Sacrifice and Commitment: American Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War


  • Anders Greenspan Texas A&M University-Kingsville



Volunteers, Fascism, War, Ideology, Letter


The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was the last European war before the start of World War II. The war, an ideological struggle between Francisco Franco and his nationalist supporters, aided by the Germans and Italians, sought to remove from power the Spanish Republic, which was aided by the Soviet Union. On both sides of the conflict were volunteers from many countries, including the United States of America. American volunteers fought on both sides of the war, yet more chose the side of the Republicans.  Many, but not all, were motivated by political beliefs. Others wanted the perceived romance and excitement of battle, or the sense that they were being of help. The volunteers discussed in this study came from all of these categories, with the ones having political motivation the largest group. They detailed their experiences and their views of the war to their friends, families and comrades back home in the United States.  These letters, which come from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives at New York University, form the main part of the study and provide a deeper insight into what these men and women were thinking, as well as providing insight into their desire to fight in Spain. Through their eyes it is possible to gain a deeper understanding of their experiences and their motivations.  For many of them, their experiences in Spain formed an important part of their journey in life.  Some of them remained loyal to the Communist ideology throughout their lives, while others changed their views as the ruthlessness of Stalin became better known.  A modern audience can benefit from a chance to read their thoughts and ideas in an attempt to better understand the events that helped drive the world into the Second World War.