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Ben Leider


Leider, Ben


k-Leider, Ben. (Lando, Jose), b. October 18, 1901, Brooklyn, New York; Pilot; Graduated from Commercial High school and attended the City College of New York for 2 years; Married; Journalist; CP; received passport# 342087 on September 1, 1936 which listed his address as 101 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, New York; Arrived in Spain on September 24, 1936; Served in the Republican Air Force, Pilot, La Calle Squadron; Killed in action, shot down on February 19, 1937; his body was later returned to the US and he was buried on the evening of August 21, 1938 in the Mount Hebron Cemeterey, Flushing, New York.

Source: SACB, ALBA 0194 Benjamin Leider Papers; Daily Worker, March 1, 1937, p. 1; John Carver Edwards, Airmen Without Portfolio, Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 1997.

Photograph:  Ben Leider. Photograph CUNY.



Benjamin Leider was born in Kishinev, Russia in 1901. Many of his relatives were killed in the 1905 Kishinev massacre carried out by the Czarist regime against the Jews in Russia. The Leider family was helped by a Christian butcher who hid the family in his home. In 1905, his family came to America and settled in Brooklyn where his father worked chipping mortar from second-hand bricks. He graduated from Brooklyn Commercial High School where he ran track and cross-country, wrestled, and wrote for the school newspaper. Afterwards, he attended City College where he wrote for the campus student newspaper. After two years, he transferred to the journalism school of the University of Missouri.

After graduating from college, Ben took a job as a reporter with the New York Graphic where he worked for five years. In the late 1920s, Ben became interested in aviation. He borrowed money and bought a second-hand plane, became an expert pilot, received his license from the Department of Commerce and branched out into aerial photography.

In 1930, Leider went to work for the New York News Association, a reporting service for the city's newspapers, where he covered the miners' strike in Harlan County, Kentucky. From 1932 to 1933 Ben worked on a WPA project, studying slum housing and slum clearance - a subject on which he was to become expert in while working at the New York Post. He joined the staff of the New York Post in 1934 as a flying reporter. While working for the New York Post, Benjamin was a charter member and an organizer of the New York Newspaper Guild. He also became the first aerial picket in labor history. In the Guild's first strike action, against the Long Island Press, he painted a huge "Join the Guild" sign on his plane and flew low over the publisher's roof.

Leider enlisted in the Spanish Loyalist air force in September 1936 under the pseudonym Jose Lando. He piloted a transport plane that transported officers and arms, flying from Valencia to Albacete, Alicante and Madrid. In February 1937, he was sent to combat school for special training for fighter pilots. He was assigned to the squadron at Alcala de Henares just north of Madrid. Benjamin Leider died on February 19, 1937 in Madrid when his airplane was shot down while fighting on the Jarama front. He was the first American to be killed while fighting in the Spanish Civil War.

A memorial service was held for him in August 1938 at Carnegie Hall with 3,000 people in attendance. Speakers at the service included his brother D. William Leider; Rockwell Kent, president of the American Artists' Union; Carl Radau, president of the New York Newspaper Guild, and Frank O'Flaherty, a veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

A children's colony in Eastern Spain, "La Casa Ben Leider" -  founded to house children orphaned by the Spanish Civil War - was named in his honor. In 1938, the children in this colony created a book of drawings for Ben Leider's family. He is buried in Mount Hebron Cemetery in Flushing, Queens.

- Biography courtest of Tamiment Library, NYU.  To view Leider finding aid at NYU, click here.  Also see the ALBA exhibit, They Still Draw Pictures.


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Full Database Record

Last Name Leider
First/Middle Name Ben
Ethnicity Note
Immigration Status
AKA Last Name 1
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Education HS
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Passport #
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PP or Known Address City
PP or Known Address State
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Marital Status
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Vocation 1
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Party Affiliation
Date Affiliation
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Arrival (in Spain) Date
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Additional Notes Ben Leider aka Jose Lando husband of Dorothy - journalist from 101 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn/101 Ocean Parkway, kia Jarama sector, Feb 19th 1937 probably the first American kia. Born 18.10.1901 son of Jacob and Anna (who lived later at 69 E. 40th, Brooklyn) in Kishinev , family fled 1905 - fighter pilot - see UK - he shot down a Heinkel in his first dog fight, was wia and crashed a number of times; and in the battle in which he was killed, 14 enemy planes were shot down even though outnumbered 82 to 32!!- friend of Leibowitz. He was mortally wounded but crashed landed his plane, dying later of loss of blood. Orphanage in Spain was named after him. His body was brought home to NY and buried at Mt Hebron Jewish cemetery, Flushing, LI, Sunday 21.8.38 , Rabbi Jacob Greenfield presiding.; (Edwards states that Leider was born and raised in Kishinev, Russia (later Romania).