On January 11, 1937, Robert Merriman crossed into Spain by train and began the journey of his lifetime. The first few diary pages are from his impressions of Barcelona and Valencia as he moved southward to the Albacete training base of the International Brigades.
His traveling partner was Milly Bennett (Mildred Mitchell) who he joined up with in Paris. Mildred was writing for a Russian newspaper at the time, but had been a reporter with the Daily News in San Francisco with wild experiences in China in the 1921. Her own exploits were written up in a book “On Her Own: Journalistic Adventures from San Francisco to the Chinese Revolution, 1917-1927.” Milly Bennett had been in China with William Burton, brother of another Lincoln Vet Wallace Burton, and they were in Spain, her as a reporter and Wallace to fight. More on Wallace Burton later in the year.
Peter Carroll¹ describes their meeting in Paris:
“When Millie Bennett, correspondent for the Moscow News, entered Brentano’s bookshop on the rue Operá in Paris in early January 1937 in search of a Spanish dictionary, she was surprised to see her old Moscow drinking buddy, Robert Merriman, snatching books about Spain by the fistful…. Soon the two Californians were charging around Paris to buy a revolver, cartridges, and (with memories of the World War) gas masks to fit over their horn rimmed glasses”
The sentence starting the Diary was “From Paris with Milly Mitchell unusual united front” meaning that they two of them were an unusual united front. We have been unable to decipher who “A.E., A.W” were.
As an example of the excitement that Merriman had for his experience in Barcelona, in the earlier diary pages from January 1 to 11, he had taken notes of the posters he had seen. Here are two pages:
¹ Peter Carroll, The Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, Stanford University Press, 1994.