Biographies/Milton Cooper

Tags: Belchite Young Communist League Ebro Offensive Jewish Work Progress Administration Bronx New York University Tarazona Second Battalion Quinto Battle of Belchite Benissa Hospital

Researcher: Sequoia Rabinovich, Stuyvesant '23

Milton Cooper (changed from Milton Krupka as a child) was born in the Bronx on March 12th, 1913, to Benjamin and Esther Krupka, two Jewish immigrants from Austria who arrived in the states as children in the late 19th century. Cooper grew up with three siblings. He attended New York University from 1931-1933, and he most likely studied writing and journalism as he quickly became a writer and journalist for the Young Communist League (YCL) in 1934, the Communist Party in 1935, as well as the Work Progress Administration (WPA) in 1935. The WPA was part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal that employed millions who may not have been educated to build public infrastructure across the United States. Cooper had two addresses listed on his passport in 1936: 461 West 144th Street in Hamilton Heights, and 31 West 16th Street in the Flatiron Neighborhood. At the time, the Flatiron Neighborhood had a multitude of WPA projects such as constructing the 23rd Street Flatiron subway station, repairing Madison Square Park's Rear Admiral David Glasgow Farragut station, and local art commissions such as Erle Lonsbury's thousand square foot oil canvases.

Cooper decided to join the Republic forces in Spain in 1937. On June 19th, at age 24, Cooper sailed aboard the RMS Berengaria to London. Because it was illegal for U.S. citizens to fight in the Spanish Civil War, Cooper likely posed as a tourist. RMS Berengaria was a commercial liner for Cunard, a company that still specializes in transatlantic trips. From England, Cooper traveled to France, and the only way he could have made it into Spain was the harrowing climb over the steep Pyrenees Mountains that are on France's border with Spain. The climb was infamously difficult, and needed to be done in one night before sunrise so the border patrol didn't see one crossing, as the French had closed their border with Spain to prevent volunteers from entering. Cooper made it to Setcases in Spain on July 5th, 1937. He went to Tarazona thereafter and received instruction in the Second Battalion until August 1st. His instruction, like all of those in the Lincoln Brigade, was mainly composed of long communist speeches in French and marching. Cooper would have to learn on the job.

Cooper saw battle at the Battle of Belchite (August 24th - September 7th, 1937). The Republic wanted to take Belchite and cities around it as the area, specifically the town of Zaragoza, was the heart of all Fascist communications in the region of Aragon. Serving on the Southern part of the front, Cooper's battalion quickly took the town of Quinto in four short days. However the final objectives of the Republic were not achieved, as Zaragoza was not taken over, and the Fascist counteroffensive was fierce. Cooper must have been horrified by the bloodbath, quickly learning how to stay alive during the offensive. Falling ill on October 15th, Cooper was hospitalized in Benicasim until November 30th, and was hospitalized in Benissa from December 17th to January 27th, 1938.

Cooper rejoined the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in May of 1938, and was part of the Ebro Offensive, the largest offensive in the war. The Republican Army was close to being finished after the below-freezing temperatures during the Battle of Teruel in the winter of 1937 to 1938, and the Nationalists Aragon Offensive quickly after. However, the French reopened their Spanish border allowing for the Republic to be resupplied. The resupply raised the Republic morale, and they launched the Ebro offensive July 25th. The Republicans were trying to force the Fascists to lose power over Catalonia and Valencia, allowing for the Republic to regain key infrastructure and territory. Cooper served in the 15th Army Corps, run by Commander Pedro Mateo Merino. Fighting along Poles, Spaniards, Hungarians, and Balkans, Cooper was in a diverse group that didn't all speak the same language, but by then they had all learned how to fight after the bloody battles they had all been a part of. The Republic initially seemed to be winning, but the offensive turned into a battle of attrition, and the Fascist counteroffensive quickly crushed any Republican hopes. The offensive ended November 16th, 1938, in a terrible loss for the Republic, sealing it's fate.

On December 20th, 1938, after spending almost a year and a half in Spain, Cooper and 50 other Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteers arrived back in New York City on the RMS Ausonia due to Juan Negrín's de-internationalization of the Republican forces. In his later years, Cooper moved to Orlando, Florida, and passed away on December 9th, 1991.


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Ink, Social. “Cooper, Milton.” The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, July 10, 2022.

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“Role of 1930s New Deal Programs in Flatiron.” Flatiron NoMad, May 19, 2022.