John “Jack” Harley Yellin was born on August 15, 1913, in West Sussex, Connecticut, to father Sam Yellin and mother Mary Yellin. His father was a liberal and/or a socialist while his mother was a socialist. They owned a small business. He studied architecture for 6 years at Brooklyn Technical. He lived in New York for some time and worked at Jay’s Auto Service (likely his father’s business). He was not part of any trade union in America, but he was a scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts of America, and was in the branch committee of the International Workers Order.
Yellin became interested in the proletariat movement in 1911 after attending some lectures and conferences in 1933, and through the International Workers Order. In 1934, he joined the Communist Party, and was in Section Two of the Bensonhurst Cell.
He joined the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War, as part of International Brigades, with no prior military experience. He left for Spain in March 1937 and arrived in either late March or in early April 1937. Initially, he was part of the First Battalion of the 13th--Jaroslav Dombrowski Polish--International Brigade, where he worked in the Service Sanitaire from April 21, 1937 to July 5, 1937 at Córdoba.
He was in Brunete from July 6, 1937, to August 10, 1937. On July 23, 1937, he was wounded in the face and arms by shrapnel while loading patients into his ambulance, and stayed at the hospital at Hoyo de Manzanares for 7 to 8 days.
He worked as a mechanic and an ambulance driver at an Auto Park in Albacete from August 15, 1937 to April 15, 1938, where he became responsible for the American group. He was sentenced to 10 days of confinement in December 1937 due to a fight, which he thought was done “merely to discredit [him].” He went to guerilla school in Barcelona from April 15, 1938 to July 38, 1938. He became the administrator and political commissar of the International Brigade in Horta from July 1938 to October 1938. In all, he held the roles of Sergeant, Chief of Transport Section, Chief of Material of Transport Battalion, and Political Commissar.
Yellin requested repatriation in September 1937, and returned to the U.S. on December 20, 1938 aboard the Ausonia. He later participated in World War Two in the U.S. Navy as a radar mechanic from April 1944 to December 1945.
Yellin spoke English, Spanish, and a bit of French and German. He was described as a “good anti-fascist” and “politically reliable.” He became a member of the Communist Party of Spain in late 1937, and joined the Young Communist League. He married Anne Yellin, and died on April 27, 1972.
RGASPI Fond 545, Opis 6, Delo 1017, ll. 18-36
ALBA 255 John Yellin Papers