Robert Colodny


Image of Robert Colodny. Image is for aesthetic purposes only.


Robert Colodny


Because of the assembled nature of this collection, copyright status varies across the collection. Copyrights held by original creators of individual items in the collection are expected to pass into the public domain 70 years after the creator’s death. Any rights (including copyright and related rights to publicity and privacy) held by the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA), were transferred to New York University in November 2000 by the ALBA Board of Governors. Permission to publish or reproduce ALBA materials must be secured from the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives. For more information, contact or 212-998-2630.


Moving Image


Manny Harriman


July 24, 1986


Robert Garland Colodny (1915-1997) was born in Phoenix, Arizona. In 1936, after having been expelled from Columbia University for refusing to take certain courses, Colodny became a chemistry student at the University of Chicago; there he expressly sought out recruiters for the International Brigades. In February 1937, Colodny sailed for Spain on the Isle de France. By late summer, he had been shot between the eyes, contracted gangrene of the brain, and was expected to die. But he recovered, and, though bandaged, weak and blind in one eye, was sent back to a front in the Aragon Mountains. It was not long before he was stricken with a high fever, however, and in March 1938, Colodny was granted permission to leave Spain on a sealed train to Paris. He sailed for the U.S. in April, partially paralyzed and blinded on the left side.

Despite his health history, Colodny joined the U.S. Army in 1941, and served for four years, stationed in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska in Army Intelligence alongside fellow-sergeant Dashiell Hammett. With Hammett, Colodny produced a Company newsletter, The Adakian, designed to boost troop morale, and co-authored a book commissioned by the Army, The Battle of the Aleutians; they also co-wrote and broadcast a radio program.

Colodny earned his doctorate in history and philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley in 1950. His Masters Thesis on the Spanish Civil War was later published as The Struggle for Madrid(1958). In 1959, Colodny joined the history faculty of the University of Pittsburgh. Two years later, Pennsylvania State Representative John T. Walsh accused Colodny of being a Communist sympathizer for having made a statement supporting the Cuban revolution. This was one of the last anti-Communist investigations in the nation's history. His career in jeopardy, Colodny fought a year-long battle to clear his name. In addition to his appearances before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), where he was cleared after stating that he had been misquoted on Cuba and denying membership in the Communist Party, Colodny underwent a separate investigation by the University of Pittsburgh. Ultimately Chancellor Edward Litchfield stood behind Colodny, declaring the University's strong commitment to protecting academic freedom. Colodny taught at the University of Pittsburgh until his retirement in 1984.

Colodny remained politically involved with progressive causes, including the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements, throughout his life. His expertise in the many aspects of the history of science led to his activism for a number of environmental causes. Colodny was a member of VALB, regularly contributing to the group's publication, The Volunteer, and dedicating his energy especially to preserving the memory and lessons of the Spanish Civil War. He also served on VALB's historical preservation committee.

In addition to his voluminous scientific writing and book reviewing, Colodny wrote and lectured extensively on the political implications of the Spanish Civil War. He also edited, consulted and contributed to many book, radio, film, and television projects on the subject, including work on Death in the Olive Groves: The Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War by Arthur Landis; and Prisoners of the Good Fight by Carl Geiser.

Colodny died in 1997 of colon cancer.




Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner




ALBA V 48-032
Box 1


The Manny Harriman Papers (ALBA 048) contain project files related to these oral histories, including completed personal history questionnaires for many of the veterans interviewed.

Bibliographic Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date; Manny Harriman Video Oral History Collection; ALBA VIDEO 048; box number; folder number;
Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.

Item sets