“With His Own Body He Shielded Me . . .” by John Patterson, No. 1 Company, British Battalion, 15th Brigade

November 30, 2019

Old Volunteer Logo

The Volunteer for Liberty, Vol. 2, Special 15, April 9, 1938, p. 3.

Attached to the British Battalion when we went into action at Fuentes de Ebro last October were two American comrades, Sam Kaplan and another (whose name I never knew), whose great courage in volunteering to get me to safety when I was badly wounded cost them their lives. Realising that my condition was bad, Lieutenant F. Morris from Wales and another English comraded decided that they would place me on a stretcher, and with the assistance of the two Americans, who were to act as relays, make a dash for the ambulance which was located in a sunken road some 400 meters from the trench.

We started from the ambulance, but we had barely begun to move when suddenly we were met by a burst of machine gun fire from the fascist lines. The only thing that could be done then was for the stretcher-bearers to take me to a patch of ground where I would be comparatively safe from their fire, and this was accordingly done.

But almost immediately the two American comrades fell, one killed outright, and the other, Sam Kaplan of Brooklyn, N. Y., mortally wounded.

Turning off the stretcher on to the ground, I received another bullet in the arm, but it was slight. Fortunately. it did not penetrate the limb; it just grazed through the fleshy part.

As I crawled along the ground, attempting to make the trench again, I reached Sam Kaplan, who by this time was bleeding profusely from the nose and mouth. With what may have been his last breath he told me, in a forced whisper, to get my head close down near his chest, as another bullet wouldn’t make any difference to him any more but might kill me. With his own body he shielded me from harm.

As long as I live and breathe, I will carry on the fight for which Sam Kaplan lived and died. And I will always remember this American comrade whose great courage, even as he lay there dying, made it possible for me to carry on, and to write these words.


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