Black Americans In The US Military From The American Revolution To The Korean War: The Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War & The Abraham Lincoln Brigade

The beginning of Mussolini’s conquest of Ethiopia marked an outrage in the Black American community. The Ethiopians handed the Italians a humiliating defeat, but immediately suffered reprisal air bombings. No Black Americans served on the ground, but two out of the three planes the composed the Ethiopian Air Force were flown by two Black Americans: John Robinson and Hubert Julian. The planes were used only for transportation of materials and medical supplies. Of more significance was the contribution by Black American nurses and doctors from New York’s Harlem Hospital. They organized medical-supply drives in support of the Red Cross doctors that assisted the Ethiopian Army. The doctors came from America, Austria, Britain, Egypt, Netherlands, Finland, Greece, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland.

The leading theorist of Germany’s racial hygiene system, Alfred Ploetz, had hailed the U.S. as the “bold leader in the realm of eugenics”(Buckley, p. 239) for its strict immigration laws and ban on interracial marriage. In Washington D.C. most hotels and restaurants banned Black Americans, but made exceptions for foreign Blacks. The problem of racism remained alive and well throughout the U.S. Fascist sympathizers on the Olympic committee disallowed Jews from participating in the 1936 Olympics in Germany. Most medals were won by Germany, with Japan in second place, as its “honorary Aryans” and partner in the Anti-Comintern Pact.

In Spain, however, Americans did serve the anti-fascist cause. Sickened by German fascism, the men of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade saw this as a chance to stop the spread of racial supremacy through Europe. They wanted to "make Madrid the tomb of fascism." (Sills) The Abraham Lincoln Brigade had 900 Jewish soldiers and under 100 Black soldiers. Together with the British, Irish, Canadian, and other nationals they formed the 15th International Brigade. The Black soldiers were the only ones with experience, mostly as World War I veterans. This brigade served at the front lines of key Spanish Republican victories against the Nationalist Fascist Army under General Francisco Franco. In the month-long Battle of Jarama, Madrid was temporarily saved. In the losing battle of Brunete, the Americans suffered 50% casualties. Captain Walter Garland showed a self-less desire for victory, wounded twice at Jarama and shot in the knee while rescuing a fallen comrade in the Battle of Brunete.

Written by David Omahen

See also:

The American Revolution to 1808
The War of 1812
The Civil War
The Indian Wars
The Spanish American War and the Philippine Insurgency
The Brownsville Incident and Teddy Roosevelt
World War One
The Spanish Civil War
World War Two
The Korean War
Conclusion and Bibliography