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Flag of the 1st battalion of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade
A political button worn by supporters of the unit: "Friend of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion".
The Abraham Lincoln Brigade refers to volunteers from the United Statesmarker who served in the Spanish Civil War in the International Brigades. They fought for Spanish Republican forces against Franco and the Spanish Nationalistsmarker.

As time went on, the name Abraham Lincoln Brigade became used loosely, in the United States, as shorthand to describe any unit with an American component. Volunteers from the United States also served with the Canadian Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, the Regiment de Tren (transport), and the John Brown Anti-Aircraft Battery. North Americans also ran a very well-organized and well-equipped field hospital (funded and staffed by the American Medical Bureau to Save Spanish Democracy).

History

Creation

The Abraham Lincoln Brigade was made up of volunteers from all walks of American life, and from all classes. Many of the people who volunteered for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade were official members of the Communist Party USA or affiliated with other socialist or anarchist organizations, such as the Uruguayanmarker Hugo Fernández Artucio. Members of the Industrial Workers of the World ("Wobblies") were also represented. It is sometimes thought to be the first American military unit to be commanded by a black officer, Oliver Law.

American volunteers began organizing and arriving in Spain in 1936. Centered in the town of Figueresmarker, near the border with Francemarker, the brigade was organized in 1937 and trained by Robert Hale Merriman. The Lincolns suffered from poor training and inept leaders, including both Merriman and Law, who were selected for command primarily for political reasons. The battalion only had one capable commander, Steve Nelson, who took command too late to turn it into a truly effective combat unit.

By early 1937, its numbers had swelled from an initial 96 volunteers to around 450 members. In February 1937, the European powers comprising the League of Nations Non-Intervention Committee banned foreign national volunteers.

In 1939, under the administration of United States Attorney General Frank Murphy, who was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the United States Department of Justicemarker in Detroit indicted 16 alleged Communists and fellow travelers for having recruited volunteers for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade supporting Spanish Republican forces against Franco and the Nationalistsmarker. This earned Murphy censure from liberals.

Service

Spanish Civil War Medal awarded to the International Brigades
The International Brigade took part in several battles in Spain. They unsuccessfully defended the supply road between Valenciamarker and Madridmarker in the Jarama Valley from February 1937 until June 1937. They were also present at the battles of Brunete, Zaragoza, Belchite, Teruelmarker, and Ebro River.

The Brigade was a cause célèbre in some liberal and socialist circles in the United States. Some groups organized fundraising activities and supply drives to keep the brigade afloat. News of the brigade's high casualty rate and bravery in battle made them heroic figures to Americans opposing the rise of fascism. Paul Robeson was one high profile supporter, even going so far as to visit the Lincolns in the field in Spain and appearing in publicity photographs (the XV International Brigade had its own photographic unit).

The war dragged on and the Nationalist forces, supported by Nazi Germany under Hitler and Fascist Italy under Mussolini, gained victory after victory over the Spanish Republic, which was increasingly dominated by the Spanish Communist Party (PCE). The International Brigade was withdrawn from battle by the Spanish prime minister Juan Negrín in the spring 1938. Most of the surviving Lincolns were repatriated promptly afterwards.

Of the more than 3,000 who fought in the battalion during the conflict, over one-third were killed.

Aftermath

During and after the Spanish Civil War, members of the brigade were viewed as supporters of the Soviet Unionmarker. Through the period of the Hitler-Stalin pact, Communist Lincoln Brigade veterans joined with the American Peace Mobilization in protesting U.S. support for Britain against Nazi Germany. During and following World War II, particularly at the height of the Second Red Scare, the U.S. government considered former members of the brigade to be security risks. In fact, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover persuaded President Roosevelt to ensure that former ALB members fighting in U.S. Forces in World War II not be considered for commissioning as officers, or to have any type of positive distinction conferred upon them.

Etymology

The name Brigade is a misnomer. In the Spanish Civil War, a brigade consisted of four to six battalions. American volunteers mostly joined the two battalions (the Lincoln Battalion and the Washington Battalion) within XV International Brigade. The XV International Brigade was made up of six battalions of volunteers from nations around the globe, topped up with Spanish conscripts. Irish volunteers formed the Connolly Column of the battalion under the command of Frank Ryan. The column joined the American rather than the British battalion on nationalist grounds.

Anthem: "Valley of Jarama"

Members of the XV International Brigade adapted a song by Alex McDade to reflect the losses at the Battle of Jarama. Sung to the tune of the traditional country song Red River Valley, it became their anthem.

Members

Commanding officers



Other notable members

American veterans.




Supporters of the Spanish Republicans



Recognition

Memorials & Awards

  • Currently, there are three memorials dedicated to the veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.
    • The first is located on the campus of the University of Washingtonmarker in Seattle.
    • The second is located in James Madison Park in Madison, Wisconsinmarker.
    • A third memorial to the veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was dedicated on the Embarcadero in San Francisco, Californiamarker on March 30, 2008. Among the speakers were San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom and a few of the several ALB veterans still living.


In museums

In 2007, Facing Fascism: New York and the Spanish Civil War at the Museum of the City of New York examines the role that New Yorkers played in the conflict, as well as the political and social ideologies that motivated them to participate in activities ranging from rallying support, fundraising, and relief aid, to fighting — and sometimes dying — on the front lines in Spain. The stories of these New Yorkers will be told through photographs, letters, uniforms, weapons, and an array of personal and historical memorabilia.

See also



Footnotes

  1. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/SPlawO.htm
  2. John Q. Barrett, Politicians, Attorneys General, Justices, and Parallels (2007)
  3. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/SPlincoln.htm
  4. http://www.alba-valb.org/volpdf/vol_1941_02b.pdf
  5. Eby (2007), p. vii
  6. Eby (2007), p. 266
  7. A communist, Nelson became commander of the battalion on the first day (6 July 1937) of the Battle of Brunete, replacing Martin Hourihan who was badly wounded. Eby, p 184
  8. Guide to the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Records 1933-2006
  9. ALBA - Announcements - Madison Monument dedication


Further reading

  • Beevor, Antony, The Battle for Spain, 2006.
  • Bermack, Richard. The Front Lines of Social Change: Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, Heyday Books, 2005.
  • Brandt, Joe (Ed.). Black Americans In The Spanish People's War Against Fascism 1936-1939. New York: Veterans Abraham Lincoln Brigade, no date, ca. 1979.
  • Eby,Cecil. Between the Bullet and the Lie: American Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1969.
  • Eby, Cecil. Comrades and Commissars,[19063] 2007.
  • Glazer, Peter. Radical Nostalgia: Spanish Civil War Commemoration in America. New York: University of Rochester Press, 2005.
  • Osheroff, Abraham. "Dreams and Nightmares", 1974.
  • Rolfe, Edwin. The Lincoln Battalion: The Story of the Americans Who Fought in Spain in the International Brigades, New York: Random House, 1939.
  • Thomas, Hugh, The Spanish Civil War, 4th Rev. Ed. 2001.
  • Yates, James. Mississippi to Madrid: Memoir of a Black American in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Seattle: Open Hand Publishing, 1989.


External links




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