Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939by Adam Hochschild
New York Times bestseller "Excellent and involving . . . What makes [Hochschild's] book so intimate and moving is its human scale." —Dwight Garner, New York Times "Full of telling details and vignettes that capture great human drama." —Wall Street Journal In the late/b>/i>/i>/i>
New York Times bestseller "Excellent and involving . . . What makes [Hochschild's] book so intimate and moving is its human scale." —Dwight Garner, New York Times "Full of telling details and vignettes that capture great human drama." —Wall Street Journal In the late 1930s, the Spanish Civil War dominated headlines in America and around the world, as volunteers flooded to Spain to help its democratic government fight off a right-wing coup led by Francisco Franco and aided by Hitler and Mussolini. Today, it is mostly remembered through just a few classic accounts. With Spain in Our Hearts, Adam Hochschild has unearthed new and overlooked voices, and he weaves their stories together to reveal the full tragedy and importance of the war. Alongside soldiers, journalists, and medics, we meet a fiery nineteen-year-old Kentucky woman who rerouted her honeymoon to end up settling in revolutionary Barcelona; a Swarthmore College senior who was the first American casualty in the battle for Madrid; a swashbuckling Texas oilman whose support for Franco may have helped decide the fate of the war; and many more unforgettable characters.
Immediately hailed as “captivating” (New York Times Book Review) and “the best introduction to the conflict” (New Republic), Spain in Our Hearts is Adam Hochschild at his very best.
Acclaimed popular historian Hochschild (To End All Wars) shares tales of some of the roughly 2,800 Americans who participated in the Spanish Civil War and relates the experiences of the two most notable journalists to cover it, Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell. He shows how the war was a brutal, cruel mismatch from the beginning, with Franco’s fascist forces strengthened by 80,000 Italian troops supplied by Mussolini, as well as weapons and airplanes provided by Hitler in exchange for war-related minerals (copper, iron ore, and pyrites). Additionally, Hochschild uncovers the story of how Texaco, headed by an admirer of Hitler, Torkild Rieber, provided Franco with unlimited oil on credit, shipped it for free, and supplied invaluable intelligence on tankers carrying oil to the Republican forces. The Republicans, meanwhile, embargoed by France, Britain, and the U.S., used antiquated weapons, including American Winchester rifles manufactured in the 1860s. Hochschild is an exceptional writer; his narrative is well-paced, delivered in clear prose, and focused on important and colorful details of the historical moment. Volunteers from around the world, including the Americans (a quarter of whom died), correctly saw the Republican cause as a last-ditch effort to stop fascism before it spread across Europe, and Hochschild tells their story beautifully. Maps & illus. Agent: Georges Borchardt, Georges Borchardt Inc. (Mar.)
Books by Hochschild—King Leopold's Ghost and To End All Wars—have twice been finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and his Bury the Chains was a finalist for the National Book Award. Here his subject is the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) viewed through the lens of the U.S. involvement in it. More than 3,000 Americans fought for the Republic; 2,300 came home. Besides reporters, novelists such as Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn were also in Spain at the time. The New York Times had correspondents on both sides, leading to wildly incompatible accounts of what actually was happening. Not all supported the republic faction; Texaco supplied oil to dictator Francisco Franco on credit and leaked information on Republican ship movement to Franco's allies so that Italian submarines could attack them. While other histories have depicted the war and the vicious infighting among Republican factions, Hochschild points out what was glorious in the conflict—more in aspiration than execution. VERDICT The author's focus on the experiences of U.S. compatriots will pique readers' attention. Even those who have read other books on the Spanish Civil War will find much that is new in this fine history. [See Prepub Alert, 9/28/15.]—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
A nuanced look at the messy international allegiances forged during the Spanish Civil War. Accomplished historian and Mother Jones co-founder Hochschild (To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918, 2011, etc.) considers every facet of this complicated civil war, using personal narratives of some of the participants, especially the Americans in the Lincoln Brigade, for elucidation and depth. The war was not a clear-cut idealistic struggle between Republican and Fascist, good and bad, although the author delineates well how both sides had hoped it would be. With Francisco Franco's right-wing military coup of July 1936, launched from Spanish Morocco and amply supplied by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, the Nationalists were on a reactionary mission to purge the country of the democratically elected Popular Front government, communists, union members, and anyone left-leaning and anti-Catholic. Hochschild points out that the revolution was very much a social upheaval, in which the class system was abolished, women were emancipated, and workers were allowed to own the farmland that they toiled. On one hand, the socialist euphoria erupting in the Basque and Catalonia regions attracted many left-leaning sympathizers in America and Europe, such as Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell. On the other hand, that very "virus of bolshevism" scared many conservative governments from offering military aid—e.g., England and isolationist-gripped America, where an arms embargo against Spain was declared and niftily skirted by Texaco's chief Torkild Rieber, who supplied the oil for the German planes to bomb the country into submission. In desperation, Republican leaders reached out to the Soviet Union for military aid, further complicating the political mix. The author looks at the poignant stories of young American couples who helped galvanize world opinion while sacrificing their dreams for the bitter, brutal, anti-fascist struggle that proved merely the warm-up for the world war to come. Hochschild ably explores subtle shades of the conflict that contemporary authors and participants did not want to consider.
“A nuanced look at the messy international allegiances forged during the Spanish Civil War . . . Hochschild ably explores subtle shades of the conflict that contemporary authors and participants did not want to consider.” —Kirkus Reviews “George Orwell once explained that going to Spain, in 1936, ‘seemed the only conceivable thing to do.’ As soon as he got there, the right thing to do got a lot less clear. And how to write about it was immediately difficult, too. The twenty-eight hundred Americans who fought in the Spanish Civil War felt the same way, as Adam Hochschild recounts in this rich and fascinating book. Few writers grapple so powerfully with the painful moral and ethical choices of past actors as does Hochschild, who brings to Spain in Our Hearts his exceptional talents—and his moral seriousness—as a reporter, as a historian, and as a writer.” —Jill Lepore, author of The Secret History of Wonder Woman “In this beautifully written portrait of Americans caught up in the Spanish Civil War, Adam Hochschild brings to brilliant life the heroism and horror of that fratricidal conflict. His account of the David-and-Goliath fight between the ragtag army of idealistic, pro-democracy volunteers and the mechanized, murderous forces of Franco, Hitler, and Mussolini is one of the most powerful narratives I have ever read.” —Lynne Olson, author of Citizens of London “Spain in Our Hearts is narrative nonfiction at its very best. Hochschild’s achievement is to make this trial-by-combat story come alive, as if it were happening now. It is impossible for a reader not to identify and feel compassion for those sons and daughters of America who risked and often gave their lives for a cause that could not ultimately prevail against the darker forces of Franco, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin—and Texaco. A seamlessly woven, unputdownable tapestry of war in Europe; intensely, unforgettably moving.” —Nigel Hamilton, author of The Mantle of Command “Beautifully written with a hawk-eye for the telling anecdote, Spain in Our Hearts constitutes an endlessly fascinating and utterly unputdownable survey of the war to defend democracy in Spain that was not only the first act of the Second World War but also, for many across the world, the last great cause.” —Paul Preston, author of The Spanish Civil War: Reaction, Revolution, and Revenge
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Read an Excerpt
Chasing Moneychangers from the Temple
IN A STATE that was largely brown desert, the wide lawns of the University of Nevada stood out like a green oasis. On a bluff overlooking Reno, tree-shaded red-brick buildings were laced with vines and dotted with cupolas and windows in white frames. Spread around a small lake, the school had an Ivy League look that would make it a favorite location for Hollywood films set on campuses.
Six feet two and a half inches tall, sandy-haired, rangy, and handsome, Robert Merriman was working his way through college. He held jobs at a local funeral home, as a fraternity house manager, and as a salesman at J. C. Penney, where he used his employee discount to buy his clothes. Growing up in California, he had already spent several years in a paper mill and as a lumberjack—his father’s trade—between high school and college. Along the way, he had also worked in a cement plant and on a cattle ranch. Once enrolled at Nevada, he discovered he could earn an extra $8.50 a month by signing up for the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or ROTC, whose cadets wore cavalry-era dress uniforms including riding boots and jodhpurs. He also found time to play end on the campus football team, and then, when an injury forced him to stop, to become a cheerleader. Indeed, for the rest of his life there would remain something of the clean-cut cheerleader about him.
Bob Merriman met Marion Stone at a dance just before their freshman year. On the first day of school he spotted her as he was driving by in a small Dodge convertible, braked, and called out, “Climb in! We’re going places.” Slender, attractive, and half a head shorter than he, Marion was the daughter of an alcoholic restaurant chef. She, too, had worked for two years after high school and, like millions of other people, had then lost her savings in a bank failure. She was supporting herself as a secretary and by cooking and cleaning for the family who owned the mortuary where Bob worked.
Marion lived most of her college years in a sorority house. By her account, campus courting was a chaste affair: dancing, kissing, and perhaps an occasional daring visit to a Prohibition-era speakeasy. She was chosen “Honorary Major” of the University Military Ball that Bob staged with his ROTC friends, and he splurged some of his hard-earned money to buy her slippers and a taffeta gown. On the morning of graduation day in May 1932, they received their degrees and Bob his commission as a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve. They were married that afternoon. Afterward they drove through the Sierra Nevada to a borrowed cottage on the shore of Lake Tahoe and went to bed together at last. It was, she says, the first time for each of them.
That fall, encouraged by one of his Nevada professors who had spotted his talent, Bob Merriman enrolled as a graduate student in economics at the University of California at Berkeley. In a country gripped by the worst depression in its history, with nearly a quarter of the population out of work, no subject seemed more vital. Berkeley leaned to the left, but with millions of homeless Americans living in “Hooverville” shacks of corrugated iron, tarpaper, cinderblocks, or old packing cases—in New York, one Hooverville sprouted close to Wall Street and another in Central Park—you didn’t have to be a leftist to wonder: was there a better way?
Franklin D. Roosevelt entered the Oval Office during Merriman’s first year at Berkeley, voicing in his inaugural address a near-biblical radicalism seldom heard from an American president before or since: “Practices of the unscrupulous moneychangers stand indicted. . . . The moneychangers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.” Some of the moneychangers seemed uneasy. The financier J. P. Morgan Jr., heir to a vast banking fortune, put his yacht in mothballs, writing a friend, “There are so many suffering from lack of work, and even from actual hunger, that it is both wiser and kinder not to flaunt such luxuriant amusement.”
Funds were tight for the newlyweds. For several months, Marion could not afford to leave a new job she had in Nevada. A stream of letters and an occasional love poem from Bob to his “Dearest girl of all” assured her of how much he missed her: “Love and please hurry. I’m tired of living alone and need you and you alone.” At the same time, he kept a wary eye on their finances: “I am very much in favor of your coming down over the holidays if you can make it. However, if there is any possibility of spending much money doing it we had better not try.”
He shared with her his excitement at being on a far more sophisticated campus: “One room in the library is like a handsome club room of some sort. Soft armchairs and all.” It was thrilling for him to become an instructor of undergraduates and to get to know fellow graduate students who had come long distances to study in his department, including a young Canadian named John Kenneth Galbraith. “The most popular of my generation of graduate students at Berkeley” was how Galbraith would remember Merriman. “Later he was to show himself the bravest.”
Bob took a bed in a rooming house while searching for an affordable place for the couple to live. “Since my arrival here,” he wrote to Marion, “I have looked at, at least, fifty apartments. . . . Last nite I left the library early . . . and searched some more. I found one that I consider we can’t beat. . . . So I put down $5 deposit and shall move in tomorrow afternoon. . . . They charge $20 a month so it is no palace neither is it a shack. . . . I have been a trifle skimpy on rations but I’m eating more now all of the books are paid for. I am feeling like a million and just dying to have my sweetheart join me soon.”
Before long she did, in the one-room studio Bob had found five minutes’ walk north of the campus, equipped with a Murphy bed that unfolded from the wall. Despite the Great Depression, Marion seemed to have a knack for landing on her feet and finding work. She first took a job as a bank secretary, then clerked at a housewares store in San Francisco, to which she commuted by trolley car and ferry. Even with little money, married life was a delight. “Bob invented a mischievous game in which we would sneak into the luxurious Nob Hill hotel, the Mark Hopkins, by pretending to be meeting someone at the bar. Once inside we danced for hours, never spending more than the price of the first drink. We got so good at it that we sometimes didn’t even order a drink.” Among their favorite tunes were “Stardust” and “Tea for Two.”
Soon three more people were crowded into the tiny apartment: on a cot in the kitchen was a graduate student without a place to live whom Bob had taken pity on; sleeping on another cot and the living room couch were Marion’s eight- and eleven-year-old sisters. Their mother had died and their hard-drinking father was incapable of caring for them. “You walked in the door and you had to crawl over a bed to get anywhere,” Marion remembered. “Bob was unflappable. He simply figured my sisters, the graduate student, and, God knows, maybe even someone else eventually, were in need; he had room, we ought to share it.” His infectious good spirits made her feel “as though I were a child running and laughing in a wild game of Follow the Leader.”
Meet the Author
ADAM HOCHSCHILD is the author of seven books. King Leopold's Ghost was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, as was his recent To End All Wars. His Bury the Chains was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and PEN USA Literary Award. He lives in Berkeley, California.
- San Francisco, California
- Date of Birth:
- October 5, 1942
- Place of Birth:
- New York, New York
- A.B., Harvard College, 1963
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This book is highly recommended for both those with an extensive knowledge of the conflict or those who are new to it