15-16 Junio “Something in Air”

June 15-16
Robert Merriman’s diary for June 15 and June 16, 1937

Merriman’s diary gives us some important hints about the Brigade on the 15th and 16th.  His day on the 15th begins with training at Tarazona under what looks like “Masten” or “Martin”.  This soldier’s name is not confirmed at this point but we suggested Raphael Fernandez Martin yesterday.  However, it would have been likely that Raphael would have gone by the matronymic Fernandez.

After criticizing the training session, Merriman hurries to Albacete for the departure of Tadeusz Oppman who will go to the 13th “Dombrosky” Brigade as Chief of Staff.  Oppman admits uncertainty about his ability to do the job.   Merriman had previously thought that Oppman was too much the lawyer (his occupation) and not a military leader.  At lunch, where champagne was served, Roblet spoke about the need to do 20 hours of preparation for a single 1 hour attack.  The Russian phrase пара слов (“para clov”) is translated as “a few words…”   The champagne must have been flowing as Roblet sends up Copic, sarcastically talking about the “General” who gave orders to attack.  This would have resonated with Merriman who never forgave Copic for his orders on the 27th of February.  More on this below.

Arriving back at Tarazona after lunch, Merriman looks for the machine gun company and doesn’t find them.  He says Wallach is a problem.  This must be Albert Wallach.  Harry Wallach was wounded at Jarama and would have been in hospital at this time.   Albert Wallach had a history of desertion throughout his time in Spain.

Joe Dallet gave a lecture which apparently met with Merriman’s approval.  Marion Merriman is also given a favorable report here.  An “Evans” (probably Canadian Lloyd Evans) tangled with Merriman and was moved out to the Armory.   Lloyd Evans would have an unfavorable biographical review which said that he was a “demoralized element” and had a “habit of taking sick every time there was active service”.  Evans would write a request for repatriation saying “I know that my staying here will not win the war.  And sending me home will save a lot of trouble.”¹

Merriman repeats a rumor that the Germans bombed Marseilles and that France was now entering the war.  This never happened, but hope reigns eternal.  This would have opened the border for men and equipment to come through France.

On the 16th,  Merriman stayed over in Tarazona and after inspection and giving orders for the day, he drove over to Pozo Rubio with Canadian Lucien Tellier, who was a driver in the Auto Park.  The maneuvers of the morning went “swell” and Merriman was pleased in the attack pattern.  He returned back to Tarazona with Ed Flaherty (who was supposed to have left Albacete on June 1 to return to the US).  Merriman meets with the Anti-tank company but crosses horns with Harry Katzin who was a new arrival in Spain and assigned to the anti-tanks on the 15th of June.  Katzin must have made a remark about being able to lead the Battalion which would not have set well with Merriman.  He lectured for the rest of the afternoon and in the evening made contact with Lou Secundy at the Auto Park about getting a vehicle.

There is a cryptic sentence about Perry having 157 passing him up at Tarancon.  We now believe that this person is Perrey who was an adjutant to Vidal in Albacete base.  There is a Raul Perrey who signed a carnet, but his nationality remains a mystery.

Vladimir Copic, ALBA Photo 177-177079, Tamiment Archive, NYU
Harry Haywood, ALBA Photo 177-179056, Tamiment Archive, NYU

Merriman goes to Albacete and meets with Schalbroeck.   He gets settled that the Mac-Paps will not get the Anti-tank Company.  The Anti-Tank Company goes to the British Battalion.  In a confusing sentence he says that “car arranged for Bon et al.”  That could be an abbreviation for arranging for a car for the Battalion.

Bender and Brodsky go with him to the Autopark.  Returning he has a meeting with Ed Bender.  Allan Johnson phones and says something important.  Merriman calls Bill Lawrence.  He says “Something in Air”.  We know now that on the 16th of June, the American leadership presented a united front to Vladimir Copic telling him that he did not have the confidence of his soldiers. Copic was asked to consider resigning by Harry Haywood, who was a member of the Comintern, and probably with Lawrence were the highest ranking American communists in Albacete at the time.   This mini-coup is shown in the Spanish version of Copic’s own diary:

Copic's Diary
Vladimir Copic’s diary for June 18-25, 1937. The entry for the 18th is relevant to Merriman’s diary, Source: Comintern Record Fond 545/Opus 3/Delo 467, Tamiment Library, NYU

In this page (click on it to enlarge) Copic relates in Spanish that he met with “H” who is believed to be Harry Haywood who related to Copic that he does not have the confidence of the men.  Haywood says that whether the lack of confidence is warranted or not, the issue is that a Copic should self-critically examine whether he can continue to lead.  Copic figures it out quickly and threatens Haywood with arrest if he continues to talk about it with the men.   Copic will continue as Brigade Commander and the mini-revolt of the Americans is suppressed.  In a telling statement of Copic’s view of the Americans and English, he did not have this diary entry translated from Spanish into English.   In the English version it says “The XVth Brigade spends most of the month at rest”.   The passage translated above does appear in the German version of the diary in the Tamiment archive.

Returning to the remaining sentences of Merriman’s diary, he meets with Tom Wintringham who just spent five weeks with Kitty Bowler. Wintringham has arrived to take over the training at Pozorubio.  On the 15th Vidal will appoint Wintringham to Camp Pozorubio  and assign Merriman  the leadership of the third training battalion in Tarazona.

Merriman finishes the day meeting with Pierre Lamotte who now was serving as Armorer.  He attempts to get 7000 units of something which looks like “Austrian” but probably  refers to rifles or other munitions.


¹ RGASPI Fond 545/Opis 6/Delo 547, pg 95.