Samuel “Steven” Daduk was a Jewish-American who volunteered to defend the Spanish Republic when nationalist troops launched their coup d’etat in 1936. Steven Daduk was born on March 10, 1912, in Brooklyn, New York. His passport listed his address as 2357 64th Street, Brooklyn. During this time, this neighborhood, Bensonhurst, was very ethnically Jewish. Daduk being Jewish (according to information provided by the University of Barcelona) was a factor that may have contributed to his compulsion to go and aid the Republic very early following the start of the rebellion as Italy and Germany began supporting the military uprising. Daduk supposedly went to the College of the City of New York (though questionable as this information comes from The Michigan Daily, the University of Michigan’s school newspaper). The College of the City of New York, also known as the “Harvard for the Proletariat,” was a politically radical place during the 1930s when Daduk likely attended. This intellectual hotspot teemed with discussions on communism; people who supported either Stalin or Trotsky met at this renowned university to debate the correct implementation of communism. Daduk eventually joined the CPUSA (Communist Party of the United States of America) in 1934, another factor that may have encouraged Daduk’s quest to Spain.
Before going to Spain, Daduk worked as an engineer and electrician. Additionally, he had two years of prior military experience under his belt. This repertoire of skills and experience made him appear to be a valuable asset to the loyalists.
Daduk received passport #346856 on October 2, 1936. Just eight days later, on October 10, 1936, Daduk would arrive at his destination. He was one of the first American volunteers in Spain. While there, Daduk would fight as a pilot and then as an infantryman. Initially, Daduk flew for the Spanish Republic’s air force in the air battles over Madrid but was wounded in action, injuring his thigh and getting a broken hip. Daduk shot down a German Heinkel 111, something which he bragged a lot about while in Spain. However, because his stories were not confirmed, his companions questioned the authenticity of his stories — especially as it appeared that his narrative changed every time he retold the story. This would not help him later as his compatriots ended up believing that all his stories and feats were fiction.
As a result of getting wounded in action after being shot down, Daduk was moved to join the rest of the Americans. Daduk fought with the Fifteenth International Brigade, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, which was filled with other North Americans interested in defending the Republic. When Robert Hale Merriman, a well-educated American, was promoted from adjutant to commander of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, Daduk was promoted to captain-adjutant Second Company. Daduk eventually spread rumors about Merriman being a Russian plant in an attempt to avoid the front lines. Daduk felt that the International Brigades were going to be sent to the slaughter after he realized the intended purpose of the International Brigades. Furthermore, though the earlier rumors of his feats as a pilot being false did not appear to affect him immediately, the effects of this eroding damage to his reputation came back to haunt him. When Daduk’s accusations were shown to be false, his reputation in the Brigade was killed. It was this string of actions and circumstances that led Daduk’s peers in the brigade to turn on him. Consequently, in late January, just before the Battle of Jarama, Daduk was removed from his leadership position — replaced by Eugene Morse as the commander of Second Company. During training, when it appeared that Daduk was not as fit for combat as he made himself out to be, Merriman began having concerns about Daduk. On February 19th, 1937, Merriman’s diary says that Daduk “cracked up” and was promptly removed from the front. This occurred during the bloody Battle of Jarama, a battle that brought the Abraham Lincoln Brigade many casualties as they had been used as shock troops. After being wounded again and getting hospitalized in Albacete, Daduk was promptly repatriated to the United States at the end of May, returning to the states on July 2, 1937, aboard the Chaplain under the name of Samuel Daduk. Steven Daduk had spent less than a year in Spain.
Daduk still supported the cause and the organization even after his return. Despite being described by Merriman as a “weak” speaker, back at home Daduk promoted the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in a coast-to-coast fund drive along with other members of the International Brigades like Humberto Galleani, a member of the Twelfth International Brigade. Despite Daduk’s efforts to raise funds, the Republican force and International Brigades’ weaponry still lagged behind the rebel force’s German and Italian support. However, by demonstrating his support for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, Daduk wound up getting investigated for participating in “un-American” propaganda activities while he tried fundraising for the Spanish Republic and the FALB (Friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade). This was due in part to the fact that the Republic was a Popular Front government, that the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was heavily influenced by the CPUSA and that Daduk himself was a member of this “un-American” party, as were many other “Lincolns.”
After the Spanish Civil War, Steven Daduk reportedly fought in the World War II Medical Corps. This is interesting as he chose not to fight in World War II as either a pilot or an infantryman, both of which he would have had experience with from Spain. This may have been a result of the United States government restricting a former “Lincoln” from fighting in the war with an actual weapon because these former members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade were considered to be security risks. After his return from World War II, Steven Daduk stayed in Brooklyn but kept a low profile, likely to avoid further scrutiny from the FBI and risk being seen as a communist threat. Steven Daduk later died in Brooklyn on Wednesday, October 10, 1986, fifty years after he first set foot in Spain.
P.S. As a result of the limited amount of time that Daduk spent in Spain (especially as he was there extremely early in the war, staying less than a year) there is a lack of photographic evidence to show Steven Daduk’s existence in Spain. Furthermore, the small and under strength Second Company of the Lincoln Brigade received less attention and resources than the First Company. Additionally, among the other foreign pilots who flew for the Republic, Daduk was unfortunately the only one without an image. It is also possible that Daduk was very camera shy following his return from the Second World War and the start of the Cold War.
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