The Spanish Civil War (1936-39) was a vicious, blood-soaked confrontation between supporters of Spain’s new republic and an alliance of monarchists, Falangists, conservatives, and the Catholic Church. In the unsettled political climate of the time, this small war became the focus of numerous foreign interests intent on defending conflicting values of democracy and fascism as they were expressed in the Spanish conflict. Soon, Spain became a training ground where Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy tested military techniques intended for use in a future war. Although most Western nations embraced a nonintervention pact, individuals from all over the world, including the United States, made their way to Spain to support the Republican cause.
Among the Americans was Robert Hale Merriman, a young scholar who had been studying international economics in Europe who, with his wife, joined volunteers from fifty-four countries as they organized themselves into the International Brigades. Despite very limited military training, he became commander in chief of the Americans’ Abraham Lincoln Brigade and a leader among the International Brigades. American Commander in Spain, available now in a new paperback edition, is based largely on Merriman’s and his wife’s diaries and personal correspondence, as well as interviews with people who knew them, government records, and contemporary news reports, is both the biography of a remarkable man who combined his idealism with life-risking action to fight the rising tide of fascism threatening Europe and a vivid first-hand account of life in Spain during the civil war that became a prologue to the world war that was soon to follow.
“As a firsthand account of the confusion and fear and hope of the Spanish battles, it is unsurpassed…it also reveals a poignant awareness of the impact of…war; …the book is a priceless addition to Spanish Civil War literature.”
—The New York Times
“…a poignant love story.”
—Los Angeles Times
“It is a striking portrait of an intellectual who displayed in dangerous action not only exemplary courage but a talent for command.”
—The Washington Post Book World
“Told…with great economy and skill …as dramatically constructed as a novel or film. Agonizingly personal, it also clearly sets forth the political and military issues, while thrusting readers into the conflict with frontline immediacy.”
“…a dazzling story of love, courage, and idealism.”
—The Associated Press
“…an important account to the historic literature of modern times.”
—Senator Diane Feinstein