Remembering Marcus Billings

June 20, 2013
By
Marcus Billings. Photo courtesy Marcus Billings.

Marcus Billings. Photo courtesy Marcus Billings.

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of biographies of Lincoln Brigaders by Chris Brooks. 

Marcus Judson Billings was born on June 10, 1914 in Redlands, California to O. S. Billings, a printer and the former Francis Devore, a housewife.  He grew up in Redlands and graduated from Redlands High School.

After high school Billings enrolled in the University of California, Berkeley campus where he studied philosophy. He was a member of the Young Communist League.(1)

In early 1937, Billings volunteered for Spain and applied for a passport.  He received his passport on February 19, 1937 and travelled across country to New York where he boarded the Washington sailing March 10, 1937 for France.  Billings travelled from Le Havre, to Paris and then into Southern France.  He made a night time crossing into Spain over the Pyrenees and enrolled in the International Brigades. (2)

Billings was assigned as a truck driver to the Intendencia in Albacete.(3) He was wounded on May 31, 1937 in the town of Almeria when German warships bombarded the town.(4) Billings’ unit was in the town delivering trucks.  Three fellow drivers were killed in the shelling. 5)  Billings suffered a leg wound and spent the remainder of his time in Spain in hospitals.  He was treated in Almeria, Fortuna, Murcia and finally in a convalescent center near Valencia.(6)  In early 1938 he was repatriated and returned to the US on February 23, 1938 aboard the Champlain.(7)

After returning Billings resumed his studies at UC Berkeley and graduated in 1938.  After graduation he took a job as a social worker. He was active in the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.  Due to his war wound he was unable to serve in WWII.(8)

In 1945 he married Margaret Cushwa.  Together they raised three children Paul, born in 1950, Susan, born in 1954 and Alan born in 1957.  Billings returned to UC Berkeley and earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering, graduating in 1948. (9) During the McCarthy era he was harassed by the FBI and dodged numerous subpoenas by the House Committee on Un-American Activities.(10)

Billings became a tool and die maker and was an active member of his trade union.  In the 1970’s he purchased a small business producing handbags and managed it until he retired in the 1990s.  Billings turned his business over to his son Alan. Billings died on November 5, 2009 in El Cerrito, California.(11)

 


(1) Adolph Ross Project, Survey Response, February 1995 (hereafter ARP Survey Response); Cadre List.

(2) SACB; Sail List; ARP Survey Response.

(3) It is not clear if the Intendencia had a distinct transportation unit or if their transport section was part of the AlbaceteAutoPark.

(4) German warships, including the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer, bombarded the town of Almeria at dawn on May 31, 1937.  The warships fired more than two hundred shells destroying numerous buildings and wounding killing seventy civilians. Ostensibly the bombardment was a response to a series of Republican air raids that had damaged Italian and German ships in the harbor of the island of Mallorca and Ibiza.

(5) The three were:

Alex Alexander, 27 years old, listed his vocation as a driver, member of the CP joined in 1936, received Passport# 366586 issued on February 11, 1937, his address was listed as 2065 Dean Street, Brooklyn, New York; Sailed February 20, 1937 aboard the Ile de France; Arrived in Spain March 17, 1937, Served with the Albacete Auto Park, died June 5, 1937 Almeria hospital from wounds suffered in the shelling.

Ludwig Beregszaszy (Louis Beregszaszy), 32 years old, CP, received Passport# 29309279 issued on February 1937, listed his address as 107 124th Street, Richmond Hill, New York; Sailed March 10, 1937 aboard the Washington; Served with the AlbaceteAutoPark, died July 6, 1937 in a Hospital from wounds suffered in the shelling.

Jacob Lee Greenstein, b. Jamaica, Long Island, New York; 29 yrs of age, CP, received Passport # 366603 issued on February 11, 1937 listed his address as 117-07 107th Avenue, Richmond Hill, New York; Sailed March 10, 1937 aboard the Washington; Served with Albacete Auto Park, died June 5, 1937 in the Almeria hospital from wounds suffered in the shelling.

Arthur Landis (The Abraham Lincoln Brigade, p. 135) notes a fourth volunteer killed in the attack, Robert Chartrier.  He noted his source as an April memorial article on the Albacete Auto-Park wall newspaper.  Adolph Ross (American Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939, p. 139) listed Chartrier as an unconfirmed volunteer>  Ross noted that he consulted Hyman Chesler and Irving Goff who served in the Albacete Auto-Park..

(6) ARP Survey Response

(7) Ancestry.com

(8) ARP Survey Response

(9) ARP Survey Response

(10) Blake Green “The War They’ve Never Regretted” reprinted in The Volunteer, Volume 3, No. 4.

(11) ARP Survey Response; Ancestry.com

 

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