Tonight I stumbled across this gem, entitled Premature Anti-Fascist, on the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives. This is a remarkable speech delivered by Knox at New York University in 1998. The term "premature anti-fascist" was code in the US military during the 40s for "communist." US soldiers in WW II who had previous experience fighting fascism were considered politically unreliable and withheld from the front lines. Somehow Knox got through. They probably figured that as a Brit, this sort of lapse was more to be expected. Besides, he was fluent in French, and they needed that.
The essay discusses the state of the world in the 30s and 40s, and reminds us that the western powers were perfectly ready to make their peace with fascism and only recognized this threat to civilization for what it was when it was nearly too late. As he says, it was already too late for many, the Jews and the Poles in particular.
Knox was wounded in Spain fighting with the POUM in 1936, emigrated from England to the US, and joined the OSS, where he was trained and sent to parachute, "in uniform, behind the Allied lines in Brittany to arm and organize French Resistance forces and hold them ready for action at the moment most useful for the Allied advance." After the war, he attended graduate school at Yale, where he would become a Professor of Classics, specializing in Virgil, Thucydides, and the Greek playwrights.
In the introduction to Essays Ancient & Modern, which covers much of the same biographical ground as his 1998 speech, he writes about finding a copy of Virgil in a ruined house in Italy. The war had yet to end and his unit was engaging the Germans in sporadic combat. He remembers the idea of the Virgilian lottery, in which one would open Virgil anywhere, and where one's finger landed was thought to be predictive. His lands on this passage from the First Georgic:
"Here right and wrong are reversed, so many wars in the world, so many faces of evil. The plow is despised and rejected; the farmers march off, the fields untended. The curving sickles are beaten straight to make swords. On one side, the East moves to war; on the other, Germany. Neighboring cities tear up their treaties and take to arms. The vicious war god rages the world over."