Blast from the Past: A Letter to Nathan Budish
Editor’s note: At the initiative of ALBA board member Chris Brooks, who maintains the online biographical database of US volunteers in Spain, the ALBA blog will be regularly posting interesting articles from historical issues of The Volunteer, annotated by Chris.Over the next three months, Blast from the Past postings will showcase articles about the American volunteers who served in the Artillery. Many of these articles ran in The Volunteer during Ben Iceland’s tenure as editor. Iceland, who served in the Artillery, recruited several of his fellow artillerymen to document their experiences. Iceland also shared his own experiences in a series of articles he originally wrote in the early 1940s. Together these articles shine a light on some lesser known American volunteers.
A Letter to Nathan Budish
[Originally published in The Volunteer, Volume 4, Number 3, November 1982.]
It is with a great deal of sadness that I have to inform you that my Battery commander, Nathan Budish, died yesterday, the 4th of July, of cancer. Bob Reed called me a few minutes ago. He told me that Nate’s wife Marcella, read my letter to him, and that he responded to what I had to say with satisfaction and concurrence in the experience expressed at Linares de Mora. Enclosed is a copy of my letter to him which I am thankful reached him on time.
I have but to close my eyes, and I can hear your voice coming in over the field phone from your forward B. C. observation post correcting our shots targeted on a bridge on the Teruel Front. Over, under and then on target smack in the center of the bridge. No question about it you were the best Artillery Officer in the International Brigade 4th Artillery Group. After our antiquated lumbering 156mm (vintage 1880) cannons blew themselves up in April of 1938 remember the spanking new 39mm Skoda anti-tank guns that replaced them? I remember you getting our Battery into shape that enabled us to disable a couple of fascist tanks at the front near Linares de Mora. How well I remember how we almost lost our guns during the subsequent retreat. After falling back a short distance you, with Sid Kaufman and myself reported to the Sector’s Artillery Commander for the Battery’s disposition. He wanted us to immediately place our guns off the road in a wooded area. That just didn’t make sense. After leaving the Colonel on our own initiative we decided to bivouac the Battery for the night, and then the following morning reconnoiter the area in order to pick out a spot where we could place the guns to do the most damage against the fascists. After picking a spot on the other side of the river back towards Linares de Mora, and coming back to get our Battery for placement, how shocked we were to find the Army Engineers placing demolition charges under the bridge built by the Romans. The same thought hit us, how aghast we were when we realized that had we carried out the Colonel’s orders and had placed our guns on the other side of the river, we would have been cut off from our lines, with retreat cut off at the bank of the river. How relieved and yet sad we were, when we saw a few minutes later the ancient bridge lifted into the air by dynamite. At least we were able to save our guns, and our guns were put to use with the 129th Brigade in support of infantry, even improvised as mountain artillery. I could go on and on, but you know the history. It is the memory of the men I served with that makes me happy to have lived at a period when it was possible to know such comrades. I think you should know that even though a lot of water has flowed under the bridge of Linares de Mora since I have seen you, I have thought of you many times with warmth and affection.
I saw Sid Kaufman a few weeks ago when he and his wife Lillian, came East. I learned through Sid at the time you got hit by cancer and that you were undergoing chem.-therapy. I also learned that you are in a great deal of pain as a result. If it is any comfort and I am sure if it is, it is damn little, those of us who knew you then hope for your comfort.
Salud y shalom,