Honoring Lincoln Brigade Veterans in May 2021

February 4, 2021
By and

Memorial Day is the day traditionally set aside to remember Americans who served in the military. And, yet, Americans who went to Spain to fight fascism are rarely, if ever, included in the remembrances on this day.

We would like to change this.

In recent years, Canadian volunteers led by Pamela Vivian, and with support from several trade unions, have organized remembrance ceremonies in Canadian communities from coast to coast. Over 60 graves were visited on or about Remembrance Day last November 11, 2020.

A similar effort began in the United States in 2014 and since that time, volunteers have visited the graves of Lincoln veterans and honored them by leaving a flag or flower. To identify these locations, we created a growing database in which we have cataloged the graves of over 530 Lincoln veterans, medical staff, and Americans who fought in other battalions. Since 2014, 75 ALB graves have been so honored.

This effort began as a contribution to the biographical records of the Lincoln Battalion undertaken by Chris Brooks of ALBA. Information about likely grave sites was obtained from diverse sources such as family members, Ancestry, Findagrave, and newspaper obituaries. The locations of these graves have been georeferenced so they can be located to within a few feet using GPS and Google Maps. The geographical extent of the gravesites is shown in the figure below.

The geographical extent of the known graves. Almost every state has a Lincoln veteran buried there. Graves in green have been visited and graves in yellow remain to be visited. For example, the eight identified cemeteries have 4-12 veterans each whose graves have not been honored in the past.

We would like to see this effort continue in connection with Memorial Day in May 2021.  To do this, we are asking you to consider visiting the grave of a Lincoln veteran on Memorial Day (or anytime in May if you can’t make it on Memorial Day), and leaving a flower and/or an International Brigade flag.

For volunteers who would like to visit known gravesites, the first step is to contact Ray at albtribute@gmail.com.  We can give you precise maps/air photos plus GPS information to guide you. We will give each volunteer the grave position (lot number, if known) or instructions on how to contact the cemetery for more precise information. We have available instructions for creating an International Brigade flag which you may choose to leave at a gravesite.

Alvin Van Ausdal’s grave visited in Utah in May, 2020 (Freeman Stevenson, photo)

If you do visit the grave of a Lincoln veteran, we ask that you leave a flower or a flag, take a photo of the gravesite and a photo of yourself at the gravesite and ensure that your camera is enabled to record the location. Then send this information to Ray; it will be added to the existing database of known gravesites.

The men and women who joined the international effort against fascism in Spain are more and more forgotten. Please consider taking steps to remember them by visiting their graves either on Memorial Day or any day in May that is convenient for you. Many who have done this have found it to be an immensely moving experience. Also, by locating a gravesite, you may have the opportunity to add to the existing biographical information about a Lincoln veteran.

Ray Hoff and Nancy Phillips (albtribute@gmail.com)