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Pfc. Lawrence York, Jr., U.S. Army

The Western Star, March 24, 1944.

Was Awarded The Purple Heart; Twice Hit by Japs.

Pfc. Lawrence York, Jr., US Army. Kansas holds the record of having more College students per capita than any other state in the Union.

Typical of the Kansas college boys, is farm raised Lawrence York Jr., son of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence York of the New Eden community, south of Wilmore.

"Red" as he is popularly known to his many friends, is now in the South Pacific, where he has twice been wounded and has been given the Purple Heart Award.

He graduated, from the Wilmore High School in 1941 and that fall enrolled in Kansas State College, Manhattan, for a course in Agriculture, to better fit himself for farming, as the Yorks have done for 51 years in Comanche County.

During his three semesters in college, he received military training as a member of the R. O. T. C. and was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity. When the war situation became serious, the 19 year olds were called upon to enter the armed forces or get into essential industry. And it was then that "Red" decided not to return to the farm but to stand up and take it on the chin in the army, just like his Dad did in 1917-1919. Lawrence Sr., being the first man in Comanche County to be selected for army service. He was in France many months with the A. E. F.

So Lawrence Jr. enlisted in the Army Enlisted Reserve Corps at Manhattan December 5, 1942, and was called into active service on March 27, 1943. He took his basic training at Camp Roberts, Calif., and was given the new stepped-up, intensive training which was practically twice as tough as the training had previously been. He was 17 weeks on the desert, with temperatures ranging up to 148 degrees, each soldier having only one gallon of water which had to last 24 hours for all purposes.

For two weeks he was on M. P. duty at Pittsburg, Calif., during the zoot-suiter riot and was home for only one week last September before leaving the States for duty in the South Pacific. Lawrence went with a group of casuals and was put in as a replacement in a headquarters division at New Caledonia. On October 1 he was sent to Guadalcanal, where he remained a month. There he saw his second cousin, Lyle Martin of Coldwater. At New Caledonia he met Bertram Nimmo, also of Coldwater.

On November 2 the Marines invaded Bougainville, in the Solomons, and six days later the army moved to reinforce them. Pfc. York has been there ever since.

He is with the 37th Division which, according to press and radio dispatches has for several months been locked in combat with the many Japs on Bouganville Island, slowly exterminating them in hard jungle fighting. Last week 1000 Japs were killed on the island by the Fighting 37th, General MacArthur reported. Young York has been a member of the patrol parties who edge their way, with great hazard, through the dense, steaming jungles and swarms of mosquitos to rout the Japs from their hidden positions.

While this modest farm lad has been wounded twice, he has made little reference to his injuries, even when sending his Purple Hear Award home. On November 25 he wrote: "My head has healed up and left a little scar, but not much - you know me, I'm known as the scar faced kid." And only recently he wrote: "On February 19 they had a little ceremony and I was awarded the Purple Heart, for wounds received in action on December 11. I can't tell you any more, but the only thing is that when it hits, it's faster than lightning and is something you'll never forget. I am thankful for a stubborn ancestry and know that getting a fellow's Irish up can save a life."

The Western Star, July 28, 1944.


While every man is a potential hero, some have had greater opportunities to display their courage and acts of bravery, right alongside such fellows as dive bombing Lieut. H. R. Burnett, holder of the Air Medal; S. Sgt. Bert Hill, holder of the Distinguished Flying Cross and five Air Medals; Aviation Radio Gunner First Class Frank Tarr, with a personal citation from Admiral Halsey; and Pfc. Fred Wilkerson, who has been awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star awards, should be placed Pfc. Lawrence "Red" York of Wilmore; who has received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Awards. As a volunteer Leader on more than 100 scouting patrols in Jap infested jungles, he has perhaps seen more dangerous fighting than any other Comanche County soldier. The following account of one mission is sent the Star from a War Department General Headquarters in the Southwest Pacific area:

With the 37th Division on Bougainville. - For gallantry in action on Bougainville Island, where he and four other infantrymen engaged in a fire fight with a Japanese column from a distance of only 30 yards, Pfc. Lawrence W. York of Wilmore, Kansas, has been awarded the Bronze Star medal.

Pfc. York, son of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence York of Wilmore, distinguished himself, according to the citation accompanying the award, while serving as a member of a combat patrol consisting of the patrol leader and 14 enlisted men, with the mission of reconnoitering beyond the American perimeter and contacting any enemy in that area.

"The jungle was very dense after the patrol left the trail," the citation said, "and the scouts moved forward slowly and cautiously. Approximately one mile above our outpost the scouts, still moving cautiously, saw a group of the enemy estimated at about one squad. When sighted the enemy was proceeding across our patrol's direction of march in a column only 30 feet away."

"Due to the alertness of the two scouts, the combat patrol was allowed a spit second advantage in opening fire. During the initial firing, the enemy fell into positions along the crest of a three foot slope and returned the fire. Together with the patrol leader, Pfc. York and four others deployed, firing at any enemy movement observed. The remainder of the patrol spread out to the flanges and rear, forming a rough perimeter. One enemy was killed when the patrol first opened fire. Because of the nearness of the enemy and the unfavorable position of the combat patrol, movement was extremely difficult and hazardous. Two more of the enemy were killed as they attempted to move toward the patrol's left flank, and one other was believed wounded."

"After a ten minute lull in the firing, two enlisted men, with the patrol leader, proceeded to crawl forward a few feet to the right of the enemy's line to determine if they were still present. Another man covered the left flank while this movement was under way. The three drew fire at once and started to crawl back. At this point, the man covering the left flank was killed by rifle fire, and Pfc. York was wounded slightly. Because of distance between the patrol and friendly forces, and the late hour, it was decided to withdraw."

"The calm courage of Pfc. York and the four others, all of whom engaged the enemy without hesitation, remaining cool and aggressive under enemy fire, made possible the successful completion of the mission." the citation concluded.

Also see:

Lawrence York, Letter from Army Training Camp, 1917.
Surnames: Cromley, Davis & Rohr.

Melvina (Figg) YORK
Surnames: Austin, Baker, Barber, Broadie, Dooley, Figg, Golliker, Hucklebridge, Ireland, Kirby, Livengood, Lockert, McKay, Parker, Pitman, Randal, Richardson, Russell, Shupe, Snyder, Wall, Waters, Willard & York.

Obituary of John W. York, 30 Oct 1849 - 17 June 1915

Offsite links:

United States Army, 1940-1945: 37th Infantry Division

History of the 37th Infantry Division

37th Infantry Division: Combat Chronicle

Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea Map & Placename Index

Thanks to Shirley Brier for transcribing and contributing these news articles!

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This page was last updated 11 April 2004.