The Good Fight Continues: World War II Letters from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade

The Good Fight Continues: World War II Letters from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade

The Good Fight Continues: World War II Letters from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade

The Good Fight Continues: World War II Letters from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade

Synopsis

Written with passion and intelligence, the letters of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in World War II express the raw idealism of anti-fascist soldiers who experienced the war in boot camps, cockpits, and foxholes, but never lost sight of the great global issues at stake. When the United States entered World War II on December 7, 1941, only one group of American soldiers had already confronted the fascist enemy on the battlefield: the U.S. veterans of the Lincoln Brigade, a volunteer army of about 2,800 men and women who had enlisted to defend the Spanish Republic from military rebels during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). They fought on the losing side. After Pearl Harbor, Lincoln Brigade veterans enthusiastically joined the U.S. Army, welcoming this second chance to fight against fascism. However, the Lincoln recruits soon encountered suspicious military leaders who questioned their patriotism and denied them promotions and overseas assignments, foreshadowing the political persecution of the postwar Red Scare. African American veterans who fought in fully integrated units in Spain, faced second-class treatment in America's Jim Crow army. Nevertheless, the Lincolns served with distinction in every theater of the war and won a disproportionate number of medals for courage, dedication, and sacrifice. The 154 letters in this volume, selected from thousands held in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives at NYU's Tamiment Library, provide a new and unique perspective on aspects of World War II.

Excerpt

Europe had been at war for twenty-seven months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, drawing the United States into World War II. But except for what the public could glimpse through newspapers, newsreels, and radio, few Americans had faced the horror of modern warfare: the use of airplanes to terrify and destroy civilian populations or the coordinated air and ground attacks that the Germans called blitzkrieg (lightning warfare). There was, however, one group of Americans who had already confronted the fascist enemy on the battlefield and had first-hand experience of the political stakes. These were the U.S. veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a volunteer army of about twenty-eight hundred men and women who sailed to Europe to fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939).

The men and women who formed the Lincoln Brigade in Spain had gone to war in violation of U.S. neutrality laws that were intended to isolate Americans from foreign conflicts. American political leaders, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, hoped to avoid the entanglements that had drawn the United States into World War I by prohibiting military aid to warring countries and forbidding civilians from exposing themselves to hostilities that might inflame public opinion. After General Francisco Franco staged a military rebellion against the elected Spanish republic in July 1936, the State Department barred civilians from traveling to that embattled country. Although the major European powers accepted similar principles of nonintervention in the Spanish conflict, it soon became apparent that Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy were providing vital military assistance to the fascist rebels. The Soviet Union and the Communist International then moved to assist the legal government and called for volunteers to aid the republic. In the end, some thirty-five thousand volunteers from fifty countries joined the International Brigades to fight for Spanish democracy.

In responding to these pleas, the Lincolns perceived Spain as a place where they had an opportunity to stop further fascist aggression. Viewing . . .

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