The Saga of Sergeant York

In April 2012, Adventures in Odyssey, America’s longest-running radio drama, broadcast a four-part series dramatizing the life of Alvin C. York, a Tennessee backwoodsman who became a World War I hero. Under heavy fire, York successfully overpowered a German machine gun emplacement, ultimately capturing 132 soldiers. Remarkably, York was a conscientious objector.

Sound designers Christopher Diehl and Nathan Jones reveal how they created the episodes’ sound effects here.

York’s diary was used as a reference. His autobiography was published in newspapers across the country, including The Washington Post as a weekly serial from March 17, 1929 to May 19, 1929. Read it here (PDF file):

Tom Skeyhill, editor. Sergeant York’s Own Story; The Authentic, Never Before Published War Diary Of Alvin C. York, Praying Sergeant, Who Became America’s Most Distinguished Soldier In The World War — More Honest Thrills Than Any Best Seller

Extract from Chapter 5:

Some of them officers have been saying that I being a mountain boy and accustomed to woods and nature done all these things the right way jes by instinct, like an animal when it is cornered. There may be something in that. I hadn’t never got much larnin’ from books, except the Bible. Maybe my instincts is more natural than of men who ain’t brunged up like I was in the woods and in the mountains. But that ain’t enough to account for the way I come out alive, with all those German soldiers and machine guns raining death on me.

I am willing to admit that all of these explanations have a whole heap of truth in them. I am willing to admit that maybe I had I had all the breaks, and had them right. Jes the same, there was something else. There had to be something more than man power in that fight to save me. There can’t no man in the world make me believe there weren’t. And I’m a-telling you the hand of God must have been in that fight. It surely must have been the divine power that brought me out. No other power under heaven could save a man in a place like that. Men were killed on both sides of me and all around me and I was the biggest and the most exposed of all. Jes think of them thirty machine guns raining fire on me point-blank from a range of only twenty-five yards and all them-there rifles and pistols besides, those bombs, and then those men that charged with fixed bayonets, and I never receiving a scratch, and bringing in 132 prisoners.

I have got only one explanation to offer, and only one: without the help of God I jes couldn’t have done it. There can be no arguments about that. I am not going to believe different as long as I live. I’m a-telling you that God must have heard my prayers long before I done started for France. I’m a-telling you that He done give me my assurance somehow that so long as I believed in Him He would protect me. That’s why when I bade my mother and Gracie and all my brothers and sisters and Rosy Pile good-bye before sailing for France I told them all not to worry. I would be safe, I would come back.

I done settled it all with my God long before I went overseas. I done prayed and prayed to Him; He done given my assurance that so long as I believed in Him He would protect me, and He did.

So you can see here in this case of mine where God helped me out. I had been living for God and working in the church work sometime before I come to the Army. So I am a witness to the fact that God did help me out of that hard battle; for the bushes were shot off all around me and I never got a scratch. So you can see that God will be with you if you will only trust him and I say that He did save me. Now He will save you if you will only trust Him.

I know, of course, that people will say that if He protected me, why didn’t He protect the other American boys who were killed, and the Germans, too? He was their God as well as mine, and if He was a just and righteous God, why didn’t He protect them? I can’t answer that. I ain’t a-going to try to. I don’t understand the way in which He works “His marvels to perform.” I ain’t a-questioning them nohow. I jest accept them and bow my head and bless His holy name, and believe in Him more’n ever.