11-12 Enero Salud España!

January 11-12, 1937
Robert Merriman’s Diary for January 11 and 12, 1937

On January 11, 1937, Robert Merriman crossed into Spain by train and began the journey of his lifetime. The first few diary pages are from his impressions of Barcelona and Valencia as he moved southward to the Albacete training base of the International Brigades.

His traveling partner was Milly Bennett (Mildred Mitchell) who he joined up with in Paris.  Mildred was writing for a Russian newspaper at the time, but had been a reporter with the Daily News in San Francisco with wild experiences in China in the 1921.  Her own exploits were written up in a book “On Her Own: Journalistic Adventures from San Francisco to the Chinese Revolution, 1917-1927.”   Milly Bennett had been in China with William Burton, brother of another Lincoln Vet Wallace Burton, and they were in Spain, her as a reporter and Wallace to fight.  More on Wallace Burton later in the year.

Milly Bennett’s autobiography of her time in China with the only photo found of her at this time. (Courtesy: Matt White, web source)

Peter Carroll¹ describes their meeting in Paris:

“When Millie Bennett, correspondent for the Moscow News, entered Brentano’s bookshop on the rue Operá in Paris in early January 1937 in search of a Spanish dictionary, she was surprised to see her old Moscow drinking buddy, Robert Merriman, snatching books about Spain by the fistful…. Soon the two Californians were charging around Paris to buy a revolver, cartridges, and (with memories of the World War) gas masks to fit over their horn rimmed glasses”

The sentence starting the Diary was “From Paris with Milly Mitchell unusual united front” meaning that they two of them were an unusual united front.   We have been unable to decipher who “A.E., A.W” were.

As an example of the excitement that Merriman had for his experience in Barcelona, in the earlier diary pages from January 1 to 11, he had taken notes of the posters he had seen.  Here are two pages:

January 3-4
Pages from Robert Merriman’s diary describing signs he saw in Barcelona
January 5-6
More signs seen in Barcelona and Valencia


¹ Peter Carroll, The Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, Stanford University Press, 1994.

Who was Robert Merriman?

Robert Hale Merriman was born in Humboldt, California, on November 17, 1908 to Henry and Faye Merriman.  Henry was reported in some histories to be a lumberjack but by 1920 he was living in Santa Clara, California, and working as a vulcanizer of tires in San Francisco, a profession he kept until at least the 1940s.  Henry and Faye moved to Los Angeles during the Depression and settled in Mojave, California in the late 1930s. As we progress with Robert’s history,  we will see a letter from Faye (“Mother”) to Robert later in 1937.

Robert Merriman was to become the Commander of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion in Spain, then head of the training unit at Albacete, Spain, and subsequently Chief of Staff of the XVth Brigade, which encompassed most of the English-speaking units of the International Brigades.  His diary is a chronicle of the development of the Brigade over the period from January to November 1937. By studying it, we learn quite a bit about the actions of the Brigade on a day-to-day basis.

Merriman image
Major Robert Merriman, December 1937  (image courtesy NYU Tamiment Library  Image 11-0634 of the Harry Randall Collection, used with permission)

In 1931, Bob Merriman was  a cadet officer at the University of Nevada at Reno,  graduating from the University on May 9, 1932.   His biography at the Abraham Lincoln Brigades Archives (ALBA) states that he married Marion Stone on his graduation day.  Marion appears frequently in his diary (she is mentioned often in the diary so we will discuss Marion in more detail as the year progresses).

Robert Merriman’s photo in the University of Nevada Yearbook under the Military Department (Cadet) Credit: US Yearbooks, Ancestry.com
The staff of University of Nevada’s Sagebrush  (University newspaper) in 1931. Robert Merriman (Junior Manager)  and Marion Stone are featured.  Credit: US Yearbooks, Ancestry.com

Bob Merriman attended the University of California at Berkeley as a graduate student,  but according to some biographies he was also a professor.  The evidence, however,  indicates that he had teaching duties at Berkeley as an assistant instructor the Economics Department, but it is not clear that he earned an advanced degree.

By January 1935, Robert and Marion left the U.S. on a Newton-Booth Traveling Fellowship in Economics¹ and traveled to Moscow where it was widely believed by his critics that he attended the Lenin School.  Rolfe², Eby³ and Barry McLoughlin4 contradict this view and state that Merriman was in Moscow to study agricultural economics.  Comintern documents say that Merriman was never a member of the Communist Party but as we will see in the diary, this seems improbable.  It was from Moscow that they would go to Spain in 1937 when the need arose for Internationals to fight in Spain.   In Paris in January 1937, Robert met up with Milly Bennett (Mildred Mitchell), a reporter, and they travelled to Spain together.  He told Bennett he was going to study collective farming.

Milly Bennett’s papers are in the Hoover Archives at Stanford University and she recalls the meeting:

I was poking through the books at Brentano’s {in Paris}, looking for a good, short history of Spain, when I saw Bob Merriman, snatching books from the shelves by the fistful with his hamlike hands.  Good old Bob from Moscow!  I yelled.  He yelled.  We fell into each other’s arms.  What was I doing in Paris.  Why wasn’t I in New York where I’d started last month?  What was he doing in Paris?  Why wasn’t he in Moscow cramming his economics?

“I’ve got a job covering the Spanish war.  I leave tonight”

“Wait for me,” Bob said, “wait until tomorrow and I’ll go with you.”

“You!  What does Marion (his wife) say?  You’ll get killed.  The foreign brigades are the shock troops.  They have the biggest casualties.” (Twenty thousand French volunteers, hundreds of Slav, German,  Italian political emigres had gone to Spain shortly after the outbreak of the war, July 18, 1936 and their ranks had been decimated.)

Bob said he expected to do some work on the new collective farms, but he didn’t look me in the eye when he said it.

“Nonsense.  I was in Spain last month and cruised all over the place with that human dynamo Anna Louise Strong.  What few collectives there are don’t need your advice.”

He said, alright, I am going to Spain to fight, but nothing I could say would change his mind.  If Marion couldn’t, how could I.  He’d had ROTC training at the University of Nevada and knew a little about machine-guns and he’d like to try it out fighting fascism.5

Milly would go on to tell her friends in a letter that she and Bob went to a Department store and were able to buy gas masks “which would fit over our hornrimmed glasses”, ammunition and Merriman bought himself a pistol.
According to this journal entry,  Robert entered Spain, via train,  on January 11, 1937. We will start Robert’s diary on January 11, 2014,  to follow his career in Spain.

Frontispiece to Merriman’s diary


¹ Arthur Landis, The Abraham Lincoln Brigade, Citadel Press, 1967.

² Edwin Rolfe, The Lincoln Battalion, Random House, 1939.

³ Cecil Eby, Comrades and Commissars, Pennsylvania University Press, 2007.

4 Barry McLoughlin, Fighting for Republican Spain, Lulu.com, ISBN 9781291968392

5 Mildred Bennett, unpublished story, Mildred Bennett Archives (in file: carbons, drafts, notes Spain 1937), Hoover Institution Archives, Palo Alto CA

An Introduction to the Merriman Diaries

Welcome to Jorgensen Sites.  Rickard Jorgensen has graciously agreed to host this blog.  The site  is dedicated to the Robert Hale Merriman and the diaries he wrote while in Spain during the Spanish Civil War (January 1937 – April 1938).   We hope that readers of these diaries will understand more about the man and the nearly 2700 Americans who fought in Spain under the banner of the XVth International Brigade and particularly the Lincoln and Washington Battalions of the Brigade.

This project will replay Robert Merriman’s two diaries at the pace they were written.  The diaries are handwritten in an approximately 3.5″ x 5.6″ bound book which you can see the cover of below.  As Bob Merriman’s handwriting was dense and changed much over the year that it was written, we provide a transcription, which is a work in progress at this time.   You may disagree with our transcription.  You may be able to figure out what that strange word is and help us out.  If you are not familiar with the history of the Lincoln Brigade, much of what is written will be cryptic and need explanation.   To that end, Rickard has formed a team of about six people who have transcribed the diary and will provide a commentary for each of the postings.  In that way, we hope you will learn about Spain, about this war, about the Americans involvement in fighting fascism and understand why we believe this diary is an important historical document that needs preservation and exposure to the public.

We hope you will follow our project and enjoy reading Bob Merriman, in his own hand.

Diary Cover
Robert Merriman’s First Diary

We make the following suggested path for new users…. start below by clicking on “Next Post” and it will take you forward in time from posting to posting.  When you get tired, mark down the day you stopped at and then return using the Calendar on the left. A warning, though, when you return using the single date archive, it does not offer the “Previous Page” “Next Page” navigation button. To again read multiple pages, click on the Monthly Archive, i.e. “Jan” or “Feb” in the bottom corners of the calendar. Navigation through the month will be available at the bottom of that page.

Or just join us where we are now and follow Merriman’s footsteps in Spain in 1937.

En Espanol (traducido por Jaime Cinca):

Bienvenido a sitios Jorgensen. Rickard Jorgensen ha accedido amablemente a acoger este blog. El sitio está dedicado a Robert Hale Merriman y los diarios que escribió mientras estuvo en España durante la Guerra Civil Española (desde enero de 1937 hasta abril de 1938). Esperamos que los lectores de estos diarios comprendan mejor al hombre y a los casi 2.700 norteamericanos que lucharon en España bajo la bandera de la XV Brigada Internacional, y en particular de los batallones Lincoln y Washington de dicha brigada.
En este proyecto se vuelven a reproducir dos diarios de Robert Merriman, al ritmo en que fueron escritos. Los diarios están escritos a mano, en un libro de aproximadamente 3.5 “x 5.6 “, del que se puede ver la portada más abajo. Como la letra de Bob Merriman era densa y cambió mucho a lo largo del año en que fue escrito, le ofrecemos una transcripción, que es un trabajo actualmente en proceso. Usted puede estar en desacuerdo con nuestra transcripción. Quizá usted sea capaz de averiguar lo que dice esa palabra extraña y ayudarnos. Si usted no está familiarizado con la historia de la Brigada Lincoln, gran parte de lo que está escrito será un enigma y necesitará una explicación. Con ese fin, Rickard ha formado un equipo, de unas seis personas, que han transcrito el diario y le proporcionaran una explicación para cada una de las publicaciones. De esta manera, esperamos que usted aprenda acerca de España, sobre esa guerra y sobre la participación de estadounidenses en la lucha contra el fascismo, y entienda por qué creemos que este diario es un importante documento histórico que necesita ser conservado y expuesto públicamente.

Esperamos que siga nuestro proyecto y que disfrute con su lectura, de la propia mano de Bob Merriman.

Consejos de navegación en este Sitio para nuevos usuarios: vaya a la parte de abajo de este artículo y haga clic sobre “Next Post” (siguiente artículo). De esta manera podrá ir pasando de artículo en artículo cronológicamente.

Cuando tenga que abandonar este Sitio, anote en qué fecha lo deja (la fecha puede verla siempre en el título o en la primera línea de cada artículo), así cuando le interese  retomar dicha fecha podrá hacerlo usando el calendario que hay en la columna izquierda. En ese calendario también puede seleccionar cualquier otra fecha que le interese y verá lo que Robert Merriman escribió ese mismo día de 1937 en su agenda, y el correspondiente artículo que ilustra aquellos hechos.

En la traducció al català per Marisa Biosca

Benvinguts i benvingudes a http://jorgpress.net/

Rickard Jorgensen ha acceptat amablement mantenir aquest blog. Aquest espai està dedicat a Robert Hale Merriman i els diaris que va escriure a Espanya durant la guerra civil española. Esperem que els lectors i lectores  d’aquests diaris puguin arribar a saber més i conèixer millor a Robert Merriman i els gairebé 2.700 americans pertanyents als batallons Lincoln i Washington, que van lluitar a Espanya sota la bandera de la XV Brigada Internacional.

Aquest projecte torna a situar els diaris personals de Robert Merriman al lloc on van ser escrits. Escrits en un llibrets enquadernats de 3’5 per 5’6 polzades que podeu veure a la part de baix. Com la lletra de Bob Merriman era molt petita i va canviar molt durant el temps que va escriure el diari, nosaltres hem facilitat una transcripció, que actualment està en procés. Podeu no estar d’acord amb la transcripció, però també podreu imaginar la dificultat per comprendre algunes paraules, així que la vostra ajuda serà benvinguda.

Si no esteu familiaritzats amb la història de la Brigada Lincoln, gran part del que s’ha escrit serà un misteri per a vosaltres, i per això ha de ser explicat.

Amb aquesta finalitat, Rickard ha format a un equip de sis persones per transcriure el diari, i que també comentaran cadascun dels registres. En aquest sentit, esperem que conegueu una mica més sobre la guerra civil espanyola i de la participació dels americans en la lluita contra el feixisme, i fer-vos comprendre per què aquest diari és un document històric rellevant que necessita conservar-se i al mateix temps donar-ho a conèixer al públic.

Us suggerim que seguiu les indicacions per als nous usuaris. Començar baix clicant en “següent registre”, i podreu anar avant en el temps d’un registre a un altre. Quan estigueu cansats, podeu marcar l’últim registre del dia que heu llegit i torneu al calendari de l’esquerra. Un petit advertiment, encara que podeu tornar cap a arrere usant solament la data de registre, de moment no és possible utilitzar-la per a anar al registre anterior o registre següent. Així que per a poder llegir diverses pàgines, clica en ” arxiu mensual”, per exemple, “gener” o ” feb” clicant de nou en les cantonades del calendari. Així  dons, mitgançant el mes podreu moure-us o navegar al peu de página.

Esperem que seguiu el nostre projecte i que gaudiu llegint els diaris personals que Bob Merriman va escriure de pròpia mà, i potser, si ho desitgeu, també podeu unir-vos a nosaltres i seguir els passos del professor i comandant Bob Merriman durant la guerra civil espanyola en 1937.

Robert Merriman's Diary from 1937 and a day-by-day transcription. Spend a year as Robert Merriman did.