25-26 Enero Starting Training at Villanueva de la Jara

25-26 January
Robert Merriman’s diary for January 25 and 26, 1937

Settling in at Villaneuva de la Jara included building a new firing range at the edge of town.  Alan Warren sent us a photo of the cupola of the church described by Merriman and says that you still can see bullet holes in the painting inside.

Santa Clara Convent
Villanueva de la Jara. The Santa Clara Convent where the Lincolns were housed. (Credit: Alan Warren)

Ironically, there is now a supermercado (supermarket) in the building and it has a familiar acronym.

ALBA Villaneuva de la Jara
The relatives of Lincoln Vets standing in front of the Santa Clara convent in Villaneuva de la Jara where the Lincolns were housed. It is now a supermarket with an ironic acronym. (Credit: Alan Warren)
John William Parks
John William Parks1 (source: VALB-ALBA)

The names of the colleagues with Merriman on January 25 were Harris, Stember, Daduk, Kelly, Parker and what looks like “Tenbetti”.   After some discussion, it was concluded by Chris Brooks that Parker must have been John William Parks.  We will see that in less than a month, Mr. Parks will be dead in one of the more unfortunate mistakes at the Battle of Jarama.   Harris is James Harris who was to command the Lincolns with Merriman.  James Harris was Polish in nationality and Harris is a nom-de-guerre.   Lincoln veteran Robert Gladnick (in an unpublished memoir found at the Hoover Institution’s Archives) says that Harris travelled to Spain on the Normandie with the first group and used his actual name on the manifest.   To this point, all the names on the sail manifest are identified as Lincolns and a Polish name is not on the list.

Michael Kelly
Michael Kelly, Photo Source: Internationalbrigadesinspain.weebly.com.

Stember and Daduk have been discussed before.  Kelly cannot be any of the Kelly’s listed in the ALBA archives.  The closest match is Thomas Kelly who arrived in Spain on February 7, 1937, but that is too late for this diary entry.   Sandor Voros’ list (private communication from Chris Brooks) of the Lincolns at Jarama lists Kelly as a section leader in section 2 of Company 1 of the Lincolns.  Kelly is likely to be an Irish comrade.   Barry McLoughlin’s list4 of the Irish in Spain lists Michael Kelly who was  a platoon leader in the Lincoln Battalion.   Kevin Buyer’s excellent site on the International Brigades has the photograph of Michael Kelly of Galway on the right.

Brooks also suggests that Tenbetti may actually be Juan/John Landetta.  Landetta shows up on the list of Lincolns used by Adolph Ross to identify photographs after the war.  John or Juan Landetta was a Cuban American student from New York City who arrived in Spain on January 14, 1937.²  Art Landis says of the Cubans³:

“In the winning of the villager’s goodwill {in Villaneuva}, credit must also be given to a young Cuban named Rodolfo de Armas and his equally young commissar, Landetta.  De Armas and Landetta were in command of a Cuban section of approximately 60 men that had been assigned to the Lincoln Battalion.  They called themselves the Antonio Guiterras Centuria after a revolutionary student, a victim of the Machado terror.  De Armas and Landetta had also fought against the early Machado dictatorship of Cuba….”

Antonia Guiterras Centuria on the march in Barcelona. Landetta and De Armas are the head of this column.  The story behind identifying the men in this photo is given in the Volunteer magazine.



¹ John Tisa, Recalling the Good Fight, Bergin & Garvey Publishers, Inc., 1985

² Cadre List, Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

³ Art Landis, The Abraham Lincoln Brigade, ibid. p.31

4 Barry McLoughlin, Fighting for Republican Spain, Lulu.com, ISBN 9781291968392