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A Hero of the Wrong War

During the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, thousands of foreign volunteers joined the "International Brigades," to defend the Spanish Republic against the military insurgents led by General Francisco Franco. The Abraham Lincoln and George Washington battallions were composed of Americans, together with some Canadians, and fought several bloody battles before the International Brigades were disbanded. Because the Soviet Union was lending support to the Republic, many of these men were leftists, but, because Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany were actively fighting on the insurgents' side, many volunteers were also idealists who had come to fight against Fascism.

During the Second World War that followed close on the heels of the Spanish conflict, veterans of the Abraham Lincoln and George Washington Battallions found little favor in the eyes of the U.S. military because they were generally suspected of harboring Communist sympathies. In the anti-Communist reaction following the war, culminating in McCarthyism, The International Brigades were declared to have been Communist organizations, and the men who had been the first to fight against Fascism found themselves unable to gain the security clearances necessary to hold many jobs.

The following song expresses the bitterness felt by some at this strange turn of events.

I recall the afternoon, I had just come home from school
When the FBI came knocking on our door
They were looking for my dad
They had to find him 'cause they had
A thing or two to ask him 'bout the war

I recall the anger and I can feel the fear
Though I was too young to really understand
Any wrong he could have done
Many years 'fore I was born
By fighting in some distant foreign land


My daddy was a war hero, but a hero of the wrong war
Though he never did complain of the blood he'd shed in vain
He was a hero of the wrong war, he was a hero of the wrong war

Sometimes at night he'd tell to me stories of the infantry
And the men he'd known and the sacrifices made
Of the battles fought and the things they did
From Barcelona to Madrid
With the men called the Lincoln Brigade

When other children's daddies got to march on Veteran's Day
When the drums all beat and the shiny brass bands blared
When the old men made their speeches
Of the heroes who'd come home
At our house my dad sat and drank and stared


Well many years have rolled along, and my old man for years's been gone
The times have changed, the bands don't play so loud
The heroes of the Asian fight
Don't brag about their deeds all night
Of what they've done they don't seem all that proud

Well some wars they make people slaves, some wars make people free
Some wars don't do anything, it seems
Though they tried to make him hang his head
My dad was proud of what he did
Defending human rights and human dreams


My daddy was a war hero, and he knew damn well what he was fighting for . . .

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