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Delmer Berg - last American to fight against Franco

Wed Apr 06, 2016 8:55 am

There is an obituary in today's Times (London) on Delmer Berg who was at Teruel and Ebro. Died aged 100.

While a 21-year-old dishwasher at the Roosevelt, an elegant Hollywood restaurant, Delmer Berg noticed a billboard advertising the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the US volunteers fighting against the Spanish Fascists. They belonged to one of the international groups from 40 countries who joined the conflict supporting Spanish Republicans pitched against the Nationalist forces of General Franco.

About 3,000 Americans perished in the Spanish Civil War. Reputedly the last survivor of the brigade, Berg sustained a life-long injury when shrapnel was embedded in his liver during a bomb explosion in Valencia.

He left school aged 16 to help his father in the midst of the financial downturn, and empathised increasingly with the Spanish worker. “Spain had been hit by the Depression, just as hard if not harder than the US,” he said. “I began to feel what was happening in Spain concerned me.”

Having arrived in Barcelona, he was deployed laying telephone lines to link the rearguard with the Republican front-line anti-aircraft artillery. He served at the Battle of Teruel, in Aragon, and was later involved in the Battle of the Ebro in July 1938, the war’s longest battle and the last Republican offensive.

By August, he was in Valencia, billeted in a monastery. One night, a bomb — dropped by an Italian aircraft — ripped through the second floor. Berg was the last to leave, shinning to the ground via a drainpipe. Only then did he realise his shirt was soaked in blood. “I didn’t know I was hurt.” After a stint in hospital, he returned to America, regretting that he had not “seen more action”.

Delmer Esley Daniel Berg was born in Anaheim, California, in 1915. After his time in Spain, he joined the US army and was posted to the South Pacific during the Second World War. He later worked as a switchboard operator before founding a stonemasonry and cement business.

He met June Wilson, who became his third wife, at a dance; she died aged 93 last year, after which he lived alone in the house he had built in California, basking in the sun on his porch each morning. His sons from earlier marriages, Ernst and Thomas, a contractor, survive him.

Berg remained committed to fighting for the American worker, joining agrarian unions and becoming a civil rights campaigner. “Spain raised the concerns that I built my life around.”

Delmer Berg, volunteer in the Abraham Lincoln Brigades, was born on December 20, 1915. He died on February 28, 2016, aged 100 ""

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Wed Apr 06, 2016 1:21 pm

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