Category Archives: Brunete

31 Julio Merriman Assigns No. 1, 2, 3. You don’t want to be on this list.

July 31, 1937

Robert Merriman’s Diary for July 31, 1937

Back from the Mac-Pap night training, Merriman has time to deal with political issues in the Brigade.   The Mac-Paps assemble in the church for speeches by John Miller, of the CPUSA, and Joe Lash, of the American Students Union.  Joe Dallet was not impressed with the speech.   In a session of criticism and explaining party policy, Joe Dallet is discussed in the sense of repatriation of CP Party Cadres who should be saved.  In the party meeting, Bob Thompson is discussed in this regard as is Haywood and Merriman.   Joe Dallet must have had the strongest opinions on sending back the weakest comrades.  Merriman hoped that Dallet would point the finger at Harry Haywood but Haywood was in the room and Dallet did not speak up.  Merriman himself was going to suggest Bob Thompson to be sent home, but he chickened out.  This clearing the decks must have been an important opportunity to have the leadership of the brigade allow weak military leaders to be sent home without losing face (i.e. saving the best cadres).   In any case, Haywood must have known that he was on the chopping block (as he himself said in his memoir) and while returning home would have been desirable from a self-preservation point of view, it would also be considered a disgrace back in the US.   The meeting also gives mention about Prieto’s desire that all units have at least 25% Spanish troops in them.   The Americans balk at this since they fought hard to get an English only speaking brigade.  But after this point, the Brigade would have one Spanish Battalion to balance the demographics.

Mirko Markovics is back from Brunete after having stood up to Hans Klaus and having been removed from command.  Markovics indicts Cunningham for “poor work”.  Several of the Americans, including Haywood and Garland, had run ins with Jock Cunningham.  Mirkovics tells about missing direction by several kilometers at the front.  Nelson also spoke about trying to supply Americans on the front by two burros and getting misdirected so that they walked right into fascist lines.  He has to shoot the burro to keep it from defecting to the Fascist troops.  The burro was carrying ammunition and a bag of shoes for the Americans.¹

After some laughs and story telling,  Merriman and the staff had a late night poker session.  Merriman mentions “Ruby” in this section and Steve Nelson mentioned another name in his memoir, “The Volunteers”¹, Ruby Ryant who was the head of the Machine Gun Company.   It is quite possible that the “Ruby” who was previously identified in the diary could have been Rubin Ryant.  Ryant was on the machine guns at Brunete and then became Adjutant to Sid Levine about this time.  By Quinto, in a month’s time, Ryant would be commissar in the Machine Gun Company with Manny Lanser as the Company Commander.  About this time as well, a young recruit named Milt Wolff moved up from being an ammunition carrier to being section leader in Lanser’s Machine Gun Company.²  Milt Wolff recollected poorly this reassignment in the tapes made for Landis’ book.³   Wolff would end the war as Commander of the Lincoln Battalion.

In the notes at the end of the month, Merriman writes down his top 3 on the “Hall of Shame”.   Number 1 is George Brodsky who Merriman calls a “bad man”.  Number 2 is Harry Haywood for weakness in leadership as discussed earlier in the diary.  Number three is Dave Mates who is a real disappointment to Merriman.  Why he is going home “shamed – disgraced” is never discussed.  Merriman also mentions that Walter Garland would be going back home.  Garland “deserted to the front” rather than staying in training at Pozo Rubio where he was in June.

We have not heard much of Marion Merriman in recent pages, since she is working with Bill Lawrence and Ed Bender at the American Cadres Service in Albacete.  Merriman notes that they will go to the American Hospital at Villa Paz which by this time must have been overflowing with injured and dying from the Battle of Brunete.  Phil Bard picked them up.  Bard was the American Base Commissar at Albacete and may have been at Villa Paz to come get the Base Staff.

Finally, in some reassignments, Merriman requested Pierre Lamotte to come to Tarazona.   Merriman really liked Lamotte and found him a “fine fellow” since late January.  Lamotte continually bounced around the rear until he was arrested and accused of stealing.  He would return to the US in 1938.

In a clarification of Merriman’s hand, we now see that the “Rolphe or Robbie” on the previous pages is indeed John Quigley Robinson, who will become the Commissar of the Lincoln Battalion.  Robinson will take the Seaman’s Machine Gun Company with him.  Merriman must have been thrilled to get rid of Seaman Oliver and his problems.  Kevin Buyers sent along an interesting photo from the Paul Burns photo collection which shows unnamed American seamen.  Matt White (private communication) believes that the man front right is Barney Spaulding and that the man back right may be Virgil Morris.

American Seamen

American Seamen at Jarama, 1937. From the Paul Burns Photo Collection, Tamiment Library, NYU

_____________________________

¹ Steve Nelson, The Volunteers, ibid, p. 106.

² Landis, The Abraham Lincoln Brigade, ibid., pg 216 and 247.

³ Milton Wolff to Art Landis, The Art Landis Audio Collection, ALBA AUDIO 66, Tamiment Library, NYU.

 

29-30 Julio “Tough Luck, George”

July 29-30,1937

Robert Merriman’s diary for July 29 and July 30, 1937

William Frame

William Frame at the Brigade Intendencia, December 1937, ALBA Photo 11-0683

In a very busy two days in the diary, Merriman lets us know that Lucien Vidal who has been leading the Albacete base since December 1936 has been removed.   Clear from the diary is that the removal was not welcome and that Vidal held hard feelings.  His comment when Merriman said he would see him in Paris, “I hope I shall return to Spain”.   The party for Vidal gave him short approbation and shorter applause.  Vidal would be replaced by Comrade Bielov, a Russian who would lead the base into 1938.   William Frame and Dave Doran were working behind the scenes in this turn-over.  Frame was the head of the Intendencia at this point and gave a talk about how the Guard Nacionale (the Intendencia) was the best in Spain at this point.   Frame apparently stepped in it by giving a compliment to Vidal.  While Vidal’s memoir does not discuss his removal (except in a very academic debrief of his experience in Spain at the end of the memoir) it apparently had to do with mismanagement of funds and the Intendencia itself so there is a subtext running through Merriman’s notations here.

Merriman says that Ed Bender had a case of nerves when he returned from the front at Brunete.  On the 29th, things were not going well for the Lincolns and as they retreated, some men were killed.  George Nathan, the Regimental Commander of the Brigades was killed 17 kilometers behind the lines from a bomb fragment.  Steve Nelson recalled it:

Ahead, under the trees, we saw smoke rising from the camouflaged kitchen, saw the crews of the anti-aircraft guns moving about.  The lovely smell of burro stew floated through the still air.  Major Nathan, in charge of the withdrawal, strolled across the field. “Steve, old chap!  Welcome home.  Come along, you old Yank, have a bit of a snifter.  I’ve been saving this for you.  An Englishman’s drink.

He raise a tin cup solemnly, cocked an eyebrow at me, “To our new Brigade Commissar. Mud in your eye, sir!”

“You mean — me?”

“Certainly. You will have official notice shortly, but I assure you — I say!”

The drone of motors.  We craned our necks, peering at the sky.  “There they are — coming over the mountains.  Oh, the bloody — Best hit for cover, eh?  Over that wall — a ditch”

We ran like deer.  The anti-aircraft let loose, all five guns at once, but the planes were flying very low.  The thud of bombs came from beyond the grove, and instantly the planes were overhead.  Nathan yelled, “Drop!” and I burrowed into the dirt.  My holster was under me.  If I could get the holster out, my behind would come down a few miles.  I tugged at the holster, and an enormous crash deafened and blinded me.  The bomb had burst right beside me seemingly.  But I was all in one piece.

Nathan was calling “I’m hit Steve!”  I ran to Nathan ripped open his shirt.  There was a three inch gash in his breast , with only a speck of blood oozing out;  I thought at first it was just a scratch, but Nathan’s face twisted with pain.  It must be bad.  I yelled frantically for first aid, and a couple of men came running.  Nathan couldn’t speak.  He was clawing at his Sam Browne belt; he dragged it off, and handed it to me, and his gesture said “Take it — I’m through”.¹

Although Walter Garland would commandeer an ambulance to rush Nathan to the hospital, he died that evening.  Garland would be reprimanded for stealing the ambulance.  Nelson felt that he had ironed out the theft of the ambulance, but from Merriman’s diary we see that this counted against Garland.

Merriman’s comment: “Tough luck, Geo.”

Merriman met John Miller in Albacete.  Miller is likely John Miller of Windsor, Canada, who was a Communist organizer since 1933.²  Merriman also says that Winkler will leave as will Schalbroeck.   This is quite a turnover at Albacete since Winkler was the personnel officer of the International Brigades.   Merriman says that there will be a new political commissar at the Base as soon as he hikes in from France.

Arnold Reid

Arnold Reid, RGASPI Photo Fond 545/Opus 6/ Delo 970

On the 30th, the political leaders of the American brigades, John Miller, Ed Bender, Harry Haywood, Bill Lawrence, and Jack Reid arrived to discuss a new International Brigade policy on repatriation.  Jack Reid was Arnold Reid (a.k.a. Arnold Reisky), an American who worked in the Paris Office of the brigades and helped channel Americans to Spain.²  The Comintern (CI) worried that leading communist cadres were being killed in increasing numbers and they were reserving the right for themselves to identify Brigadistas for repatriation to their countries.

Niilo Makela

Niilo Makela, as Commissar of the Mac-Paps, 1938. ALBA Photo 11-1281, Tamiment Library, NYU

In the midst of the discussion, a maneuver between Companies 2 and 3 of the Mac-Paps took place at night.  This competition involved Bill Skinner, Bill Lawrence, and Niilo Makela of Canada, against Merriman, Joe Dallet, and John Miller.   Merriman says euphemistically “they never laid a hand on me” (while the objective was to take prisoners).

At the end of the diary pages, Merriman notes that Mirko Marcovics was removed from command of the Washington Battalion for not following orders.   At this point in the battle of Brunete, the Lincolns and Washingtons were so decimated that there really only was one Battalion left and probably only the need for one Commander.  Peter Carroll tells the story:

At one point, the new officers of the Lincoln-Washington battalion — Markovicz, Nelson and Garland (before he was wounded) — were ordered to a meeting with brigade Colonel Klaus, a Prussian officer who had replaced the wounded Copic.  Bringing out a contour map, he directed the Americans to move their men to an exposed position in order to protect a company of Spanish marines.  “A deep silence fell on the group as the Colonels’ words were translated”, remembered Nelson;  ‘we all seemed to get the gist of the urgency of his words before they were translated.” Markovicz, speaking to Nelson in their native Serbo-Croatian, said “This can’t be done.  I am against it.”  Klaus, sensing the response, eyed Marcovicz and responded, “That’s an order”.

Still speaking in their own language, Nelson asked Marcovicz how they could disobey the colonel.  “If you accept this order,” said the experienced Markovicz, “I will hold you responsible before the Americans back home for whatever happens.”  Unable to understand this conversation, Klaus demanded that they speak in English, with which his translator was familiar.  “We have no time to waste,” he said, demanding that Marcovicz gave him a clear answer.

“Commander Klaus,” the Yugoslav replied, “this is a disastrous order. I will not order the American battalion to carry out this order because it will result in a disaster, like the one at Jarama”.  As he spoke, Marcovicz kept his eye on Nelson, looking for support.  “He should have known,” the commissar {Nelson} later reported, “that I had no choice … we could not disobey an order”.

“Marcovicz, I gave you an order which I received from division,” Klaus declared.  “You and I are under military orders.  This is not a debating discussion here.  We must act, especially since we are International Brigades, whose role is to develop discipline”.

“Then,” Nelson reported, “Klaus stood up and with unmistakable military bearing said “I order you to carry out the order”.  Markovicz also stood up and said “Colonel Klaus, I cannot carry out this order.”

“Then Klaus stepped closer to Markovicz and extended his hand and said, ‘Marcovicz, I order you to surrender your weapon'”

“Marcovicz reached for his pistol and with an expression of obedience and surrender he handed the gun to Klaus.”  Taking the pistol, the Colonel turned and passed it to Nelson, along with the responsibility for carrying out the order.³

Nelson returned to the men and told them they had to go back into the fire.  The men could not believe that they would be sent back to certain death.  Nelson told them that they had to do it or they would be fighting the fascists where they were on the next day.  The Americans mustered to march, but did not have to have to take the lines as other Spanish reinforcements were brought up and the Americans were allowed to retire from the Battle of Brunete.  In this exchange, Nelson’s standing rose dramatically and Marcovics’ fell.

_______________________________

¹ Steve Nelson, The Volunteers, Masses and Mainstream, New York, 1953, pp 166-168.

² Cecil Eby, Comrades and Commissars, ibid., p 145.

³ Peter Carroll, The Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, ibid., p143-144.

7-8 Julio “Boys deserted from the Lincolns and brought news of Hourihan”

July 7-8, 1937

Robert Merriman’s diary for July 7 and 8, 1937

Merriman’s matter of fact tone throughout the diary rarely gives a view into his real feelings.   The diary oscillates between news about the war and trivia about Marion buying a dress.   Merriman must have still have been on R&R this morning in Villaneuva de la Jara because he woke late at 11 am.   He met with the Mayor and his cousin who was blind and played the mandolin.   Merriman gives  a hint of why they made the loop through Iniesta on the prior days:  Suarez and Delgado got two girls in trouble and he was looking for an accredited doctor who could end the pregnancy.   In Catholic Spain this was no small matter.  Delgado is believed to be Emilio Delgado Mariano.   Suarez is believed to be Julius Ruiz Suarez or Luis Suarez Pineiro.   Both are Cubans.

Merriman says that the officials in Cuenca turned over rifles to him and shells.   Whether this was to reduce the possibility of fifth columnists getting weapons or just to provide more support to the internationals is not known.  The town of Cuenca is some 90 km north of Villaneuva de la Jara.

Merriman says he has a lazy afternoon, playing dominoes.

Oliver Law

Oliver Law

Later on the 7th, Merriman returned to Albacete and met with Lawrence, Schalbroeck (typo in transcription) and Briton Robert Traill.  Settling some questions and still fighting over getting a Staff car, which would be black not green,  Merriman gets some news of the offensive that started the day before and says that 30 battalions (about 20000 – 30000 men) had advanced 11-12 miles. This is the Battle of Brunete which began the first week of July 1937.   It is telling that Merriman knows nothing of the offensive until he is told on July 7.  The offensive was well concealed from anyone who might leak this information to the Fascists.  The initial advance would take the Brigades from Valdemorillo to the vicinity of Villanueva de la Cañada where the offensive stalled for a day and the Lincoln and Washington Battalions were taken from reserve and thrown into action to take the town.  In bitter fighting, we find the next day that Marty Hourihan was wounded and is out of the line.   This puts Oliver Law in charge of the Lincoln Battalion.

Merriman finds out that Vidal is on the warpath over some artillery pieces which were taken off by the Spanish Battalions.   Vidal threatens to pull the Americans out of Almansa where the artillery groups trained.   The International Brigades never fielded a significant artillery unit although Canadians and Americans served in batteries such as the John Brown Battery and the 45th Brigade.   Somehow two Colonels did not get absorbed into the new units and went off with the artillery.   Bill Lawrence will have to take the issue up at Brigade Headquarters.     Merriman meets with Bender, Lawrence, Thompson and Traill in the evening.  He misses Vidal and hints that Vidal was trying to round up supplies for the front.  Merriman would keep his grenades.  One should recall that Vidal was directly responsible for the Artillery group in Almansa and his difficulties in maintaining control of a group who felt that they were spinning their wheels without artillery to train on must have been difficult.

Merriman literally goes shopping for telephones and supplies.  Marion looks for a dress.  Merriman again talks with “Marsly” to get “regulations”, which may mean regulation issue from the Intendencia.   There is no Marsly in the British, Canadian, American or French ranks.  There is a Paul Marsaillaz who was in the 50th Battalion of the 13th Brigade but  the connection to him is unlikely and speculative.   Merriman obtains a heliograph for communications and some wire to go with his telephones.   The town of La Roda appears to be a headquarters for the Transmiciones unit.

Merriman lets us know that he will go to Madrid on the 9th of July to get shoes for the men.   As mentioned on previous pages, Anna Louise Strong arrived with nearly $10,000 in cash so that the Americans could be outfitted with real boots, instead of Alparagatas (the rope soled sandals).  This would be a shopping trip to get these supplies.  Merriman says that there already is an ambulance in Madrid loaded with supplies.   With the Battle of Brunete on at this point, a spare ambulance is a real luxury for the training battalions.  Merriman relates to his diary that he will leave Bob Thompson in charge.

29-30 Julio “Tough Luck George”

July 29-30

Robert Merriman’s diary of July 29 and July 30

William Frame

William Frame at the Brigade Intendencia, December 1937, ALBA Photo 11-0683

In a very busy two days in the diary, Merriman lets us know that Lucien Vidal who has been leading the Albacete base since December 1936 has been removed.   Clear from the diary is that the removal was not welcome and that Vidal held hard feelings.  His comment when Merriman said he would see him in Paris, “I hope I shall return to Spain”.   The party for Vidal gave him short approbation and shorter applause.  Vidal would be replaced by “Biloff”, an unknown name for me.   William Frame and Dave Doran were working behind the scenes in this turn-over.

Merriman says that Ed Bender had a case of nerves when he returned from the front at Brunete.  On the 29th, things were not going well for the Lincolns and as they retreated, some men were killed.  George Nathan, the Regimental Commander of the Brigades was killed 17 kilometers behind the lines from a bomb fragment.  Steve Nelson recalled it:

Ahead, under the trees, we saw smoke rising from the camouflaged kitchen, saw the crews of the anti-aircraft guns moving about.  The lovely smell of burro stew floated through the still air.  Major Nathan, in charge of the withdrawal, strolled across the field. “Steve, old chap!  Welcome home.  Come along, you old Yank, have a bit of a snifter.  I’ve been saving this for you.  An Englishman’s drink.

He raise a tin cup solemnly, cocked an eyebrow at me, “To our new Brigade Commissar. Mud in your eye, sir!”

“You mean — me?”

“Certainly. You will have official notice shortly, but I assure you — I say!”

The drone of motors.  We craned our necks, peering at the sky.  “There they are — coming over the mountains.  Oh, the bloody — Best hit for cover, eh?  Over that wall — a ditch”

We ran like deer.  The anti-aircraft let loose, all five guns at once, but the planes were flying very low.  The thud of bombs came from beyond the grove, and instantly the planes were overhead.  Nathan yelled, “Drop!” and I burrowed into the dirt.  My holster was under me.  If I could get the holster out, my behind would come down a few miles.  I tugged at the holster, and an enormous crash deafened and blinded me.  The bomb had burst right beside me seemingly.  But I was all in one piece.

Nathan was calling “I’m hit Steve!”  I ran to Nathan ripped open his shirt.  There was a three inch gash in his breast , with only a speck of blood oozing out;  I thought at first it was just a scratch, but Nathan’s face twisted with pain.  It must be bad.  I yelled frantically for first aid, and a couple of men came running.  Nathan couldn’t speak.  He was clawing at his Sam Browne belt; he dragged it off, and handed it to me, and his gesture said “Take it — I’m through”.¹

Although Walter Garland would commandeer an ambulance to rush Nathan to the hospital, he died that evening.  Garland would be reprimanded for stealing the ambulance.  Nelson felt that he had ironed out the theft of the ambulance, but from Merriman’s diary we see that this counted against Garland.

Merriman’s comment: “Tough luck, Geo.”

Merriman met John Miller in Albacete.  Miller is likely John Miller of Windsor, Canada, who was a Communist organizer since 1933.²  Merriman also says that “Winkler” will leave as will Schalbroeck.   This is quite a turnover at Albacete since Winkler was the personnel officer of the International Brigades.   The remaining lines of this paragraph are unclear.

Arnold Reid

Arnold Reid, RGASPI Photo Fond 545/Opus 6/ Delo 970

On the 30th, the political leaders of the American brigades, John Miller, Ed Bender, Harry Haywood, Bill Lawrence, and Jack Reid arrived to discuss a new International Brigade policy on repatriation.  Jack Reid was Arnold Reid (a.k.a. Arnold Reisky), an American who worked in the Paris Office of the brigades and helped channel Americans to Spain.²  The Comintern (CI) worried that leading communist cadres were being killed in increasing numbers and they were reserving the right for themselves to identify Brigadistas for repatriation to their countries.

Niilo Makela

Niilo Makela, as Commissar of the Mac-Paps, 1938. ALBA Photo 11-1281, Tamiment Library, NYU

In the midst of the discussion, a maneuver between Companies 2 and 3 of the Mac-Paps took place at night.  This competition involved Bill Skinner, Bill Lawrence, and Niilo Makela of Canada, against Merriman, Joe Dallet, and John Miller.   Merriman says euphemistically “they never laid a hand on me” (while the objective was to take prisoners).

At the end of the diary pages, Merriman notes that Mirko Marcovics was removed from command of the Washington Battalion for not following orders.   At this point in the battle of Brunete, the Lincolns and Washingtons were so decimated that there really only was one Battalion left and probably only the need for one Commander.  Peter Carroll tells the story:

At one point, the new officers of the Lincoln-Washington battalion — Markovicz, Nelson and Garland (before he was wounded) — were ordered to a meeting with brigade Colonel Klaus, a Prussian officer who had replaced the wounded Copic.  Bringing out a contour map, he directed the Americans to move their men to an exposed position in order to protect a company of Spanish marines.  “A deep silence fell on the group as the Colonels’ words were translated”, remembered Nelson;  ‘we all seemed to get the gist of the urgency of his words before they were translated.” Markovicz, speaking to Nelson in their native Serbo-Croatian, said “This can’t be done.  I am against it.”  Klaus, sensing the response, eyed Marcovicz and responded, “That’s an order”.

Still speaking in their own language, Nelson asked Marcovicz how they could disobey the colonel.  “If you accept this order,” said the experienced Markovicz, “I will hold you responsible before the Americans back home for whatever happens.”  Unable to understand this conversation, Klaus demanded that they speak in English, with which his translator was familiar.  “We have no time to waste,” he said, demanding that Marcovicz gave him a clear answer.

“Commander Klaus,” the Yugoslav replied, “this is a disastrous order. I will not order the American battalion to carry out this order because it will result in a disaster, like the one at Jarama”.  As he spoke, Marcovicz kept his eye on Nelson, looking for support.  “He should have known,” the commissar {Nelson} later reported, “that I had no choice … we could not disobey an order”.

“Marcovicz, I gave you an order which I received from division,” Klaus declared.  “You and I are under military orders.  This is not a debating discussion here.  We must act, especially since we are International Brigades, whose role is to develop discipline”.

“Then,” Nelson reported, “Klaus stood up and with unmistakable military bearing said “I order you to carry out the order”.  Markovicz also stood up and said “Colonel Klaus, I cannot carry out this order.”

“Then Klaus stepped closer to Markovicz and extended his hand and said, ‘Marcovicz, I order you to surrender your weapon'”

“Marcovicz reached for his pistol and with an expression of obedience and surrender he handed the gun to Klaus.”  Taking the pistol, the Colonel turned and passed it to Nelson, along with the responsibility for carrying out the order.³

Nelson returned to the men and told them they had to go back into the fire.  The men could not believe that they would be sent back to certain death.  Nelson told them that they had to do it or they would be fighting the fascists where they were on the next day.  The Americans mustered to march, but did not have to have to take the lines as other Spanish reinforcements were brought up and the Americans were allowed to retire from the Battle of Brunete.  In this exchange, Nelson’s standing rose dramatically and Marcovics’ fell.

_______________________________

¹ Steve Nelson, The Volunteers, Masses and Mainstream, New York, 1953, pp 166-168.

² Cecil Eby, Comrades and Commissars, ibid., p 145.

³ Peter Carroll, The Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, ibid., p143-144.

1-2 Julio “Dozens of things happened at once”

July 1 and July 2

Robert Merriman’s diary from July 1 and July 2, 1937

In a very busy two days in the diary, Bob Merriman tells his diary much and holds back some things he must have known.  On July 2, the Lincoln and Washington Battalions were ordered up to the lines for the “push”, the Battle of Brunete.  Probably for security reasons, Merriman doesn’t write much about this in his diary.  Instead he deals with visitors to Tarazona de la Mancha.

July 1 was “Dominion Day” in Canada, now known as “Canada Day”, the Canadian national holiday.   To recognize this, the head of the Canadian Communist Party, Albert Alexander MacLeod, showed up in Tarazona to greet the men and lecture {Note that Victor Hoar makes a mistake and says that this was Allan Dowd, unless this is an alias}.¹   They formally announce that the new Battalion will be called the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion (Merriman misspells Mackenzie).  Merriman states that this is not a political unit but a military unit, probably to assuage the Americans would be in the new Battalion.  From the tone of the diary, it sounds like Joe Dallet, the Commissar, had to sell the idea of the name to the Battalion.  It is likely that the Canadians were excited about having recognition.   Ron Liversedge recalls the visit:

We did have one visitor to the base who was welcome, especially to us Canadians, and that was our own A. A. MacLeod.  MacLeod was sat that time the national secretary of the Canadian League Against War and Fascism, and was later to serve a couple of terms as a communist MPP in the Ontario Legislative Assembly.  I cannot recall the date of MacLeod’s visit, but I think it was early July, 1937.  At any rate it was of great importance to us, as it was this visit that finally and officially established the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion of the Fifteenth International Brigade.  MacLeod spoke to the massed personnel of the base for two hours.  He gave a history of the founding of Canada, brought in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the defeat by the embattled Canadians of the new American republic’s attempted invasion of Canada, and finally the revolt of the early Canadians against the British Family Compact, led by Mackenzie and Papineau.  There was a standing ovation for MacLeod; the Americans had never heard anything like it before.  When MacLeod asked for an endorsement of a Mac-Pap Battalion, he got it one hundred per cent.  The name was confirmed a few days later by the Brigades and the Spanish Government, and Canada was officially recognized in Spain as participating in the war.  But not, of course, by the Canadian government.²

Anna Louise Strong

Anna Louise Strong, Source: wikipedia.org; Creative Commons License.

Another visitor, Anna Louise Strong, showed up in Tarazona.  Marion Merriman and Connie de la Mora both mention Anna Louise in their memoirs and she must have been a force of nature.  John Wainwright has pointed out that Anna Louise Strong’s manuscript is within the Milly Bennett papers at the Hoover Institute.   This manuscript apparently has not been published.   Anna Louise would lecture several times over the next two days.  Strong was with Milly Bennett in China in the 1920’s and was also at Moscow News in the 1930’s when Bennett was there.  It was apparent that Marion Merriman was acquainted with Anna Louise before Spain.  Marion Merriman Wachtel and Warren Lerude tell the story of the visit:

Anna Louise Strong arrived from America, having returned home from Russia earlier.  She planned to gather information for a book on the international volunteers.  We found her a room in Tarazona and caught up briefly with the news of America.  She was cheered about the program to aid the Spanish children, the most terrified victims of the war, and she wanted to talk to the American Volunteers.

Anna Louise wasn’t as trying and exhausting as usual, perhaps because she herself was exhausted.  She brought ten thousand dollars from an American philanthropist who wanted to buy boots for the Americans fighting in Spain.   It was difficult to find boots large enough for most of the Americans.  So Anna Louise set out tot find a Spanish shoe manufacturer who would make the larger-sized boots the Americans required.

After a couple of days of rest, Anna Louise summoned me, and we made the rounds of the squads and barracks so she could seek out the stories of the volunteers.  She was a good speaker with a strong voice, and she was forever talking as we moved about the men.  She was built like a pyramid, tall and heavily widening as her figure went earthward.  The men liked her because of her enthusiasm and the simplicity of her manner  The facility with which she could turn her charm on and off, almost like water from a tap, amazed me.³

Discipline still plagues Bob Merriman.   Two men appear to have “organized” a Studebaker touring car, and in going AWOL and in the process of getting out of Tarazona, crashed it into a tree near the bridge in town.  The car was totaled.   Merriman seems to be as concerned about the loss of the car as he is disciplining the “damned fool” driver.  “Frenchy” who is  French Canadian Amédée Grenier¹ came out from the Auto Parc to check out the vehicle.  He reported the loss of the vehicle and this would be a scandal for the new battalion who expected to get this car.  Merriman wanted this car.   Apparently one of the men was injured in the crash and was brought in.  No guard was left on the car and so a guard would be placed on it for the next 24 hours (after removing the plates) and on the 2nd Merriman removed the guard to say “forget it” since the car was a loss.

In this incident or a simultaneous one, Seaman William Edward Howe and a name that looks like “Drove” or “Grove” got in a shouting match with Merriman.  Chris Brooks suggests that this name may be Joseph Raymond Dione.  He demanded and got an apology (at the threat of arrest).   Howe was noted for having want to leave the Battalion and the two incidents may be related.  He says that {speculating on the next name} Albert Rollins of the Washington Battalion was looking for them so the evidence stacks up that this is a desertion gone very badly.   Rollin may also be a reference to Rollin Dart who will replace Merriman as commander of the Mac-Paps late in the summer.²

Joe Lash was in Tarazona and a party was held on the evening of the 1st.  Lash was “ambushed” and “much fun” was had.  Anna Louise Strong also spoke to the troops in the evening with Lash and Merriman.

On the 2nd of July, Merriman formally organized the leadership of the Canadian “company”.  Lieutenant Ron Liversedge is put in charge with Bill Skinner as his Alfarez.   By the end of the day, Liversedge has gone to Merriman to tell him that he is not the man for the job and he returns to the ranks.   In Liversedge’s memoir², he places this “stepping back” as much later in the summer, but clearly Merriman notes that it happened immediately.  Bill Skinner is put in charge of the Canadians and Irving Weissman, who arrived in Spain in June, is being encouraged to step up into leadership.    Hoar relates the story:

And what of Lt. Ronald Liversedge, the first officer of the original No. One Company?  Within a few days after the creation of the Mac-Paps, Liversedge had resigned his commission and returned to the ranks because he refused to adhere to Merriman’s admonition that all officers should eat in the officer’s mess.  Liversedge, said Merriman, was too democratic.¹

Merriman gets interviewed by Anna Louise Strong and focusses on the events of February 23 and 27.   It would be very interesting to see her notes on this interview.   Merriman continues to deal with the loss of the car.  “All is off now”.   This must have been a great disappointment to Merriman who was very peripatetic .    Walter Kolowsky has come back to be a trainer.

Rosenthal

Leon Rosenthal, Fond 545/Opus 6/Delo 566, RGASPI Archives, Moscow.

Merriman notes that the Lincoln Battalion and the Washington Battalion are moving out.  In a small hint of humor, Merriman gathers the men, including the men in Sanidad,  at 10 pm and tells them they are going to the “show”.  Recall that departures for the front typically happened in the middle of the night so the men may have inferred they, too, were going.   When he lets them know it is the movie show, We are from Kronstadt, there is cheering.   They at least would not be going to the front for now.   Ernie Amatniek, however, has been ordered up and he takes  Canadian Leon Rosenthal (whose residence was list as San Francisco) and Samuel Grossner with him to Albacete.

______________________________

¹ Victor Hoar, The Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, ibid, pg 110-114.

² Ron Liversedge, Mac-Pap, ibid., pg 75-76.

³ Marion Merriman Wachtel and Warren Lerude, American Commander in Spain, ibid., pg 150.