A professor of English at the University of Michigan, Cecil Eby has taken a particular interest in the Spanish Civil War and the literature related to it. This article is taken from Between the Bullet and the Lie, Professor Eby’s study of American volunteers in that war; the book will be published this fall by Holt, Rinehart & Winston. The Abraham Lincoln Battalion did not die in the blood bath of Jarama. Put under the command of better officers and augmented by fresh volunteers, its fire-hardened veterans shaped up into a first-rate fighting force. In the next year and a half, the battalion fought in almost every major campaign of the Civil War, including the Loyalists’ last, hopeless offensive at the Ebro, late in the summer of 1938. It left Spain in September of that year, when, in a final desperate move to win help from the League of Nations, the Loyalist government disbanded the International Brigades in order to make the war an exclusively Spanish conflict. Of the approximately 4,000 American volunteers who fought on the Loyalist side, a majority were dedicated, card-carrying Communists, but some were nonpolitical idealists who hated fascism and feared the prospect of a Europe and a world dominated by Hitler and Mussolini. More than half gave their lives for the Loyalist cause, among them Robert Merriman, killed in March of 1938. The history of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion does not end with its withdrawal from Spain, nor with Franco’s victory in February of /pjp. It became a source of inspiration for writers of the left, and, because of its Communist links, its veterans have constantly been harassed by anti-red investigators. Even today it is not unusual for its reunions in New York to be picketed by those of the right who call the men who served in the Abraham Lincoln Battalion “priest and nun killers.” But despite the bitter memory of its first battle and the triumph of Spanish fascism, when the now-middle-aged veterans of the battalion gather they have the comfort of knowing that they were present at the birth of one of the timeless legends of the unpeaceful years between the wars: “No pasarán!”
Dean Acheson (1893-1971) was an attorney and statesman who served as Secretary of State from 1949 to 1953 under President Harry Truman. A key architect of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, Acheson stressed the importance of multilateral organizations in the fight against totalitarianism. Prior to his service in the Truman Administration, Acheson clerked for Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, worked at Washington law firm Covington & Burling, and served as Undersecretary of the Treasury for one year under President Franklin Roosevelt.
Stephen E. Ambrose (1936-2002) was a historian and professor who wrote on military history, presidential history, and American expansion and foreign policy. Ambrose has been praised for his biographies of Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon, and for helping to galvanize interest in World War II.
Elizabeth Becker is an award-winning journalist and the author of several books. Her history When The War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge won accolades from the Robert F. Kennedy book award, while her recent biography of female conflict journalists You Don’t Belong Here: How Three Women Rewrote the Story of War won the 2022 Sperber Book Prize and Harvard’s Goldsmith Book Prize. She is also the author of America’s Vietnam War: A Narrative History for young adults.
David W. Blight is the Class of 1954 Professor of American History and Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance & Abolition at Yale University. Recently, Blight has written A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Narratives of Emancipation, and Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, which won the Bancroft Prize, the Abraham Lincoln Prize, and the Frederick Douglass Prize.
Douglas Brinkley, a distinguished professor of history at Rice University and Contributing Editor of American Heritage, has written more than 20 books, most recently The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America (Harper 2009) and The Reagan Diaries (HarperCollins 2007).
Brinkley earned his B.A from Ohio State University University in 1982, and his Ph.D. from Georgetown University in 1989.