Biographies/Philip Mandelblatt

Tags: KIA Longshoreman Member of Communist Party Young Communist League Artillery Ebro Offensive Jewish International Longshoremen's Association National Guard

Researcher: Jerry Yang, Stuyvesant '23

Philip Mandelblatt was born on January 25th, 1911 to Jewish immigrants Samuel and Betty Mandelblatt, who were among a large wave of Jewish immigrants in the early 20th century fleeing the anti-Semitism of Tsarist Russia and its pogroms. His father Sam worked in the garment industry as a presser while his mother stayed at home. Growing up in a crowded household with several siblings, his early childhood was defined by the struggle Jewish immigrants faced in the US. His family lived at 149 Monroe Street in the Lower East Side. This address no longer exists, suggesting that the Mandelblatts lived in a tenement that was later demolished as part of the city’s “urban renewal” program to create new public housing. Mandelblatt’s background suggests that like many immigrants, his tenement was poorly constructed, ventilated, and crowded. His family later moved up to the Upper East Side by Philip’s teenage years, being part of the movement of Jewish immigrants north, successfully escaping the poor conditions of the tenements. By 1925, the Mandelblatts lived at 205 East 100th Street, into what remains a small apartment, but a huge improvement from his life on the Lower East Side. He studied up until his first year of high school, suggesting that as in many working class families, he had to drop out to make a living.

Philip shuffled around in odd jobs as a painter and newspaper delivery man before becoming a stevedore, loading and unloading goods on New York's docks for one of the many large companies that housed its headquarters in the Merchants’ Building on 693 Broadway. Working among some of New York's poorest, Philip’s upbringing and his own difficult life may have influenced him to join the Young Communist League in 1934 as it neared the height of its popularity due to the growing worldwide anti-fascist movement. He eventually joined the Communist Party in December 1936, becoming one of many leftists to rally around the Republic's fight in Spain, gathering money, material, and troops to be donated for the Republican victory. By 1936, Philip's family had gained enough to move to the Bronx, joining other Jewish families in the southern part of the borough, living at 871 Kelly Street. By April 1937, he had also joined the International Longshoremen's Association.

At age 23, Philip enlisted in the 258th Field Artillery Regiment of the New York National Guard, headquartered at the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx, in March 1934. He rose to the rank of Corporal before his exit from the Guard in 1937, which makes him a relatively good soldier, as he was able to rise to the rank of Corporal relatively quickly. He served as an infantryman for his first year, before becoming an artilleryman in communications. Mandelblatt may have seen his military experience as useful to the Republic, so he eventually decided to stow away on the ship Massanet to get to Spain, joining thousands of New York City Jews who had similar experiences. Crossing the Franco-Spanish border on land in April 1938, he passed through the town of Figueres, where, like many international volunteers, he filled out a form with his personal and political information, writing that he had come to Spain to “preserve democracy and smash fascism”. He arrived at the frontlines at a particularly opportune moment in May 1938, as France had opened its border to the transit of Spanish arms in March 1938 and closed it again in June 1938. As a result, the Republic had been preparing their largest offensive of the war at the Battle of the Ebro, which sought to reconnect its territory and relieve the defenders of Valencia after the Nationalist advances in the Teruel offensive. Mandelblatt's experience as an artilleryman may have led him to the frontlines as part of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Republic's initial offensive and crossing at the Ebro, especially considering the desolate state of Republican artillery. He was killed in action in the Ebro Offensive in July 1938.


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(International Longshoremen's Association)

(258th Field Artillery - NY National Guard)