27-28 Agosto The International Brigades move north without food

August 27-28, 1937

Robert Merriman’s diary for August 27 and 28, 1937

Codo

Panorama of Codo. ALBA PHOTO 11-1266, Tamiment Library, NYU

With Quinto behind the Brigade, there is a short breather to try to explain the overall ambitious plan for the Aragon offensive.   Attacks took place from the Republican army on the Fascists all the way from the Basque region to Teruel.  The XVth Brigade was about in the midpoint of the attacks.  Kleber’s army division advanced to within six kilometers of Zaragoza.  Lister’s  motorized troops made an attack on Fuentes del Ebro but were not able to get closer than 1.8 km.   The XVth is being readied for another push where they will solidify the left flank and head to Belchite.   From Quinto this means going through the already taken town of Codo, between Belchite and Quinto.   A description of the order of battle can be found on this website.

Aragon

A map of the Aragon region under attack. The northern salient has approached Zaragoza and Quinto is taken. The front needs to be pushed westward.

Art Landis¹ makes the point that this whole offensive was to turn the Nationalist forces away from Bilbao, but on 25 August, Bilbao and the Euskadi fell.   Only parts of the Asturian region remained in Loyalist hands.   And, Franco had sufficient forces at this point to fight on several fronts so they were not diverted from the Basque region until they were no longer needed.  Shortly hundreds of airplanes and thousands of Italians would be available to move south to counter the Loyalist push.  The window of opportunity where the Fascist troops would not be reinforced was closing rapidly.

Merriman heads north to find the Dimitrov Battalion and realizes that the Brigade is outrunning its supply lines.  They managed to bring up a hospital train to remove the wounded, but they were without food and without trucks to move.  The whole Brigade had only 20 trucks.   Merriman went with Bill Skinner, Sid Shostek and “Morry”.   Morry could be Maurice Stamm or Maury Colow or any one of a number of Morris’s or Maurices.   It likely could be Maurice Constant who was on staff and who was slightly injured in Quinto.  They come under attack by artillery and machine guns and then they come under bombardment by brand new shiny Italian Caproni bombers.   Merriman returns to Quinto and ends up taking a bath in a ditch filled with “very fine water”.   The Brigade Headquarters are in a culvert under the road and Merriman has trouble keeping people out of the HQ because it probably is one of the safer places to be.  In a curious sentence, Merriman combines “Much food and fear” with what looks to be “spoon bent” .   One wonders if Merriman had an engraved spoon from Marion Greenspan with this phrase.  We may never know what this is about.

The next day does not bring better news about food.  While the Brigade is resting and not moving, they are not eating either.  Merriman says this has to be cured of there will be a riot.  Lou Secundy moves up to the front from the Autopark to help with logistics.  Secundy promises another 30 trucks for the Brigade.  Logistics are costing the Brigade the element of momentum.  They have the concentration of troops for attacks (Merriman says “several”) but they are not fed and cannot move, except on foot.

Merriman and Copic are busy with some administrivia on nominations for promotions.  Copic makes decisions on the grades leaders of various size groups should have.   Merriman says that the 102a Brigada Mixta, which was the XVth Brigade’s side of the Ebro and ahead of them, is very inexperienced and that he appreciates the help of the 11th Brigade under Lister who are helping out in field movements and organization.

 

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¹ Art Landis, The Abraham Lincoln Brigade, ibid, pp 261-280.