Merriman has to make hard decisions over the next few days. With the decimation of the Lincoln and Washington Battalions at Brunete, men are needed to fill out the ranks of even a combined Lincoln-Washington Battalion. Merriman fights to keep the men he has, but the need is great at the front and nearly 200 men will move up into other battalions. In his visit to Albacete, Merriman meets with leading comrades who are there: Bill Lawrence, Ed Bender, Jock Cunningham, John Miller, Mirko Marcovics, Marion Merriman, Dave Mates, Bob Kerr (of the Canadians), and Merriman. A decision has to be made as to the number of Spanish in each battalion. Two weeks prior, the Americans fought against even 25% of the brigade being Spanish and now the policy is 50%. Mirko Markovics spoke about his role and his apology for not leading at the front, but Merriman is not having any of it (see additional material below). David Mates is defending his position and uses statements made by Dave Doran for support but Merriman calls it “rumors”.
In the flurry of activity about the adjustment in leadership, the question of visiting Comrade Bielov (who is leading the Albacete base) is raised. Harry Haywood is still fighting to save his position, although previously it was decided he would return to the US. The Battalion in Albacete was going to be halved. Merriman argued and won the argument that his Battalion should stay together and that he would take them forward to the front. Once the meeting ended, orders were written, lists of who would move were prepared, and “much typing was done”. Merriman spoke with Dave Doran about his method of managing troops.
On the 6th, the decisions were revealed to the troops and the fact that they were going forward was received well. When the decision that the Battalion was being split was discussed, however, the men though that only the malcontents and weaker elements were being sent to the front. In an evening meeting, this was dealt with and John Miller and Robbie Robertson spoke to the troops. An evening meal and party featured “Minnie our dog” being “married” to Fishman. While probably humorous for some, it wasn’t for Morris Fishman. This is clearly not Moe Fishman who was wounded at Brunete and was in hospital at this point.
At the evening meeting, there was some discussion on the policy of deserters and Jim Bourne spoke to the troops. Mirko Markovics continues to be marginalized and he is irritated that Vincent Usera (who also showed weakness at Brunete) was given a hand by the troops. At the end of the evening, Lou Secundy of AutoPark made up the transit Salvo Conductos for those going forward.
Merriman made a note in the diary that he added additional notes on the September 21 page. This is actually pretty telling for Merriman that he would place his additional comments at such a date. His diary would run until December 31 but he had made the decision at this point that he would probably not need diary pages after September 21. One can only imagine the fatalistic images that were going through Merriman’s mind if he pick that date as far enough in the future for him not to worry about needing diary pages at that point.
In these additional notes, Merriman makes the statement that if Markovics had continued to lead the Battalion the attack on Brunete would never have been made. Clearly, this is hyperbole, but Merriman and Markovics were antagonistic throughout the spring of 1937. He lists comrades who had either deserted or not performed at Brunete. McGuire is likely to be Canadian Patrick McGuire. Gonshak (sic) is Samuel Gonshak. Burton is Wallace Burton who was a trainer at Pozo Rubio. Burton had been a close acquaintance of Milly Bennett. Krangel is a new name and is Morris Krangel, who will be killed in action at Fuentes del Ebro in October, 1937.
Merriman names Vanderberge (Van der Berghe) who is believed to be a Belgian in the Brigade. We are still trying to pin him down. Merriman notes that Rollin Dart is in as Commander of the Lincolns. A Russian named Kosonatchev (name uncertain) did not do well at the front. Thirty-five leaders are being replaced at the front. Walter Garland did not want to leave but clearly was being removed. Samuel Gonshak defended himself and Merriman is very explicit about what he thought of the excuse.
In the British ranks, George Aitken is advocating for Jock Cunningham, but Cunningham will be repatriated to Scotland (thanks to Mark G for correcting my chauvinism). In a rumor, Merriman hears from Frank Ryan that an American (presumably Merriman) will be promoted to Brigade Staff.
Merriman visited the Brigade headquarters at Ambite Mill and is in awe of the facilities. He says that Wiley (presumably Samuel David Wiley) criticized Joe Dallet’s handling of the disciplinary cases of Irving Weissman and Tom Hyde. Merriman says that Wiley warned him to check out the cases himself. We don’t know the result of that investigation. We do know that Merriman had released Tom Hyde from detention. Wiley warned Merriman that Dallet created problems for Merriman. Seaman Oliver continues to spread rumors and accusations, and in this case was drunk when doing so. William Edward Howe called in and was bawled out. Obviously, he was not a true deserter.