Archive/Charles Lawrence Keith

Tags: Jewish Battle of Gandesa Townsend Harris The Great Retreats WWII Veteran Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion POW Marines National Maritime Union Battle For Teruel Member Of Communist Party

Researcher: Asa Muhammad, Stuyvesant '22

Charles Lawrence Keith was born August 11, 1915 (though records claim the August 10, 1911) in Rutland, Vermont. He was raised in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in New York with his 4 brothers until 1933, during which time he attended Townsend Harris High School. In 1937, Keith sailed to Spain and served in the Mackenzie-Papineau Brigade, which was comprised of a mix of Canadian and American Volunteers.

His first battle was that of Teruel, which began December 1937, during one of Spain’s coldest winters. It proved to be a battle of attrition, with International Brigades fighting well, but ultimately succumbing to Franco’s forces. In the following February, Keith would advance 40 miles North to Seguros de los Banos with the Mackenzie-Papineau Brigade, where he would serve until The Retreats.

He then transferred to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, where he was captured by Nationalist forces during The Battle of Gandesa and kept as a prisoner of war until April 22, 1939, when he was exchanged. He returned the the United States that May.

When the United States entered WWII, Keith served as a marine on the Murmansk Run, working to deliver munitions and war materials to the Soviet Union via the Arctic Ocean. Though serving under the United States Marines, Keith was once again serving on a primarily Canadian unit.

Domestically, he served as a unit organizer for the Communist Party prior to volunteering to serve in the Spanish Civil War. During this time he served in the National Maritime Union. After this venture, he began painting homes in Greenwich Village, and this exposure to home maintenance later led to a career in real estate.

After both wars, Keith served as a real estate operator for many years, and in 1973, served as Paul O’Dwyer’s campaign chairman during Dwyer’s race for city council.

Keith died February 15, 1978.


"CHARLES KEITH, MANAGED O'DWYER'S RACE IN 1973." New York Times. February 17 1978
Brooks, Chris, Captured By The Fascists, The Volunteer, Volume 5, No. 3.
ALBA 061 Charles Keith Papers