Rising Pennsylvania Republican firebrand Doug Mastriano was awarded a Ph.D. for a his research into location in France of the legendary battle where Sgt. Alvin York nearly single-handedly captured 132 German soldiers during World War I.
It turns all his conclusions are wrong, according to a report by the Associated Press. He missed the mark by a half mile.
Still, Pennsylvania state senator Mastriano refuses to accept the findings of dozens of historians, researchers and archeologists, claiming that there’s nothing incorrect about their findings and he’s completely right–even though researchers have found relics from York’s unit at the competing location.
Elected to his first term in the state senate riding the wave of Trumpism in 2019, Mastriano has made a habit of dismissing facts. He was a major force in pushing the Pennsylvania Senate to dismiss the results of the 2020 presidential election, and he spoke at Trump’s January 6th “Stop the Steal” rally claiming that there was widespread voter fraud. Reportedly, he’s considering a run for governor in 2022.
The unraveling of Mastriano’s thesis started when people began to review his cited sources. The passages he cited, for both important facts and detritus, frequently didn’t have anything to do with what he claimed. For example, a source in York’s autobiography (itself with a questionable pedigree) that Mastriano cites as evidence that York was offered $20,000 weekly to appear in a traveling revue actually has York talking about his love of hunting.
Mastriano’s headline claim in his 2009 thesis–that he had definitively found the spot near the village of Chatel-Chehery, France where York undertook his heroic mission–led to praise and a book deal. It also prompted him to raise money for a 2-mile historic walk directing history buffs to the spot of York’s mission.
Mastriano claimed he found shell casings that he, somehow, identified as York’s. He even claimed that he found a photo in the US Army Signal Corps archives that showed York escorting his newly-captured German prisoners.
There were many problems with these claims. First off, the photo was labeled by the photographer as being taken 12 days before York’s actions. Mastriano claims that the caption is simply wrong: the photo shows three officers York is known to have captured; a mustached man is obviously York, and the Army says no actions took place 12 days before York’s mission that would have resulted in so many prisoners.
In fact, other photographs of the German officers shows little resemblance to the men in the photo; the mustachioed man in the photo could be anyone; and the Army does, in fact, show hundreds of German prisoners captured 12 days before York captured 132 men.
The biggest blow to Mastriano’s claim is the discovery more than ten years ago of material emblazoned with the insignia of York’s unit, as well as a trove of abandoned German material and weapons–as if they were abandoned after surrendering–a half mile away.
Based on this information and the findings that scores of Mastriano’s citations were false, University of Oklahoma history graduate student James Gregory has filed an appeal to the University of New Brunswick, who awarded Mastriano his Ph.D., and the University of Kentucky Press, who published his book, calling for a review of the thesis. That could lead the University of New Brunswick to revoke Mastriano’s degree due to it being based false evidence of faulty research.
Mastriano, being a Trumplican, refuses to believe the evidence presented to him. He insists he is right and everyone else is wrong, as if it’s a conspiracy to discredit him.