As millions of other American men registered for the draft, so did twenty-nine year old Tennessee mountaineer Alvin C. York. On June 5, 1917 he filled out his registration form. He claimed exemption with the simple words: “Yes. Don’t Want to Fight.”
York arrived in this world on December 3, 1887, the third of the eleven children of William and Mary York. He was born into rural poverty. Although both of his parents were quite hard-working, the Yorks lived in a two-room log cabin at a subsistence level. None of the York children received more than nine-months education, as their labor was desperately needed to farm the few hard scrabble acres that the Yorks owned, and to hunt for food to feed the large family.
When his father died in 1911, Alvin took on the responsibility of helping his mother raise his younger siblings, and supporting the family. Alvin early developed the reputation as both a hard-worker during the day and a drunken hell-raiser at night, something that constantly distressed his mother, a Christian and a pacifist.