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50 Years Ago in American Heritage

Americans in the Spanish Civil War, Last Rough Rider, The '38 Hurricane

October 2019

For Whom the Bell Tolled, by Cecil Eby

In the Spanish Civil War, Americans in the Abraham Lincoln Battalion fought for their principles

After six months of war, a parade or demonstration barely ruffled the surface of downtown Barcelona. Whenever bands and crowds occupied the Plaza de Cataluna and lightly shook the surrounding buildings with anthems and vivas, only a few clerks at the United States consulate abandoned their desks for the windows. The reason for these disturbances was ever the same: the volunteers of the International Brigades were arriving from France, or Catalan troops were departing for the front. But on January 6, 1937, Mahlon F. Perking the consul general, who watched the crowd teeming below, spotted an object that had never before appeared in the marches and rallies. Coming up the street was the flag of the United States. Behind it ambled sixty men in 1918 doughboy uniforms. They were lined up in four-front squads with their leader out in front, a .45 automatic strapped to his hip. The United States Army in Barcelona? Impossible! Throwing open his window for a better look, Perkins watched in puzzlement as the group halted under the consulate window and began singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Read More >>>

Jesse D. Langdon: Last of the Rough Riders

He had vivid memories of fighting in Cuba with Theodore Roosevelt. “We’d have gone to hell with him.”

“In strict confidence, I should welcome any war, ” wrote Theodore Roosevelt in 1891. “The country needs one.” And soon enough the bellicose assistant secretary of the Navy had his wish: after a long period of neutrality, President William McKinley (to whom T. R. ascribed “no more backbone than a chocolate éclair”) decided to intervene in behalf of the Cuban revolutionaries fighting for independence from Spain. On April 25, 1898, the United States declared war on Spam. Roosevelt—father of six—itched to get into the action. He resigned from the Navy Department and announced he was going to join the cavalry regiment being organized by Colonel Leonard Wood. The press promptly termed the outfit the Rough Riders.

Of that regiment (officially, the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry) only two men of the original force are yet alive. One is Frank C. Brito of Las Cruces, New Mexico; over ninety years old and enfeebled, Brito was a member of I Troop. The other is Jesse D. Langdon, who lives m Lafayetteville m New York’s Dutchess County. He is eighty-eight; ruddy, alert, and vigorous. He has a handsome shock of white hair and is only slightly stooped (a sizable tree fell on him eight years ago and, he admits, “took a little of the edge of”). Read More >>>

The ’38 Hurricane, by Joe McCarthy

FORECAST FOR SEPT. 21… RAIN, PROBABLY HEAVY TODAY AND TOMORROW, COOLER,FRESH SOUTHERLY WINDS

A favorite story on Long Island concerns a man at Westhampton Beach who received in the mail on September 21, 1938, a barometer purchased a few days earlier in New York. He found the instrument’s needle pointing down near 28 degrees, at the section of the dial marked “Tornadoes and Hurricanes.” He shook the barometer and banged it with his fist, but the needle refused to move, so he rewrapped it, enclosed a note of complaint, and carried it to the village post office. Soon after he mailed it, his shorefront house was demolished—by hurricane. Read More >>>