One Who Came Back by Joseph Rehill

December 28, 2018
Volunteers who returned from the US. Standing (l-r)x, Bill Wheeler, x, x; Kneeling (l-r) x, x.

Lincoln-Washington men returning from the US; The 15th International Brigade Photographic Unit Photograph Collection; ALBA Photo 11; ALBA Photo number 11-0468. Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives. Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, 70 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries. Standing (l-r) Joseph Rehill, Bill Wheeler, Al Tanz, Joseph Cuban; Kneeling (l-r) Walter Kozlowski, Joseph Cobert.

One Who Came Back by Joseph Rehill

The Volunteer for Liberty, v. II, no. 29, August 13, 1938

I have been asked time and again “What made you boys come back to Spain?” Some comrades. I am sure must think that we had committed a crime and came back as fugitives from justice. I want to say that the reason was, and is, the desire to see fascism defeated here in Spain before another country, possibly ours, becomes the next battlefield of democracy versus fascism. It is true that there are many veterans back in America today. A number of these boys have also tried to return; but unfortunately, the doctors did not think them fit. In fact, some reached Paris, only to be rejected by the medical commission there. However, the veterans remaining at home are carrying on by doing very intensive and successful propaganda work throughout the country.

When I arrived in America, I was disgusted even before I was off the boat. My feeling was increased after I landed. First of all, it was Columbus Day. Secondly, I landed in Hoboken. Put the two together and it adds up to a very unimpressive homecoming.

I applied to return to Spain in November but was told that recruiting was closed. Furthermore, I was told that even if it were not closed the policy was to send no veterans back to Spain. It made me feel pretty miserable.

Then Joe Gordon finally got home after practically circumnavigating the globe because of passport difficulties. He and I would sit in a café near the office of the Friends of the Lincoln Brigade. Order one drink after another and read the newspapers about Spain, Spain, Spain. On the table before us we laid out the front lines, using salt cellars, toothpicks, and what not.

Finally, he said to me Joe, we got to get the hell out of here, even if we stow away on a garbage scow. Then he added, “But first we must see that the “Friends” and the veterans organization are in the hands of good comrades: comrades who not only were in Spain, but guys that know what the boys out there need and want. In other words, down with the phonies.”

We figured other veterans would be coming home from time to time, and that they would want to see the right comrades in the right positions. We knew that when we got back to Spain the boys here would want to know all about the home front. We know what it would mean to have to tell the old stories ourselves used to hear.

Meanwhile we had heard of the changes in Spain – the improved policy in the army and in the rear, the enforcement of discipline, the better methods, etc. We thought it would be swell to be in the old battalion once more.

Now we have been back with the Lincolns for over 9 weeks. I can honestly say that I have seen a definite change, a change that has made the Lincoln-Washington Battalion not only a body of volunteer anti-fascists in the Spanish People’s Army but has trained men who will be capable of leading masses of our American workers in the future struggles. These are the benefits derived from the fight here – the knowledge of leadership, the experience and the ability to be better fighters for the freedom of the working class.



2 Responses to “ One Who Came Back by Joseph Rehill ”

  1. michael Reel on June 10, 2019 at 4:01 pm

    I am greatly appreciative to the staff of the Volunteer for archiving and publishing this short article my father wrote in August 1938.
    My father, changed his last name to Reel sometime in the early 1950’s, I’m sure to avoid the McCarthyism that was prevalent at that time. He did not share times in Spain, nor in the Merchant Marine that followed.
    Being involved in anti-fascism was a major part of his and my mothers life. Most if not all of his generation are gone. For my brother and I, we thank you greatly.

    Mike Reel

  2. Brian Cuban on January 19, 2020 at 12:14 am

    Thanks for this. Joseph Cuban was my grandfather’s younger brother.