Category Archives: Madrid

9-10 Agosto Merriman is moved up further

August 9-10, 1937
Robert Merriman’s diary from August 9 and 10, 1937

Robert Merriman assumed that when he went to the “front” that he would be with the Americans.  His involvement with the Lincolns will be short lived.   As the Americans are in Albares on rest, many of the men are in Madrid on R&R.   Merriman also is in Madrid and talks to Ed Rolfe about trouble in the 5th Regiment du Tren, when the repatriation policy is overstated.  The rumors about repatriation will echo through the ranks of all the International Brigades and rumors of policy changes on the length of service were rife over the summer of 1937.

Luigi Gallo was not available at the time and Merriman says “Galli” helped them find food.  That is probably Humberto Galliani.   Marion Greenspan and Merriman leave for Ambite where the Brigade is based and they still missed Gallo who was moving fast.  He was with a Brigadista named “Franz” (unknown).   Gallo was working on issues with the Medical Service and the XIth and XIIth Brigades during this week and he has a memo to him from Dr. Franek of the Medical Service.   We believe that Franz may be Dr. Franek.   Gallo was in Madrid, Albacete and later Valencia during this week so he was really on the move.

Merriman says that Klaus explained his actions against Marcovics and threatened anyone who told Marcovics what he said with court martial.   This must have been a very awkward position for Merriman to be in, knowing that Marcovics and he were not close, but that Nelson and other Americans must have told him Marcovics’ side of the story.  Marcovic’s error was to stand up to Colonel Klaus and refuse to send the Americans back into battle in late July at Brunete when the Americans had been decimated.   Jock Cunningham and Aitken had flatly refused to send the British back in and Aitken told Marcovics and Nelson that they were crazy to accept the order since the men would not follow them.   Nelson did mobilize the Americans to go back but they were reprieved from a likely demise by the Spanish who plugged the lines on the 24th of July.    The resistance of Marcovics, Aitken and Cunningham to Klaus’ orders would shortly work against them.

In a rush to get back to Albacete with Joe Dallet, Merriman stops in Tarançon and meets with Al Stone (Albert Gottlieb) and “Rose” (probably Solomon Rose, who would have been in hospital from injuries at Brunete).  Apparently there was a woman from San Francisco who knew Merriman’s family as he says that he has a message from Abbie and Fay.  Fay is Fay Cook Merriman, his mother, and Abbie is Abbie Cook, Fay’s mother and Merriman’s grandmother.

Ralph Bates
Ralph Bates lecturing to the Regiment de Tren, probably July 21, 1937, prior to going to Quinto. ALBA Photo 177-178037, Tamiment Library, NYU
11-1322 Begelman, Copic, Max, Galliani, and Dunbar
Elias Begelman (left), Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Copic, Comrade Max (likely Maximov, a Russian advisor), Humberto Galliani, and Malcolm Dunbar, at Ambite Mill, likely on July 21, 1937. ALBA Photo 11-1322, Tamiment Library, NYU.


He tears back to Tarazona for a meeting and the next day reveals the reason.   Robert Merriman’s diary is unique in unraveling the machinations of the leadership adjustments in August 1937.  While Merriman was talking about an American going to the Staff level of the Brigade in his August 7-8 diary pages, that adjustment took exactly two days.  In a flurry of activity that involved the rotation out of a number of British and Americans who had been in Spain from the beginning, Luigi Gallo, Ralph Bates and Vladimir Copic returned to the Brigade and shook things up.  On the 10th of August, Merriman is told he is to be the Chief of Staff to Copic.   The French were not pleased with the Americanization of the Brigades and one recalls that Lucien Vidal was recently removed from Albacete base command.   Vidal would say in the concluding page of his memoir¹ that he found that the infighting between the French and Germans was bad but that the inability of the British and Americans to accept French (or international) leadership over their battalions was a major cause of the failing of the Brigades.   He particularly called out the Americans and British as a problem in having a truly international collaboration in the Base of the Brigades.

Merriman speaks with Copic about recommendations for comrades who fought in Brunete.  He includes Marcovics in that list.  Merriman has clearly sided with the American view that Colonel Klaus was unreasonable in his orders and that Marcovics was correct in resisting them.   Merriman says that he has permission to “clean Albacete”.  The feeling at this point was that Albacete had become a dumping ground for “inaptes”, men who were useless at the front because of inability, incapacity or just being shell-shocked.  One can imagine Merriman viewing  these men as consuming food and supplies, goods that should have gone to men at the front.  The drain on supplies could be staunched if they repatriated these non-combatants home.

In another unreadable word, he has a session with a comrade who looks like “Fernando”.   Spanish nicknames were often taken for Russian advisors.  Merriman solidifies Lou Secundy’s placement in Transports.  Secundy did a good job in getting the Battalion to Albares on previous days.

Nelson spoke at Pozo Rubio and Tom Wintringham was viewed as weak.  The training at the school is noted as “slow”.   Another new name “Seegar” appears and he will go to Madrigueras from Pozo Rubio.  Unfortunately, the name list for Pozorubio does not reveal this name in August and we are still searching for him. We have found that George Fletcher, a Briton, was sent from Madrigueras to Tarazona on August 13 so it is possible that “Seegar” was a Briton being sent to Madrigueras in exchange.  Merriman speaks with the men at Pozo Rubio and explains what happened with Vincent Usera and Mirko Markovics at the front.  Merriman’s sympathy for their actions is apparent and quite nonjudgmental.


¹  RGASPI, Fond 545/Opis 2/Delo 32, p 454.

7-8 Agosto Merriman leaves Tarazona to move up to Ambite and Albares

August 7-8, 1937
Robert Merriman’s diary for August 7 and 8, 1937

Robert Merriman leaves Tarazona de la Mancha on August 7, 1937, and he will not return to training.   He asked for, and received permission, to take half of the 2nd Training Battalion to the front as a unit.  He took a majority of Americans to reinforce the Lincoln-Washington Battalion which was now resting in Albares.  Replacing Merriman would be Allan Johnson as training battalion commander.  Merriman was clearly record keeping in prior pages of his diary and he knew that he would soon be in combat.  His use of pages from September on as notes pages gives a hint to the fatalism he felt as he may not have expected to need those dates later.

Marion Merriman Wachtel and Warren Lerude fill in the details from these days:¹

All through that day, after the rally at the church, Bob was with different groups of the Command.  I tried to stop time but the hours rushed by.  I wanted Bob to myself.  I didn’t want to yield him once again to the war, as I had done when he left Moscow.

Then, at five o’clock, the battalion formed in parade.

“So long, fellows,” Bob said.  He gave no long speech.  He had wanted to take the battalion personally into the next battle and felt bad about leaving it.  The men stood in review and looked at him.  He looked back, with respect.  There was a strange silence, the silence of goodbye. 

Afterward, a few of us gathered for a light supper.  Someone broke out a bottle of champagne.  We toasted the battle and the victory and the safety of our soldiers.  And we toasted freedom.  Steve, I’ll never forget, was like a surprised and angelic boy, too excited to show much anxiety.

Then, at last in our room, Bob and I said our goodbye, once again.  When he was gone, I sat alone for a while.  Late in the evening, just before going to sleep, I wrote in my diary: “Final farewells and my darling is off.  May he come back as safely this time”.

But sleep would not come.  I lay in the dark, knowing Bob was in a truck heading north, first to Ambite to pull the Americans together, then to a Spanish village called Quinto…”

Marion may have mixed up this departure a bit with Merriman’s next advancement to the Brigade level where he would become Chief of Staff.  Here Merriman himself says that he is leading the Americans from the 2nd Training Battalion, which pulled out at 3:30 AM for La Roda to turn up the Valencia-Madrid road.  Many of the Mac-Pap battalion would stay in Tarazona until just before Quinto.  After passing Tarancon, the men joined the resting Lincolns and Washingtons in Albares.  Merriman has a  chance to discuss the Brigade politics with Jock Cunningham (whom he finds conceited) and with Colonel Hans Klaus who removed Mirko Markovics.  Merriman reveals that a “control man”, probably from  the Army Corps level, was talking to Klaus about the Marcovics removal and Marcovics side of the story was discussed.  On the next page,  Merriman says that Stepanovitch was asking for the removal of Phil Cooperman and Ed Bender and one wonders if he is the “control man”.

In the evening of the 7th a meeting was held amongst the American leaders, Phil Cooperman, Dennis Jordan, David Bates,  Ed Bender, Joe Dallet, Steve Nelson and Merriman.  The Headquarters problem at the Base refers to the swapping out of General Gal and Vidal discussed on August 3.  Nelson says that they have too few officers to lead three full battalions.  Evidently, John Quigley “Robbie” Robinson chafed at his assignment to be the Commissar of the Lincolns.   He supposedly “walked out” on the appointment.   Phil Cooperman seeks repatriation and other cadres are being sent home, including Walter Garland and Dennis David Jordan.   Cooperman does not make it and was killed in Spain.

On the 8th, Colonel Klaus, George Aitken and the other Bates, Ralph Bates, arrive from headquarters.   Merriman repeats the comments made on the September 21 notes page that Sam Gonshak, Wallace Burton and Patrick McGuire were reprimanded for going AWOL and sent for 10 days of KP (Kitchen Patrol).  Milly Bennett (Marion and Bob Merriman’s friend, the reporter, and lover of Wallace Burton) tells the tale (note that Milly did not waste time with the shift key):

remember Jen, how you knew from his letter, you sensed with that instinct you have for really, good people, that he is fine.  his orderly was with him, a handsome, trim Jew named fliegel, that is fliegel, the orderly, was orderly to burton, the private.  wallace had been “broken” — disciplined from commander back to private because after brunette, the men were given three days in madrid for boozing and whoring — and then called in to a rest camp.  the rest camp was boring, both to men and officers.  wallace, longing for the bright lights of madrid, (he fought 22 days at brunette and went from section leader to company commander) — decided to go back to madrid, orders or no orders; and being himself, didn’t go alone.  he took his whole company with him.  the company was scolded; wallace was broken back to the ranks; and when i saw him, he was a private, but his orderly refusing to leave him.  i had thought he might come through Valencia; so there was a bottle of bacardi rum and  one sherry in my closet — and a carton of cigarets that i’d been having an eye on in a certain newspaperman’s bag under my writing table ….

fliegel, obviously worshipped wallace, the latter being able to get him into more mischief in ten minutes than he could think up in a lifetime finally had to be sent back to the troop train loaded with sherry, chocolate and cigarets —-²

Merriman heads off for Madrid to meet with Marion Greenspan (George Marion) and Ed Rolfe.  Merriman lectures Greenspan on the policy concerning desertion and repatriation.   He mentions Joe Lash and Hans Amlie as part of this discussion.  Merriman appears to have a lot on his chest that he wants to get rid of.  He later sees Rollin Dart who is his equal in leading the Lincolns and General Walter who will command the Army Corps that the Internationals are in.  Shortly, Hans Amlie will advance to be the Commander of the Lincolns and Merriman may not have been happy with that choice.

Van Den Berghe
Juan Castro (left), Captain Amandus Van Den Berghe (center) and Marty Hourihan (right), photo from the Paul Burns Collection (and from the International Brigades in Spain website of our colleague, Kevin Buyers). The photo notation says it was taken in Jarama. ALBA photo 181:1:4:1, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman notes that the Belgian Vanderberg is on leave and his wife is in Madrid.   The photo on the left shows Amandus (Armand) Van den Berghe who progressed from a soldado at Jarama to a Major by the time he left Spain in 1939.   In the battle of Jarama, leadership quickly devolved to Van den Berghe who stepped in the leadership of the 58th Battalion (Americans) after Merriman was wounded.  It is quite likely that he was greatly involved in training Marty Hourihan leadership skills.  Van den Berghe had been a sergeant in the Belgian army in 1914.  His questionnaire³ said that he was a teacher at the School of Engineering in the school of Mines.  He claimed to have experience in leading over 3000 men in WWI.   Van den Berghe would survive the war and would be involved in every major battle of the XVth Brigade.  Van den Berghe’s wife, Margarite, recruited Amandus into the Communist Party and was working in Spain during the war.  At the end, the two of them would be arrested and imprisoned by French authorities after they crossed the border.  His file has a pathetic letter from Van den Berghe to General Walter dated 20 June 1939, where Amandus writes his old commander for financial aid as he and his wife are in dire straits in Geneva, Switzerland, without work and Amandus is now 39.   Walter writes on the bottom of the letter, “J’ai fait repondre negativement” (I responded negatively).

Merriman may have spoken with Jock Cunningham since he says that Cunningham will not admit he was mistaken in his actions at Brunete.   Cunningham clearly identified Americans, including Garland and perhaps Marcovics, as ones who had to go.   Merriman tries to see Colonel Hans Klaus but doesn’t meet with him.  Instead he sees Frank Ryan who again is quoted as saying that an “unnamed” American will be coming to the Staff by next year.  Merriman must assume that is him.  Aitken, Cunningham and Ryan would shortly be returning to Britain.

Landis says:

Leave was granted. There was no more of the nonsense of General Gal.  The Americans were free to go to Madrid, to Albacete, and to Alcala de Heneres close to the nearby rest camps.  They arrived in Madrid by the truckloads, and the capital took them to its heart.  Their stalwart, colorful figures in I.B. ski-pants, boots and berets, were seen everywhere….. Americans were everywhere, they went to the movies, saw James Cagney take over Chicago with “pineapples” and submachine guns.  At the Capital Cinema, opposite the Hotel Florida, the Marx Brothers held forth in A Night at the Opera.4


¹ Marion Merriman Wachtel and Warren Lerude, American Commander in Spain, ibid., pp 156-7.

² Milly Bennett, letter to Jenny Miller, September 18, 1937,  Mildred Bennett Collection, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford, University.

³ RGASPI, Fond 545/Opis 6/Delo 299/pp 33-39.

4  Art Landis, The Abraham Lincoln Brigade, ibid., pg 244.

9-10 Julio “Winkler wondered why I was in Madrid … and so did I”

July 9-10, 1937
Robert Merriman’s Diary for July 9 and July 10, 1937

In the midst of the Battle of Brunete, Merriman, Bill Lawrence and Anna Louise Strong take off for Madrid, ostensibly to buy supplies for the Battalion.  One wonders if they just could not resist seeing what was happening.    On July 9, Merriman’s day starts with disciplining Tom Hyde in front of the Battalion.   Hyde’s comment was very fatalistic and Merriman apparently had had it.  He sentenced Hyde to 30 days in the brig for “his superior attitude”.  He says Hyde threatened to desert.   This may have been the best thing for Hyde who will become a good soldier at Belchite in September.

IB Headquarters
The current 63 Calle de Velásquez in Madrid. It is for rent. Image: Google Street View


Emanuel Hochberg
Emanuel Hochberg, RGASPI photo Fond 545/Opus 6/ Delo 911, Moscow
Ford and Shirai
James Ford, VP Candidate for President of the US and Jack Shirai, Lincoln Brigade Cook, From the Book of the XVth Brigade.

Merriman goes past Morata de Tejuna and Perales to Madrid.  The International Brigade Headquarters was 63 Calle de Velásquez.  Marion Greenspan (George Marion) worked out of this office.   But Greenspan was too busy to get out of the office and go to the hospital to visit the men from Brunete who had been injured on the first day of fighting: Garland, E. C. Smith, Robert Trail{l}, Givney, Hochberg, and Hourihan.   Bill Lawrence chews Marion Greenspan out about his priorities.  Merriman finds out that Oliver Law, the Battalion Commander, was also killed.   Brunete will decimate the Lincolns and Washington Battalions and within two weeks the ranks will be so small that they battalions must be combined into the Lincoln-Washington Battalion to have a fighting force.   Others killed at Brunete will be for the British: George Nathan, Julian Bell (nephew of  Virginia Woolf), John Alexander of the Anti-tank unit, Arthur Dunbar, Sam Masters,  Alex McDade (who penned the Ballad of the Jarama Valley), Bert Overton (previously commander at Jarama), and many others.  Notable Americans who were killed include the Battalion Cook Jack Shirai, Joe and Sam Stone (brothers), Bernard Entin, Ramond Steele, Jack Weinstein, amongst others.   Merriman gets some details of the battle including the capture of the town of Quijorna by Juan Modesto’s Division.   The fighting for Quijorna is shown in this Spanish TV Documentary (thanks to Jose Alejandro Ortiz-Carrion for the reminder about this documentary).

Copic Wounded
Vladomir Copic, wounded, and lying on a cot. ALBA Photo 177-179003, Tamiment Archive, NYU

Within hours, Merriman was back on the street, shopping.  Merriman meets the reporter Louis Fischer again who has a girl on his arm.  He bumped into Walter Garland and the Canadian Commissar Bob Kerr.  Kerr dissuades Merriman of the idea of going to the front for sightseeing since the going there is obviously tough.  Even the Commander of the Brigade, Vladimir Copic, was injured by shrapnel.

At the end of the 9th of July, Merriman puts a question “Swinnerton lost memory?”  Thanks to John Wainwright (personal communication), we know  Dennis Swinnerton was from Islington, London.  He arrived in Spain 27/1/37.  He was treated at Murcia but it is not known what his injury was.   Swinnerton was a possible deserter and left Spain on 25/2/38.

Robert Merriman
Photograph of Robert Merriman from Volunteer for Liberty, Vol 1 No 18, October 1937

In the morning of the 10th, Merriman meets with Briton Will Paynter, James Prendergast, Dr. Adolph and Anna Louise Strong who lost her ride back to Albacete.  Anna Louise had a disagreement on how to spend the money which was brought over from the States and starts to spend it on personal items, including books.  That was enough for Lawrence who thought they were buying boots and glasses.  He left her in Madrid.  Anna Louise attaches herself to Merriman trying to hitch a ride back with him.  Merriman meets with John Tisa who is writing the Book of the XVth Brigade and Tisa takes one of the famous photographs of Merriman for the book.

Back at the IB HQ, Merriman meets Fein, who we believe is Arnold Fein, who is the Chief now of the Cadres Office in Albacete.  In this position, Fein would have been Marion Merriman boss when she worked there in May.  Fein (a “Mexican”¹) is a 41 year old Yugoslavian  whose trade was a baker.  He also meets Peter Winkler who is the head of Personnel of the Brigades.  Both wonder what Merriman is doing in Madrid.  They ask Merriman a very good question given the context of the battles.  Merriman realizes that sightseeing in Madrid at this time is very bad optics and he works his way back to Albacete hitching a ride on an ambulance, driven by Murray Lerner.   The riders in the Ambulance were Prendergast and Paynter, Bill Lawrence, Canadian Bob Kerr, and Merriman.   They arrived back safely in Albacete, tired.  If that vehicle had been hit by a bomb, there would have been a significant dent placed in the International Brigades.

We have been trying to trace “Winkler” for some time as several photographs in the Tamiment Archives are attributed to Winkler.   It appears that Winkler is the Pole Kazimierz Cichowski.   We still are looking for his photo.


¹ RGASPI Fond 545/Opis 6/ Delo 37, pg 22.


25-26 Abril The Merrimans are in Madrid and Requiem for Guernica

25-26 April
Robert Merriman’s diary for 25 and 26 of April 1937.

After the intense build up to the Radio broadcast to America on the very early morning of the 25th of April, the Merrimans slept in.  They met with Marion Greenspan (George Marion) and Josephine Herbst later in the morning.  Marion Merriman quotes Josie Herbst for her reasons of why she went to Spain:

 “Because“, she said simply.  Then she posed her own questions. “Why do you write a book?  Why do you fall in love?  Because.  It is the one concluding answer that comes from the bottom of the well.  Later you may dress it up with reasons; some of them may very well apply.  But because is the soundest answer you can give to an imperative.  I didn’t even want to go to Spain.  I had to.  Because.”¹

The Merrimans had lunch with Toronto reporter Ted Allan.  Allan was writing at the time for the Toronto Clarion.  He wrote several books on the Spanish Civil War and his “The Scalpel, the Sword” is a definitive biography of Dr. Norman Bethune of Toronto, who helped found the mobile blood transfusion units that were to save countless lives in Spain and many, many more in China in 1939.  Ted Allan would also later be known for being in the same car as Gerda Taro when she was killed at Brunete.

Luigi Longo
Luigi Longo (“Gallo”), Photograph from RGASPI Archives, Moscow Fond 545 Op 6 Delo 129

The diary says that Merriman was trying to get to see “Gallo” (the nom de guerre for Luigi Longo).  Not making contact the Merrimans and Greenspan head off into the suburbs of Madrid to try to see the lines at University City.  The fighting in this district of Madrid had been at a standstill for six months with the Republicans unable to dislodge the fascists who had infiltrated buildings in the new University of Madrid.  Sniping between buildings continued and a film showing the location can be found here at the 9:30 mark.

Merriman’s diary is nearly antiseptic in his analysis of what they saw.  Marion Merriman Wachtel’s memoir is more emotional from April 23rd before the radio broadcast:

“Even under bombardment, Madrid is marvelous!” I said to Bob.  The wide tree-lined boulevards and modern buildings had an air of dignity that even blocks of bombed-out ruins could not dispel”

But the scene changed, quickly.  As we walked down a broad boulevard, we heard the crack of rifle fire.  Then the tempo picked up. “That’s machine gun fire,” Bob said.  The machine guns rattled in the distance, perhaps a few blocks away, I couldn’t be sure.  Then we heard the boom of artillery and the reality of Madrid at war returned deeply to me.  The artillery shell landed some distance away, collapsing part of a building, which fell into a rubble of dust.  We dashed down the street, staying close to the buildings.  The horror of war was driven home to me.  I was terrified.¹

And from April 25, after the broadcast:

About four o’clock in the afternoon, we were pulling out of a gas station near the Post Office and we heard a dull, vibrating thud and saw a puff of smoke and dust go up from the bank down the street.  People scattered like leaves in a storm, and our bewildered chauffeur stopped in the middle of the open square but not for long.

We raced up a side street and parked the car on the  sheltered side of the narrow street.  Fortunately, I thought, the shells from artillery can’t come straight down between the buildings!  Bob and others calmly joined a larger crowd out on the nearby boulevard, around the corner, to see what was happening.  I decided to stay in the car.  But, a moment later, the shelling began again.  I was frightened into a cold sweat of terror.

At first there was a moment of what seemed like dead silence….Then the noise of the shelling exploded, the burst of the artillery surrounding every part of me.  My mind, my head, my eyes, my shoulders, my entire body immersed in the horrible sound.

I jumped from the car and ran down the street.  My God! My God! This sucks up all the air into silence and then the explosion bursts and the air is gone and the silence is overwhelming again.  My screams froze in my throat.  I ran to Bob, who made me stand quietly against a wall until I got over my terror.  I wasn’t as much hysterical as I was angry.  All I could think was, “the bastards, the bastards, the bastards”.  I couldn’t say a thing.¹

Here is a British Pathé newsreel of Madrid at this time.

On the 26th of April one of the great outrages of this war occurred.  Guernica was bombed by the German Luftwaffen (see this video at the 45:00 mark for an eye-witness account).   Guernica is no better remembered than in Picasso’s famous mural from the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid  (this image is Wikipedia Creative Commons licensed at this resolution):

Guernica by Pablo Picasso. Source: Wikipedia Commons.

In a fury of outrage, Picasso painted this large mural in one week in his Paris studio.  Sadly, the West knew little about Guernica until much later in the war.   The Fascist propaganda spread stories about the city being burned by Republican forces.  A British volunteer for the Fascists, Peter Kemp,  continued this lie even into the 1950’s.²  Like horrors that were to lie ahead in World War II, the larger the atrocity, the harder it is to believe.


¹  Marion Merriman Wachtel and Warren Lerude, American Commander in Spain, ibid. pp 130-139.   There is considerable description of the radio broadcast and the reporters who contributed to it by Wachtel and Lerude in this segment.   Thanks to Warren Lerude for encouraging discussions on the Merrimandiary project and readers are recommended to read Marion Merriman’s memoirs in their entirety.

²  Peter Kemp, Mine Were of Trouble. Cassell & Company, 1957.

23-24 Abril The Merrimans go to Madrid and speak to America


April 23-24
Robert Merriman’s diary for the 23rd and 24th of April

This diary page is intense in content and dense in hand.  Bob Merriman had quite a lot to record for posterity.  There are actually four diary pages devoted to these dates and he used pages from October and November to record them.

Robert Minor at Purburell Hill, Quinto, in October 1937. ALBA PHOTO 177-188058, Tamiment Library, NYU
Nelson and Roach
Steve Nelson (left) and Doug Roach (right). ALBA PHOTO 177-179075, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman lets us know that the training period of the prior week has ended and he has orders to send the men into Albacete.  This usually was a prelude to moving men to the front.  Merriman hitches a  ride into Albacete with a Russian, perhaps the same one who was involved in giving lessons to the troops.  The “Liaison” expert is unnamed and would probably be a Comintern representative in Albacete.    Important American Comrades have arrived and Merriman lands a car for them.  On the 13th of April, Robert Minor arrived in France and the timing would be right for this important party official to make it to Albacete.  It is likely that he was one of the two Americans who was given the car by Jean Schalbroeck.  Schalbroeck is variously spelled Schallrock and Schallroch by Merriman but we believe this is the Belgian officer.

The second name in this paragraph who will be discussed extensively over the next few months is Steve Nelson, a CP organizer from Pittsburgh.  Nelson and Joe Dallet were detained in Perpignan, France, when they tried to get into Spain and were released after serving about three weeks time there.  Nelson was a well-liked and respected comrade in Spain and will rise to lead the Lincoln Battalion in his Commissar role in July when Oliver Law, the Lincoln Commander fell in action.

Merriman says that they “discussed who was to go”.  This refers to who would go with the Merrimans to Madrid to deliver the radio address.  While Marion finished typing his speech, it was decided that they would be accompanied by Bill Lawrence and Harry Haywood, first to Morata de Tajuña near Jarama and then on to the front lines.  The “salvo conductos” were important enough that Merriman copied them into his diary on the October 5-9 pages:

October 5
Merriman’s diary pages labelled October 5-6. He made copies of the Salvo Conducto to Madrid and copied the instructions from Sam Stember on the radio program.
Robert Merriman’s diary showing the request for Marion’s involvement in the Brigade and below that the Salvo Conducto for Bill Lawrence and Harry Haywood to accompany the Merrimans to Jarama.
Commanders at Morata
Photograph of the XVth Brigade leadership at General Gal’s headquarters at Morata de la Tehuña (Villa Fuentes de la Venta), probably April 23, 1937. L-R Allan Johnson, Vladimir Copic, unknown soldier, Marion Merriman, Col. Hans Klaus, Bob Merriman, and Joseph North. ALBA PHOTO 177-196126, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman arrived late in the evening at the Estado Mayor in Morata and says he spoke with Al Tanz, Thomas Kelly, Patrick Long, George Wattis, Allan Johnston, Hans Klaus, Vladimir Copic, Stefanovich, and Phil Cooperman.  Thomas Kelly was Section Leader of Company 1 of the Lincolns at Jarama. “Stefanovich” is believed to be Captain Vladomir Stefanovic, the Brigade chef du control des cadres.¹  Eby notes that Stefanovic was appointed the head of an ad-hoc committee to review George Wattis after the debacle of Jarama on the 27th of February and that Stefanovic was skilled in counter-espionage¹.  Merriman did not take long to get embroiled in the politics of the Brigade.  He again argued with Copic of the responsibility of the February 27 attack at Jarama.   Merriman later admits in an additional note below, however, that some of the men did not like him.  Allan Johnson, who did have considerable military experience, makes the comment that all the leaders are “amateurs”, except for Hans Klaus.  Klaus and Copic would go at each other hammer and tongs until summer when Klaus was removed.  Copic is rumored to become the leader of the new “English Speaking Brigade”.  Merriman says that British Commander George Aitken supports Copic to be leader.   Aitken was generally a thoughtful leader.  In May, a letter from Dr. Langer and Aitken makes a plea for funds to pay for the tombs of men killed at Jarama.²  This in-fighting will bubble for two more months and, in June, the Lincolns will try to remove Copic as head of the XVth Brigade.  Haywood, Mates, Johnson and Nelson would lead the effort to replace Copic and they would not be successful.  Tellingly, Merriman would not be amongst those who called for Copic to go, although there was never a good relationship between the two leaders. We will return to this story in June.

The flavor of the jockeying for position in the command structure could not be more clearly stated than in Merriman’s quote from April 24, below: “Political fencing of higher command sickening, much careerism”.

It is interesting that Merriman says that Allan Johnson thanked him for what he did in Jarama.  Johnson will later go on to write a series of five articles on military techniques for the Volunteer for Liberty newspaper which was distributed to the troops in late 1937 and 1938.  Militarily, Johnson may have been the best trained of the Lincolns, being a veteran of World War I, a graduate of the US Military War College and previously having held the rank of Captain in the U.S. Army.¹   Merriman and Johnson discussed the placement of the new comrades: David Mates, Nelson, Haywood and Lawrence.

April 23 was so busy that Merriman added a complete additional page on the November 21-22 unused pages of his diary:

Nov 21-22 Diary pages which were written on April 23-24, 1937 and added for extra spa
Nov 21-22 Diary pages which were written on April 23-24, 1937 and added for extra spa

Lieutenant Zaret is Daniel Abraham Zaretsky (aka Daniel A. Jarrett, Zorat, Jarrat), who was the Aide-de-Camp to Copic. Zaret is described in Cecil Eby’s Comrades and Commissars as being General Gal’s translator so he must have spoken Russian.  Zaret was a NY Court reporter.  Merriman discusses with him an idea of Gallo’s  that the rotation of American troops out of the line could happen as soon as the new Washington Battalion in XVth Brigade can be formed.   Zaret informs Merriman that Gallo is aware of what Merriman is doing at the Pozo Rubio Officer Training School and that his work is well regarded.  Merriman is obviously pushing to get back into action but is told that Vidal wants him to  wait another month to heal from his wounding at Jarama.  He and Merriman discuss a Republican attack on an ammunition factory of the Rebels in Toledo which was destroyed by an artillery assault.

Returning to the main diary above, April 24 begins with Merriman being awoken during the night by protests from the French comrades who were “in revolt” according to Copic.  Merriman says he had his photo taken with General Gal and Copic.  This specific picture with the three of them has not been found in the Tamiment collection.  Merriman says that he, along with Johnson, went to the trenches on the front lines of Jarama to meet with the men and bring them letters.  The conditions at Jarama were improved somewhat since he was taken out wounded on the 27th of February.  The sappers had moved the trenches forward about 200 yards and they had built a new road.  This came at a cost, however.  On April 5, the Garabaldi and Dombrowski battalions had driven forward to gain this 200 yards.  Marty Hourihan ordered the Americans over the top to support the other battalions.  The attack stalled when the Garabaldis got tangled up in the Lincoln’s barbed wire and had to pull back.  20 Americans were injured in the attack including Hourihan, Allan Johnson, and David Jones.  Johnson must have been lightly wounded since he was back at Jarama by the 16th of April and accompanied Merriman there on the 23rd.³

Bob Merriman’s wife Marion Merriman Wachtel relates:

As we stepped from the car, we heard the solitary crack of rifle fire.  We walked thorough the dugout trenches.  I felt skittish, for the explosive bullets made a nasty crack as they sailed through the air and buried themselves with a thud in the earth.  The men in the trenches gathered around Bob, and we all talked amid the zinging and cracking of the rifle fire.  I was impressed by how deeply dug the trenches were, how clean and dry they were, and how high the sandbags were piled for safety.  But I was jumpy.  The bullets sang overhead.  I followed orders about keeping my head down.

Bob moved easily among the men and you could see their respect for him.  Inwardly, however, I knew he felt a little uncomfortable.  He felts sorry for the men who had been at the front so long, almost seventy days by then.  A sense of loneliness came over Bob when he realized how many of the men he had fought with were not there.  Killed.  Or wounded.

But Bob was cheered by the warmth shown him by American replacements, who had heard of his loyalty to his men at Jarama and knew of his own wounding on February 27.

In one place, the trench was within thirty-five meters of the enemy.  The Americans looked tired.  But I thought their morale was good.  “Those bastards couldn’t hit a barn with a cow”, one said to Bob as the Fascist artillery rumbled to life and the shells went astray, crashing into the earth a good distance from where we huddled in the trench.4

Walter Kolowski upon his return to Spain in May 1938. ALBA PHOTO 11_0227, Tamiment Library, NYU
Fred Copeman (left) and unknown officer, 1937. ALBA PHOTO 177_183025, Comintern Archives, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman notes that a “Kalosky” had been demoted.  This is probably Walter Kolowski, who had gone in with the first group in December 1936.  Kolowski had been promoted to be head of the Machine Gun Company on the 16th of April³ and this note says that he was demoted back by the 23th.  Kolowski must have returned to the US from Spain in 1937 since he returned again in May 1938 along with a group of six other Americans who had been home for some time in 1938.  Kolowski finally left Spain on the SS Ausonia in December 1938 with a large number of American repatriates.  Merriman mentions meeting Fred Copeman who was a Commissar in the British Battalion at Jarama.   He also notes that Arturo Corona is now “currying favor” with Merriman.  He comments in the continuation page from the November 21 page of the diary that 42 new Internationals have now arrived at Madrigueras.   Included in that group were Dave “Mooch” Engels and Canadian Bob Kerr. Bob Kerr would become the record keeper for all Canadians in Spain, make assignments of Canadian personnel to various units, and served in the Cadres service5.

Later in the day, the Merrimans are off to Madrid to deliver their speech to the radio broadcast back to America.  Merriman meets Dr. William Pike, head of the Battalion Medical Services, and Marty Hourihan in Madrid.  Drafting the speech was done mostly at the last minute.  Merriman was only one of six people speaking including segments of songs from Spain by a German exile named Ernst Busch.  The songs of Ernst Busch are now available on CD from Smithsonian Folkways.  George Marion (“Marion Greenspan”) who was a newspaper writer, locked horns with Haywood and Lawrence on the text of the speech.

Merriman was in lofty company in preparing for his speech.  He met cinematographer/radio announcer Herbert Kline, Matthew Josephson, Josephine Herbst, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Pitcairn (Francis Claude Cockburn), Marion Greenspan and Sid Franklin (“the Brooklyn bullfighter” according to Hemingway).  Sid Franklin “served as chaperone” to Martha Gellhorn, according to a new book by Amanda Vaill6 on Hemingway and others noted in this diary.    A film made about this time shows a fabulous line up of important names in the Spanish Civil War and Harry Randall apparently captured a still of the group.

Hemingway and Brigadistas
Photo taken of Hemingway’s visit to the Brigade.  Tentative identifications: (l-r) Egon Schmidt, unk, Radomir Smrcka, Malcolm Dunbar, unknown, Robert Merriman, unknown, Humberto Galliani, unknown, Ernest Hemingway, unknown, Major Crespo, Martha Gellhorn, Herbert Matthews. Harry Randall Photo Unit, ALBA Photo 11-1354, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman makes the following notation on the November 27 page of the diary:

On Monday’s program 2 am 25th was Kline – Sid Franklin bullfighter (helping Hemingway on NaNa) who was the announcer. I spoke first. Pike second. speech by Dos Pasos {Passos} read third Josephine Herbst and Hourihan Bush sang in general fine program. Pleased with Hemingway – disappointed in Dos Pasos

Apparently none of them could stop Ernest Hemingway from modifying the text and making it more “dramatic” than Merriman was comfortable with.


¹ Eby, Comrades and Commissars, ibid, pg 87,  pg 160.

²  Aitken_plea for funds, Moscow Comintern Archives, Tamiment Library, NYU.

³ Landis, Abraham Lincoln Brigade, ibid, pg 161.

4 Marion Merriman Wachtel and Warren Lerude, American Commander in Spain, ibid., pp 129-130.

5 Michael Petrou, Renegades: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War, UBC Press, Vancouver, p. 12.

6 Amanda Vaill, Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War, Ferrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, New York, 2014.