tv Sergeant York - The Man and the Movie CSPAN December 25, 2018 10:15am-11:11am EST
york fought in the meuse-argonne offensive and single handedly killed 25 men and helped to capture over 130. he received a medal of honor for his actions an was one of the most decorated soldiers of world war i. 23 years later warner brothers made a film called "sergeant york" about the man from ten sisi -- tennessee, his life and war time actions. ♪ >> i ain't going to war. war is killing. the book is against killing. war is in the book.
>> render therefore things unto caesar and unto god the things that are god's. >> take over. the only one left. >> keep undercover. come back here. >> you don't give me command. >> a trailer from the 1941 film sergeant york staring gary cooper. joining us is john mulholland and in washington, retired colonel gerald york. who was your grandfather and what do we need to know about him? >> he was a fantastic grandfather. but he was a man that was from
rural tennessee, grew up in the mountains, had the equivalent of a third grade education and ended up having a couple life-changing experiences and ended up getting drafted with over 4 million other men for world war i and ended up with a company g, the 328 infantry of the 82nd all-american division, shipped to france, and in the argonne forest, is where the action, where he's best known for, and that's where he killed around 25 germans and captured 132. >> we will take a look at highlights from the film and learn about him. what are your best memories of your grandfather? you were 17 when he passed away. >> i was. some of the best memories, one of the best is i got in trouble with my father one time and he wouldn't let my father spank me.
i got behind my grandfather and he told him, he's a good boy. it's okay. but i guess the legacy that he left me of doing for others, he was extremely patriotic, probably the reason i went in the military and stayed for 31 years, but he was an all-around fantastic individual, who was very caring, very loving and jovial. >> and yet, before he was drafted, as we saw from that trailer, he was a passivist. >> he was. >> like i said, he had a couple life-changing experiences, his father died and older two brothers had already moved out of the house, so he became pretty much the breadwinner, head of the home. that changed him, made him work
hard, and he became a hell razor on the weekends and went and gambled because of my mother and grandmother, he kind of straightened his life out, went to church to see my grandmother, because they wouldn't let him see her otherwise. he had a life-changing experience in 1950 where he became converted and practiced what the bible taught. the bible said thou shall not kill and he took that literally and became a passivist in that he turned away from fighting and that kind of life. >> another element in this story you mentioned your grandmother, a love story. >> definitely. 44 my grandfather was 13 years
older than my grandmother. he used to say from the day he saw her that's who he wanted to marry. her parents were very religious. him being a hell razor, they didn't want her to have anything to do with him. the only way he could see her was to go to church. that straightened his life out. >> john, let's talk about this film because world war i came to an end in 1918. the film was released in 1941. >> yes. when the movie was first -- when they first decided to make it, they were only going to do sequences post-world war i, no war sequences. alvin york wanted it only to be about his marriage to gracie and his work for tennessee
education. as the war approached, harry and jesse began to think it really wouldn't work on the eve of world war ii or what would become world war ii, merely to have sequences dealing with the education and the marriage. gary cooper was an interventionist and he refused to commit until there were sequences showing alvin york in world war i because cooper felt it would serve as a wake-up call for america on the eve of what would become world war ii. >> why was gary cooper chosen to play the role of sergeant york? >> that's an interesting question. there are all sorts of rumors swirling around it, and if that's true alvin york had only seen one movie up to that point, it's a little hard to
understand, however, if he was acquainted with cooper's work in the '30s then cooper was a perfect choice. several of cooper's movies, one from 1937 which he's a seaman who has it to kill certain people to save a greater number, in 1939 he made a movie called "the real glory" fanciful and inaccurate depiction of america's role in the philippines in the early part of the 1900s. cooper's a doctor who has to kill to save more lives. in a "farewell to arms" cooper chooses love with the woman he's married to than war. in many ways cooper was perhaps, a perfect choice. no one is really sure. >> i was told that ronald reagan was also under consideration, a young actor at the time, and
part rt warnof the movie house? >> there was another one, they went to an actor named joel mccray because cooper kept backing away until it was more about the war, and mccray read the script and said, yes, i'll do it in a heartbeat. mccray and cooper were very good friends and cooper went to mccray not realizing that mccray had been asked to do it and discussed it with mccray and cooper admitted to mccray he didn't think he wanted to make a movie about a conscientious objector when he felt that we should be getting ready for war, not backing away from it. mccray convinced him that he will be a hero if you do this movie. that was another reason why cooper went along with it. >> in terms of the timing of the release in 1941, because it came
out earlier that year, of course, december 1941, pearl harbor attacked by the japanese, the u.s. enters the war, explain the timeline. >> it opened in early july 1941 in new york, and at that time, the country was almost equally divided between interventionists and isolationists. many of the isolationists were saying a mere 20 years ago we fought to end all wars and now you're back saying we have to fight another war. interventionists were saying, what's happening in germany and italy and spain and france is going to affect us and if britain falls, there's nothing to stop germany from coming over here. it was victim tree ollic, not
unlike what i suspect what's happening today, but congress got involved and a senator, the dakotas, wheeler from montana, senator bennett clark from missouri, had the movie taken out of circulation and had started to hold hearings in which york was subpoenaed, harry warner appeared, i'm not sure if cooper was subpoenaed or not but they wanted him, and it grew to the point that they were going to sensor hollywood movies, saying that they didn't deserve first amendment protection. they were entertainment and a business. had nothing to do with freedom of speech. as the hearings went on, they kept getting more and more and
were delayed and then pearl harbor came and it rendered it moot. >> colonel york, did you have a chance to talk to your grandfather about the portrayal by gary cooper and what he thought of the film? >> we saw the film several times with him because he had a copy of it, and he didn't talk a lot about the movie. he was satisfied with the movie. there were a couple parts that in the movie that my grandmother had issues with, but my grandfather liked the movie. he actually went out to hollywood and spent a couple of weeks on the set while they were making it. he had some conditions when they first approached him about it, about what he wanted in the movie. first of all, he wanted it to be an accurate portrayal. he didn't want it to be hollywood like, what he called. he also didn't want a
hollywood -- playing his wife and he wanted to represent and like already has been stated, initially he would have liked to have had it about his wife after world war i. when he came back from the war he made several speeches to raise money for education in tennessee and he found out that just talking about education, people wanted to hear about his experiences. i think that had something to do with him finally agreeing to go ahead and do the war portion of the movie. he realized that that's what people wanted to see. >> would you consider a propaganda film? >> it depends on your definition of propaganda. i don't really see it as a propaganda film. i know it's been portrayed as a
propaganda film. for my grandfather it was about patriotism. they actually sold him on several points. one was, as already been mentioned, the country was very divided. half the country wanted to get involved and half the country did not. they told him, look, you know, this is something that patriotism is at a low. we need to pull the country together and we think this story will help to do that. the other thing they told him was, he had built a high school in tennessee in james town and run it himself about ten years, mortgaged his farm a couple times to keep it going, and he had a dream of something after high school and they told him look, with your dream and you're trying to raise money, this film could give you revenue so that you could actually build what you're looking at. he actually used the money from that film to build a bible
school that was religious based, but it was a trade school to train high school students in trades -- plumbers, electricians, et cetera. >> john, do you have any sense of how much this film generated in terms of revenue? >> it was an enormous hit. in fact, in box office figures when they have adjusted for inflation, it's one of the top box office movies of all time. it was a huge hit. it was the number one box office hit for 1941. that's even with the fact it had been taken out of circulation for two months and didn't play around the country until the following july 1942. >> let's talk about the timeline in just a moment. first, what is the sergeant york patriotic foundation? >> sergeant york patriotic foundation, my grandfather had a foundation called the alvin york
foundation. that's what he used to raise money to build a high school. he ran it himself for ten years, paid the teachers, bought the busses, and had the foundation up until his stroke in 1954. he was bedridden after that for ten years. it was the sergeant york patriotic foundation was a renewed foundation that we did in the early 90s and we recently have taken possession, the state of tennessee has given us deed to the original building my grandfather built and we're in the process now of redoing that building, restoring it, and trying to further his legacy and his dream of something after high school and also a place where veterans and young people can come and it's called the sergeant york center for peace and valor. sergeantyork.org. you can find out more
information about it. that's one of our emphasis now with the patriotic foundation is to set up the sergeant york center for peace and valor, working with the medal of honor society and d.c. and we were hoping to partner with them to bring education to train teachers and get more of an awareness of what the medal of honor is about and some of the stories of world war i and ii and why we have the freedoms we have today. >> let's do that now and go back as we commemorate 100 years at the end of world war i, 101 years ago, april 1917, the u.s. enters world war i. when did your grandfather serve? >> he was drafted and came in november 1917. he went through basic training,
of course, and heactually got t france in the spring around may of 1918. was there, of course, until may of 1919, even the armistice was november 11th, 1918. there were, like i said, over 4 million men drafted and they had a lot of men in europe, couldn't get them home, he spent from november after the armistice until may in france traveling around, speaking. >> which company, which division? >> company g, 328th infantry of the 82nd all-american division. >> and explain why he ultimately earned the medal of honor? we will see an excerpt of the film which sets up the planning of this attack but what happened? >> they actually were attacking and the germans had set up a -- pretty much a kill zone. >> where? >> in argonne forest in a
village, and right north is a hill, hill 223, the americans had taken that and they went down that hill across the open field to try to take out the german machine guns, relieve the lost battalion that had been entrapped, and also cut off railroad supply just beyond that. the germans brought in reinforcements, they knew the americans were coming, they had set up pretty much a kill zone where they had the mountaintops covered with machine guns and they could cover the valley with machine guns. when they initially attacked, it didn't do any good. they were cut to pieces. they ordered my grandfather's pa toon, sergeant and three corporals to take their squads,
and try to outflank the germans. they did. there was an artillery barrage that was supposed to happen that did not happen on time. luckily it did happen as they were moving across the open area. the germans as they hunkered down, my grandfather and these men were able to get behind german lines, they came up on a couple of red cross workers getting water, they gave chase to them and ran back to their headquarters. as my grandfather and the other men broke through the bush, there were 70 that were captured immediately. as soon as they were captured there were machine guns up on the hill behind them. they saw what was going on. they turned their machine guns around and opened fire. the germans fell to the ground and immediately six of the men were killed, three were wounded,
and they were under fire. my grandfather was the only noncommissioned officer left. he took charge and told the other men to guard the prisoners and he proceeded to try to take out the machine guns. >> from the warner brothers film "sergeant york" staring gary cooper. here's an excerpt. . >> they cleaned out that machine gun.
>> the rest of you guys, keep your eye so they don't try any rough stuff. >> don't try anything funny. >> to the ground you babies. >> we better get up there. >> we better keep an eye on these prisoners. >> as you look at that film and that scene, that moment, what's your takeaway? >> i am always impressed with how even though it was meant to be in certain ways a call to arms for america to become involved in world war ii, for 1941 it's an extremely graphic depiction of war and i find that very, very impressive that they
chose to show the horror of war. there's a sequence as he goes in which his sister says to his mother, what are very fighting for and the mother says i don't really know, i don't really know. i thought that was very honest, as opposed to making it pure war, which only a fool would be for. >> colonel, he single handedly killed more than two dozen german soldiers, correct? >> correct. >> let's go back to another excerpt of the film in which we talked about him being a passivist and did not want to go to war and serve. from the film, let's watch. >> howdy. >> i got bad news for you. word just come, they're taking you for the army. >> that can't be. that letter we sent to washington since i was again fighting -- >> they ain't going to exempt you.
you have to report to nashville tomorrow night. >> i ain't going. >> you ain't got no choice. issued your last appeal. >> i don't care about that. i ain't going. >> you got to go, alvin. it's the law. >> what kind of law is it that says a man has to go in the book and its teachings. >> i reckon there ain't no answer, but if you don't go, they will be coming after you. >> they won't get me. i will go back in the hills. >> they will put hounds on your trail and follow you no matter how far back you go. >> better not catch up with me, because they will be wishing they hadn't. i -- sorry, pastor. them are sinful words. i wasn't thinking of what i was saying. >> gary cooper in the film "sergeant york" and the grandson of alvin york, one of the great
ironies, a passivist who went on to win the medal of honor. >> correct. he did not want to go. he was convinced basically by his company commander and captain dan and major buckston in camp gordon that he could go and still be a christian and go to war. it was something that bothered him and bothered him that he killed people for the rest of his life. my father was a minister and he asked my father, as he was nearing the end of his life, he asked my father, how he thought he would be judged at the end of time by taking lives. my father said you had no hatred in your heart and you did it to save lives, so he said, you know, i -- you're not accountable for that. that's not murder.
that's different. >> how did somebody from the foothills of tennessee become an expert marksman? >> he depends on hunting for food, and if you didn't hunt, if you didn't kill anything, you didn't eat. it was very important. he shot in shooting matches. he was one of the best shots, probably the best shot, in the area. he learned from his father and he had learned from an early age and he was excellent even after he came back from the war. i've had folks there tell me stories of some of his shooting abilities after he got back with a pistol and rifle that that's phenomenal. >> there is a scene in the movie in which they're planning this attack but did the officers realize the skills of your grandfather? >> they did. they put him in charge of training some of the other soldiers to shoot, so they
realized that he was an expert marksman and that's one of the reasons he made corporal. >> when he talked to you about this, did he give you any sense of his feeling after those shots were fired? >> he really didn't talk to the family about what he had done. most of the things i heard was when my uncle and i used to sit up with him in the hospital in nashville in the latter part of his life and people would come in and ask him different questions. being a teenager and curious, i would sit there and listen and eavesdrop on their conversation. most of the stories i heard, i heard with him telling other people. with the family he really didn't talk about what he had done. any time we asked him, when we would watch a movie and say did you real do this or that, he would say well, i was doing my job, just doing my duty, how was your day? what were you doing? he would also turn it around.
even when people came to see and talk to him, he would turn the conversation around to them and their needs and their issues. >> let's go back more from the film and his skills as a marksman and why he decided to kill. sergeant york is played by gary cooper. >> there's something that i would like to know. >> yes, sir. that might that you reported back to me at camp gordon you told me you were prepared to die for your country but not to kill. what made you decide to change your mind? >> well, sir -- >> if you would rather not tell me it's all right. >> i'm against killing as ever, but it was this way, colonel, when i started out i felt just like you said, but when i hear them machine guns going and all them fellas are dropping around me, i figured them guns was killing hundreds, maybe thousands, and there weren't nothing anybody could do but to
stop them guns and that's what i done. >> you tell me you did it to save lives? >> yes, sir. that was why. >> york, what you've told me is most extraordinary thing of all. >> gerald york as you see that film excerpt, what do you think? >> that was my grandfather. you know, he did what he did to save his comrades. he saw his comrades being shot up, he knew they were pinned down and he had to do something. that's the kind of man, that's the kind of character that he was. >> john mulholland, why is this film important to understand? what do you think our audience should take away from it? >> i think it's important to understand that the period that
it was made we were such a divided country and this was an attempt to bring the people together to say, here was a man from a very rural area in america who faced his own conscience, looked into what makes an american, what makes a patriotic american, a human being, and the answer that he chose was to, as it says in the film, render unto caesar's what is caesars and render unto god what is god's. if i could do an aside here, if hollywood is ever thinking of making a movie today about what makes america america, the life of alvin york in the 1930s into the 1940s is an example.
it's a man who had a third grade education, was pushing for education in tennessee, understanding what education meant to the future, who harbored feeling because he had been not exposed to anti-semitism and that and as he was opened up to another world, became a much larger human being. it's a remarkable story and i'm fascinated that no one has really picked up on what an extraordinary human being was alvin york. >> we're going to watch in a moment that render under caesar moment in the film, but explain his faith. this story has -- it's a war story, it's a love story, it's a story of personal struggle and it's also a story about one man's faith.
>> correct. correct. >> yes. he believed in the bible. like i said, major buckston and captain dan ford to their credit didn't dismiss him as a conscientious objector. they brought him in and explained why christians could fight. they used bible scriptures. one was in ezekiel talking the watchman, one of the other scriptures was give unto caesar that which is caesar's and to god that which is god's. that convinced my grandfather he not only had a duty to god, but to his country as well. when he came back, when he went to war, he didn't know if he could kill but he was willing to die for his country, but didn't know if he was willing to kill. the deciding point came when he saw his friends getting killed, his buddies getting killed, and he knew someone had to stop
that, stop the killing, and so in his mind, how he rationalized i can do this, is i have to stop the carnage. i have to stop the killing. >> here is that moment that filmmaker john mulholland was referring to from the 1941 "sergeant york". >> put your trust in the book. >> here's another book, york, the history of the united states. >> by the shore -- >> a couple of all men to defend the rights of each men, to defend the rights of all men. >> remember the lord, thou shall not kill. >> the cost of that heritage is high, sometimes all we have to preserve it. >> obey your god. >> your god. >> your country. >> your god. >> your country. >> god. >> country. >> god. >> country. ♪
>> render therefore unto caesar the things which are caesar's and unto god the things that are god's. unto caesar things which are caesar's. unto god, god's. >> from the 1941 film and john mulholland, you mentioned that a short while ago. why is that a significant part of this movie? >> it was important to get, again, propaganda, quote/unquote, to get the message across to americans that it was necessary to understand why it was important to fight,
why young men should be thinking seriously about enlisting. it was designed for that. >> gerald york, is there anything in the film that is hollywoodized? >> there's one part my grandmother -- like i said my grandfather had a copy of the movie and we've seen it many times and i've seen it with my grandfather and grandmother. my grandmother lived 20 years past my grandfather and i spent a lot of time with her. every time she saw the movie, there's a couple places in the movie where one, she runs out to the field and gives him a kiss and another is she kissed him when he left. >> alvin. every time she saw the movie she would say, i don't know why that put that in.
i'm not sure what people are going to think about me, that i kissed him before he were married. i used to tell her, grandma, it's the '60s or '70s or '80s, no one is going to think anything about it. she think anything about it. she said, well, i think they will. i wish they hadn't have put that in there. >> did he have critics? >> he did have critics. he had critics and he got some threatening letters at times. you know, there's some that have questioned whether or not he did what he did, whether it was someone else that did what he did. i think one of the great works that was written to prove or disprove was by colonel doug mastriono. he went into the german archives as well as the american archives to come up with the true version of what had actually happened.
>> mr. mulholland how often did filmmakers reach out before they finally saw the production of this movie? >> frequently as early as 1919, jesse laskey who was watching the parade in honor of alvin york in new york city approached him while york stayed in new york for a little while. and asked him would he consider a film based on his exploits in the war, and york turned him down. in 1929 jesse laskey approached york again and he was turned down again. in 1939 laskey approached york and york turned him down again. it wasn't until 1940 when jesse laskey came to tennessee to actually meet alvin york that york began to waver somewhat and
agree to do a film. >> and he turned him down, we should point out, with what became a famous line referring to his service and his military uniform, did he not? >> yes. he did not want to trade on having had to kill, having had to take other lives. and he resented that apparently up until the day he died, that he wondered was it right to have made a name, had a film made based on what in effect was that he had had to kill. >> colonel york, we just mentioned a moment ago his return. you said it was in 1919 so there was a time period between the end of world war i, since months he's traveling through europe. he comes back to new york. under what circumstances and under what reaction?
>> he came back to new york. he did not realize it, but in february of 1919, he had received the distinguished service cross for his action. and in february, they went back to the battle site and it was upgraded to a medal of honor. there was a "saturday evening post" reporter that actually wrote a story and accompanied them and had talked to the 82nd. and so he published a story early 1919 about my grandfather and the story and the battle and all that happened. my grandfather didn't know this. so when he returned to new york on the ship, there was a huge crowd waiting to meet him. he was hanging on the ship, and one of the individuals asked him aren't you going to get off the ship? and he said i was waiting for the crowd to die down.
and they said, well, the crowd is here to see you, and he did not know why. he did not realize that people knew who he was or what he had done. >> and yet he was happy to go back to his home state of tennessee, correct? >> correct. he was offered -- when he was drafted. he was making 50 to 75 cents a day. when he came back to new york, the offers, not only the movie offer, but offers to endorse different products amounted to about $250,000, which was a lot of money for someone that was making 50 to 75 cents a day. and he turned them all down, again, as was said. his attitude was i did what i had to do. the uniform is not for sale. i'm not going to capitalize on what happened. i'm not proud of having to take lives, but it was something that i had to do. so he just wanted to go home.
he wanted to go home to tennessee. >> and yet through his adult life, he did face financial difficulties, did he not? >> he did. there were two or three books written about him. he got royalty for the books, which he immediately put back into the school. he had royalty from the movie which he put back into building the bible school. and he never was a rich man. he took care of people in the community. he used his money for education, for better roads, and ended up he had a farm that was given to him. and that's pretty much what he had when he passed away. but he had some difficulties with the irs. irs came back and said you owe us money from the movie. and he went back and showed them where he had written checks. they said, well, you owe us more. and they really didn't come in
until later in his life, and they said the interest, you owed us, $15,000, $20,000, but the interest is now $175,000. sam rayburn in congress actually got a group together and they raised money and they got with the irs and the irs actually settled for $25,000. but before that, when my grandfather had gone to the hospital once, the irs had come and told my grandmother don't -- if your husband passes away, don't do anything because we're going to take the farm because he owes back taxes. >> but he did have a ground swell of support here in washington and elsewhere? >> he had a fantastic ground swell of support, from d.c. -- from all across the country. people sent money in. actually more money than was needed to pay. he set up a trust fund to fund education for children that couldn't afford to go to school
with the money that was left over from paying the irs off. >> and did your grandfather have many conversations with gary cooper after the film was released? >> he did have some conversations with gary cooper. we actually have a couple of telegrams that we found. in fact i was with gary cooper's daughter this past week up in new york for a showing of "sergeant york" movie on york avenue in new york that's actually named after my grandfather. >> and where is that located, york avenue? >> york avenue is on the east side, upper manhattan on the east side. in fact we're going back up november the 16th, they're having a special ceremony in the armory that we're going back up for. >> and john mulholland, the key figure behind this film, harry warner, explain who he was. >> he was a partner in warner brothers, one of the founders, with his brother jack. and harry warner was a
fascinating man because he placed principle over profits. and in 1934, for example, warner brothers became the first studio to stop exporting films to germany because of fascism and adolf hitler. and they lost considerable money. no other studio did that until 1940. and he was proud of judaism. he said during the hearings in 1941, i am a jew and i am an american. i'm proud to be a jew and i'm proud to be an american. and he is one who helped convince alvin york to agree to do the film. york had not many -- met that many jewish people and he grew
very fond of harry warner. and they found that they had an awful lot in common, that they both were very religious, used religion to live by, to guide their lives, and it was a -- harry warner was just an interesting man, completely different from his brother, jack warner. >> and this is an excerpt from a documentary that you produced. let's watch and get your reaction. >> events beyond hollywood were intruding. alvin york was giving talks around the country, publicly pushing for america to intervene in europe against germany. he had become a lightning rod, and the resulting vitriol from men and women, americans all, was shameful indeed. >> lots of americans were pro-nazi. there were more than 300 pro-nazi organizations in the united states. york took a public drubbing. a woman wrote him saying that
she thought that he had lost his mind. another person said it was a pity that he came back from the war alive. i would argue that york's role in warorld war ii is far more important than what he did in world war 1. he stood up at a time when it was not popular to say we were against the nazis. >> john mulholland, your message in that documentary, what is it? >> that it takes courage to standing up for what you believe in, and alvin york was willing to do that on the battlefield and in public life. it's just shameful the response from so many people when york was speaking out in favor of america becoming involved in world war ii. extraordinarily courageous man, especially in that period. >> when the film came out, colonel york, in 1941-42, did that in any way change your
grandfather? what was his life like after that before his stroke in the mid-1950s? >> he had a lot more speaking engagements. he traveled. one time he told me he had been to all 48 states. so it really kind of catapulted him. >> it is an honor to receive this presentation from cold star mothers of the world war whom we love so dearly, me and my comrades. and i accept this not only for myself but for all of my brothers who were in the world war. i thank you. >> he had gone on a lot of speaking tours in the '20s and the '30s. it kind of died down a little bit, but then after the movie was released, he met the president. he and my grandmother -- >> president roosevelt. >> he and my grandmother and one of the sons actually went to the white house and met the president. >> as you look back at the film
itself and its impact, one thing that struck me is world war i and world war ii, the so-called greatest generation, the soldiers came home and didn't want to taulk about it. >> correct. correct. i have found that most of the people that really did courageous acts don't want to talk about it. the people that talk the most a lot of times haven't done much. there was a recent lieutenant connor, recent medal of honor awardee out of albany, kentucky, was a friend of my grandfather's and they used to get together. his family said the same thing, that he never -- he never talked about what he did in the war. >> his final ten years, what were they like? >> he was bedridden, but he took it -- he took it in stride. he had hundreds and hundreds of visitors during that time. people would stop and knock on the door. my grandmother would invite them in.
many, many visitors came in. and i can't tell you how many people would come and see him both at home and in the hospital that would leave and turn to you and say, you know, i came to cheer your grandfather up, but actually he's cheered me up. he stayed up on current events. he watched the news programs and stayed up. and when people came, he wanted to talk to them about what was going on, what was going on with america, what was going on in the united states. >> you were 17 years old when he passed away. if you could ask him one question today, what would it be? >> i would probably ask him more about the exploits in france. >> have you been there, by the way? >> i have. in fact i've been over three times this year for the 100th anniversary. the french village where the action occurred actually has a memorial to my grandfather in front of city hall. they have a trail that goes up
to the site where the battle occurred. and the people there are wonderful. i was over there, like i said, i've been three times. the last time was two weeks ago on the 100th anniversary of his action. we actually walked the battle area 100 years at the same time, same day, 100 years later. it was amazing. >> john mulholland, final question for you. what is the lasting impact of sergeant york, this film and his legacy? >> as an example of what someone has to go through mentally, emotionally, intellectually, to face the truth, alvin york looked inside himself and
arrived at a decision and followed that decision to its end, and that is either in war or peace in his movement to encourage america to become involved in world war ii. >> your documentary is titled "sergeant york, of god and country." john mulholland who is joining us from new york, a filmmaker and historian. and here in washington retired gerald york and for the purposes of our discussion, a grandson of alvin york. to both of you, thank you for being with us on c-span 3's american history tv. >> thank you. >> every weekend, american history tv brings you 48 hours of unique programming exploring our nation's past. to view our schedule and an archive of all our programs, visit cspan.org/history.
>> american history tv is on c-span 3 every weekend featuring museum tours, archival films and programs on the presidency, the civil war and more. here's a clip from a recent program. >> could assemble a force of sufficient size and with sufficient equipment unless they had the backing of the american government. dr. cardona, the leader of the anti-castro cubans has denied in the central intelligence agency is implicated in his plans. this may be true, but reports from authoritative american sources suggest that it is not. richard bissel, the head planner for the operation, said in 1967, a few years later, we didn't realize the extent to which it was believed by everyone else that this was a u.s. government operation. apparently cia wasn't reading the newspapers.
i'm being critical of my former agency because it deserves to be criticized on this. >> you can watch this and other american history programs on our website where all our video is archived. that's c-span.org/history. >> each week american artifacts takes you to museums and historic places to learn about american history. here's a broief look at one of our recent trips. >> so let's start with first lady michelle obama. you've probably already heard a lot about this picture. it's caused quite a lot of discussion across the internet and we had many visitors come to visit michelle. this is a portrait by the baltimore artist amy sherald, who a few years earlier had actually won our portrait competition that happens every three years. here you'll see a fantastic
picture of michelle obama sitting actually outside. the sitting was done in the fresh air, but you see it's a blue background wearing this wonderful dress. the dress was very appealing to the artist because it related to modern art. it actually looks like a constructivist painting. but also it has a quilt-like effect that made amy sherald and indeed michelle obama think about the quilts that had been made by the ancestors of enslaved women. the most interesting aspect of this portrait is in fact the gray skin tone which the artist used to depict an african-american woman. she said that she was actually channeling the history of african-american portraiture. of course when you were enslaved, you were unlikely to get a portrait of yourself made. it was very expensive. so the change happens with
photography. suddenly black and white photographs with the kodak is available and families, black families can actually have portraits taken of their friends and their beloved that of course reads initially as black. amy sherald carries around with her a beautiful picture of her grandmother that is a black and white portrait and she said i think i was unconsciously actually tapping into that image of this beautiful self-assured and very intelligent woman. she also made a point of saying i'd like to move fast questions of racial identity. we are a large country that of course has people of very different identities and appearances, and she said that this is a portrait of a strong woman who's made a difference, and i wanted her to have a universal quality. now, some people might have actually seen the wonderful
moment around march of 2018 with a little 3-year-old parker curry caught gazing in awe at mrs. obama. later on when she was asked what did you see, parker? she said, i thought she was a queen. >> travel with us to historic sites, museums and archives each sunday at 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. eastern on our weekly series, american artifacts. this is american history tv, all weekend on c-span3. welcome to biltmore in asheville, north carolina. we are in america's largest home and it's going to be my pleasure to welcome you and tour you through the house. it's really a wonderful place to visit and just a beautiful estate with an incredibly expansive home. this is a home with more than 33 bedrooms for guest
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