Category Archives: Huesca Front

1 Octobre Plans made for an attack on the morning of October 2

Oct 1

Robert Merriman’s Second Diary entry for October 1st (Says September but this is an error)

October 1

Remainder of the October 1 entry

Irving Busch

Dr. Irving Busch, Volunteer for Liberty, Vol 1, No. 11, pg 5

Merriman finishes off the entry for September 30 with the note that the old woman whose house they were using in Senes complained that things were quiet there and now that the Brigade has arrived, they will be bombed and killed.   Merriman confirms that the 35th Division hospital is now in Grañén and that Doctor Irving Busch is in charge of that hospital.  Busch, a long timer now in Spain, was influential in the International Brigades and could get things done politically as well.

 

Senes-Zuera

Google Maps topographic display of the area between Senes and Zuera covered by the Brigade on October 1

Bombed out road

International Brigades repairing a bombed out roadway

On October 1, the men move up from Senes to a point near Zuera where the road from Huesca to Zaragoza was cut by the Fascists.   Merriman says that this position is important to retake since they can dominate the Zaragoza railroad from this position and they can stop reinforcements coming up the highway from Zaragoza.   He mentions that they lost the heights above Zuera and that is on the north side of town so it is likely that of the two routes to get from Senes to Zuera, the Brigade may have just gotten to the top of the ridge overlooking Zuera on the north or approached the town from the south having gone through Alcubierre.   Merriman mentions that the road is cut south of them  (perhaps the photo on the right).   Merriman says that the ground was lost in a tank assault by the Fascists that even used some Republican tanks (along with Italian tanks) against them.

Organizationally, the new Army Corps has been formed and General Walter is now in charge of a Corp and not just a Division.  This means that General Pozas would have been moved out.  Merriman notes that Tedeusz (a.k.a. Thaddée and François) Oppman is now the Chief of Operations for the Army Corp.   Merriman gives the strategy of the operation being planned for October 2:  they are to be in reserve on the attack on Zuera and if necessary run back to Mediana and Fuentes if a counterattack ensues there.

Merriman says that Radomir Smrcka is performing well.  He reveals that Copic is ranting about everyone, including Fred Lutz and Ernesto Martinez of the Intendencia and Lou Secundy of the Autopark.  Copic is perpetually mad at Merriman and is bitching because it is now October 1 and he has missed another payday.  Merriman says he is bitching about 3 pesetas a day from Albacete, but Copic would have been getting 30 pesetas a day as a Lieutenant Colonel.  Perhaps he was out of Coñac.   Merriman is less than sympathetic and the hostility between these men continues to fester.

We take up October 2 in the next entry.

30 Septiembre The Brigade Moves to Senes

September 30 #1

Robert Merriman’s second diary running from late on September 29 to September 30

September 30 #2

Completion of Robert Merriman’s September 30 diary entry

Merriman finished his thoughts on September 29 by saying that the Lincolns and the Mac-Paps were coming along nicely now but that the British still remained a problem.  Jim Bourne and Pete Hampkins were still in Valencia at the gathering there and Merriman was worried about when they would get back.  He had notice that the Fascists had broken the hold of the Brigades on the road between Huesca and Zaragosa and that they would soon move up to counterattack and try to take back the road.  He gives us the route that they would take from Almochuel to Torralba de Aragón which was a distance of 135 kilometers (See the map below).

Sept 30 Move (planned)

The planned move of the XVth Brigade to Robres as mentioned by Merriman in his September 30, 1937, diary entry

The plan was to move in 32 trucks on this route which circled the Aragon front at the end of September.  Merriman says that the drivers took a day and a half to get to them and when they arrived,  the drivers were beat.  They wanted to start out but the trucks were out of gas and the ones that had mechanical problems had no mechanics to fix them.  “No nothing”.

On the 30th of September, they started out with Merriman in Dave Doran’s car.  Because the Fascists had counterattacked north of Zaragosa, they had to swing further east and the route is shown in the next Google Maps© image.

Actual route

The actual route followed by the XVth International Brigade on September 30.

Merriman meets with someone named Denner (not an American) who explained the transports situation to him.  They were waiting on more trucks and Denner wondered where the trucks that Merriman had came from.  He told him to hold the trucks and don’t give them up because the XVth Brigade was going into reserve positions and might have to run back to Mediana (retracing the steps they just took) if the fighting there degraded.

Senes

Plaza Monegros, Senes de Alcubierre, Spain. It is likely that one of these homes on the main square housed Merriman. (Google Streetview)

Merriman places the men in Senes which is a few kilometers southwest of Robres and awaits orders.   He finds a headquarters on the second floor of a building.  There are not many homes in Senes and fewer with two floors.  It is likely that it was one of the ones on the right.   Copic is sick and is out of action.   The Brigade was bombed on the 30th but had support from a Czechoslovakian anti-aircraft battery.

Art Landis gives an overview of the next week:

On September 24, while Modesto fought before Fuentes and Sillero, the mixed Italian-Spanish Flechas (Arrows) Division, under the Italian colonel Isasi, attacked strongly in the direction of Zuera.  Isasi had the use of five squadrons of planes, many artillery batteries, and a complete company of tanks.  His objective was the Republican bridgehead across the Gallego River, which had severed the rail and road connections between Zaragoza and Huesca.  By September 29, since no attempt was made to re-enforce the exhausted men of Trueba’s 27th Division, most of Isasi’s objectives were realized.

…..  At the same time, a sweeping Republican victory was in the act of being won by a well-coordinated Catalan effort in the vicinity of the border city of Jaca.  …. But the Catalans not only held; they also began additional attacks to the south of Jaca and above Huesca.

It was at this time that the 15th Brigade was rushed to Grañen, in the area below Huesca.  It was supposed that it would be used either to implement and further the advance of the Catalans or to aid the troops of Trueba against the mixed Spanish-Italian division pushing from recaptured Zuera.¹

(More to follow in future posts).

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¹Landis, The Abraham-Lincoln Brigade, ibid. pp 312-3.