Colonel LeBeau by Hilliard Bernstein

September 27, 2019
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Pursuit of Reason, Philadelphia: Adelante Press, 1971, p.19-20

“Wat’s dis, wat’s dis?” Colonel Jean LeBeau bounced along the line of fire like a bullet-proof ball. “Come ‘lone der, Yanks. Let’s go! Up de hill, up de hill!”

The Colonel put his whole, squat body into his appeal to get the men moving. He waved his hands in a “shooting” motion, jumped up and down, ran a few steps forward and then back. Bullets whined by, smacked into the earth, ricocheted off rocks, but the Colonel ignored them.

The men of the Brigade, mostly Americans, began to move uneasily; belly-crawling. Colonel LeBeau continued his exhortations, “Move! Move! Go! Go” his eyes “bugged” out, mustache quivering.

The slow crawl of the men was almost more than LeBeau could bear. His pleading and activity increased in intensity. He ran up and down the firing line, from one end of the Brigade to the other. His outrageous anger shamed some of the “non-coms” and they rose to their feet. The outfit was getting ready to roll.

“Come ‘long, come ‘long. Le’s move. Up, up, up!” LeBeau waved the branch of an olive tree, his only weapon. He moved forward at a bouncing trot, shouting back over his shoulder.

A few yards more – Jean LeBeau went down. Every man on his feet, dropped like a rock. The brigade froze, hugging the earth.

Enemy machine gun, rifle and mortar fire redoubled. The unmoving men and the heavy firing from the enemy proved too much for the Colonel (to whom the Brigade had already bidden a silent good-bye.) He leaped from ground, blood streaming from a wound in his forehead. He looked at the motionless men. His yelling broke out anew.

“Come ‘long you, Yanks! You follow LeBeau! Dey don’ kill him! Come ‘lon! You scare of blood? You scare to die? Come ‘long you, Yanks! You follow LeBeau!

LeBeau ran off at the double. Each man in the Brigade jumped quickly to his feet and followed.

 

Hilliard Edgar Bernstein (1909-1990) was a Lincoln Battalion volunteer from Richmond, Virginia. He served at Jarama and Brunete and returned to the United States in August 1937. After his return he spoke at numerous events in support of the Spanish Republic. After the death of fellow Virginian Vernon Snow Bernstein spoke during his memorial service in Richmond. Bernstein was a prominent Socialist and ran unsuccessfully for numerous offices including for governor of Virginia. Bernstein also wrote and published several books of poetry.  Many of the stories in Pursuit of Reason are loosely based on his experiences in Spain.

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