Friday, March 4, 2022

Republicans Versus Fascists

Image of the front of Letters From Spain, by Joe DalletThe Spanish Civil War, which lasted from 1936 until 1939, is often now regarded as the precursor to World War II. Left-leaning Republican forces fought futilely to defend their young government against a fascist Nationalist force led by Francisco Franco. The term "Nationalist" in connection with this group was in fact coined by Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, whose regime generously supported Franco and his fascist insurrectionists. The Republicans were supported in their efforts by the Soviet Union, who supplied them with arms and also encouraged members of the Community Party to come from all over the globe to fight the fascists.

Joe Dallet, a non-graduating member of the class of 1927, was one of those members. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Dallet grew up in a well-to-do conservative family on Long Island before coming to Dartmouth After two and a half years of schooling, he decided that it wasn't for him. He left and worked for a while in the insurance business before leaving to become a longshoreman in order to earn his wages through productive labor. He joined the Communist Party in 1929 and became a union organizer for steel workers and other laborers who had been crushed by the Great Depression.

In 1937, when the call went out for men of conviction to fight against fascists in Spain, Dallet answered. After sneaking across the border from France, Dallet joined nearly forty thousand other men and women in their fight alongside Spanish Republican forces. These fighters were divided into military units set up by the Communist International and known collectively as the "International Brigades." Dallet served with the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, a unit comprised of both Canadians and United States citizens. Only a few months after making it to the front, Dallet was killed in action on October 13, 1937, during the battalion's first engagement with fascist forces at Fuentes De Ebro. According to eye-witnesses, he was mortally wounded while leading his men in an advance and then died after refusing to allow medics to approach him because of his extremely exposed position.

In the six months leading up to his deployment, Dallet wrote letters to his wife Kitty, describing his experiences in Europe. They were published as a small pamphlet a year after his death. To read more about this fascinating individual, come to Rauner and ask to see Alumni D164l.