Category Archives: Pozorubio

15-16 Junio “Something in Air”

June 15-16

Robert Merriman’s diary for 15 and 16 of June 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 “Masters” or “Martin”.  This soldier’s name is not confirmed at this point.   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.  At lunch, where champagne was served, Ribley spoke about the need to do 20 hours of preparation for a single 1 hour attack.  The Russian phrase “para clov” is translated as “a few words…”   The champagne must have been flowing as Ribley 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” (possibly Canadian Lloyd Evans) tangled with Merriman and was moved out to the Armory.   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 Jack Yellin 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.  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 are digging into this story and there was a Harry (Perry) Leggett who went AWOL on June 11, 1937, and this may be a case where “Perry” was giving an excuse that he did not get picked up by car 157 in Tarancon.

Copic

Vladimir Copic, ALBA Photo 177-177079, Tamiment Archive, NYU

Haywood

Harry Haywood, ALBA Photo 177-179056, Tamiment Archive, NYU

Merriman goes to Albacete and meets with Schallrock.   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 “Bon” et al. returned to Autopark.  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.  He 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.   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.

11-12 Junio The Washington Battalion Leaves Albacete for Jarama

June 11-12

Robert Merriman’s Diary for the 11th and 12th of June 1937

Harris

Joseph Dougher (Commissar of the Mac-Paps), Albert (Abe) Harris (Intendencia) and Wally Sabatini (Mac-Paps). Harris is shown here without mustache that he carries in other photos. ALBA Photo 11-0728, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman picks up the pieces from a failed night exercise at Tarazona with his new Battalion.  He gets Pete Hampkins to come back to the town with him and makes Hampkins the Clerk in the new Battalion.  He left William Carroll in the field who would have had to walk back with the men.  He discusses the drill and placement of the guard with Abe Harris who is his Quartermaster in Tarazona.  After looping through Pozorubio in the afternoon, he returns to Albacete and meets with Schallrock who tells him about the imminent departure of the Washington Battalion for Jarama.  Merriman uses the rest of the day to try to adjust who is in the Washington Battalion and who will stay behind for the third (to-be-named Mackenzie-Papineau) Battalion.  He first negotiates with Winkler to adjust the rolls and then later meets with Marcovics to add people to Marcovics’ list where he had some remaining holes to fill.  Recall that Marcovics gave Merriman Givney and about 10 other difficult soldiers and apparently Merriman is now trying to give some back.  He gets rid of “one bad one” and since John Givney is wounded at Brunete in July (and the Mackenzie-Papineau battalion was still in training during the Battle of Brunete), it seems likely that the soldier returned to the Washingtons is Givney.

Merriman goes to bed early so he can rise and with Marion, Ed Bender and Joe Dallet, to toast the Washington Battalion as it moves out at exactly 3:08 AM.   Merriman shakes the hands of the men in the Battalion and wishes Marcovics good luck.  He phones the Brigade to let them know that the Battalion is on the move.  Merriman mentions a Perry Pinson in regard to the trucks and this soldier is not known at this point but would probably have been with Transportes.  There was a Perry (Percy) Hilton who was with the Mac-Paps and was a cook in Tarazona.  Perhaps Merriman mistook the name.

Ford

A Ford 1936 4-door sedan as described by Merriman. This would have been a fine staff car. Photo credit: Ottoswheels.com

The next day was fairly routine training, although he notes that Ruben “Ruby” Kaufman returned with a 1936 (nearly new) Ford V6 4 door sedan (Merriman’s was unlikely to have been in Blue as the one on the right).

Merriman says he sat in on an examination commission for the Slavs and they were trying cases.  These mini-court martials could be for infractions like drinking or more serious cases, such as desertion.

Santiago Carrillo

Grainy photo of Santiago Carrillo from the 1937 Volunteer for Liberty, Vol 1, #13, October 1937

Merriman finishes the evening with a celebration with was given by and for the Juventad Socialistas Unificados.  One of the youth leaders of the JSU was Santiago Carrillo, seen at the right.   Carrillo’s son, José,  is the Rector of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid where the Lincoln Memorial stands.    Merriman was not interested in being at the Fiesta but since they had a place of honor, he could not leave early.

1-2 Junio Back in training, Merriman listens to criticism

June 1-2

Robert Merriman’s diary for the 1st and 2nd of June, 1937

The adjustments in leadership of late May continue and on the 1st of June, Merriman and Marcovics have to learn to work together.  Merriman tells Mirko Marcovics that he will be helping him train the Washingtons until they leave and Marcovics is unhappy with the outcome.  Together they go up to Room 22 in the hotel and meet with Bill Lawrence, Steve Nelson and George Kaye who has just arrived.  Presumably, “Grandfather” (a Russian) is there since it says Russian sends Kaye to work in the supply depot.  In a very confusing word (marked in yellow), the sentence can be read “In general melting…” “In general meeting…” or even “In general Milton”(presumably Milton Herndon).  The squiggle after the mystery  name/word, though, looks like the way Merriman writes “of”.  Also confusing is the phrase “Kay & I all talked Russian decided…”  We are tentatively saying that the period should go after “talked” indicating that the “Russian decided” and this is consistent with the man nicknamed “Grandfather” in the May 31 posting, and who was supposed to be consulted by General Gall on the 1st of June, was in Albacete.  However, equally possible would be the interpretation that  these men “all talked Russian”.   And then “Decided” would start the next sentence.  Either interpretation would make sense.

In a continuation of information given on May 31, what is clear is that Steve Daduk, Edward Flaherty and Sterling Rochester have left Albacete to return to the U.S.  David Mates is still an issue in Tarazona and Marcovics doesn’t not want to “herd him”.  Merriman is nominated to speak to Mates about his work.

Merriman needed to get back to Pozorubio for training and Ribley came to give him a ride back but left Joe Dallet in Albacete.  Machine gun training continues and Merriman has difficulty translating the parts names from Russian to English.  It would be important to have uniformity in the naming of the gun parts since replacements would need to be ordered as weapons broke down.  The day finished with discussions on the relationships between the battalions, especially the English and Americans.

On the second of June, a political meeting was held with the men and Julius Rodriguez tells Merriman to his face that there are men who don’t trust his military ability and feel he is more of a political leader than a military one.   The criticism comes from a “Paula” (believed to be Cuban American Eladio Paula) and a “Swimmerton” (this veteran is not known at this point).  Eladio Paula was from Tampa, also Cuban, and would have known Rodriguez.  It must have been a frank discussion for Merriman to have with the men.  Joe Dallet meets with Paula and Swimmerton and tells Merriman that Rodriguez has it wrong.  Again Merriman says “Galli talked” and repeated use of Galli (rather than Gallo) indicates that he meant Galli.   This is likely to be Humberto Galliani or perhaps an Italian trainer (suggestions welcome).  The criticism of the men was discussed in a “round table” but Merriman does not let us know the conclusion.

 

Eladio and Aurelio Paula

Eladio Paula (left) and his brother Aurelio Paula. Aurelio would die in the Battle of the Ebro in August 1938. Eladio survived the war. Photo from the Paula family via Ancestry.com

 

Gonshak

Samual Gonshak, Commissar of the Autopark, May 1938. ALBA Photo 11-0026, Tamiment Library, NYU

Alfred Harvey Litwin is back from hospital and wants to get back to the “Spanish”.  Litwin came in on May 11 so it is not clear if he was injured or ill.  Steven Nelson is preparing to go to Jarama to be Commissar for the Lincolns.  He will stay over until at least the 3rd. In an evening meeting Eladio Paula “bawled out” Samuel Gonshak who was a Sergeant in the Autopark for the questions he asked.

25-26 Mayo Decision is made to name the Washington Battalion

May 25 and 26

Robert Merriman’s diary for the 25th and 26th of May, 1937

The American Medical Bureau Team

From the Fredericka Martin Collection: (l-r) Fredericka Martin (head nurse), Dr. Eduardo Odio Perez, Dr. Alan Sorrell, Dr. Eddie Barsky (Chief Doctor), Mildred Rackley (interpreter, chief clerk), Anne Taft (R.N.), PHOTO 1:1:32:2, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman is enough of a gentleman that he doesn’t name names when it comes to his friends.   From the post of the 24th, we know Bob Thompson and Joe Dallet picked up a nurse in Albacete and now we know they spent the night with her.  We find that she is trying to “replace women {in} battalion”.   We have some possible suspects for this camarada.        Mildred Rackley was in charge of the recruiting of nurses and was in Spain about this time.  All evidence about her being in Albacete is speculative.  Merriman (and presumably Marion as well since Bob stayed over with Marion) met the other three for breakfast and had a merry time.

Merriman goes to Room 22 in the hotel.  Room 22 clearly is one of the bigger suites.  Room 22 will be mentioned whenever Merriman goes to meet Party officials.  The meeting took some time and Robert Minor insists on a “milder” name for the second battalion than the “Tom Mooney Battalion”.   Tom Mooney was in San Quentin prison at this time and clearly “Washington or Jefferson” had less political baggage.  Minor wins out and the second Battalion becomes the “George Washington Battalion”.

After the meeting Minor and Harry Haywood depart for Jarama to visit the Lincoln Battalion on the lines.  Merriman says that Steve Nelson departs for Cordoba, probably to meet with the 60 or so “lost Lincolns” who are in the 20th Brigade at that point on the Cordoba front.  Those Lincolns will return to the XVth Brigade by July and clearly the intent is to put English speaking brigadistas in the XVth Brigade.

Merriman finds out the result of his X-ray of the 23rd and it is not good.  In addition to bone seepage, he still has a broken elbow which will need an operation to fix.   There is no evidence that Merriman actually had that operation and this note says that Merriman cannot straighten his arm.   In the photographs of Merriman for the next year, however, he is shown with his arm straight in some photographs so either he overcame the injury by exercise or the diagnosis here is wrong.   Knowing that Merriman has had a broken shoulder and a broken elbow may be of future use to forensic archeologists who may at some time come across Merriman’s remains in digs near Gandesa and Corbera in Spain.

Merriman goes to the Guarda Nacionale and meets again with Pierre Lamotte, whose time in the Brigade now appears to be shortening.  He says Lamotte was again fighting with people in the Intendencia and Merriman recognizes that his friend will have to leave this job.  Lamotte will shortly be arrested, charged with theft  and imprisoned for the length of the war.  He returned to the US in February 1939 under a questionable cloud.  Merriman says that “Stanley deserted”.  This is most probably Al Stanley for whom little is recorded at ALBA other than he arrived in Spain on May 5, 1937.

The next sentence does not seem to follow and the closest parsing reads “Decision nobody”, but the second word also looks like “Maddry” or “Maddrg” which could be Madrigueras.  In any case, it is followed by some reference to party members being given jobs in “any place here”.

Merriman goes to check out the Ammo storage building that was sabotaged and finds it leveled.  His intent was to replace the guard on the building and realizes that there is nothing left to guard.  He pulls the guard off the wrecked building.  He returns to Pozorubio or Tarazona and says that he left Allan Knight in Albacete.

In a moment of “too much information”, Merriman must have been amused by Joe Dallet conducting his own “third arm inspection” (‘third arm’ or ‘short arm’  being military slang for an appendage which cannot be used to fire a gun) and washing his privates in the room.  At the time, Richard Baxell informs us of sanitary habits quoting from a letter from Australian Laurence Collier to Bill Alexander that resides in the International Brigades Archives at the Marx Memorial Library:

At this period of my life, I was 23, I was not very good at either love or sex, or shall we say love and sex.   There were a half a dozen young women I meant in the course of my service who attracted me, Angela H[aden] G[uest], Patience Darton, and a few Spanish ‘nurses’, etc.  I never got as far as to make a romantic suggestion, they all seemed out of reach (I was immature, or something).   When in Barcelona I visited a sort of red light district, and was rather appalled a a professional exhibiting herself outside a sort of booth which I suppose was a crude brothel.

I found a not unattractive ‘sensible looking’ woman of about 35 and suggested spending the night with her.  She said she was otherwise engaged but took me to a room where we had what can only be described as ‘surgical sex’, after which in a very business-like way she completed the ‘surgery’ by washing my parts with a solution of permanganate of potash.¹

The potassium permanganate or “Condy’s Crystals”  would have been a disinfectant.   While some men in the Brigades actually caught venereal diseases, there was enough knowledge at the time to reduce the potential for catching VD.

On the 26th of May, Merriman holds meetings with Ed O’Flaherty who went by the name Flaherty in Spain and Steve Daduk.  He meets with the camp commander and says he is “weak”.   A few days previously, Merriman was taken with the man who we now know is Tadeusz Oppman, a Polish lawyer who was the head of the Dombroski Battalion in the fall of 1936.   Merriman says that “Atur, a representative of Gallo” was inspecting the camp.  At this point, this soldier is unknown to us.  There is an Atur in Dordogne, France, and this may be a nom-de-guerre.   “Atur” in Catalan is “unemployment”.

Merriman says that they had their first flag raising ceremony in camp with the Russians “Carlos” and “Ribley” there.  The flag went up upside down which must have been embarrassing.  During training Ribley read modifications to the military manual which had to do with tanks.  We are only left to guess what change was included other than, sarcastically, British driving tanks should drive on the right side of the road and not run over donkey carts.

Finally, Merriman finishes with Dr. Madan Mohan Lal Atal just saying that he is still suspicious of him.  Atal must be in Pozorubio and since this camp was top secret with open discussion of most political issues, Merriman was suspicious of Atal’s background.   As we said in previous postings, it is unlikely that Dr. Atal was a Communist Party member at this time.  We will hear no more of Dr. Atal in the diary.

________________________________

¹ Richard Baxell, Unlikely Warriors, ibid. pg 251 and reference 55, therein.