the life of The SGT. York Trail a big success.
We look forward to seeing you on the trail!

Forest Trail

Doug Mastriano puts some grit into it. Two words come to mind...Sore Back.

Josiah stands in the new drainage area.

Over 30 tons of gravel goes a long way and with the trail nearly complete, Mayor of Chatel Chehery Alain Rickal, arranged for the remaining pile to be moved to the monument site. Once delivered a local resident of Chatel volunteered to spread the gravel with his very agile little tractor. What would have taken many hours to do by hand, was finished in no time.

The artesian well (above left) has always be a trouble spot along the trail during the rainy months. The team managed to place 6 new curbstones (above right) to improve drainage.

The SYDE team and Mayor Alain Rickal show off the new signage (left above)

Pictured below are team photos with most of, but unfortunately not all, of the members who helped.  
Names of everyone who helps are listed at the end of this section.

Discovering History Through Research

Entry point to loop at sign 4.

The Sergeant York Discovery Expedition

Rebbie Mastriano takes on the arduous task of pulling weeds along the trail, (above), the first order of business to prepare for the gravel delivery. 

Click the German flag to download the original bkz-Online article in German and

the American flag for a translation. 

Artesian well area near sign 5.

Meanwhile at the monument site, team members take on the weeds.

SYDE turns over the personal effects of Wilhelm Härer.

Originally reported as missing until two years after the end of WWI, Whilhelm Härer was part of the 2nd Landwehr Division, 125th Regiment  under Lt. Paul August Lipp.. The plaque below is now in place at the foot of the original memorial to those lost from the town of Backnang. The personal effects were found during the building of the SGT York Historic Trail. This is a significant find in the York Story. Knowing the position of this soldier, a member of the 125th Regiment, one of the units from which York captured personnel, helps to confirm the location of the York spot.  Below is an article about the ceremony in Backnang.