This article appeared in the May 8, 1937 edition of The Nation.
The following letter was written to a friend in America by a twenty-year-old member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, fighting with the government forces in Spain.
Dear ___: In the first place, I can’t give you any news. The boys here often wish that they could get a copy of the New York Times or the Daily Worker. Then they could get some news, even if inaccurate. I don’t think anyone knows less about what’s happening in a war than the soldier in it. If we see a Fascist bomber crash in front of us we know about it; if it crashes over the hill we either hear nothing about it, or we hear that the re-bels attacked but were beaten back with terrific losses, and one of their tanks exploded. So I’ll only tell you what I saw, and what men from the front have told me, and my own impressions.
Speaking of airplanes crashing, there’s nothing more exciting than lying on the ground and watching a really good dog fight in the air. On our way here we went through a good bombing. We had just got out to eat at a little town when someone heard an airplane droning. Approaching us, low on the horizon, were three big dots marshaled by tiny specks. In half a minute they were three distant monoplanes, German bombers, sur-rounded by pursuit ships. In another thirty seconds they were the most terrifying things I have ever seen, three low, black, immense bombers directly overhead, dropping neat white packages which looked like ant’s eggs. Curiously enough, every damn one of those packages was falling at me.
The mothers were herding their little children into doorways. Really a man can be cut just as deeply by flying metal as a child can; but these children with silky hair looked so defenseless and soft that I thought more of them than of myself. A few minutes later, when I was digging and pulling around debris, I recognized a little girl I had seen playing near us.
There were three of us in the ditch, one in front of me and one behind. They started dis-cussing the war situation, with a local emphasis. “Look, they’re dropping leaflets!” yelled one of them. He was a good soldier, but this was his first airplane raid. “Hell,” said the other, “they look like bombs to me.” Just then there was an earthquake and the trench started spinning like a roulette wheel. That was the first bomb. About the time I had cleared my head the next one dropped. If the first had been close, the next was almost on top of us. This gave rise to the thought: where would the third one be? It was close enough to send bricks whizzing above our heads, and our ears rang for hours, but still it missed us.
Suddenly there was a drone from another direction, and tiny planes with red wings flashed from a great blue cloud like lightning. There was a rattling like the little whirring noise-makers children use on Halloween. The sky was terrifically confused. Little red planes were climbing, swooping, following little white planes or being followed by them.