Merriman finished his thoughts on September 29 by saying that the Lincolns and the Mac-Paps were coming along nicely now but that the British still remained a problem. Jim Bourne and Pete Hampkins were still in Valencia at the gathering there and Merriman was worried about when they would get back. He had notice that the Fascists had broken the hold of the Brigades on the road between Huesca and Zaragosa and that they would soon move up to counterattack and try to take back the road. He gives us the route that they would take from Almochuel to Torralba de Aragón which was a distance of 135 kilometers (See the map below).
The plan was to move in 32 trucks on this route which circled the Aragon front at the end of September. Merriman says that the drivers took a day and a half to get to them and when they arrived, the drivers were beat. They wanted to start out but the trucks were out of gas and the ones that had mechanical problems had no mechanics to fix them. “No nothing”.
On the 30th of September, they started out with Merriman in Dave Doran’s car. Because the Fascists had counterattacked north of Zaragosa, they had to swing further east and the route is shown in the next Google Maps© image.
Merriman meets with someone named Denner (not an American) who explained the transports situation to him. They were waiting on more trucks and Denner wondered where the trucks that Merriman had came from. He told him to hold the trucks and don’t give them up because the XVth Brigade was going into reserve positions and might have to run back to Mediana (retracing the steps they just took) if the fighting there degraded.
Merriman places the men in Senes which is a few kilometers southwest of Robres and awaits orders. He finds a headquarters on the second floor of a building. There are not many homes in Senes and fewer with two floors. It is likely that it was one of the ones on the right. Copic is sick and is out of action. The Brigade was bombed on the 30th but had support from a Czechoslovakian anti-aircraft battery.
Art Landis gives an overview of the next week:
On September 24, while Modesto fought before Fuentes and Sillero, the mixed Italian-Spanish Flechas (Arrows) Division, under the Italian colonel Isasi, attacked strongly in the direction of Zuera. Isasi had the use of five squadrons of planes, many artillery batteries, and a complete company of tanks. His objective was the Republican bridgehead across the Gallego River, which had severed the rail and road connections between Zaragoza and Huesca. By September 29, since no attempt was made to re-enforce the exhausted men of Trueba’s 27th Division, most of Isasi’s objectives were realized.
….. At the same time, a sweeping Republican victory was in the act of being won by a well-coordinated Catalan effort in the vicinity of the border city of Jaca. …. But the Catalans not only held; they also began additional attacks to the south of Jaca and above Huesca.
It was at this time that the 15th Brigade was rushed to Grañen, in the area below Huesca. It was supposed that it would be used either to implement and further the advance of the Catalans or to aid the troops of Trueba against the mixed Spanish-Italian division pushing from recaptured Zuera.¹
(More to follow in future posts).
¹Landis, The Abraham-Lincoln Brigade, ibid. pp 312-3.