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Countering Spanish Civil War Myth

May 18, 1986

The articles on "50 Years After the Spanish Civil War" (by Beverly Beyette and Bill Murphy, April 25), recall a time when youth was committed to a cause and "the good fight." As one of those who fought in the Abraham Lincoln Battalion (and whose picture appeared on the same page), I offer thanks for the excellent job by your two reporters.

However, there is one impression that needs correcting. The article by Beyette states, "The Spanish Civil War was not a popular cause with mainstream America." This is a myth that has consistently been repeated as though it were a fact. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Gallup Poll taken three times in 1937 and 1938 showed an increase in American public sympathy with the Loyalist forces of the Spanish Republican Government (for which we fought). The percentage sympathetic to the Republican government rose from 65% in February, 1937, to 76% in December, 1938, even as "Franco launched his final assault" against the republic (according to the New York Times).

The impression that the Spanish Civil War was not a popular cause flies in the face of the continuous countrywide activities to support the republic. Public rallies and meetings, often with Hollywood celebrities, street demonstrations and fund raising, were common occurrences. Hollywood sent two ambulances to Spain. Others came from Florida tobacco workers, West Virginia miners, Amalgamated Clothing Workers; many were purchased by Ernest Hemingway, etc.

The Friends of the Lincoln Brigade listed among its sponsors in California State Assemblyman Ellis Patterson, Los Angeles County Supervisor John Anson Ford, Upton Sinclair and James Cagney.

It is time to put to rest a worn-out notion that we were not representing the sentiment and the best interests of our own country.

In remembrance of those events, the Veterans of the Lincoln Brigade raised more than $100,000 nationally and purchased nine fully equipped ambulances for the people of Nicaragua. A group of veterans went to Nicaragua in January to witness the delivery of these ambulances and to hand over the keys to the minister of health.

All in all, the articles by Murphy and Beyette were well written and well received, as the phone calls I received attested.


Santa Monica

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