"Fighting Fascism in Europe. The World War II Letters of an American Veteran of the Spanish Civil War," by Lawrence Cane

 

David E. Cane

 

 

Fighting Fascism in Europe.
The World War II Letters of an American Veteran of the Spanish Civil War

by Lawrence Cane
edited by David E. Cane, Judy Barrett Litoff, and David C. Smith
Fordham University Press, New York, 2003
ISBN 0-8232-2251-9

 

During World War II, my father, Lawrence Cane, wrote more than 300 letters home to my mother while serving in the American Army. In 1995 I discovered the entire collection which had remained in a box in the attic for almost 50 years. Having already fought as a member of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the Spanish Republic against the Fascist forces of General Francisco Franco, my father enlisted in the U. S. Army as a committed anti-fascist and with extensive combat experience.

After graduating from Officer's Candidate School, he was assigned as one of 4 white officers of an all black Engineer Dump Truck Company in the then segregated American Army. Anxious to be assigned to combat, he volunteered for the invasion of Europe and landed with the first units of combat engineers in the assault wave on Utah Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Shortly thereafter he was transferred permanently to the combat engineers, eventually rising to the rank of Captain and in the process winning the Silver Star for gallantry in action and the French Croix de Guerre.

His letters home are filled with his politically sophisticated observations and eyewitness accounts of some of the most dramatic events in history: segregated military units in an Army that was fighting against racism and oppression, the D-Day landings in Normandy, the liberation of France and Belgium, the Battle of the Bulge, the encounter with the Germans, the early stages of the occupation of Germany, and the horrors of the discovery of the concentration camps. His writings establish the clear link between the Spanish Civil War and World War II. The letters are also filled with his love for my mother, his loneliness at their separation, and their hopes and dreams for the future.

I have collaborated with two accomplished historians, Prof. Judy Barrett Litoff of Bryant University and Prof. David C. Smith of the University of Maine, to provide detailed annotations and historical background to the letters. Judy and David have written an historical introduction and I have written a personal reminiscence of my father.

Among the very positive endorsements the book has received is that of Andrew Carroll, editor of the New York Times bestseller "WAR LETTERS: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars. Mr Carroll has written:

"In all my years of reading thousands upon thousands of war letters, I have never come across a correspondence quite like this. Offering stunning, eyewitness accounts of some of the most dramatic events in history, as well as poignant expressions of love and longing, Lawrence Cane's letters are as close to perfection as they come. The editors have a created a powerful and beautiful tribute not only to Cane, himself, but to everyone who served in World War II."

David E. Cane