exhibit banner
home button
introduction button
chapter 1 button
chapter 2 button
chapter 3 button
chapter 4 button
chapter 5 button
conclusion button
sources button



Chapter 3: The Struggle Continues


Ely Sack
Coach Chakin
Lawrence Cane
Ely Sack
Fifteenth International Brigade Photographic Unit Photograph Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA Photo 011,11-0897 Photo Unit B030)
Coach Chakin
Fifteenth International Brigade Photographic Unit Photograph Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA Photo 011,11-0630 Photo Unit B046)
Lawrence Cane
Fifteenth International Brigade Photographic Unit Photograph Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA Photo 011,11-0253 Photo Unit B761)


     As the men of the two decimated American battalions were trying to come to grips with the bloody realities of war, fresh volunteers were pouring into Spain. Ely Sack, Lawrence Cane and Coach Chakin had arrived when both the Lincoln and the Washington battalions were at full manpower and had become the nucleus of a new battalion. Thomas Paine and Patrick Henry were both considered as names for this last American unit. In the end, Canadian volunteers, who had been scattered around the XVth brigade, requested that it be given a name honoring their countrymen. The new battalion came to be called Mackenzie-Papineau, or Mac-Paps for short, in honor of two 19th century leaders who fought for Canadian independence.


Cane yearbook
Cane with Ticker staff
Lawrence Cohen '35
Lexicon, 1935
(Baruch College Archives)
Ticker Staff (Cohen second from left on couch)
Lexicon, 1935
(Baruch College Archives)


     Lawrence Cane (originally Cohen), a 1935 graduate and former Ticker editor, enthusiastically cast his support for the Loyalist government. While still a student at 17 Lexington, he had frequently spoken out against fascism, and had championed various social causes. His paper paid tribute to its former editor, once it became known that he was fighting in Spain:

     In 1935, one of the genus Cohen, species Lawrence, was in the capacity of Editor-in-Chief of the Ticker, raising hell and a flock of reporters. The hell grew up to become a tradition among School of Business newsmen.

     Today, Larry Cohen continues to cultivate and nurture Hades, in such effective manner as to convince many a Rebel that the Loyalist government is something to fight for, not against. For Larry is now counted among those Americans who compose the Lincolns, attempting to secure Spain against domination by Franco's Fascists. (The Ticker, October 4, 1937, 2)


     Cane kept his departure a secret from his parents until his arrival in Europe, when he wrote them a letter and apprised them of his plans. (Cane, xiii)

Ely Sack
The Georgic
Ely Sack
Small Photograph Collections
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 036:2:32:4)
The Georgic
Ely J. Sack Papers
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 094:1:9)


     Ely Sack was twenty-one when he began to grapple with going to Spain. "I knew the risk of dying, and I wrestled with my conscience, looking for an excuse not to go," he later confided. Unable to afford daytime college education, Sack had worked a series of low-paying menial jobs, studying to be an accountant in the evening. After three years, he found a good office job and left college, but with the Spanish Civil War raging in Europe, he abandoned work and sailed for Spain aboard the British ocean liner Georgic on May 15, 1937. (Ely Sack vertical file, ALBA; autobiographical narrative, ALBA 094:11)


Chalking traching wrestling
Chakin with hygiene department
Chakin (left) Teaching Wrestling
Lexicon, 1937
(Baruch College Archives)
Chakin (far right) with the Hygiene Department,
Lexicon, 1935
(Baruch College Archives)


     Alfred Chakin came back to New York after the canceled Barcelona Olympiad an ardent supporter of the Popular Front. However, by 1937, simply fundraising and speaking out on behalf of the Loyalists was not enough. Against his wife Jennie's apprehensions, he decided to come back and take an active part in the fight as a volunteer in the International Brigades.


lift embargo petition
lieft embargo conference
Lift the Embargo Petition
VALB Records 1933-2006
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 019:6:8)
Lift the Embargo Conference
VALB Photograph Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA Photo 015:5:31:2)


     The men leaving for Spain after 1936 would have a much harder time getting there than their predecessors on the Normandie. Although it was not among the nations which had agreed to the French non-intervention policy, the United States decided to steer clear of the conflict. A "moral embargo" was followed by a legislated one passed by Congress in January of 1937. Men could no longer legally embark for Spain, and all passports were stamped "not valid for travel to Spain." The vast majority of men who traveled to Spain did so illegally by hiking over the Pyrenees Mountains at night. Before one such crossing, Irving Gold, a former CCNY student, was told to wear white socks to enable men walking behind to see him in darkness, thus keeping the long line of volunteers from getting lost. (Irving Gold vertical file, ALBA; Tierney, 52)

Cane as student
Ely Sack
Larry Cane While Still a Student
Lexicon, 1935
(Baruch College Archives)
Ely Sack
Small Photograph Collections
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 036:2:32:1)


     In Spain, the men of the newly created Mackenzie-Papineau battalion began to train. The new batch of volunteers spent a greater amount of time in camp than the first two battalions before them. Writing home, a cheerful Ely Sack told his parents: "More Americans are coming to Spain to-day than ever before and the outlook among the comrades here is decidedly cheerful. All of Spain and the whole of the International Brigades are imbued with the determination to win soon. And win we shall!" (June 27, 1937, ALBA 094:1:2)


English Spanish grammar book
Sack's postcard
English-Spanish Grammar Book
Archie Brown Papers
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 207:1:20)
Ely Sack's Postcard
Ely J. Sack Papers
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 094:1:7)


     Sack had enthusiastically tackled the Spanish language upon his arrival in the country. "My Spanish is progressing slowly," he wrote, "and I have determined that in the future I shall spend more time in the study of foreign languages. It is still mucho calor aqui (very hot here) but mas tarde (later) we will have really pleasant comfortable weather." (August 18, 1937, ALBA 094:1:2)
     Sack's postcards home were scribbled with various Spanish vocabulary words and phrases which would be useful in communicating either with the Spanish soldiers, or with women. Many Americans had complained of their lack of luck with the opposite sex in Spain. An early story went around of an American volunteer who invited a girl to a movie only to be chaperoned by her entire family, forcing the couple to sit at the opposite ends of the aisles - the family taking up the entire space in between. (Eby, 38)


Aragon front
Belchite ruins
Soldiers on the Aragon Front
Archie Brown Photograph Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA Photo 207:1:1:1)
Ruins of Belchite
VALB Photograph Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA Photo 015:4:6:17)


     By mid-August of 1937, the remaining men of the Lincoln-Washington battalion were moved to the Aragon front, where the Loyalists launched an attack aimed at the city of Zaragoza. The Americans succeeded in capturing the town of Quinto and after a hard fight managed to capture that of Belchite, but the advance had stalled at a town along the river called Fuentes de Ebro.


Ely Sack
mac-pap group
Ely Sack
Small Photograph Collections
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 036:2:32:5)
A Group of Mac-Paps
VALB Photograph Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 015:4:42:6)


     The men of the Mac-Paps had up to that point taken no part in any of the fighting, and were anxiously waiting for a chance to prove their mettle. The Americans felt ready to take on anything. "I am feeling very well and life is pretty soft now; that is, now that I'm a trained veteran, a confidant Sack wrote back home. (September 1, 1937, ALBA 094:2) Seeing the Lincolns' victories at Quinto and Belchite, the new volunteers were looking forward to joining their triumphant comrades. A few days after the fall of Belchite, in early September, these men finally got their wish and moved out from their training camp.


writing home postcard
home scenes postcard
Writing Home
Spanish Civil War Postcard Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 242:2)
Thinking of Home
Spanish Civil War Postcard Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 242:2)


     They were still unsure what their final destination would be. Writing home the same month, Sack expressed his uncertainty:

     The situation here is this - we may move up soon on this Aragon front, then again we may not.

     ... we may go all the way back to the Madrid front, then again we may not. We may or may not go on rest with the rest of our brigade which participated in the recent victories here. In other words I know from nothing. We go on guessing and guessing, usually compiling a poor average. (September 23, 1937, ALBA 094:1:2)


aerial combat postcard
ground combat postcard
Aerial Combat
Spanish Civil War Postcard Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 242:1)
Ground Combat
Spanish Civil War Postcard Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 242:1)


     The men were shuffled around for five weeks as a reserve unit, until they were finally brought to the front in October and the Mac-Paps saw the first signs of fighting:

     Yesterday we could hear clearly the roar of the artillery laying down a heavy barrage all day. Planes and planes roared over our positions here but fortunately they were all with the exception of a few our ships. However we took no chances. At the first sound of approaching planes we duck into our fox holes and hope that the planes belong to us.

     This morning I witnessed my first "dog-fight" between our planes and a couple of fascist planes. I could hear the staccato sound of machine-guns but it seemed to be a draw with no casualties. (Sack's letter, October 12, 1937, 1-2, ALBA 094:1:3)


loyalist tanks
internationals advancing
Loyalist Tanks
VALB Photograph Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA Photo 015:4:19:5)
International Brigade Members Advancing
VALB Photograph Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 015:4:31:1)


     The fresh Americans arriving at Fuentes Del Ebro were to be a part of the new offensive to take Zaragoza. The plan called for tanks with infantry riding atop them to smash through the Nationalist barricades, with American infantry following their breakthrough. However, when it came, the attack was a failure. The tanks outran the infantry, failed to smash the barbed wire, or were knocked out of action.
     The Mac-Paps, in battle for the first time, tried to advance anyway. They experienced the same devastation the first two American battalions had sustained in earlier combats. Their training had left them unprepared for this type of fighting. "We were brave and we were willing to fight," said Cane "and we gave evidence of our ability. But our background, our military background and our training and our ability to coordinate the weapons that we had were not as good as they should have been." (Hoar 1974 interview, part 1)


Cane letter
Joe Dallet
Larry Cane's Letter
(From the Collection of Professor David Cane)
Joe Dallet
Fifteenth International Brigade Photographic Unit Photograph Collection
(Tamiment Library/NYU: ALBA Photo 011, 11-0629 Photo Unit B045)


     In a letter written to the daughter of the landlady of his former Greenwich Village apartment, Cane described the devastation that his unit was subjected to:

     Jean-Jean, you've read about the horrors of war. So have I. But, it takes just about thirty seconds of charging in the face of machine-gun fire to understand what it really means.

     The fire we received during this charge was absolutely murderous. Men fell all around. I won't say "like flies," because I've yet to see flies go like that.

     Somehow or other, I can't figure why or how, the bullets missed me this time. The way they were coming over, I decided they were certainly going to have to reserve a harp for little Larry.

     It was during this charge that Milton Herndon, our political comissar, Joe Dallet, & other leading Party figures were killed.

     It was impossible to reach the fascist trenches - the fire was too heavy. So we halted, utilizing the cover of slight rise in the ground.
(November 20, 1937, letter in possession of Professor David Cane)


     The attack ended in failure. The surviving Mac-Paps made their way back to their lines and remained in the trenches facing Fuentes Del Ebro. Larry Cane, a sniper during the battle, soon became sick with what was eventually discovered to be typhus. On his way to being evacuated, he was wounded. The rest of the Americans were taken out of the line a few days later. (Hoar 1974 interview, part 1)


Ely Sack
Ely Sack
Ely Sack
Small Photograph Collections
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 036:2:32:3)
Ely Sack (right)
Small Photograph Collections
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 036:2:27:1)


     Following the withdrawal, Ely Sack, still very optimistic and "happy to be in this struggle," was selected to become an officer and sent to school for training.

     There are many advantages being in the officer's training school. Such as the canteen, barber shop, mattresses, library and the power to buy a few things in town, More important, perhaps, are the Spanish classes and the training, knowledge and information to be assimilated. On the other hand, in a way, it's a tough grind. Here's what we do. We arise at 5:15, eat breakfast at 6:15, parade at 6:45, Spanish class from 7:30-8:30, lecture (usually from 8:30 - 11:30, lunch at 12:15, siesta until 2:30, lecture or practice from 2:30 till 5:30, supper at 6:15, three or four meetings [?] at 7:00, in barracks at 8:30, lights out 9:00. (November 28, 1937, 1, ALBA 094:1:3)


     Sack grew restive in that environment, and eventually requested to be sent back to join the other volunteers. His request was granted.


CCNY campus protest
donated ambulance
Friends of the CCNY Boys in Spain Pro-Loyalist Protest on Campus
(C.C.N.Y. Archives)
Ambulance Donated by the American Student Union
Fifteenth International Brigade Photographic Unit Photograph Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA Photo 011, 11-0871 Photo Unit D460)

     Back in New York, The Ticker continued to support "a City College contingent... fighting in the anti-fascist ranks."

     It is disquieting to know that those instruments of mercy - medical services, hospitals, and ambulances - are all needed immediately in Spain. Happily, it is in the power of every person in the City College, from the most verdant freshman to the most aged professor emeritus, to aid the Spanish people in their winter of distress....

     Many students and faculty members are giving time, energy and money to the cause of a democratic workers' Spain. Your task the simpler one; you have but to contribute money to the cause.

     So, during the next few days, when you are approached for a contribution to go toward the ambulance, give till it hurts, and then - give again.

     For Spain must live!
(The Ticker, November 29-December 3, 1937, 1)


     Throughout the war The Ticker was instrumental in garnering publicity for events aimed at assisting the Spanish relief effort. Among them were: a give a can of food for Spain week, boxing and wrestling exhibitions to benefit the Lincoln Brigade, and a drive to send an ambulance to Spain.


Teruel fighting
eating in Teruel
Action in the Teruel Sector
Teruel Photographs
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 162:1:1)
Internationals Eating in the Teruel Sector
Teruel Photographs
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 162:1:1)


     The rest of the Americans, resting after their battle, were suddenly confronted by good news. The Loyalist forces had attacked and taken Teruel, a provincial capital. At last it appeared that the tide was beginning to turn. The men celebrated this new development.
     However, the celebrations were premature. In the last days of 1937, the Nationalists launched a major counterattack to take back Teruel. Americans were sent in to stem this advance, and took up positions near the city.


Cane's carnet militare
internationals in Teruel
Lawrence Cane's Carnet Militare
Lawrence Cane papers
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 029:1:4)
Internationals in Teruel
Teruel Photographs
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 162:1:1)


     Larry Cane, who had been recuperating from his wound, escaped from the hospital, and joined his comrades at Teruel. The men, many of whom had only ponchos suffered through freezing conditions, leading Teruel to be called the Spanish Valley Forge. (Carroll, 196) They nevertheless bore the increasing strain, and Ely Sack was able to write home:

     Still in action, and what action. Last couple of days have been fairly quiet and I think we have broken this desperate fascist counter-attack. Our battalion has constantly been in tough spots and we've all gotten more than an average dose of war. We should be relieved in a few days and I will write you again then or perhaps sooner. You probably will read about the splendid work of our 15th Brigade and especially our Mac-Pap Battalion. (January 25, 1938, 1, ALBA 094:1:4)

after Teruel
after Teruel
Internationals After Teruel
Fifteenth International Brigade Photographic Unit Photograph Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA Photo 011, 11-0860 Photo Unit D270)
Internationals After Teruel
Fifteenth International Brigade Photographic Unit Photograph Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA Photo 011, 11-0858 Photo Unit D266)


     Eventually pulled out of the beleaguered city, the men expected to retire for some well deserved rest. Instead, they were ordered to attack the hill village of Seguro de Los Baños, as part of a wider plan to divert pressure from Teruel.
     On the day of the attack, the Mac-Paps were ordered to seize Mount Atalaya, the village's highest promontory. In the darkness they crossed paths with other Republican units with other attack goals, "Little men - little ghosts," recalled Cane, "none of them ever seen again." (Eby, 283)
     Reaching Mount Atalaya, he and the other Mac-Paps crawled up in a snowstorm and, cutting the wire protecting the enemy, charged. The Nationalists were taken completely by surprise and barely managed to get off any shots. The men took a large number of prisoners who, thinking that all internationals were Russians, came out yelling "Viva Rusia" [long live Russia], much to the chagrin of the North American volunteers. "We thought it was rather funny," said Cane. (Hoar 1974 interview, part 2)


seguro de los banos
seguro de los banos
MacKenzie-Papineau Positions, Seguro de Los Baños
Fifteenth International Brigade Photographic Unit Photograph Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA Photo 011, 11-0594 Photo Unit A271)
View from MacKenzie-Papineau Trenches, Seguro de Los Baños
Fifteenth International Brigade Photographic Unit Photograph Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA Photo 011, 11-0595 Photo Unit A274)


     The Mac-Paps had greater success than any of the other units, but further advance was out of the question. The volunteers dug in and held the position against enemy attacks. They were ordered to retreat on February 19. The attack did not relieve the pressure on Teruel, and that city was re-occupied three days after the 15th Brigade left Seguro de Los Baños. (Eby, 280)


internationals postcard
dictators postcard
Internationals and Spaniards United
Spanish Civil War Postcard Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 242:1)
Mussolini, Hitler and Franco as the Three Wise Men
Spanish Civil War Postcard Collection
(Tamiment/NYU: ALBA 242:1)


The men, discouraged by the fall of Teruel, were nevertheless enjoying their rest from fighting. Ely Sack, still as optimistic as ever, wrote home:

     This spring or summer, in my opinion, we'll really show the strength of the Spanish people's army. The army is growing, training and organizing. The rearguard situation is steadily becoming better. [?] Franco, Hitler and Mussolini are now reaching the crucial moment for them. It is not surprising that all of our gains have been eradicated in face of such a tremendous attacks by countless numbers of Italian and German planes. With such a volume of artillery. I've seen the fascist infantry in action and I know that without their planes and artillery they would not be able to advance 50 feet. (February 26, 1938, 2, ALBA 094:1:5)


chapter 4 page turner