9-10 Junio School Days

June 9-10, 1937

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 leading close order drill and Merriman gives them criticism.    Joe is probably Joe Dougher since Joe Dallet is mentioned separately on the next sentences.   Joe 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 the orders² say that he is “needed by his father”.  “Papa” arrives with papers for his departure. This is an intriguing mix of sentences.   Mike Pappas was introduced during this week and that is a possible ID for Papa or that Azar will be going on orders from the American party.

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.   Lawrence is indeed identified in late May in a list of Brigade Commissars in RGASPI.³   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 explicitly that she was never a member of the Party.  Perhaps if she joined the Spanish Communist Party, 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  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.4

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

² RGASPI Fond 545/Opis 2/Delo 51, page 290.

³ RGASPI Fond 545/Opis 1/Delo 45, pp 41-42.

4 Nelson, American Radical, ibid.