On the 9th and 10th, Merriman gathered supplies and suggested that the Lincolns would shortly be moving “to the forest”. On the 11th, he says “to move soon maybe tomorrow”. The diary does not say that this move will be to the front, but we know that from history.
Problems with John Scott and Merriman continue. They talked on the 9th, but Merriman says that he spoke extensively with Stember about whether it was inevitable that Scott would have to be replaced as Company 1 commander. Scott must have threatened resignation “Scott demanded to see them — resign”.
We may have a transcription error in the .pdf above where it was interpreted that the Intendent (head of the Intendencia or supply depot) was preparing a dinner for 13:00. This probably was to be a dinner for 1300! In the Book of the XVth Brigade³ says “The day before we left Villaneuva de la Jara for the front a dance was held for the Americans in another old building [the church in the diary] adjacent to our barracks”. “Wolf” above is not an American Volunteer. There is a Lou Wolf mentioned in April but no connection to him or the Intendencia is made. There also was a doctor named Wolf Jungermann. At this point it is still a bit of a mystery who this man is.
On the 12th, Merriman again says “Scott trouble” and he was in the field with the Lincolns in training when Andre Marty [sic, Marti above] visited the troops on the 12th.
Herrick made the statement “Adjutant Commander Merriman was partial to the infantry commander, Scott, two WASPs on a hot tin roof”…¹ Clearly, Herrick had this mostly wrong, if we are to trust Merriman’s diary. There was no love lost between the two of them and Scott would be out of command shortly. Herrick’s recollections were often second (or third) hand and here probably incorrect.
Art Landis² says that Merriman received orders on the 12th that changed their destination from Pozo Rubio to the front. As we will see shortly, he has the dates wrong by about two days. As of February 12, Merriman still is in training mode.
The Book of the Brigade becomes very active on 11 and 12 of February. “On February 11, at sunrise, the rebels succeeded in capturing Pintoca bridge by a surprise attack” (this bridge is near Vaciamadrid in the map of 9-10 Feb’s post). On the night of February 11, nearly 10,000 enemy troops starting moving in the Jarama sector. The night of February 12, the enemy made their first assault on Pingarron Hill which was to be the high ground in the Battle for Jarama. H. Galli (perhaps Humberto or Umberto Galliani) with the Franco-Belge Battalion³ says “February 11. We assemble to march to the front.” Laza Wovicky of the Dimitrov Battalion says “February 12. Noon. We marched towards the olive trees, where the enemy were. The enemy saw us and opened out a violent machine gun fire against us. We spread into fighting formation. We advanced about 300 yards without firing a single shot”.³ The notes of the British Battalion staff say
” Early in the morning of February 12, we started out in lorries from Chinchón. We knew the front was near….. Captain Tom Wintringham commanded the Battalion. George Aitken was Commissar. We had no maps, little knowledge of what was happening. We knew that the Fascists had advanced during the previous six days, that they had crossed the river Jarama, and that they were attempting to cut the Valencia-Madrid road. We believed there was a front somewhere ahead; we were reserve troops, we understood. Actually, as we discovered a few hours later, troops that had been in front of us had been brushed aside. The Fascist break-through was in reality a big push”.³
War was coming soon to the Americans.
¹ W. Herrick, Jumping the Line, ibid.
² Art Landis, Abraham Lincoln Brigade, ibid.
³ Book of the XVth Brigade, ibid.