Category Archives: Quinto

1 Noviembre “The Last Post” – Merriman finishes his second diary

1 Nov 11 Nov 21 Nov 31 Nov 41 Nov 5

1 Nov 6

The final six pages from Robert Merriman’s second diary covering November 1. The diary would be given to Marion Merriman for safekeeping and returned to the US.

Copic and Klaus

Colonel Vladimir Copic and Colonel Hans Klaus, ALBA PHOTO 177_177002, Tamiment Library, NYU

As all good things must end, Merriman is running out of pages in his second diary and is wrapping it up.  On November 1, he starts his last entry.   He says that Copic left on November 1 to Lerida, but before he left Merriman, Hans and Copic went for a horseback ride.  A photo of Hans Klaus and Copic exists in the ALBA PHOTO 177 collection.  It is quite likely that this photo was taken by Merriman himself with the camera given him in September.  We would like to thank the Tamiment Library for their permission to include photos here (with attribution) and remind readers that there is a donation page to the Library which continues support their work.

Kilometer 33 Map

Kilometer 33 on the Quinto – Fuentes road. This position would guard the road across the Ebro to Pina. Map courtesy: http://cartotecadigital.icc.cat/

While the front appears to be stabilizing, Copic is still worried about the weak state of the Brigade.  He orders a company to be put back on active duty and one company should be placed at Kilometer 33 on the Quinto-Fuentes de Ebro highway.   It would have been a scary place to be placed as it is just a flat crossroads, guarding the road and bridge to Pina and not even a rock to hide behind.

Dave Doran is meting out discipline.  Doran would get a reputation as a no nonsense Commissar and in this section, he is discussing “the Spanish Problem” with Merriman when he hears from Phil Detro that he wishes to go home.   On the same night, he effectively cashiers Bernard Singer and Singer has to leave the Brigade.  He doesn’t know when he leaves if he will be demoted.   Singer is willing to go to the front line to die and get it over with.   Singer would be killed in action near Gandesa in August 1938.

Then Doran leaves as does Hans Klaus.   Many of the Brigade took leave in Madrid during this quiet period and it is possible that was their destination.  Milt Wolff is quoted in Eby as saying that during this time, Detro and Fred Keller practically set up a second residence in Hemingway’s apartment in Madrid.¹

Fiesta in Quinto

Balcony with the Brigade Staff in Quinto, ALBA PHOTO 11_1780, Tamiment Library, NYU

Blowup of Staff

Blowup of the photo on the left, tentative identifications:Standing, speaking: Vladimir Copic, against wall Hans Kaltschmidt, sitting Joe North, sitting unknown, Against wall David Kamy, John Gates, Standing rear Jim Bourne, seated front right unknown (Mayor?), Unknown, Shade of a woman’s face, Bob Merriman. ALBA PHOTO 11-1780, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman talks of a fiesta held in Quinto on October 31 and speaks of Joe Taylor singing.  Marion Merriman Wachtel places the fiesta at somewhat later in November² and it is possible that there were actually two events.   The photograph on the left shows the fiesta with the staff on the balcony on the right.    The photo on the right is a blowup of this Randall photograph.

In the second pair of photographs, Joe Taylor is singing under the portico on the left on the other side of the square.

Fiesta in Quinto

Crowd listening to a singer and a piano player. ALBA PHOTO 11-1348, Tamiment Library, NYU.

 

Joe Taylor

Blowup of the photo on the left showing Joe Taylor singing. ALBA PHOTO 11-1348, Tamiment Library, NYU

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merriman is in trouble with Copic again because he wrote a report on the Intendencia which was critical.  Copic is using the report to get at Merriman.  This coincides with a quote from Marion Merriman that Copic did not want people to argue with him.  Merriman has asked for a copy of the report to see what is “argumentative”.

They are holding schools in Quinto and Merriman says that he has to stop the 11th Engineering Regiment from looting.

Merriman says that he spoke with Davoll who has gotten religion and feels that he needs to go back to the US and preach.  This is Theodore Davoll (thanks to Chris Brooks for being our “biographical dictionary” for this site) who attended Eastern Navarene College and was a part time preacher.   Davoll says Merriman is standing in the way of “God’s Will”.   Merriman probably hopes he is standing in the way of Fascists getting to Madrid.   Merriman tells him he will stay but that he should come back to talk to him.   Davoll would be killed in the upcoming battle of Teruel in January 1938.

Dr. Soto

Dr. Luis Diaz Soto, December 1937, Ambite, ALBA PHOTO 11-0666, Tamiment Library, NYU

Detro got sick and is now in hospital as is Lou Secundy. In October and November, grippe and typhoid were rampant.  The situation was so bad that on November 3,  General Walter gave ranking command to Dr. Len Crome.  Over Juan Bravo’s signature for Walter, he says that the primary order of the day is for the medical staff to hold meetings with the battalions to explain to them the causes of grippe and typhoid and to warn them that sickness and death is likely if they don’t remediate the sanitary conditions.    Dr. Soto was responsible of sending a number of men to hospital.  Saul Wellman is also in Benecassim on rest and relaxation.  Others (old men) are going off to hospital as well.  On November 9, the writer’s father, Harold Hoff, would go off to Castellejo for the first of his many hospital trips with grippe.

 

These are the last known words written by Robert Merriman in his diaries.   On November 5, Bob Merriman would arrive for a visit in Albacete with Marion and Bob Merriman would inform her that she was going to have to go home to the US.²  He told her she was needed to campaign for funds for the Brigades.  Marion believed that Robert had come to believe that the war was unwinnable and he wanted her out of Spain.  Whatever the reason for Marion’s departure, she was handed the two diaries to take back with her to the US.  Their survival is truly remarkable given the frank talk in them and the likelihood that the censors would not have approved of all this information being released.   Marion would meet again with Robert in Ambite on November 17 for one final goodbye and then return to the US on December 22, 1937, on the Manhattan.  28 year old Frances M. (Stone) Merriman was listed as heading for 541 Delores Street in San Francisco.³   She would tour the US for the next year making calls for donations to the Brigades.

The International Brigades would remain in the lines for nearly eleven more months.  They would fight:

In Teruel  January 1 to January 21, 1938

In Segura de los Banos  February 15-19, 1938

From Belchite to the Ebro in the “Retreats” from March 10 to April 4, 1938

and in the Battle of the Ebro from July 25, 1938 to September 23, 1938.

The Brigades would be near the French border by the end of October 1938 in a town called Ripoll and the majority would be pulled out of Spain by the end of December 1938.   Some, however, would not leave until February 1939, especially if they had been based near Valencia, and some later still if they were captured in the Retreats.   Some, like Robert Merriman, would never leave.  He was captured and killed on or about April 1, 1938, in the area between Corbera and Gandesa as they were trying to break out to the Ebro River.  His body was never found but the search goes on.

Doran, Merrimans, Gerlach, Stepanovich

David Doran, Marion Merriman, Bob Merriman, John Gerlach (Comrade Ivan), and possibly Vladomir Stepanovich, ALBA PHOTO 177-177027, Tamiment Library, NYU

Sagebrush

The staff of University of Nevada’s Sagebrush in 1931. Robert Merriman and Marion Stone are featured.

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¹ Cecil Eby, Comrades and Commissars, ibid.

² Marion Merriman Wachtel and Warren Lerude, American Commander in Spain, ibid.

³ Ancestry.com,  New York Immigration Records.

30 Octobre Henri Cartier-Bresson comes to film the Brigades

30 Oct 130 Oct 230 Oct 330 Oct 4

30 Oct 5

Five pages from Robert Merriman’s second diary covering October 29 and 30, 1937

Balsa

Dave Doran, Jose Varela, Captain Alfredo Balsa, and John Gates, December 1937, ALBA PHOTO 11-0997, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman continues with activities on the evening of October 28 when they had an impromptu fiesta with songs.     Three birthdays were on this day, Crespo, Lieutenant Juan Abad Garcia, and a Captain “Baltea” who is Alfredo Captain Balsa.   There was singing of flamenco, Classical Spanish and “darky” songs.  This shows that even politically advanced and intelligent people would revert to anachronistic descriptions of negro music.   While Copic tried to flatter Major Crespo, Crespo turned around and looked for Merriman and Doran to flatter him and say what a great job he had done in the rear at Quinto.   Merriman is clearly never going to be friends with Crespo, even on his birthday.

Hoff in Cartier-Bresson

Harold Hoff on an anti-tank gun in Cartier-Bresson’s film. Chris Brooks says this is a 45mm AT gun.¹

Henry Cartier-Bresson

Henry Cartier-Bresson in Quinto, ALBA PHOTO 11-0852, Tamiment Library, NYU

On the evening of the 28th of October, American photographer Herbert Kline, and Frenchmen Henri Cartier-Bresson and Jacques Lemaire arrived to shoot a film.  This was discussed on October 10 in merrimandiary.com but clearly that was too soon.   Cartier-Bresson’s film is copyrighted by the Abraham Lincoln Brigades Archives and clips have been shown variously on the web.  Many of the scenes were staged on the parade grounds in Quinto and Merriman reveals here that he also staged some of the scenes which involved medical units and ambulance evacuations.  The writer’s father took part in the movie and was seen in some of the parade ground scenes.

Quinto Church

A clip from Henri Cartier-Bresson’s film “With the American Lincoln Brigade in Spain (1937-1938)” ¹ . Quinto’s church is in the background.

Merriman is taken with Cartier-Bresson’s wife, Ratna Mohini, who was from Java.  She is not impressed with war or soldiers and must have been quite outspoken.   She claims that the Chinese will never accept communism because the family was more important in Chinese culture.   Mohini may be read in retrospect as being astute on this issue on the Chinese.  In a sentence which may or may not be transcribed correctly, Dave Doran acquainted her with the class basis of war.  The diary is clear that the filming took place on October 29 and was completed in one day’s filming.

Robert Minor and two others

Robert Minor and Russian Woman and her husband, ALBA PHOTO 11-0770, Tamiment Library, NYU

On the 29th, Bob Minor shows up with a “pretty Russian woman” and her husband who was doing assignments for the Russians.  There is a photograph of the three of them in Quinto.  To date, we have not determine the Russian comrades’ names.

 

 

Joe Taylor

Evening sing along filmed with burning lye to get light. Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “American Lincoln Brigade in Spain (1937-38)”¹

In the evening of the 29th, Copic held another sing along for the movie by Cartier-Bresson¹ and two frames of the movie show American Joe Taylor singing with a guitar being played.  Joe Taylor was presumably singing the “darky songs”.  It is ironic that Merriman chides Cartier-Bresson and LeMaire about the Chauvinism of the Americans to the French and Spanish, when these comrades have dealt with the racism in the US.   It is probable that they were prompted on this issue by Andre Marty who always felt the Americans could not rid themselves of their national identity.   In the photo on the right, Vladimir Copic is singing heartily.

Juan Crespo and Vladimir Copic singing in the movie "With the Abraham Lincoln Brigade"

Juan Crespo and Vladimir Copic singing in the movie “With the Abraham Lincoln Brigade”¹

Copic liked to sing opera but in the movie, Crespo is on Copic’s right and is also singing so it is likely they are singing patriotic songs.   Dave Doran viewed the event as historical, which it certainly was.  Ivan Rujevic (John Gerlach) agreed and thought it was unfortunate that Merriman was sick and was not available to be filmed.  However, the final cut of the film has a significant section with Merriman in it and he is speaking to the troops in front of a church in Quinto.

In the rest of the 30 October pages, Merriman gets back into Brigade Politics and reveals that Comrade Ivan doesn’t believe that Merriman is doing the work of a Chief of Staff.  Ivan believes that his “department” (the Division commissariat) supports Crespo over Merriman.  The vote of confidence must have disturbed Merriman.

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¹ Henri Cartier-Bresson, Jacques Lamaire and Herbert Kline, With the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain,  ©Abraham Lincoln Brigades Archives, New York, New York.

28 Octobre Try as they might, Fuqua will not give the IB his car

28 Oct 128 Oct 228 Oct 328 Oct 4On the morning of October 28, Merriman does show Colonel Fuqua the anti-tank guns.   It seems that Fuqua is interested in getting all the information he can.   He is especially interested in the Russian antitank gun.  Hans Amlie advances a theory that the Brigades can just put boats onto the Ebro River and float into action.  His comment that this automatically gives you the high ground since water flows downhill is really very odd military theory.   Fuqua is skeptical and given that the Fascists have all the artillery and all the airplanes, putting men into boats with nowhere to hide seems silly.  That sounds like an 19th century solution in a 20th century war.

Fuqua's car

Dave Doran, Lieutenant Colonel Copic, Colonel Fuqua, Hans Amlie, and Bob Merriman joking over the US car. ALBA PHOTO 11-0824, Tamiment Library, NYU

Doran kidding Fuqua

(l-r) Amlie, behind Ed Bender, Dave Doran, Copic, Fuqua, and Merriman. The US license plate on the car is visible. ALBA PHOTO 11-0825, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman is still pushing Copic to support General Walter for leading a new Army Corps.  Copic is not going to go there.  Merriman drafts a letter for Copic and gets him and Crespo to sign off.   Merriman says that they were kidding Colonel Fuqua that he should have left his “machine” (i.e. his car) for the American Brigaders.  We include two photos of this scene and you can see in the right image that the car has US Diplomatic Plates and a US flag on it.

Merriman says that Milly Bennett is in town and has bought baseball bats for the Americans.  Playing baseball was probably well down on Merriman’s list of “needs”.   Milly Bennett was preparing to marry Hans Amlie (they would marry in Barcelona in January and return to the US together).  This is not just a morale building visit for the Americans.

After Fuqua leaves, Merriman is rushed into a Party meeting where “Wolinski” (undetermined Brigadier) delivers the Party Line.  Merriman capitalizes “THE SPANISH PROBLEM” so the topic is pretty evident of how the Brigades are going to deal with the integrated Spanish officers.  He says “False popularity” and we can only guess what he meant by this term.  The meeting ended by a discussion of the 9th and 36th Brigades and their relationship to the Unión General de Trabadores (UGT), the Communist party union, and the Confederación Nacional del Trabados, the anarchist-POUM led union.   The 9th Brigada Mixta of the 2nd Division was originally led by General Lister and contained the Thaelmann battalion.   In the Aragon, it was led by José Martínez García and was based in Alcaníz.  The 36th Battalion of the 4th Army was called the 2nd CNT Battalion.  The discussion continued with Largo Caballero’s purported support of the POUM and why he was removed.

John Gates spoke to the Battalions and Vladimir Copic choose to speak as well.  Copic got excited about the proposal to include new Spanish comrades in the Brigades and the assumption that they would carry in ranks as officers.  Copic says that that precluded them as officer material in his army.

Poll

Lieutenant Harry Poll, November 1937. ALBA PHOTO 11_0652, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman meets with Bob Thompson after Copic left for the Division for a meeting.   Harry Poll returned with gloves for Merriman.  No coat was purchased and Poll returned Merriman’s 300 pesetas.

Merriman tried to make up with Crespo since he wanted to write a letter to Marion Merriman and Crespo let Merriman use his desk.  But the love doesn’t last long.  A Spanish sergeant in the Estado Mayor who Merriman describes at “dumb” was moved to the 21st Brigade as a Lieutenant.  The freedom with which officer positions are handed out irks Merriman who recalls how the International Officers needed to be trained first at Pozo Rubio’s Officer Training School.   Merriman hopes that Crespo will follow him.   The earlier discussion that Crespo would go to the Army Corps as a Chief of Staff did not materialize as the Army Corps was dissolved.

27 Octobre Fuqua visits the Brigades and Merriman gets a gift

27 Oct 127 Oct 227 Oct 327 Oct 427 Oct 527 Oct 6

27 Oct 7

Seven pages from Robert Merriman’s second diary covering the period of October 25-27, 1937.

The stories start to pour out of Merriman now.  He has time to catch up on activities of the month and tell of the politics of the Brigade.   About twenty pages are physically available in the second diary and Marion Merriman will soon come to meet the Brigade.  Merriman will send both diaries back to the US with Marion Merriman.   He is no longer conserving paper on putting down his thoughts.

On the 27th of October the XVth Brigade is withdrawn from the front lines and taken to Quinto.  Meetings are held and Rubin Kaufman leads some of the griping at the first meeting.   Merriman, however, is happy how the meeting went and plans meetings with each Battalion in turn.   He says that Copic remains at Quinto and takes part in the meetings.   Merriman still is fighting with Major Crespo.

Jefe of Staff of the Division A. Denis again came from Cuerpo and asked for two men to go ahead to the new Brigade positions near Quintanar de la Orden, where the Estado Mayor would go and the Battalions will be based in Belmonte which is a few kilometers east of Quintanar.   The Brigade never moved to these positions, but rather returned to positions near Ambite where they were based in June.

Quintanar and Belmonte

Map of Quintanar and Belmonte, Spain. Courtesy: Google Maps.

Merriman was visiting the Intendencia and Autopark so he was unable to comply with the order so Sapir decided to send Rollin Dart and Anton Hernandez to go on ahead to Quintanar.   Before Sapir could tell Merriman what had happened, Hans Amlie and Colonel Stephen Fuqua return and want to see the sites.  We discussed Colonel Fuqua earlier in October.

Fuqua

Colonel Stephen Fuqua, David Doran and Hans Amlie in the trenches at Fuentes de Ebro, ALBA Photo 11-0843, Tamiment Library, NYU

Col. S. Fuqua addresses troops

Colonel Stephen Fuqua (right) addressing the Mac-Paps in Quinto. Others in the photo (r to l) William Digges (in beret), Dave Doran, Bob Thompson, Bob Merriman, and Hans Amlie

Merriman says that the next day (probably October 26), they went up to Fuentes to see the Mac-Pap positions.  There is a photo of Dave Doran and Amlie with Fuqua in a Fuentes trench (right).  Fuqua addressed the Mac-Paps in an impromptu parade (left).  Fuqua and the staff then visited Belchite where they inspected the ruins.

Gates, Thompson and Doran

John Gates, US Political Commissar at Albacete with Bob Thompson and Dave Doran, Ambite Spain, December 1937. ALBA PHOTO 11-0776, Tamiment Library, NYU

When Merriman gets back to Quinto, Edward Bender, Canadian Commissar Bob Kerr and John Gates arrived.   John Gates will become the American responsible in Albacete, replacing Bill Lawrence who would return to the US.  Merriman says he will miss Lawrence.   John Gates, Dave Doran and Bob Minor represent the U.S. Communist Party Committee in Spain.   John Robinson misses his opportunity to go to Moscow as his visa is not available.  Robinson will stay in Spain.   Merriman says that he should be sent out to the USA quickly but whether this is related to passport, visa or party issues, we cannot tell at this point.

A comrade named “Wolinski” arrives who represents the Central Committee of the Communist Party.  He asks the Staff in Quinto for a meeting where no Spanish would be present and where the political organization of the Brigade would be discussed.   Dave Doran says that what is discussed is the “old Party line” where the involvement of Spanish in all activities would not be encouraged.  This is later discussed as “The Spanish Problem”.   Clearly, the involvement of Spanish leaders in the Brigade, like Crespo, who were not Party men was a problem for the Internationals.  Overnight, Fuqua was sick and confined to bed and Wolinski also got sick.  Merriman and Doran are worried about how this will be reported back to their respective leaders.

In a surprise move, Vladimir Copic gives Merriman a gold watch and tells him how he would have engraved it if he could have found an engraver.   It was in recognition of Merriman’s service at Quinto and Belchite.  Perhaps it also was a thank you for Merriman’s intervention in Valencia where they were talking seriously about pulling Copic out of the XVth Brigade.    Marion Merriman Wachtel is less impressed with the watch:

In what I thought was a mockery, Copic had presented Bob with a gold watch as commendation for Bob’s leadership at Quinto and Belchite.  But it was a cheap watch.  Copic said he planned to have it engraved but couldn’t find an engraver.  I didn’t see how Bob could stand to work with a superior who cared so little about his men  Bob put up with COpic because he had to, but argued with all of his powers when he disagreed with Copic.  As a commander in the European tradition, he didn’t relish subordinates presenting contrary views.  He frequently called the Americans “crybabies” because they challenged him so much.¹

In a later page of the diary, there is a short paragraph where Merriman began to dictate his letter in support of Copic.  The letter was not completed and he must have found a secretary to take the letter down.   Merriman says it may be near the end for Copic, but also relates that Bender and Wolinski say that they are not in favor of removal of Copic because it reflects badly on the Brigades.  Copic has few friends in leadership but his personal welfare is less important than how it would look to remove the Commander of the Brigade for failure.   Copic, personally, has asked for a couple of more months in the Brigade and then perhaps to move up to command Albacete base.  At the time Comrade Bielov was in command of the base and wanted to leave. In December General Gomez will take over as Commander of the Base at Albacete.

On the evening of the 27th, Merriman meets again with Col. Fuqua but refuses to answer his questions.  Fuqua, while ostensibly fact-finding for Claude Bowers at the US Embassy, was still not trusted and Merriman could not be sure where the information would go. Others noted that Fuqua was a US Army colleague of Major Allan Johnson, now the Tarazona training base commander.   Amlie also is suspected of having been an acquaintance of Fuqua in the US Army.  André Marty did not agree with the government’s approval of Fuqua’s visit and held all involved (Merriman, Amlie and Johnson) in the highest suspicion.²,³  Merriman did agree to show Fuqua the Russian anti-tank guns on the 28th.

Contact with Fuqua

A memorandum from RGASPI showing that contact with Stephen Fuqua could be a problem for the Brigader who met him.

Merriman doesn’t trust Fuqua who had been head of instruction in the US Army and a commander over Amlie, both in the States and in the far east.   Apparently Andre Marty and Luigi Gallo also did not trust Fuqua and contact with Fuqua painted the Brigadista as someone also not to be trusted.  The page from RGASPI on the left shows that Jim Bourne and SIM had been ordered to investigate a large number of people who had spoken with Fuqua.

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¹ Marion Merriman Wachtel and Warren Lerude, American Commander in Spain, ibid., pg 180.

² Art Landis, American Lincoln Brigade, ibid.

³ Cecil Eby, Comrades and Commissars, ibid.

24 Octobre The International Brigades are replaced by the 143rd Brigade

24 Oct 124 Oct 2

Oct 24

The last 3 pages of Robert Merriman’s catch up of events after the Battle of Quinto. It appears they were written on October 24, 1937

The end of Merriman’s October 22 diary page starts “Just before Copic left – order came thru for us to withdraw from the line into” and finishes “Quinto to be replaced by the 143rd Brigade”.   The 143rd Brigade was led by Captain Nicanor Felipe Martinez and is described on the “Guide to the Mixed Brigades”, a wonderful website for determining the leadership of the Brigades.  The Aragon Front was settling down and both sides seemed happy to leave only minimal troops in the cold trenches.  The 143rd was offering up one company and one section, probably 130 men, to man a 10 kilometer wide front.  Merriman thinks this is ridiculous and protests.  He leaves the 24th Battalion (what is left of it after reinforcements were brought in) into a second line position, in case the 143rd is overrun.  In an iconic story of the front, the Spanish Battalion’s commissar, with some men from the 24th and 143rd, went over the trenches and met with the Spanish fascist troops and exchanged gifts.

Merriman finally got 210 troops of the 143rd to come into the trenches after they first refused to join.   Merriman says that they only have two machine guns and some light weapons to guard the five mile wide front that the Mac-Paps and Lincolns held.  Merriman reveals that the contact with the enemy showed that the Italians were now gone from the front and since the Internationals were being pulled out, the front had only Spanish troops who worked out a local cease fire and truce where the whole battalion went over and met with the enemy.  One can imagine how frustrating this was for the International Brigades who were just decimated at Fuentes de Ebro.   Art Landis points out how ironic it was that on October 21, the Italians would lead an attack and take Gijon.¹   It is not likely that this would be the same Italian divisions.

Merriman says that the short stay in Quinto is coming to an end and they are awaiting orders to pull out by train, back to the Center Front.   During this period, from the Effectives List of Company 3 up to November 5, one can determine that many of the Lincolns were given leave to Madrid.

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¹  Art Landis, Abraham Lincoln Brigade, ibid.