Category Archives: Quinto

21 Octobre A potential shakeup of the leadership of the XVth Brigade

21 Oct 121 Oct 221 Oct 3

Oct 21-23

Four pages of Robert Merriman’s diary for the period of October 21 to October 23, 1937.

The discussion with James Bourne about his separation from the military aspects of the Brigade carried over onto October 21st and beyond and Dave Doran must have gotten into a fight with Bourne.  Merriman was called in.   Merriman feels that Bourne is not telling him everything and that he may have to be moved out.  Bourne holds out for the isolation of the Party members from the Brigades and this will not set well with those on the front lines.  There was instruction from the National Parties to remove important cadres from the lines in order to protect leadership talent.  Merriman said that Bourne is intimating that he is under orders from people who are much higher up.

Major Crespo, the 2nd Chief of Staff of the Brigade, did not agree with Merriman’s moves of the Estado Mayor.

Schmidt

Egon Schmidt, ALBA PHOTO 177-188016, Tamiment Library, NYU

Moshe (Moise) Sapir

Moise Sapir and David Doran at the new protected  Estado Mayor, Fuentes de Ebro, October 1937. ALBA Photo 11-0764, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman appears to have moved the office staff up from Quinto to these tents which were behind the hill south of Fuentes but still out of the range of the Nationalist Artillery.   Merriman says that the move has been effective in getting work done.  He gets Moises Sapir to intervene with Crespo.  Crespo insults Egon Schmidt who would have been a Captain on the staff at that point.    Crespo says Schmidt is only tolerated because they can’t find anyone else to do his job.  Schmidt was not in favor since he was found in Valencia with a Yugoslav comrade and did not have permission to be there. Merriman is looking to “clean the office” which seems doubtful will be done with a broom.

Bernard Singer who has returned from Hospital was sent on errands by Copic and he returned with all types of loot.  Merriman appears to be furious.  Rings were purchased which cost 800 pesetas each and recall that this is a month of officer’s pay.   Copic gets himself a double sized bathtub,  Merriman gets a piece of candy.   Merriman says Singer will be liquidated.  Sapir suggests that a check be done of Singer’s rank to see whether he is holding himself out at a level above what was formally approved at Albacete.  In September 1938, Bernard Singer, a soldado, was killed on the Ebro.  Merriman says he was like a “Country Boy being turned loose”.

Merriman gets “Gibbs” a new cook for the Kitchen.   This is possibly Theodore Gibbs, although he is not listed on the kitchen staff in the Brigades, he is listed as an ambulance driver.  Merriman has mentioned a negro on the previous pages as a writer who came up and wanted to be a Lieutenant and drive ambulance.   We believe that this is Eduard Luchell “El Fantastico” McDaniels.

In any case, Gibbs crosses Copic by not getting him enough hot water so he can enjoy his large, new bathtub.  Copic has him arrested.   Later Dave Doran intervenes and has him released, but Merriman sides with Copic in that an order was given and not followed.  The personal dynamics between Doran and Merriman are illuminating here.

Langston Hughes and Crawford Morgan

Langston Hughes chatting with Crawford Morgan at Fuentes de Ebro front, October 1937. ALBA PHOTO 11-1347, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman takes Eric DeWitt Parker and Langston Hughes up to the lines but gets called back to Quinto to have a meeting with Copic and Jim Bourne.   Copic explains what happened in Valencia at the Comintern meeting.   “Alfredo” and Andre Marty came to Albacete and apparently nothing was decided whether the British would get their six month repatriation decision.   Copic’s suggestion that an army corp made up of the International Brigades was rejected.  General Walter may not stay with them at all as the Army Corps that they are in at this point, the 12th, is being disbanded.   Merriman says that Copic returned to Valencia and met with Comrade Maximoff and Bob Minor and others.  He was informed that a new Battalion might be formed and that his own “personal problem” was solved.  Copic had used terms like being stateless and having nowhere to go, it is possible that this personal problem was his future career in the Party.

Hans Klaus

Photo of Hans Klaus (identified as Klaus Becker in many ALBA photos but believed to be Colonel Klaus or Claus), ALBA PHOTO 177-177038, Tamiment Library, NYU

Then Copic drops the bombshell that he himself has been removed as Commander of the XVth International Brigade for the failure at Fuentes de Ebro.   Copic suggests that Hans Klaus will replace him and it is possible Copic will move up to command a Division.  Copic says he suggested Merriman become commander of the XVth Brigade. Whether any of this story has real substance is hearsay, since none of it actually happened.  Instead Dave Doran and Merriman write a letter to Valencia (presumably to Bob Minor) to object to this change and to see if they could stop it.   Copic makes a remark that if he were a professional soldier, this would “break his heart” but Merriman doesn’t buy it.  He thinks Copic is actually relieved to be able to move out.   Merriman talks to Denis, the Accidental Jefe of the Division, and gets himself a salvo conducto to go to Valencia and make the case to keep Copic.    Merriman and Doran wonder if Bill Lawrence, the American responsible in Albacete, was behind the move to get rid of Copic.  Lawrence might have seen enough of the friction when he was at the front just before the attack on Fuentes de Ebro.   It is interesting that after all the attempts to move Copic out, now Merriman and Doran are loyally trying to save him.   They may have been afraid of having Hans Klaus or Juan Crespo put in charge.

Doran and Robinson

David Doran and John Robinson, September 1937, ALBA PHOTO 11-0753, Tamiment Library, NYU

In a final note for this day, Merriman says that John Quigley Robinson would be leaving to go to Valencia and then on to Moscow as part of the delegation of American Communists attending a Politburo meeting there.   Merriman would have liked to go.

20 Octobre Merriman moves the Estado Mayor further from Fuentes del Ebro

Oct 20, 1937

Robert Merriman’s diary for October 20, 1937

Estado Mayor

Estado Mayor at Fuentes de Ebro, ALBA PHOTO 11-1234, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman removed the Estado Mayor from the range of the artillery by moving it behind a hill.  This is probably the position shown in the photograph on the right.

Bourne, Hughes, Parker

James Bourne, Langston Hughes, and Eric DeWitt Parker at the Estado Mayor, Fuentes de Ebro, ALBA PHOTO 11-0800, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman reveals that Eric DeWitt Parker and Langston Hughes arrived at Fuentes de Ebro.  There are a number of photos with Hughes and various Brigadistas (including the one with Eric Parker here).   Bourne had just returned from Albacete and was not treated well there so the men were upset about how they were being viewed in the Spanish Army.   Bourne brought back a letter from Marion Merriman which related that George (probably Brodsky) and “Red” had gone to the Comintern (CI) or Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).  Bourne comes back with a decision from the political office in Valencia that he should not be given any active military assignments.  Jim Bourne has gone from being a political neophyte to someone who can muster the protection of the Comintern.   It appears that there are two people in the Politburo in Valencia who do not understand that it is necessary to separate the political arm of the army from the military one.   Bourne is an example of this separation.

19 Octobre Fascist Artillery and Aircraft get a fix on the XVth Estado Mayor

19 Oct 1

19 Oct 219 Oct 319 Oct 419 Oct 5

19 Oct 7

Six pages from Robert Merriman’s second diary. While the dates on the diary are somewhat uncertain, it is believed that these events happened prior to October 20, 1937

New troops at Fuentes

Photo entitled “David Doran addressing troops at Fuentes de Ebro”. Men standing in the photo from right to left are: Edward Cecil-Smith, Ivan Rukevcic and Tom Mallon. ALBA PHOTO 11-1778, Tamiment Library, NYU

The last words on page 43 of Merriman’s second diary say “On the 19th …”  and we find out that new men are up at Quinto arriving from Tarazona de la Mancha.  These 510 new recruits will help bring the four battalions back to strength after the losses of Fuentes de Ebro.  This was draft #25 of the Spanish Army which dipped down into young men who just turned 19 (and some who were older than 35).   Merriman will say that all the new recruits are 19 but some were older.

The command of the battalions is fluid and Bob Thompson will step back from the command of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion and Edward Cecil-Smith (see photo above) would move into the position he would occupy until October 1938 as head of the Mac-Paps.   For the Lincolns, Milt Wolff told Art Landis in the ALBA audiotapes that he became commander of the Lincoln Brigade temporarily when they returned to Quinto.      In a small diversion, I will post two Company 3 effectives lists for the Lincoln Battalion, one from October 5 and one from October 19.  The number of available effectives shows how decimated the Battalion was after Fuentes.

October 5 effectives list

Company 3 effectives list for October 5, 1937, prior to Fuentes

October 17, 1937

Company 3 effectives list for the Lincolns on October 17, 1937

11_0899s_Elhanon Winchester Bridges, Company 3, Lincoln-Washington Battalion_nov 37Company 3’s compliment went from 65 before Fuentes to 29 men.  29 Americans were reduced to 18, and five of them were missing.  The staff was gone.  The commander, looks like Sanakus (but that name is not in the ALBA list) was in hospital.  Company Clerk Tom Page was in hospital ill.  Michael (Morris) Ecker who came up on October 5 was temporary clerk of the Company. Elhanon Bridges became the temporary company commander.  On October 21, Harold Hoff would become the company clerk.

Merriman notes that the 143rd Brigada Mixta joined the XVth Brigade.   The Brigade from Figueras was led by Marine Captain Nicanor Fernandez.  It is not known if Fernandez had his Captain’s stripes by this time, but Merriman was impressed by their ability in telling dirty jokes.

Airplane Bombardment

An airplane bombardment of the positions at Fuentes de Ebro, ALBA Photo 11-1237, Tamiment Library, NYU

 

Owen Appleton

Owen Appleton, Brigade Secretary, killed at Fuentes de Ebro, October 1937. ALBA Photo 11-0607, Tamiment Library, NYU

Hene

Dr. Julius Hene, May 1938. ALBA Photo 11-0215, Tamiment Library, NYU

The Nationalist forces in Fuentes de Ebro got the range of the trenches of the XVth Brigade and were effective at pounding the trenches including the Estado Mayor where the Brigade Staff were based.  Dr. Julius Hene was injured in one such attack by artillery.   On October 18, in a bombing run on the trenches, 18 men were buried under the debris from the bomb blasts killing Owen Appleton, the Brigade secretary,   Canadian Alexander McClure and Vernon Snow.  All in all, six were killed in the Estado Mayor in a few days.  Merriman simply says that they need to do a better job at protecting their trenches.  On the 20th, Merriman will note that the Estado Mayor would be moved further back, behind a hill and closer to Quinto.  This gives us one date to divide the stories being told in the diary.

Egon Schmidt

Egon Schmidt on hill in Fuentes (standing right center). Malcolm Dunbar is on the periscope, Copic in front of him, Rollin Dart with field glasses, Harry Bee (topography) sitting behind Merriman and Merriman. ALBA PHOTO 177-177030, Tamiment Library, NYU

 

Some of these diary pages are particularly opaque to understanding.  The XVth Brigade battalions got the use of the 11th Battalion of Engineers from the Cuerpo (Army Corps) but there must have been the feeling that they were being abused (not to mention in the line of fire at an active front).   Cuerpo called down and wanted to speak to Copic who was not there as he had gone to Albacete for the big fiesta there on October 17 for the first Anniversary of the Brigades.   They apparently would not talk to Merriman on the phone and sent down an Engineer to talk to them.  At the start of the discussion the commander of the Engineers lectured the XVth like they were militiamen and new at the front.  Remember that the XVth was just adsorbed into the command of the Spanish Army structure.  Merriman must have set this officer straight quickly.   At the end, the Engineers were put at the disposal of the Brigades to help fortify the trenches.  But the first night out, 2 were killed and 2 were wounded in the Engineers when they were out front of Mac-Paps on the left of the Fuentes front.  Tough duty for these men and little chance to fight back.   Merriman sent Schmidt (believed to be Egon Schmidt, above right, who was attached to the Brigade at this point) to speak to them and he was sympathetic to their risks.   Merriman says that he gave them duty on the 19th to make trenches which ran to the railway tracks and they were happier because they then believed they were doing general work for Cuerpo and not just for the International Brigades.

Merriman relates the tedium of life at the front.  Men get a chance to get a hot shower.  Men are getting some recreation by playing chess. But the paperwork suffered during the active fighting and now Merriman says that office work has suffered.   Appleton has been killed so at his level, he has lost a secretary.  On the 21st of October, my father, Harold Hoff,  became clerk of Company 3 of the Lincolns (recognized by his handwriting).  Clearly, this comment by Merriman indicates that men who were literate were pulled out to help get caught up on the effectives list.  These lists were important to get the head count up so that the October 30 payroll would be complete.

Co3Effectives

Company 3 Effectives List from Fuentes, October 21, 1937. Tom Page had been the Clerk in the Company but was replaced by Harold Hoff. The company complement was up to 74 from a minimum of 28.

Saul Wellman

Saul Wellman, Robert Thompson, and Dave Doran, trenches at Fuentes de Ebro, October 1937. ALBA PHOTO 11-0582, Tamiment Library, NYU

The Mac-Paps are struggling with illness.  Niilo Makela has jaundice (hepatitis) which was rampant in the Brigades and Bob Thompson is sick.  The senior leadership of the Mac-Paps were out of action since Joe Dallet had been killed in the previous week and Doug Hitchcock wounded.   Merriman says that Bernard Singer is returning to action and  Wally Sabatini, who was the Adjutant Commissar of the Mac-Paps got the jitters and had to be removed.  In his place, the more solid Saul Wellman would take over as Commissar for the Mac-Paps.

Bill Rust

Malcolm Dunbar, Bill Rust of the Daily Worker, Vladimir Copic, and Hugh Slater, ALBA PHOTO 177-177065, undated. Tamiment Library, NYU.

Merriman makes a comparison between Rollin Dart and Malcolm Dunbar.  We can’t determine which of them he is criticizing.   Merriman says Will Paynter will be leaving and he introduced his replacement from Valencia, but Merriman does not give the name.   Our colleague Barry McLoughlin suggests that this could be Bill Rust who took over for Paynter as the representative of British Communist Party to the Partido Communista de Espana.

Eluard McDaniels

Eluard Luchell McDaniels, May 1938. ALBA Photo 11-0127, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman also is sketchy on a visitor from the US who was a writer with the Western Writer’s Conference.   Merriman mentions that he is a negro and said he had been a Lieutenant in the XIIth Brigade on another front.  He was on tour with the Brigades and had heard that the Lincolns were down to 12 effectives. Chris Brooks has suggested that this is likely to be Eluard Luchell McDaniels, who had a history of conflating his stories. McDaniels would become known as “El Fantastico” since he had the ability to throw grenades ambidextrously.   Merriman told him that there were 150 American effectives in the Lincolns at this point at Fuentes.   (Still, the Lincoln-Washington complement should have been around 600-800 men.)   McDaniel brought news of James Harris who was now in the Dombrowski battalion which was now in the 13th Brigade.   Harris apparently had suffered another round of “chills” and Merriman is intrigued.  He says he would have liked to  talked to Harris.   Unfortunately, without knowing this, Harris had deserted his unit on October 14 and was caught leaving the lines.  He was summarily shot by the command of the XIIIth Brigade, ending a troubled career for James Harris in Spain.

Merriman finishes this paragraph by saying that Elias Begelman is not working too well in his current role on the staff.   Merriman compares Begelman to Wattis and this comparison is also unclear.  Wattis had been complemented by Merriman for good work at Belchite, but his manner was officious and this may be the basis of the comparison.

Merriman finishes this newsy section of his diary by doing a retrospective of some earlier thoughts.  He reveals that Vladimir Copic told journalist David Lasser that he is stateless (and probably has no place to go after the war).  He asks Lasser to intervene with President Juan Negrin for him and Merriman says that this was an unwise move since Lasser was not a member of the Communist Party and probably wondered what Copic was asking him to do.

10 Octobre Robert Minor and Bill Lawrence tour Quinto

10 Oct 1

10 Oct 2

Two pages from Merriman’s diary describing events that occurred on the morning of October 10, 1937.

Copic, Minor and Unknown

Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Copic, Robert Minor and a woman visitor at Quinto during the Fuentes del Ebro Operations, October 1937 ALBA PHOTO 11-0848, Tamiment Library, NYU

Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson in Quinto in front of training Lincoln Brigaders, October 1937, ALBA Photo 11-0852, Tamiment Library, NYU

The XVth Brigade arrives back in Quinto.  Accompanying them is Bill Lawrence from Albacete and Bob Minor from Valencia.   Many, many photographs are available from this visit and Bob Minor is widely photographed in the area.  In addition, new arrivals show up at Quinto from Albacete to join the Lincoln-Washington Battalion and Henri Cartier-Bresson, Jacques Lemare and Herbert Kline are there to make a movie of the Brigades.   Iconic pictures and movies of the men marching and training are seen outside the cemetery at Quinto just to the north of the Church.

As a personal prerogative here, I include a single frame from the movie that Cartier-Bresson is shooting and the man who is circled in the photo is the writer’s father, Harold Hoff, who has just come to Quinto from Tarazona de la Mancha.   He has been in Spain for three weeks and will go on the front lines in 3 days.

Hoff-Quinto

Harold Hoff in formation in Quinto during the filming of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s film, ALBA copyright, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman says that the staff meeting they held with Bill Lawrence and Bob Minor was tense.   The staff were trying to remove Copic from command and have him replaced.   Copic showed a picture, presumably one of the many of himself, to Minor and Lawrence.  The air was frozen.  Minor asked if Copic had one of Merriman (knowing full well that Copic did not allow photographs of Merriman to be taken at Belchite).  Copic did not answer as he knew that he had blocked photos to be taken of Merriman.  It is probable that Sandor Voros discovered the lack of photos of Merriman when he was attempting to put an article together on him for the Volunteer.  On the 24th of September orders were given to photograph all the heroes of the Belchite battle and the fact that no photo was taken of Merriman would be extremely galling to the Americans.

After the meeting the Americans talked.  Bill Lawrence, Robbie Robinson and Dave Doran met with Merriman.   Jim Bourne had been ordered by Minor to talk to Merriman.   Some question that Bourne had asked of Lawrence was inappropriate and he was apprised of that later.   Merriman’s opinion of Bourne as a political neophyte is reinforced.   It appears that Steve Nelson, Bill Lawrence, Dave Doran and Robbie Robinson may be sent to Moscow for upcoming Party meetings.  The 12th Plenary Session of the 17th Congress of the Communist Party was being held in Moscow on October 11th and 12th.  For them to make it to Moscow for this plenum would have meant flying there.  There is no evidence that Steve Nelson, who was wounded in Belchite, went on this trip and Bill Lawrence did not leave Spain until November of 1937.   It is possible that this talk was meant to be a morale booster for the Americans in Spain and that they had access to political power that they were not finding in Prieto’s Spanish Military Command.

25-26 Agosto “Need to clean up city. Not so easy”

August 25-26, 1937

Robert Merriman’s diary of August 25 and 26, 1937

Merriman’s diary for these days has to be read in tandem with the 23-24 Agosto pages.  He straightens out some of the time line that his excitement and enthusiasm of the 24th has clouded for  us.   On the 25th, it was clear that while Quinto was in the hands of the International Brigades, they held many trapped Fascists troops in the town, in the church, and on the heights of Purburell.   Merriman went into town with a group of troops and Maurice Constant’s memory of the event was given in yesterday’s post.  In the fighting to take the church, Milo Domjonovic  was killed and “Gibson” was wounded.   This is likely Canadian Patrick Gibson since there is no Gibson in the Lincoln Brigade.  “Estevez” is likely a Spanish or Cuban comrade.

Quinto Church

The Church at Quinto after the battle. ALBA Photo 11-1218, Tamiment Library, NYU

Merriman reports briefly on the street to street fighting.  Many IB were killed going from house to house as the basements had been linked in town and when a house was attacked, the defenders would move to another.  The church was a particular problem since it held the high ground above the town and from the steeple, one had a field of fire on the cemetery and town.  The photo on the right shows the church after the IB’s finished with it and took their prisoners.  Yesterday’s post shows it as it stands today.

Merriman says “Guerin next to me hit in the head”.  From Maurice Constant’s story given yesterday makes us wonder if Merriman got the name wrong and confused his Canadians.  Constant was the one who was shot in the head.  Another Staff member, “Gede¹” was killed and perhaps this is the name Merriman was searching for.  In trying to take the church, Tom Wintringham is also shot and this wound will finally send him back to England.

Merriman went to the cemetery after noon and ordered the British who were in reserve to take Purburell Hill.  He admits to his diary that it was worse than it looked.   No covering artillery or tank fire was available since it was expected that the hill was only lightly defended³. Peter Daly, the British Commander, led the charge and was shot almost immediately in the stomach by a machine gun.  He would die on September 5, 1937, in Benicassim Hospital.  The Canadian section leader, Tommy Lyons, was wounded in the head.³  The Irishman Paddy O’Daire took over command. The Book of the XVth Brigade¹ relates the story that the Fascist aviation actually bombed their own troops on Purburell Hill.  The British go up on the 25th and get pinned down in trenches as the sun is going down.       The British make the trenches on the hill but light runs out and they have to stay the night in the trenches.   Merriman sets out a complicated sentry scheme to keep the Fascists on the hill and tells the British not to snipe at them (which would give their positions away).

Merriman says that a number of men made a sortie to raid water and that the Sergeant in charge of the maneuver was a “Good little fellow”.   Landis attributes this to Larry O’Toole and Melvin Anderson of the Americans who cut the pipeline feeding the water supplies to Purburell Hill.  This could be the most significant attack of the entire battle.   In the attempt to get water overnight on the 25th and 26th, about a dozen fascists were captured who were also out trying to obtain water.  These are  the men that Merriman spent the night of the 25th interrogating.   At this time, the Brigade knew that a large number of men were on the hill, but that they were in a desperate state because of the lack of water.

Steve Nelson tells the story:

That same evening, the guards brought in a little Fascist sergeant, who was grinning and happy to be a prisoner.  He stood before Bob Merriman.  “Him and twenty-nine others”, said the guard.  “They come in with their hands up just now”.

“They sent us for water, to the river”, the sergeant offered.  “I was leader. So I led them here”.

“What were you doing with the fascists?”

“I was an observer and mapper”

“How did it happen that they sent you for water?”

“I volunteered.  I figured this was my chance to get away”.

“Why were you with the fascists?”

“Conscripted.  What would you?  It was enlist or be shot.”

“I see … How many men on the hill?”

“About a thousand.  Two hundred are wounded, forty-five dead.  The airplanes yesterday killed all the artillery crew, and put the guns out of commission… Tell me, were they your planes?”

“No. They bombed you because they thought we had already taken the hill.  Look, we’ll ask the questions.  How’s the morale?”

“The officers shot six men yesterday.  Does that tell you?… Today we heard many broadcasts that a relief column was approaching, to hold out all all costs.  But there is no water.  That’s the main trouble–no water.”

“Is that the chief worry of the officers?”

“Yes. That, and your tanks and planes; they have no anti-tank or anti-aircraft left.”

“You say you’re a mapper.  Draw a sketch of the whole position on the hill.  Mark in the ammunition dump, radio post, command, machine gun nests, everything.”

When the map was finished, he sent the sergeant out, and had another prisoner brought in.  With him, he checked the information supplied by the sergeant.  Everything jibed.  Merriman phoned the tank and artillery commands and other units, giving the men orders.”²

From Merriman’s diary, it appears that the tank, antitank, and artillery barrage on the hill started on the 26th of August.  This softening up was followed by an assault which did not succeed.  Merriman brought the Americans up on another flank of the hill to assist in the assault.  This group was led by Charlie Nusser, #1 Company commander, Sam Gonshak, his adjutant, and David “Mooch” Engels, the commissar.  The battle for Purburell Hill lasted about five hours and was not without drama.   At one point, Italian Caproni aircraft flew over and bombed their own lines on the hill.   Thinking that this was Republican aircraft, white flags went up and the Brigades advanced thinking they had taken the hill.   When the Fascists realized that these were their aircraft and that they were returning for other strafing runs, they hauled down the flags and began firing again.  In the meantime, however, the Brigades significantly advanced up the hill without fire.

After a late afternoon precision artillery and anti-tank barrage led by Hugh Slater’s Britons, again white flags went up.   As Merriman relates in the diary, however, some fascists fired on Van der Bergh and the white flags again came down and shooting commenced again.   Paddy O’Daire’s British battalion had reached the Fascist trenches by that point and yelling “Charge the trench”, the Brigadistas saw hands go up and the Fascists yelled “Agua.  Agua”.  Clearly without water in the August sun, they were dying of thirst.

Felix Kusman

John Weldon (left) and Felix Kusman of the Lincoln-Battalion in Spring of 1938. ALBA PHOTO 11-0352, Tamiment Library, NYU

The Fascist troops surrendered.  One German and one White Russian killed themselves.  Felix Kusman related to Art Landis in his taped interview 30 years later:

The sun is going down.  The first couple of positions we occupy with no opposition–lots of wounded — lots of dead — lots of prisoners.  We ordered the prisoners to put their arms down and to take the wounded to the center of the hill.  And, at the center we find a command post for the officers and Falangists.  There had been women there too, officers’ wives and others.  The place was surrounded by machine-gun nests, but they are empty now, as is the command bunker itself.  The officers have retreated to the northeast section of the hill and are putting up a last resistance against the Spaniards of the 24th Battalion.  They are wiped out.  We continue.  At one point we see a White Russian officer.   Larry O’Toole and I approach him.  He is screaming in Russian: “Red Pigs! Red Pigs!”  Then in Spanish : “If you come any closer I’ll shoot!”.  O’Toole yells back: “Go ahead and shoot, you bastard.  If you don’t, I will!”  He has his gun in his hand and he blows his brains out,  I take his gun and a sword and a Russian Bible from his body”.¹

Fascist Officers

Print of Fascist officers from a negative captured during the attack on Purburell Hill. ALBA PHOTO 11-1196, Tamiment Library, NYU

The photo on the left is of the Fascist officers in the bunkers planning the defense.   Most were killed and many of those who were captured were executed.   Merriman says in excess of 500 prisoners were taken.   It is hard to believe that all were shot, although taking of prisoners did not guarantee them Geneva Convention rights.     Merriman says the number of prisoners exceeded the number of International Brigades attackers.

Major Modesto

Major Juan Modesto. ALBA PHOTO 11-1080, Tamiment Library, NYU.

Merriman relates the dirtier side of war in this passage.  Prisoners were shot.  A German Brigader taunted a Spanish officer and then shot him.  The Brigade looted the town.   Marion Greenspan came up to Quinto and after that the men had their weapons taken from them, perhaps to cut down on retribution or attacks on civilians.  Juan Modesto, head of the Division, comes to Quinto to observe the victory and everyone is justifiably proud of their accomplishments.  While they were given a hint that they could rest for a while, the need to get quickly to Zaragoza means that the victory celebration would be short lived.  The element of surprise is now gone and the Fascists will be countering the assault so the XVth Brigade needs to keep moving northward.   They gather on the edge of town and are told they need to move up.  The Dimitrovs will lead the protection units on the move and Merriman is told that the 102nd Brigade is retreating.  The 102nd Brigada Mixta crossed the Ebro at Pina del Ebro (between Quinto and Fuentes del Ebro) and took the town (thanks to Alan Warren for the history).  If they were retreating south towards Quinto this would slow the advance towards Zaragoza.

_______________________________

¹ Art Landis, The Abraham Lincoln Brigade, ibid.  pp 261-280.

² Steve Nelson, The Volunteers, ibid, p 179.

³ Book of the XVth Brigade, ibid., pp 247-256.