In the Archives: the US Govt and MIA

November 7, 2011

While poking around, I somehow ended up in a cache of documents from the National Archives and Records Administration –“Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad, 1835 – 1974- Spain, 1930-1939.”  As you can imagine, each document there is the germ of a novel or film, and, not surpisingly, there are a significant number of documents related to the Lincolns.  Aside from the pathos and poignancy of each of these cases, what stands out to me is the good-faith effort made by at least some US government officials to help family members in the US looking for loved ones who “were serving with the Government forces” in Spain.  Take, for example this document, from May 26, 1937, addressed to the Republic’s Secretary General of the Ministry of State.

My Dear Mr. Ureña:

I have written to you today a personal note requesting information confirming or correcting reports concerning the death of an American citizen serving with the Government forces.  I receive a fairly large number of letters from mothers and fathers inquiring about sons who are understood to be fighting in Spain, and as I have as a rule but the most meagre information on the subject, I usually am not able to make a suitable reply.

Would you therefore, when taking up with the Military authorities the specific case I have mentioned (that of Arthur John Lenthier) at the same time request them to furnish a list of Americans citizens whose deaths have been recorded?  I assume that for military reasons those authorities might not wish to furnish a list of the names of all Americans serving with the Government forces –but I assume that there would be no objection to furnishing the list I have requested.

Again assuring you of my great appreciation, I am, my dear Mr. Ureña, Cordially and sincerely yours,

Walter C. Thurston


One Response to “ In the Archives: the US Govt and MIA ”

  1. Liz Leicester on December 6, 2013 at 6:52 am

    I am trying to find out more about John Lenthier, killed at the Battle of Jarama. He was an actor and friend of my mother and grandmother. His address when he was killed is listed as their address. My mother was in a theatre group with him in the 1930s performing the play ‘Let Freedom Ring’. If anyone can help with further information, I would be very grateful.