9-10 Junio School Days

June 9-10
Robert Merriman’s diary for June 9 and 10, 1937

After the flurry of activity about the Washington Battalion mustering to Albacete for moving to the front, June 9 and 10 were training days for Merriman and the remaining IB’s in Tarazona.  Merriman was awakened by singing of “Franco’s Ranks we shall demolish”.  Mike Wild (son of British Brigadier Sam Wild) has identified this song as “White Army, Black Baron”, a Russian military folk song which has a chorus written by the British Battalion and sung by the American Battalion as:

“And we will Franco … his ranks demolish . . .the great Miaja leads us on … and on our rifles . . . depends our freedom … no pasaran, no pasaran!”¹

In a word that is written over Junio in the diary, it appears that Merriman goes out to the north field to watch Bob Thompson and Joe Dallet leading close order drill and Merriman gives them criticism.    Dallet and Merriman go to Albacete to meet with Marcovics and discuss a soldier who cussed out Bob Thompson.  On June 11, Merriman will remove a soldier from duty and it may be this person who was drunk.

A soldier goes missing and Merriman believes that he was taken by Juan Corona who was with a Major and his Chief of Staff.  On June 6, Merriman noted a “Cross” who was with Corona.

Tadeusz Oppman
Tadeusz Oppman (also called Thaddée and François), Photo from attached web link, original text source not given.

Merriman catches a ride back to Pozo Rubio with Murray Schneider who was a driver.  Merriman serves as a monitor on the examination of Slav comrades by Tadeusz Oppman.  Oppman was a member of the French Communist party and had been trained as a lawyer in France.  He will go on to be Chief of Staff of the Dombrowski Brigade.  Here Merriman is not impressed with his training skills and says that Oppman is leading (like a lawyer) his men to answers to the examination they are being given.

Lucien Vidal and “Gomez” also came to Pozo Rubio.  General Gomez, who led the XIIIth Dombrowski Brigade, was Wilhelm Zaisser from Germany.   He returns with a car loaned to him by Vidal with Elliot Loomis still as the driver.  Merriman finds that Bill Lawrence has moved rooms and is now in Room 21.  Merriman has told us that Bob Minor is coming to Albacete and will get the Dodge car so it is possible that Minor stayed in Room 22 and Bill Lawrence moved.    Joseph Azar will leave for home and “Papa” arrives with papers for his departure.  Mike Pappas was introduced during this week and that is a possible ID for Papa.  Hemingway was also called Papa in Spain, but it is unlikely that he was in Albacete during this period of June.

Merriman says that Bill Lawrence’s new job is to represent the government with all the departing soldiers from all countries.  This would be the job of the Brigade Commissar and Merriman says this is the most important job of all.   In a surprise, Merriman relates that Marion Merriman has been “brusquely” asked to join the Party and she did.  Marion Merriman Wachtel, in an taped interview with Sid Levine, says frankly that she was never a member of the Party.  If she joined, it was an association of convenience since her job in Albacete was to keep the registry of names for the Cadres’ Service.  It is likely that Party affiliation was expected for someone in a position of sensitive access to Brigadistas’ files.

On the 10th, Merriman’s duties appear to be largely clerical.  He set a night mission for the new Battalion and sent out Sid Levine and “Schrengill” (this is possibly Isadore Schrenzel) to run the exercise.  It was a failure for the Battalion and it is not known whether Merriman is referring to “calling off the attack”  during the exercise because of lack of confirmation or something elsewhere.  There was to be an American attack at Jarama which did not occur.²


¹  Alvah Bessie, The Un-Americans, Cameron Associates, New York, NY, 1957 p. 229 (citation from a message posted by Geoff Lawes)

² Nelson, American Radical, ibid.

7-8 Junio Merriman goes shopping for cars (and trucks)

June 7-8
Robert Merriman’s diary for June 7 and 8, 1937

Schrengall and Kaufman were to leave for Valencia on the morning of the 7th and they shared Bob Merriman’s quarters in Albacete.  The Dodge vehicle (our interpretation) and the truck Merriman requisitioned on the 6th both had mechanical problems.  Merriman obviously was being given hand-me-down vehicles by the Auto Park, especially since there was a mobilization going on for the Washingtons to leave for Jarama.  Merriman has to come to Albacete to intervene with Bill Lawrence to get two trucks and a car, as the Dodge got “organized” by the Service Sanitar and did not come back.  Merriman and Bill went to see “Gunderlach” in the Auto Park.   This could be Walter Gunderman.  Merriman checks in with Pierre Lamotte about his car.

They leave for Albacete and it says “Joe Dukes and Carroll”.  This could be Joe Dallet, Larry Dukes and William Carroll.  It is also possible that Merriman mistook Larry Dukes’ first name.  Upon arrival in Tarazona, Merriman speaks with the new men and announces that Larry Dukes will lead Company 2 and Bob Thompson will lead Company 1.  These companies were made up of people left behind by Marcovics and were “tough customers”.   Merriman heard them out.   Marion Merriman is back at Tarazona and Merriman mentions her in passing.  In Albacete, Merriman meets with Canadian Commissar Bob Kerr who was organizing the Canadian comrades who would be in the third battalion.   Merriman blames the hurried nature of the departure of the Washingtons for the disorganization in Tarazona.  He attributes that disorganization to a lack of political preparedness of these men.

Elliot Loomis
Elliott Loomis in Transmissions in 1938. ALBA Photo 11-0876, Tamiment Library, NYU

On the 8th, Elliot Loomis is assigned to be a driver for Merriman.  He takes Merriman out to Pozorubio and must have liked what he saw since he asked to be sent to Officer Training School.  Loomis will be in Transmissions in 1938.

Marion and Robert did some shopping for fruit, presumably for the upcoming fiesta for the departing Washington Battalion.  He marches the battalion to the river for  a picnic (thanks to Chris Brooks for the revised transcription).  He pays 35 pesetas for a goat for the fiesta and makes a feeble joke that “I got your goat, by gun”.

Merriman sends his car back to Tarazona to pick up Marcovics, Dallet, and Mates.  They join with George Kay and Commandante “Umberto”.   This seems to preclude “Galli” being Umberto Galliani and would say that Merriman knows Galliani from this other veteran.   Merriman has time to take a stroll with Marion Merriman along the river and by the hospital.  Recall that Marion just returned from her mission where she had a very difficult time (March 30 diary page).  No indication is given that she let anything on to Merriman about her trip.

Galliani, Parker and Usera
Galliani, Bill Parker and Vincent Usera at Alcorisa in January 1938.
Bernstein, Strauss, Goldbert
Leaders of XVth Brigade Sanidad, Dr. Bernstein (left), Dr. Mark Strauss (center) and Commissar Al Goldberg (right), ALBA Photo 177-189035, Tamiment Library, NYU

The diary sounds like the fiesta is being held on June 9 as there are sports and volleyball with entertainment from George Kaye and David Mates.   Merriman meets Vincent Usera for the first time.  Usera would leave under a cloud in 1938 and there were suspicions that he may have been planted in Spain.  Usera was a US Marine in 1930¹.    Commandante Umberto and the Camp Doctor {probably Dr. Strauss}  gave speeches.  Alan Knight was “a hit”.

Merriman speaks with Walter Garland and Al Robbins who were in the Washingtons and this led Marcovics to get upset since Merriman was speaking to his officers.  There clearly was no love lost between Merriman and Marcovics.

Marion was to meet Bob in Tarazona before they were to return to Albacete but Marion “lost her way”.  One can only imagine her state of mind during this week.   Merriman, Dallet, Dr. Strauss and Walter Garland waited for her in the center of town and once they found her, they returned to Albacete with a driver named “Alfredo”.  Merriman says he didn’t sleep well because of a strange bed, but one might imagine that he picked up something going on with Marion and her “getting lost”.


¹ Ancestry.com

5-6 Junio The “New” Battalion (Washingtons) Move Out

June 5-6
Robert Merriman’s diary from June 5th and 6th

Four very hectic days begin for Robert Merriman as the Washington Battalion finishes its training and is to move up to the front at Jarama.  In reality, the Washington Battalion did not go into the lines at Jarama as the Lincolns were relieved about this point and moved to Albares, east of Mondejar and north of Tarancon.  The British Battalion would be withdrawn to Mondejar.  The Washington Battalion would be held in reserve behind the lines.¹  But from the next four days of diary, we are informed that Marcovics’ led battalion goes to Albacete and Merriman is ordered to Tarazona de la Mancha to start forming another battalion with men who did not go to Albacete.  This is the nascent Mackenzie-Papineau battalion and we can see a thread of Canadians being involved in these diary passages.

Merriman continues to be ill and he drags himself out of bed for a topography lesson.  Bill Lawrence arrives from Albacete to Pozorubio and it must have been urgent as he took a motorcycle for the trip rather than being driven in a staff car.  He took a fall on the way and showed up covered in mud.  Lawrence informs Merriman that the Battalion is now moving out and that there will be about 150 men left behind in Tarazona.  It is time to decide who will be the commander of that  new forming battalion (recall that it takes about 600 men to have a full formed battalion).  Lawrence tells Merriman and Dallet to get over to Tarazona to take charge or a French commander would be put in charge of the third battalion (one wonders if this might be a French Canadian considering the makeup of the new Battalion).  This Frenchman is unnamed.

After “organizing” a truck to Albacete, Merriman and Dallet go over to Tarazona and meet with Marcovics and Mates who are leading the Washington Battalion.   They find out that George Brodsky, John Givney and “10 trouble makers” are being left behind by Marcovics.  Merriman will inherit these problems again.

Dr. Telge
Dr. Oscar Telge (Tsvetan Kristanov) Source: Fredericka Martin Photo Archive ALBA 001: 1:1:31:1
Dr. Edward Barsky, RGASPI Archives Fond 545/Opus 6/Delo 861, Moscow

Merriman and Dallet drive back into Albacete to meet with Doctor Oscar Telge and Dr. Edward Barsky, clearly about issues of who will be leading the medical support for these battalions.  Merriman says it is decided that Mildred Pitts will lead one group and Doctor Barsky the other and that Barsky is scheduled to return to the US.  Barsky presumably would be going to recruit more support for the American Medical Bureau.

Thomas Hyde
Thomas Hyde, Jr. Photograph from the family collection of Richard Hyde, used with permission

Merriman introduces a new name, Tom Hyde, who is a problem for the Staff.  Hyde arrived in Spain on March 20, 1937.  Tom Hyde was a bookstore owner from New Jersey who had had some experience as a hospital administrator in the US.   Hyde was probably attached to the AMB because of this latter experience.  Hyde mentions that he has problems stateside and review of his file at the Tamiment Library shows that his bookstore was in financial difficulty with a partner in the bookstore pulling out and leaving Mrs Hyde in serious difficulty in making ends meet.   Some of the letters from Hyde reached André Marty’s desk as Hyde was seeking repatriation to the US to take care of his business.  Here Bill Lawrence is unsympathetic and his skills don’t appear to be needed in the AMB so they tell him he will be going to the front with the new battalion “as a common soldier”.   Hyde’s disaffection will fester for months but he will be on the line in the attack on Belchite in September 1937 where he was injured in the foot by shrapnel.   Hyde returned to the US in the fall of 1938, much too late to deal with his financial issues.  He lost the bookstore (Richard Hyde, private communication).

Merriman says he met “Tommy” who was to take Hyde’s place in the First Aid Service.  At this point, we don’t know who Tommy is.   Merriman finishes an active day with discussions again with Telge and Barsky about the medical service and he goes off to find Hyde at First Aid (presumably to give him a decision) and does not find him.

On the 6th, Merriman rises and goes to meet a Cross and Juan Corona who is to be Chief of Staff of a new shock battalion (shock battalions are the name of front line troops who are thrown into the most difficult assault situations.   It was supposed to be an “honor” to be in a shock brigade, although the service would be amongst the hardest faced in the war.  Merriman doesn’t believe this assignment of Corona, probably because of critical comments he made about him in February.   Donald Ellis Cross was in Spain at this time, but unlikely to be put into a leadership role.   Merriman does confirm that  Abe Harris will be Quartermaster for the new brigade.

Merriman says he meets with Ribley and finds he will go off to the 16th Brigade (a Spanish Brigade being formed in the Vth Army Corps) and he says it will include one old battalion and two new battalions.   There is an unreadable word in the diary and it may be the name of the new Brigade, if it could be deciphered.

Merriman meets with Schallrock or Schallroch  who is replacing Platone as Vidal’s deputy.  Merriman wants to review with the Brigade leadership whether the previous plan was going to be carried out, i.e. Merriman would command the third Battalion or be Marcovics adjutant in the Washingtons or whether Rollin Dart would be brought back from Cordoba to be Marcovics’ adjutant.  No answer is found here, but Merriman does not leave Tarazona.  The “en passant promotion” is indicated by the vehicles they drive, however, since Merriman and Lawrence get a permanent car, a permanent salvo conductor (to allow Lawrence to leave Tarazona and move around), and they go to the auto park to round up other transportation.   We find that Lamotte is now in the auto park and out of Albacete.  George Kaye, who is also in the Auto Park, Ed Bender, Bob Thompson, Lamotte and Merriman have a drink together.

Unknown man, Mike Pappas, Ed Bender, ALBA Photo 11 – 1574, July 1938, Tamiment Library, NYU

After gaining a vehicle, Lawrence and Merriman go back to Tarazona to meet with Marcovics and Dallet.   Givney came and Merriman met Mike Pappas.  Pappas will be a fixture in the Lincolns for much of 1937 and 1938.  He was in the Machine gun company, in the cocina, and finally was killed on the Ebro in 1938.   A highly recognizable vet because of his fine features and recognizable mustache, Pappas was spoken of often by later Lincoln leadership, such as Milt Wolff (Wolff would call him Nick Pappas or “Nick the Greek” on ALBA audiotapes made for Art Landis’ book¹). “Galli” is again mentioned and he came over from Pozorubio to Tarazona to help out in organizing the remaining men.  Merriman clearly respeated Galli.

Larry Dukes, ALBA PHOTO 11-0034 from May 1938, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman returned to Albacete at the end of the day and in the car ride, they decided to make Larry Dukes, John Givney, George Brodsky, Abe Harris and Bob Thompsons leaders in the new battalion.

Returning up to Bill Lawrence’s room #22 in the hotel, they sent the chauffeur for the commissar (either named Dodge or driving a Dodge) to check on the guard at the Estado Mayor.  We find out that “Kaufman” will be going to Valencia.  This is likely Ruben “Ruby” Kaufman who will be in the Mac-Paps in 1937.   Merriman again meets Andrew Royce who is again drunk.  He  and Pete Hampkins decide that “Schrengall” will go with Kaufman to Valencia.  This could possibly be a payroll run as pay would have to be distributed on June 10.

Merriman explains that they will be having a fiesta for the departing comrades since he needs to buy a goat for the feed.  Art Landis relates that this fiesta was held on June 14, 1937.¹  His diary has two additional notations:   “Joe Dallet crossed with Bill Lawrence” and “Bob brought diary which had been read”.   Merriman’s diary was in Pozorubio and was brought into Albacete.  It clearly worried him that someone had opened the diary and read it.


¹ Landis, Abraham Lincoln Brigade, ibid.

3-4 Junio Merriman returns to serious (and not-so-serious) training

June 3-4
Robert Merriman’s Diary from 3rd and 4th of June 1937

The jockeying for leadership of the previous week has settled down and Merriman describes a full two days of training in bayonet drill and machine gun skills.  Merriman states that machine gun parts now have agreed upon names and instruction is being conducted in Spanish.  Sidney Levine led machine gun instruction and Levine would lead machine gun companies until the Lincolns are pulled out of Spain in 1938.

Merriman gives private instruction to Steve Nelson and Joe Dallet who would be political commissars in the battalions.  Merriman tells Nelson to pass some of the political information on to Marty Hourihan so he would be prepared for political instruction of the Lincolns as they are pulled out of the line.  Nelson would arrive at Jarama shortly before they were retired for the rest of the month of June to “Ibáñez”¹.   Alan Warren suggests that Nelson gave the town another name to protect the locals during the Franco era and that is was actually Albares, 30 miles east of Madrid.  Merriman relays the news about the bombing of the German Battleship Deutchland while it was in port in Mallorca.  Merriman knows already that the attack was protective cover for a shipment of weapons from the “old country” (i.e. Russia).  The Deutchland attack, while boosting the morale of the Brigades, provided an excuse for the Germans to bomb the port of Almería on May 31.  Merriman wishes Nelson “Good Luck!” in his new assignment.

Jack Mullinger, Chief of Scouts, ALBA Photo 11-0910, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman reveals that “Galli” is a good volleyball player.  The tall Humberto Galliani is still a candidate to be Galli.  But there is an Attilio Galli who was in the XII Garabaldi Battalion.  It is unknown if this Galli was in OTS.  Merriman says that Levie Kaminsky (Edward Baker) and the Canadian Allan Knight had never played volleyball.  Merriman reveals that “Mullinger” who would become Chief of Scouts came from a very well off family.  R. Charles Mullinger  was really Cecil Merritt Cole and he would risk his inheritance.  “Jack” (H. Hoff, private communication)  Mullinger was killed on the Ebro in July 1938.

Merriman says he spent the evening reviewing Bob Thompson and Pete Hampkin’s leadership styles and Bob Thompson’s health.  Merriman gives the name of Lucien Tellier² of Montreal, Canada, who shouted “Mañana” at Ribley in training.  The Lincolns used Mañana as an epithet for the slow pace of activity in Spain.

On the 4th Arthur Olorenshaw is back in camp and leading the training again on signals.  Pete Hampkins is said to be “too mechanical”.  Ribley returns from Valencia and announces that he has rounded up 60 “Mexicans” (i.e. Russians) to come and help in the training.  Ribley will be leaving to organize the Spanish brigades.   Merriman is ill at the time he was writing on June 4 and the entertainment which was to be given by the Commanders (the “stunt”) was cancelled again … Merriman was also ill at the last fiesta for the entertainment.  Merriman misses Vidal and Winkler who came to camp.


¹ Nelson, American Radical, ibid., pp 209-213.

² Petrou, Renegades, ibid., Table of Mac-Paps.

1-2 Junio Back in training, Merriman listens to criticism

June 1-2
Robert Merriman’s diary for the 1st and 2nd of June, 1937

The adjustments in leadership of late May continue and on the 1st of June, Merriman and Marcovics have to learn to work together.  Merriman tells Mirko Marcovics that he will be helping him train the Washingtons until they leave and Marcovics is unhappy with the outcome.  Together they go up to Room 22 in the hotel and meet with Bill Lawrence, Steve Nelson and George Kaye who has just arrived.  Presumably, “Grandfather” (a Russian) is there since it says Russian sends Kaye to work in the supply depot.  In a very confusing word (marked in yellow), the sentence can be read “In general melting…” “In general meeting…” or even “In general Milton”(presumably Milton Herndon).  The squiggle after the mystery  name/word, though, looks like the way Merriman writes “of”.  Also confusing is the phrase “Kay & I all talked Russian decided…”  We are tentatively saying that the period should go after “talked” indicating that the “Russian decided” and this is consistent with the man nicknamed “Grandfather” in the May 31 posting, and who was supposed to be consulted by General Gall on the 1st of June, was in Albacete.  However, equally possible would be the interpretation that  these men “all talked Russian”.   And then “Decided” would start the next sentence.  Either interpretation would make sense.

In a continuation of information given on May 31, what is clear is that Steve Daduk, Edward Flaherty and Sterling Rochester have left Albacete to return to the U.S.  David Mates is still an issue in Tarazona and Marcovics doesn’t not want to “herd him”.  Merriman is nominated to speak to Mates about his work.

Merriman needed to get back to Pozorubio for training and Ribley came to give him a ride back but left Joe Dallet in Albacete.  Machine gun training continues and Merriman has difficulty translating the parts names from Russian to English.  It would be important to have uniformity in the naming of the gun parts since replacements would need to be ordered as weapons broke down.  The day finished with discussions on the relationships between the battalions, especially the English and Americans.

On the second of June, a political meeting was held with the men and Julius Rodriguez tells Merriman to his face that there are men who don’t trust his military ability and feel he is more of a political leader than a military one.   The criticism comes from a “Paula” (believed to be Cuban American Eladio Paula) and a “Swimmerton” (this veteran is not known at this point).  Eladio Paula was from Tampa, also Cuban, and would have known Rodriguez.  It must have been a frank discussion for Merriman to have with the men.  Joe Dallet meets with Paula and Swimmerton and tells Merriman that Rodriguez has it wrong.  Again Merriman says “Galli talked” and repeated use of Galli (rather than Gallo) indicates that he meant Galli.   This is likely to be Humberto Galliani or perhaps an Italian trainer (suggestions welcome).  The criticism of the men was discussed in a “round table” but Merriman does not let us know the conclusion.


Eladio and Aurelio Paula
Eladio Paula (left) and his brother Aurelio Paula. Aurelio would die in the Battle of the Ebro in August 1938. Eladio survived the war. Photo from the Paula family via Ancestry.com


Samual Gonshak, Commissar of the Autopark, May 1938. ALBA Photo 11-0026, Tamiment Library, NYU

Alfred Harvey Litwin is back from hospital and wants to get back to the “Spanish”.  Litwin came in on May 11 so it is not clear if he was injured or ill.  Steven Nelson is preparing to go to Jarama to be Commissar for the Lincolns.  He will stay over until at least the 3rd. In an evening meeting Eladio Paula “bawled out” Samuel Gonshak who was a Sergeant in the Autopark for the questions he asked.