Dimitrov Battalion

The Dimitrov Battalion was part of the military forces of the International Brigade I that fought during the Spanish Civil War. Named after Georgi Dimitrov of the Comintern, the battalion comprised of Greeks and people from the Balkans. The battalion took part in several battles including the offensive at Jarama in February 1937. One of its commanders was Josip Tito, who later became ruler of Yugoslavia.

Primary Sources

(1) Fred Copeman, Reason in Revolt(1948)

The Dimitrov Battalion (composed of Czech, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Rumanian and Yugo-Slavian troops) took over the sector immediately to our right. Their commander was a political refugee who had spent some time in Moscow, and fought in Spain under the name of Shapayev. Today he is known as Marshall Tito. He gave me the impression of being a very sincere and capable commander, though he had the old Communist attitude of ruthlessness to trivial offences. I can imagine him today as head of the State, quite capable of using his power and not losing too much sleep about individual rights. His battalion was made up of Slav refugees from countries which, in the main, were already under Fascist control. Certainly a fine body of men. On military matters Shapayev was full of enthusiasm. Tito is, if nothing else, a very stubborn man, and will not last long in complete agreement with anyone. We had respect for one another and a leaning to practice, not words. His latest bout with the Cominform is the natural outcome of a Slav's spirit of independence.

(2) After the war Ernest Hemingway wrote about the role of the International Brigades.

The dead sleep cold in Spain tonight. Snow blows through the olive groves, sifting against the tree roots. Snow drifts over the mounds with small headboards. For our dead are a part of the earth of Spain now and the earth of Spain can never die. Each winter it will seem to die and each spring it will come alive again. Our dead will live with it forever.

Over 40,000 volunteers from 52 countries flocked to Spain between 1936 and 1939 to take part in the historic struggle between democracy and fascism known as the Spanish Civil War.

Five brigades of international volunteers fought on behalf of the democratically elected Republican (or Loyalist) government. Most of the North American volunteers served in the unit known as the 15th brigade, which included the Abraham Lincoln battalion, the George Washington battalion and the (largely Canadian) Mackenzie-Papineau battalion. All told, about 2,800 Americans, 1,250 Canadians and 800 Cubans served in the International Brigades. Over 80 of the U.S. volunteers were African-American. In fact, the Lincoln Battalion was headed by Oliver Law, an African-American from Chicago, until he died in battle.