Commander Douglas Earl Seacord by Doug Roach

February 25, 2021

Volunteer for Liberty V. 1, No. 3, April 1938

Commander Douglas Earl Seacord by Doug Roach

Doug Roach. Photo by Peter Stackpole for Life Magazine

Half a world lies between the harbor of Provincetown, Massachusetts and the Jarama valley. Provincetown, first landing place of the Pilgrims in their search for liberty is – a summer resort frequented by artists, writers and professional people. It was in this peaceful port I first met Douglas Seacord. He was a quiet, unassuming person, who did not mingle with the summer crowd. During the long bright days, he would go in his gas dory to the fishing grounds, not as a sportsman, for his living depended on whatever haul of cod, haddock he might get. His partner was Harry McSorley [McSoley], whom I also met later in Spain and who fought with me at Brunete. (Harry was killed when about 60 fascist planes bombed us near Brunete.)

They later went together in a small mackerel seiner where they made at least enough money to eat once in a while.

Four years later I met Seacord again. It was in a muddy Spanish town, Villanueva de la Jara. He was still the same reticent person that I knew before. During the winter evenings we would sit in a little bar, talking about the old days in Massachusetts. He didn’t do much talking about himself, yet I was able to piece out the highlights of his life.

He was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1908 and was brought up in Erie, Pennsylvania. After graduating from high school, he left his home and went to sea. He knocked about the world for several years, then enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving with the Artillery Division. Following his hitch, he again became a seaman, working on private yachts.

In 1930 he was married. Then followed seven years of routine work aboard ships. A militant trade unionist, Seacord was in the forefront of the struggle of the Marine Workers Industrial Union.

January, 1937 found the first group of American volunteers training on Spanish soil. Seacord would patiently teach the fellows the mechanism of the machine gun, theory and use of the gun and the most important thing, the practice firing the gun. He would march the fellows out into the country. There he would explain the key positions for gun nests, how to advance on a town, where the ammunition dump should be kept and how to figure out distances. Anything he thought to be of value to us, he taught us.

A call came from Battalion Headquarters one day for an instructor in bayonet warfare. Douglas Seacord stepped forward. He had wanted to be rank and filer in the Battalion, but his knowledge of military training and his popularity with the men soon placed him in the position as the first commander of the Tom Mooney machine gun company. Seacord did not seek leadership. The rank and file insisted tat he be their captain.

The fascists were pressing at Madrid. Every available trained soldier was needed at the front. We, considering ourselves trained were eager to get going. At the front he revealed his abilities to a greater degree than ever. When the Lincoln Battalion arrived at the front, it was placed in a secondary position. The English Battalion had been in the front line for several days and was taking terrific punishment. Although the Americans were ordered to stay in reserve, Seacord and a machine gun detail volunteered to help the hard-pressed English and on February 1y moved to the front lines and build machine gun outposts.

No job was too dirty. The captain of the machine gun company would not ask a man to do anything he would not do himself. On February 24 Seacord and three comrades from the Cuban section, Rufo, Hernandez and Dominguez, carried ammunition all day across open terrain under murderous machinegun fire. Rufo and Hernandez were killed, but Seacord and Dominguez carried on.

February 25th Seacord was given the rank of Adjutant Commander of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion. On February 27th, a memorable date, Douglas Earl Seacord was killed in action. He will forever be remembered by the American fighters who fought and are still fighting for the freedom of the Spanish people, and for the defeat of fascism-for world peace.