U.S. Army Colonel Wins Crader Family Book Prize in American Values

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., April 14, 2015 – The 2015 winner of the Crader Family Book Prize in American Values has been announced at Southeast Missouri State University.

Douglas Mastriano has been selected as the winner for his book, “Alvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne,” published by University Press of Kentucky.

Mastriano is a colonel in the U.S. Army and a combat veteran of Iraq (Desert Storm) and Afghanistan.

York (1887–1964), the subject of Mastriano’s book, was a conscientious objector, a reluctant hero of World War I and 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,” he is credited with the capture of 132 German soldiers on Oct. 18, 1918, in the Meuse-Argonne region of France. For his acts of heroism and intelligent leadership in the face of nearly impossible odds, 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. More recently, new historians have added their voice to the debate, arguing that York has received more recognition than he deserved. Misinformed or overstated accounts of the events in the Argonne forest in the media and popular culture and a dispute over the battle’s location have further complicated the soldier’s legacy.

In November 2011, BATTLEguide, the journal of the International Guild of Battlefield Guides, published an article from each team of academics who disagree on the location of York’s heroic act. Through visits to the Argonne region and extensive research in both German and American archives, Mastriano has painstakingly reconstructed the events of Oct. 18. By reviewing artifacts recovered from the battlefield alongside military terrain analysis, forensic study, and historical scrutiny, he corroborates the recorded accounts.

Mastriano said, “York was honest and hard working; he represents what made America great. In a time when we hear so much about the moral shortcomings of modern day heroes, York remains unique in that he ‘walked his talk.’ In York we find one of those rare people who really tried to live his life honorably and honestly, and an individual who really made a difference.”

The Crader Family Book Prize Committee selected Mastriano’s work on York, noting that Mastriano “marshals an impressive amount of primary source material” in “telling the story of one of America’s iconic heroes.”

Members of the Crader Family Book Prize Committee include Dr. Wayne Bowen, chair of Southeast’s Department of History; Dr. Adam Criblez, director of the Center for Regional History; and the Crader family.

“The department appreciates the support from the Crader Family for this prize, which enables us to highlight the work of first-time authors in the field of history,” Bowen said. “Each year we’ve been impressed by the high quality of books submitted by leading academic presses, each illustrating the heritage of the West and the United States.  This year’s winner, a historically rigorous and engaging work that revisits the life of an American hero, continues in that path.”

The Crader Family Book Prize recognizes a first book, which best exemplifies the values of the Crader Family Endowment for American Values: individual liberty, constitutional principles and civic virtue.

Mastriano

U.S. Army Col. Douglas Mastriano

Mastriano was awarded a $1,000 honorarium for his winning entry.

“I am delighted to learn that my book, ‘Alvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne,’ is the recipient of the 2015 Crader Family Book Prize in American Values.  I am humbled by this decision and consider it a great honor,” Mastriano said.

“It is my sincere desire that those who read my book will see that American values and individual liberty are founded on living a life built upon moral character,” he continued. “In this, the personification of this is Alvin York.  Although lacking a formal education or much promise as a youth, he saved his unit from annihilation in the First World War by eliminating a German machine, fighting off a bayonet attack and capturing 132 prisoners during a terrible battle in the French Argonne Forest in 1918.

What is more striking, however, is that Alvin York dedicated himself to doing all he could to improve life for the young people of his region of Tennessee, Mastriano said.

“It is such a selfless spirit that, in part, made America great and serves as an example for future generations.  In Alvin York, we see an American continually giving back more than he was given.  He made the difference and his legacy echoes across the ages,” Mastriano added. “I hope that just maybe, this book will inspire future ‘Alvin Yorks’ that is, the type of person willing to make the difference when the nation needs them most. “

Honorable mention was awarded to the authors of two other books.

William Taylor received honorable mention for his work, “Every Citizen a Soldier,” published by Texas A&M Press.

Committee members said they were impressed by the “a very accessible, strongly researched, evocative history” in the context of “uniquely American concerns of citizen armies and national security.”

Donald Williams, author of “Prudence Crandall’s Legacy” published by Wesleyan University Press, also received honorable mention.

Committee members said they were impressed by the “robust primary research,” praising the way in which Williams “deftly situates the case of Crandall v. State at the heart of issues of race and citizenship.”

Submissions were open to any area of United States, European or Latin American history, but were required to examine the historical development of the political, religious and economic heritage of Western Civilization, or events directly related to them.

The competition was open to books that were peer-reviewed; published by an academic, university or commercial press in 2012, 2013 or 2014; written by a sole author; and a single work, rather than an edited collection or anthology. Works that were self-published, in languages other than English, or only existed as e-books were not considered.

Authors were required to be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States. Publishers were permitted to nominate as many works as they believed met the criteria.

Entries were accepted through Dec. 31, after which they were judged by a panel, including Bowen and members of the Crader family.

The Crader Family Endowment for American Values exists within the Southeast Missouri University Foundation, is managed by the chair of the Department of History and is dedicated to education, research and public engagement in the historical traditions of the United States of America and Western Civilization.

The endowment’s objectives are to increase knowledge and appreciation of the political, religious and economic heritage of this nation and the West, and the values of individual liberty, constitutional principles and civic virtue that are at the foundation of this society. The endowment is named in honor of the Crader Family. Saundra, Stan and Debbie Crader of Marble Hill and Jackson, Mo., and the late Don Crader made a commitment to support its efforts and are its initial primary financial sponsors.

For more information on the Crader Family Book Prize in American Values, contact Bowen at wbowen@semo.edu or (573) 651-2179.