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Full text of "The Story of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion : written in the trenches of Spain."

I THE STORY OF THE 

ABRAHAM LINCOLN BATTALION 



WRITTEN 
IN THE 

TRENCHES 
OF SPAIN 




PRICE ANY DONATION FOR THE 
ABRAHAM LINCOLN BATTALION 




cc 



, . That government of the people, by 
the people and for the people shall not 
perish from the earth " 



ABRAHAM LINCOLN 

Gettysburg Address 
November 19, 1863 



Lil 
University of Texas 
Austin 



CHAPTER ONE 

HELLO FOLKS ! I am writing to you from the front line 
trenches of Spain. I want to tell you the story of the 
Abraham Lincoln Battalion. I want to tell it in my 
own words and to write the things that I have seen. I hope that 
what I say will reach you and the fascist machine guns won't get 
to me before I finish what I have to say. 

It is ironical that as I write about the scenes of war, I lie hud- 
dled in a trench, in a field of olive groves near the Jarama River, 
40 kilometers northwest of Madrid. War amidst olive branches — 
classical symbol of peace. And yet it is not at all strange or ironi- 
cal because we 2000 Americans fighting with the Loyalist Gov- 
ernment against the fascist invasion of Spain are fighting for 
peace, for human liberties. __^^ 

We Americans did not come to Spain because we have any ^v 
romantic childish notions about war, nor were we impelled by J 
fanfare and large cheering parades. We left America quietly, with- / 
out publicity, with the serious mindedness as to the work before / 
us; compelled by the need to fight against the criminal invasion / 
of Spanish soil, which represented a threat to human liberty / 
everywhere. / 

Our Battalion was formed between the last weeks of December 
and the first weeks of January. We consisted at that time of 470 
men, men from every part of the States and Cuba, Mexico, Porto 
Rico, Canada, Hawaii, and the Philippine Islands. Of the James 
Connolly Section, 105 seasoned fighters from the Irish Free State 
who came to make up the Abraham Lincoln Battalion. The First 
Aid Division of the Battalion, composed of well trained first aid 
men, includes one whole unit from Holland. The Antonio Guiter- 
ras Column consisting of Cubans forms a significant part of the 
Battalion. 

These men, every one of them, are as much opposed to war 
as I am. We had in our ranks men who were in Leavenworth 
Prison in 1917 for refusing to participate in the World War. 



81495 






There were seamen such as Robert Pick and Charley Edwards 
(who have since been killed in action) who refused on a score 
of occasions to handle shipments of munitions to the Italians 
invading Ethiopia. There were students who led the national stu- 
dent strikes that swept America— men who only a short time ago 
carried on a passionate struggle for pacifism— college professors 
who less than a month ago lectured in universities on the destruc- 
tive effects of war on education and culture. The very character 
of the Battalion is perhaps the best indication of the purposes of 
the Battalion. 
/— "We had come to Spain not to involve America into war, but 
/ to give our services in a fight to keep war out of the world. We 
I believe with all our hearts that democracy attacked in Spain is 
I democracy attacked everywhere— that the fight for peace today 
/ is best done by fighting in the front line trenches in Spain against 
I the foreign fascist invasion that moves towards world war. We 
I are opposed to a policy of neutrality that condemns the assassin 
\and his victim alike. 

These men of the Lincoln Battalion feel that the American 
nation cannot sit quietly in its own room and close its door on 
a fire that is raging in the building. It seems perfectly obvious 
to us that the American people must join the democratic water 
brigade to put out the fascist fire that is spreading throughout the 
apartment house of the world. 

There exist certain splendid traditions— traditions which the 
American people hold dear, which makes our action more un- 
derstandable. There was a time when we needed help, when the 
American colonies were invaded by the soldiers of Royalist Eng- 
land assisted by the mercenary Hessians and that help came. 
Lafayette, Kosciusko, Pulaski and others, who left their native 
soil to fight with the American people against the reaction that 
threatened our existence. We have built monuments in tribute 
to the contribution made by these men. I do not urge monuments 
for the Lincoln Battalion but I do expect understanding and sup- 
port from the American people should be forthcoming. Perhaps 
I can make my point even more clear. 

If we would but apply our criminal and civil laws to interna- 
tional affairs we would arrive at a simple and proper understand- 
ing. We condemn murder and robbery even though we may not 



1 



be the victims. To fail to do this would be to encourage murder 
and robbery and eventually we would be victimized. To fail to 
support the democratic liberties of the Spanish people against 
fascist invasion invites attack on our own shores, on our own 
liberty. To hesitate in condemning the armed uprising of a fascist 
minority against the popular people's government is but to place 
temptation in the path of our own reactionaries. 

The experiences we have had in Spain since our arrival con- 
firmed our early impressions. We have seen the ruthlessaess of 
Italian and German planes hurling death on undefended Spanish 
cities. We have seen the long lines of orphaned, homeless chil- 
dren and crippled men and women which attested to the efficiency 
of Italian and German military training. 

We have captured and interviewed Italian and German prison- 
ers who gave evidence to the foreign invasion provoked by Hitler 
and Mussolini. And we have been moved by the splendid spirit 
and heroism with which the Spanish people manned the barri- 
cades and trenches in defense of their homes, families and liberty. 

Let me begin my story with a letter A. Ripps, a member of our 
Battalion, wrote to his father. 



CHAPTER TWO 



Dear Dad: 

tt/^\UR trip here was a long and hard one but once we got 

\^J into Spain we forgot all about it. It would be hard to 
find words to describe the beauty of this country. For 
miles and miles we passed through grand rolling hills and majes- 
tic mountains. Our first view of the Pyrenees made us speechless. 
They are snow-topped mountains that stretch as far as the eye 
can see. It was a beautiful sunset when we first saw them and the 
snow seemed like a brightly-hued blanket thrown over the top 
of the mountains. 

"We passed through miles of flatlands that were bounded by 
small mountains and every single inch of these lands was cul- 
tivated. The landscape looked like a checkerboard. Now and then 
we passed through picturesque little towns containing magnificent 
castles or churches or forts, the kind you see in picture postcards. 

"Not until we got to the big cities did we realize that we were 
in a country that is engaged in a civil war. There were the Span- 
ish fighters either being trained for the front or recently back 
from the front. And, of course, those courageous fighters of the 
International Brigade. 

"SALUD, COMPANEROS!" 

"Everywhere we were greeted with enthusiastic cheering. At 
every station our train stopped we were saluted. In Barcelona we 
were greeted by a large band and we paraded through the city. 
Thousands lined the streets and shouted 'Viva los Americanos' 
as we passed, 

"On the train a handsome, weather-beaten peasant woman got 
on and piled into one of our compartments with huge bundles 
and began to chat very pleasantly with us in Spanish. When we 
got an interpreter she told us proudly that two of her sons were 
fighting at the front. 

"A stately old man, a peasant too, got on the train with two 
bags filled with lemons and oranges which he proceeded to pass 

6 



f 



out among us. He was going to the front to join his 19-year-old 
son who was fighting there, 

"A railroad worker on the train found it hard to believe that 
we came all the way from America to fight for Spain. When we 
explained to him how the workers of America have raised hun- 
dreds of thousands of dollars to help the Spanish workers, we 
had to prevent him from kissing us. 

" Alljiiroitgh Spain the workers are fired with one purpose^— 
t o drive the fascists out of Spain. To that purpose everyon e is 
u nited — Communists. Socialists, Anarchists, trade unionists, Jtte- 
publican3 ? and yes* even priests who are fighting with rjflea in th e 
f ront lines . Everywhere is shouted 'NO PAS ARAN 9 — they shall 
not pass. To that the International Brigade has added — 'NOSO- 
TROS PASAREMOS'—we shall pass. 

"One night on the way here we stopped over night in a town 
near a railroad station and we were quartered there in a beauti- 
ful castle. A few hours after we arrived a group marched in from 
Hungary and Czechoslovakia. A while later came a group of 
anti-fascist Germans. After that came a bunch from — of all places 
— Palestine! We were hoarse from cheering. Christ, one can't 
help but feel the strength of the international sentiment for human 
liberty. It made each one of us feel strong. All of us together will 
be invincible. We just can't lose. 

"All along the route we met contingents from France, Belgium, 
Poland, and Holland. Everywhere we go we show the Spanish 
people examples of organization and discipline. In every town 
and city the Spanish people receive us with friendship, respect 
and comradeliness. The people know and in some cases have felt 
the terrors of fascism and the behavior of our boys have earned 
their respect. They do not treat us as ordinary soldiers but as 
comrades, 

"The local people go out of their way to see that we are com* 
fortablc. Everywhere we go they follow us and watch us with in- 
terest. We always have a gang of kids around us chattering away 
at our doings. One day an airplane passed over the town and the 
kids scattered in all directions to places of cover. The poor kids 
know the dangers of ruthless fascist attacks. But it was a loyalist 
plane as we saw immediately." 



CHAPTER THREE 

AS the Americans poured into Spain,, we were placed at Villa 
Neiiva de la Jara, a town near Albacete, as the training 
base. For more than a month we were rigidly trained in 
military strategy and tactics, in field maneuvers and in the han- 
dling of the rifle and machine gun. Classes were conducted in 
street fighting scouting, machine gun, mapping, chau-chau gun, 
and in grenade throwing. Lectures were regularly delivered by 
men from the ranks who were acquainted with the various phases 
of methods used in fighting. Every day a few hours were spent in 
drilling on the open field, and sham-battles were conducted as if 
we were in actual warfare. 

The training we received at the base did a great deal to pre- 
pare us for the front and made us realize the absolute necessity 
of working together. "Discipline" became our motto and empha- 
sis was placed on it at every occasion. It can be honestly said 
that the Americans demonstrated their calibre by bringing about 
a thorough and efficient organization among a conglomeration of 
men from every part of the globe who had but one aim— the 
unconditional defeat of Fascism. 

When the Lincoln Battalion was finally complete, it consisted 
oi two infantry companies of three sections each, a machine gun 
company, a first aid and medical division, a kitchen staff attached 
to the supply and transport department, a political bureau an 
armorer department, and a headquarters and military staff. The 
James Connolly Section and the Antonio Guiterras Column were 
part of the first company. The entire battalion numbered close to 
500 men. (Now more than 2,000 are members: Editor's Note ) 
The first batch of Americans, mostly New Yorkers, to arrive 
at Villa Nueva de la Jara were quartered in a huge abandoned 
building. The impressive thing about this building was that the 
walls on the inside were decorated with drawings by members of 
the French Battalion with different slogans of the Popular Front 
such as: "No Pasaran," "Red Front,- "Down With Fascism » and 



is written in many languages. The clenched fist of interna- 
i ' 'ml solidarity was conspicuously stamped on them. 

On the outside, on the very top, brilliant flags waved gallantly 
in the breeze. The building was in an unsanitary condition 
when the Americans moved in. It required several days of un- 

ing and intensive work before it was made livable. The 
civilians cooperated valiantly and did all they could to make the 
Americans comfortable. They even gave hundreds of mattresses 
so our boys could have something better to sleep on than just a 
plain stone floor. 

A close attachment and comradeship developed between the 
Americans and the inhabitants in spite of the language difficul- 
ties. Consequently, the civilians, together with a committee of 
Americans arranged a holiday for the second group that was 
scheduled to arrive. It was a warm day. The whole town closed 
shop and turned out to the public square where a band played 
as the new American and Irish contingents marched in with full 
packs on their backs in the midst of cheer and applause. The 
People's Front Mayor gave a welcome speech which was trans- 
lated into English, Speeches were made by a few members of the 
battalion. The demonstration was moving and the welcome in- 
spiring. 

When not on duty the boys occupied themselves in many inter- 
esting ways: some spent their time writing letters, others sat 
around the radio trying to catch the news regarding the progress 
of the war, and a few left their barracks entirely for long walks 
in thp nearby hills. In the evenings large crowds of children gath- 
ered around the barracks doorway and sang songs. Aaron Harris, 
now in the hospital recovering from a wound, taught the children 
to sing American songs. Their little tender voices shrilled through 
the narrow streets of the town: 

"On the line, on the line, 

On the peekit, peekit line" etc. 

As a reward candy was distributed to them which they accepted 
as little children do the world over. 

The Barracks' Library, set up by the new lodgers of the build- 
ing, was a popular place to come for reading and discussion. 

One Sunday a football match was held between the Irish Sec- 
tion and the Dutch which resulted in a draw since everybody 



played the game differently. On the next Sunday we were taken 
to see a bull fight at Motilla, a town near the base. The fight was 
gory and the matador was not especially good. Since it was the 
first time that most of us had ever witnessed a bull fight, it proved 
to be an odd and interesting day, though some of the boys ex- 
pressed it as being a rather cruel sport. 

The food we received at the base was exceptionally good at 
times, especially when we were able to convince Jack Sherai, our 
Japanese comrade, that it was his duty to cook. He insisted that 
he came to Spain to fight Fascism and not to cook. At the front 
he has been in the place he wanted to be: behind a machine gun 
or a rifle giving the fascists hell. 

The day before we left Villa Nueva de la Jara for the front, 
a dance was held for the Americans in another old building 
adjacent to our barracks. The interior of the building was 
decorated in the most elaborate fashion, displaying pictures of 
popular heroes and posters around the walls. Crepe paper was 
extended from corner to corner in the most artistic twists and 
turns and small decorations hung from overhead. The solemn 
building was turned into a vivid center and there was dancing, 
refreshments, and movies. There was never a happier crowd of 
people in the town. 

'TTTTMI lllllllllllMl 








•"••:^ 



The Lincoln Battalion Moving Up to the Front 



10 






CHAPTER FOUR 

THE order to move to the front found the battalion ready 
and willing. We left for the front late in the night of Feb- 
ruary 15, and traveled all night at a snail's pace. Before we 
had gotten very far, we were haunted by a plane circling con- 
tinuously overhead. We did not know whether it was our plane 
or the enemy's; consequently, we were forced to travel by crawl- 
ing slowly. 

The truck drivers were not permitted to use their road lights 
and so attract the plane's attention. It was a bitterly cold and 
dark night; one of those nights when the moon keeps out of sight 
and makes it exceedingly difficult for anyone to find his way 
through pitch darkness. More than once we thought the driver 
was going to run off the road and turn over into a ditch. 

The next day, late in the afternoon, we arrived in Marata, a 
town along the Jarama sector of the Madrid front. We hadn't ar- 
rived more than ten minutes when we learned what that plane was. 

It was evidently a fascist scout plane which had been watching 
us and our arrival. As we piled out of the 40 or 50 trucks which 
had carried us through the dark and long night, we were suddenly 
attacked by a large group of airplanes, perhaps fifteen. They 
dropped bombs and they strafed us with machine guns. 

Fortunately, we had been trained in just this kind of warfare. 
We dove for shelter and in four or five minutes a fleet of Loyalist 
planes attacked our attackers. It developed into a furious dog 
fight. 

Four of our fast pursuit planes cut off two huge Junker 
bombers. Within a very short time our attackers fled, all but the 
two bombers which plunged to earth in flames, giving us a cheer- 
ing welcome at our front-line base. If the Fascists thought by 
this attack to drive us off or to frighten us, they failed miserably. 
We lost none. None of our men were injured. Everyone felt as 
though this were just one of those things that grown-ups try to 
frighten children with. But we are not children, we are soldiers. 

11 



If 



Following the attack, we had a brief dinner at the English 
cook-house. We prepared to travel by truck again. No one knew 
where we were going or what was expected of us, except those 
in command. 

As the sun began to set the chill of the night replaced the 
warm breeze of the day, our trucks placed themselves in position 
for the short trip before them. Night had fallen before we had 
gotten far, so that our trip from Morata was made in darkness. 
The night, like the previous one, was ink-dark. After arriving at 
a position of about 400 meters behind the front line trenches, we 
got off the trucks and took our places in ranks, not without many 
difficulties because of the darkness. 

To add to the confusion was the heavy, rolling noise of several 
tanks crossing our paths. 

We finally located ourselves and climbed up a couple of hills 
until we reached the very crest of a hill said to be a strategic one 
because it overlooked the country for hundreds of yards around. 
In diamond formation, section after section in proper order we 
were told to dig in. 

"With what?" we asked, 

"Come on, dig in, dig in with your bayonets or use your 
helmets." 

The order did not have to be repeated many times because 
the bullets began to whistle over our heads threateningly and 
we flopped to the ground on our bellies and dug. We were told 
that there would be artillery bombardment in the morning and 
that we better dig in a good place for shelter, 

The night was extremely cold. We kept warm by working all 
night, keeping in mind constantly the artillery that would come 
over and that we must dig to protect ourselves. Morning came. 
Those who dared to sleep were stiff with cold. 

About six o'clock the expected artillery barrage began. Most of 
us had never been under fire before. The bursts of shells around 
us was a terrifying introduction. Boom! a shell just before us. 
Boom! another behind us. 

"They are using heavy artillery." Chelebian had his head 
blown off. "What are they trying to do, kill us?" 

It did not take us long to realize that we were in a war, a life 
very much different from that at the base. For seven days and 

12 



WniVeiwtK of Texas 



nights we held that hill popularly known as "Suicide Hiir^tf 
I « i v day we dug deeper, constructing a regular line of trenches. 
During these days we were subjected to the most serious of 
artillery bombardments. The fascist planes made desperate 
Ht tempts to strike our position with their deadly bombs. The first 
day we were on the hill, the bombers laid their eggs. 

The next day they paid us two visits, both times dropping 
bombs and once succeeding in using their machine guns on our 
trenches. They made several other visits on subsequent days. But 
;il no time did our planes give them a chance to do much damage. 
Every time that the fascist planes engaged in a battle with ours, 
one or two of them would be riddled and brought down from the 
sky like a tailless kite taking a nose dive toward the earth. 



. 




The General of the Brigade Sings For the Boys in the Trenches 

814927 

13 



CHAPTER FIVE 

ON FEBRUARY 22, we were removed from Suicide Hill and 
occupied a position in the second line trenches. The next 
day, February 23 } we were shifted to the right flank where, 
after the necessary instructions were given, preparations were 
made for an attack. The whole battalion was now in a trench on 
territory which was previously captured from the enemy after 
long and severe battles. As we looked over the parapet ahead of 
us about 400 meters, the white line of the fascist trenches could 
be seen in between the clustered olive trees. Their trenches lay 
on the slope of a hill looking down on us. 

Dusk approached and the order was given to get ready to go 
over the top. We wiped our rifles and properly adjusted the 
ammunition belts around our bodies. Most of the boys were 
joking, but the grimness of the situation could not be hidden. 
We bombarded the fascists with trench mortars. 

"O.K., boys!" "Get going!" The first section of the first com- 
pany led the charge. The Irish followed, the Cubans, and finally 
the second company advanced to the right. 

Rodolfo De Armas, leader of the Cuban Section, was the first 
one killed. After rescuing a comrade, he charged again and 
clenched his fist high in the air and beckoned others to follow. 
At that moment a bullet struck him in the leg and as he stooped 
forward to grip his leg with his hands two more bullets hit him, 
one in the head and the other in the jaw. The losses of the Cuban 
Section were heavy. 

At the outset of the charge one of our tanks, about 40 meters 
ahead of our trench, was hit by an enemy bomb and exploded 
Into flames. Soldiers near the tank were promptly compelled to 
leave their places of cover and seek safer spots. The flames from 
the tank shot upwards into the sky like a huge bonfire. We 
advanced very slowly and cautiously, tree by tree. The fire from 
the enemy was still light. As we advanced out of the olive grove, 
we moved into an open field with nothing but the roots of grape 

14 



vines for shelter for about 200 meters. We charged rapidly over 
the soft ground seeking other cover. We were supplied with 
plenty of grenades. As we charged half way up the field, a deadly 
machine gun cross-fire opened on us. By this time quite a number 
of our comrades, dodging from place to place like ducks in a 
shooting gallery, arrived very close to the fascist trenches. Others 
scattered all over the field, taking cover as effectively as possible 
behind the grape vines and ferociously digging in. 

Cries of "First aid, first aid," could be heard all over the field. 
Comrades fell to the right of us and to the left of us, dead or 
wounded. 

The enemy machine guns kept constantly spitting away and 
plowing up the ground with the powerful thuds of the bullets 
that dug into it. Men could be seen laboring desperately with 
their helmets or bayonets, digging in as much as possible. Some 
used bullets to scrape the dirt from under them and pile it in 
front of their heads for protection. Others dug with bare hands 
ripping and tearing the skin and finger nails. The merciless cros& 
fire continued for hours. It was humanly impossible to advance 
further. Some of the men close to the fascist trenches hurled 
grenades. 

The following extract from Paul Burns' diary gives a detailed' 
story of the first battle : 

"To the right was a company of Spanish and on the left across 
a road pelted by a rain of fascist bullets were the men of the 
Dimitroff Battalion. 

"The attack began late in the afternoon and continued into 
the night 

"Over a field dotted by occasional olive trees with only the- 
scant shelter of vineyard growth between, the advance was con- 
tinued. 

"Given a withered grape vine, a mound of earth, or the more 
pretentious shelter of an Qlive tree and the boys dug in andi 
opened fire on the fascist lines. 

"In one of these interludes beneath an Olive tree I looked 
around — on my left was Charlie Donnelly. Beyond him the 
Cuban Section stretched between the road on the extreme left 
and the Irish Section* To the right of the Irish Section the 
American Section dug in and fired. 

15 



"A few yards away in a little hollow of earth was Captain 
John Scott and with him Frank OTlaherty, one of the three 
OTlaherty brothers of Boston, who distinguished themselves by 
their heroic service and leadership under fire. 

"Donnelly joined me under the olive tree. We fired until our 
rifles burned our hands, with scarcely a word beyond the 'Hi 
Charlie, how's it goin 5 ?' and the reply, 'Pretty good, how're the 
rest of the boys?' 

"The infantry continued the advance. Explosive bullets split 
the air and the machine gun bursts raked the field. From behind 
a row of trees the fascists increased the fire. 

"Captain Scott rising had only time to shout "Continue the 
advance" when he fell with three bullets in his body. 

"MacDonald and Wheeler, company runners, had both been 
wounded. Eddie OTlaherty, the other runner, crossed the field 
to call Bill Henry, leader of the Irish Section. 

"Bill Henry took over command. Captain Scott was moved 
from the field on a stretcher. Six men moved the stretcher forward. 

"At the edge of the field an eight foot drop to the road exposed 
the stretcher to enemy fire. 

"A raking fire came from the fascist lines and four of the 
rescue party fell. Among them Joe Mendelowitz, shot through 
the left eye, the others whether killed or wounded were unknown 
to Gomez or myself, the two survivors. We carried our badly 
wounded leader to within 100 meters of the First Aid Station 
where we were assisted by two other comrades. At the First Aid 
station, my arm with a bullet wound through it was dressed. 
Gomez returned to the battle with another rescue party. He was 
wounded later." 

When the order came to retire, it was done in an orderly 
fashion. The wounded were brought in. Several First Aid men 
were wounded or killed while tending to the injured comrades on 
the open field. Some rescue work was done by volunteers. Later 
we were shifted to a first line trench. 

George Jacobs and J. Lenoris, unaware of the fact that the 
battalion had retreated, remained in their places of cover, behind 
a tree, not more than twenty meters from the fascists. They lay 
all night in the one spot and nearly froze. As they dug deeper 
and deeper, the snipers seeing dirt fly around the tree shot 

16 



I til lowing story of Slim Greenleaf comes from the pen of 

ularly. In the morning when they made their terrifying dis- 
y they began to crawl back. In jumps of 3 to 5 meters from 

• hole to another they moved toward our trenches. The fascist 

machine gunners let loose every time they made the slightest 
move. In the middle of the field as the two men made a fierce 
dash forward, Lenoris got riddled in the back. He was rescued 
in the night. After eight hours of creeping, waiting and dashing, 
facobs succeeded in getting within fifty meters of our trenches 
where he collapsed. When he was pulled in, it was seen that his 
shoes were ripped almost completely from his feet by machine 
gun bullets. Bullet holes through his coat along the arms demon- 
strated how narrow was his escape. He was not wounded. 

In the final history of the Lincoln Battalion many brave deeds 
must be recorded. One in particular may be told here. The 
V. O'Donnell. 

"On the night of our offensive, February 23rd, Moroney, Slim 
Greenleaf and myself left the farm house at six p.m. as usual, 
with the battalion's supper on our truck. We had two kilometers 
of a hill climb to make mostly in low gear, over a road eaten up 
by explosive bullets and occasional shrapnel. Slim was our driver. 
He was about six feet, two inches tall and twenty-four years of 
age. He had been in many seamen's strikes in Boston. Slim was a 
most abused comrade, since apart from being a sailor he could 
drive a truck, and each time our hot liquids spilt in the truck, 
rightly or wrongly we blamed him. But Slim could take it with 
a smile. Slim was O.K. 

"We made the hill without a scratch, though rifle and machine 
gun bullets exploded on each side of the road as the truck neared 
our lines. He drew up as usual just behind the English munition 
dump. My fear that our comrades would be under so much fire 
as to make it impossible to leave their positions to come and 
draw their supper was justified, since we ourselves had to seek 
protection from the fascists' fire— they could not see us of course 
—by keeping low. In fact we sat down with our backs to the 
stones which flanked the road. 

"An hour passed, and still we waited. It was then 7:30 p.m. 
Presently a member of our General Staff came up and told us the 
position of the battalion. The hot food was useless. 

17 



1 



"Well we made ready to return so as to fetch canned food, 
when volunteers were asked for what turned out to he a particu 
larly dangerous rescue. fanicu 

"A wounded Cuban comrade, heavily built, had been calling 
for hep from the hollow of the road, three quarters of 2 
meter further on, round the bend, and had been lying there since 
the beginning of the attack. ° 

seZd^tot" 6 * 1 - t0 t- he Pkn f- reSC " e 3S U WaS UnfoIded - He 
seemed to be visualizing m his mind's eye the cross fire of 

2 resn.T "^r "*"*** ^"ets, as they split the 
an resounding on the stony, bank of the road four meters above 
Ae body of our wounded comrade, whose appeals for water and 
a,d were becoming gradually weaker and more intermittent. 

Was the fascist fire weakening, or were ihey merely pl av i nsr 
a cunnmg game? Was mere a real chance of a successful rescue? 
Maybe there was. Maybe they would not be able to get within a 
radius of four feet of our comrade. 

"Whatever was passing in Slim's mind that night we shall never 
know H ls ,hm and youthful face cleared as he said 'Come on 
boys, let's go!> Slim and Moroney were to join the other^m-' 
rades of the rescue a, the dressing station, one hundred m Zs 
hem Sr' 1 ' " ear the J be "l of the ™ d - A* the night closed around 
JaUdng " PP l ° '' wMle M ° rone 3' was doin S the 

"An hour passed at least when Moroney returned. He was 

:^ 7 l ° S 7,, bullet had ki,led S1 ™ - ^ crawled along^ 
tour meters behind his companions. 

"The rescue was affected during that hazardous hour by the 
remaining three comrades. The wounded Cuban was lost to the 
ascists, but Slim died in «„o raan ' s lan<r on ^ Jarama 
in defense of world democracy." 

This charge enabled the battalions on the left flank to move 
forward and consol.date into more strategic positions. 

Because we moved so much, because the kitchen staff was just 
beginning to get properly organized, we received hardly any 
rations for three days. The next day, however, a huge bowl of 
coffee was sent through the trenches. Each man took his share 
and passed the howl to others. When it got to Bob Norwood 
and a group of men who happened to be chatting together, he got 

18 






his cup and thrust it into the bowl with great eagerness. As he 
raised from a bent position with cup in hand, he said to the 
comrades around the group, "Come on, boys, dig in. I've got 
mine." At that very moment he was struck by an explosive bullet. 
He fell face down into the coffee — dead. 

Since that time, however, the food situation has improved. We 
are now getting three meals a day— hot meals. They come regu- 
larly, come fire or flood. The one thing the Fascist bombing 
seemed never able to stop are the boys on the food trucks. 

They roll right up to the front lines along the road we built 
for them, deposit their hot meals and we get food such as no 
soldiers ever got before. 

Of course the boys kick, soldiers always grouse. Sometimes 
the beans are too hard or the meat isn't done enough, but 
generally speaking, we are well fed, as well fed as soldiers ever 
were in the history of warfare. 

No praise is too high for the boys who drive those food trucks. 
They roll through barrages; they roll through machine-gunning 
and bombing from airplanes; they face fire, they face flood, they 
face terror of all kinds, but they get the chow through to us and 
then they go back and do it again. 

We must here speak of Commander Merriam. He is 28 years old, 
formerly an instructor of Economics at the University of Cali- 
fornia and a soldier, every inch of him. He is a worker. He 
worked in a paper mill, in log camps, as a cement worker, in the 
Ford assembly plant and he has developed into a wonderful 

soldier. 

He is the commander of the Lincoln Battalion and the com- 
mander who led us into that horrible twenty-seventh day of 
February. Struck in the arm and shoulder by Fascist bullets, he 
continued to rally the men and force the fighting. A leader all 
can follow, Merriam has shown that the American intellectual 
is a soldier when he has to fight for freedom and liberty. 

The heroes of that day are numberless. 

They comprise Irish, Cuban, Canadian and men of all nation- 
alities and races. There was Copeland, the Englishman, who was 
a metal worker, a seaman in the British navy and a heavyweight 
boxer. He is now the commander of the English battalion, attached 

19 



iZJSL™* a fighter! He never knows when to ^ - 

And the Irish-they lived up to the great tradition of their 
country. There are 105 of them attached to the Lincoln BattaSon 
and they call themse ves the James B. Connolly Company How 
hey fought and died for freedom! Commanded by L KeHy 
they battled without rest for twenty-four hours. Capta'n Tumilson 
Commander of the Machine Gun Company died as he picked out' 

spot to a ld the Passionaria Battalion. The Irish loved him and 
they fought for hm, Among those that died that day in the Irish 
Company was Charles Donnelly who was killed in action ahd 
William Henry who died at his side. 

Probably the greatest hero of all the Irish was Father Mc 
Crony, a priest We learned to love him for his honesty, his 

fe W f ; eai ' eSSneSS iD L battl - He ^ed a hero, shot though 
the head by the Fascists as he was tending a wounded man. 

':<■■■:: ; : ' T ';':" ; ", . ; ■ ■■ '■'■■■'■:%'■■ •' : ' "'W£;-V : ' " "$W^W : :"'"^i-i' >: 

'■"'" k ■ ■'■' '-' ■ '&:■■■ • ■ , '■:■ 



1 




1 "■ ^wHRffinHHH 

The Battalion Render. Homage to Those Who Have 
Fallen on the Field of Baffle 



20 



>::;.■:•" 



CHAPTER SIX 

WITH sixty-six American reinforcements on February 27, 
we prepared for another attack against the fascists. All 
morning a heavy rifle and machine gun barrage was sent 
over. The fascists did not retaliate. About noon the order came to 
go over the top. The sun was hot. Group by group hopped the 
trenches charging the fascists who were only about 250 meters 
away. A few groups got over with scarcely any casualties. 

Then the enemy machine guns began their ugly work. 

They grazed the sand bags all along the line in a constant 
staccato. Heavy firing came from both sides. Bullets sprayed in 
our direction like the heavy pounding of a riveting machine. Cross 
fire from many machine guns made an impenetrable stone wall 
against advance. More groups and sections went over. Soon the 
calls for First Aid came and then became insistent. 

Many men were wounded just as they climbed the parapet to 
go over. Some from among the recent arrivals, uniformed and 
inexperienced, went over the top with full packs on their backs. 
They charged like a cyclone toward the fascists. Many wounded 
men crawled back to the trenches safely; many were killed in 
the attempt. 

Before the whole battalion had gone over the top, a wounded 
comrade from "no man's land" made his way back to the trench, 
but was too sorely wounded to be able to climb over the parapet 
into safety, so he called for help. 

Paul Niepold, section leader in the second company heard the 
call and quickly ran to his aid. He lifted the wounded body over 
the trench and seized him with his strong, muscular arms. He 
pulled the groaning comrade toward him. Suddenly, an explosive 
bullet hit Paul in the chest and he fell on his back into the trench. 
He lifted his head in a last gesture, his eyes blazed a farewell. His 
head snapped backward heavily for the last time. 

Robert Merriman, battalion commander, during the charge got 
a bullet through the right shoulder and had to be removed to a 

21 



lTgLI he men weie forced to retire - The Ws ° f *° ** 

trenches, that ,s food, water and ammunition. I h ear we are 
planning an attack today. AH the boys are at the front. We brin! 
the food into the ront line trenches. Jeez, the ballet, sure whk by° 
Never knew there was so many bullets in the world, and all 
of jhem seem to shoot around me. 

"Saw a few of the boys being carried down on stretchers. Most 
of them are French or Belgians suffering head wounds from 
Wing over the sand bags. Very fine spirited men. They IZ 
the.r hands up in salute all the way down to the ambulance. 

Ihe signal is gI ven to go over. The Spanish on the extreme 
right are scurrying for shelter. Then our boys go. I pas! JimmTe 

tTom Z f dent y and J ? ve hira a s,a p on the i-teS 

hre irom the fascists seems incessant. Rat, tat, tat, a tat! ft sues 
on for hou, I see another comrade who came across with JZ 
we a.». lans. His gun was jammed, poor guy was actuallv 

n;flfb I efo a r n e UnderStand ^ "" *** ^ "^ « ~ 

aJK thCre fS 1° f °°. d ° r "»»™»» to be carried up, we 

Tard Th P ° W \ r tCHerS - N ^ ht " fa,IiD « and k - raining^eTy 
hard. The ambulance post is quite a distance away and there I 
a very slippery and narrow path up along the hill side. Chris" 

We M U T 71 ' 18 th l P °° r W0U " ded c<Mnrades a '°"S the path 
W ?i^ hard t0 save the wounded from being jolted. P 

Ihis goes on for hours. I just got back from one trip and 
there is another to be taken down. P 

shire . am a,mOSt eXhaUS ' ed - A " ° f ' he COmrade3 are doing their 
skin^^ fW ° f ^ SCt a Cha " Ce '° Gat 3nd We ' re soaked to the 

<J A Vh Ve a ' m ' WC fin J a " y L g ,° t0 Sleep ~ 0r fa " exhausted I should 
say. There ,s not a dry blanket in the whole Brigade, I think 
Three of us get under a wet blanket and try to go to sleep ." 

22 



Many of the ivoihl nul.l- I ilia meters were lost on this 
important day. Douglas Soncord, Battalion Adjutant, was killed 
while leading the ottocfc II- was a young man of 32 from Ten- 
nessee, with high technical and military abilities and had been 
an instructor al W< i Point Before coming to Spain he had been 
writing for the Nrw York Daily Worker. He had also done 

excellent unio inflation work among the fishermen or 

Provincetown, Miihh. 

His mosi ami ing characteristic was that of being anie iu 
handle men. Although Strict when it came to giving orders, he 
was never harsh noi «... re. I [e became admired by all for ttia 
remarkable personality and capabilities of leadership and com- 
mand. His personality became the pivot around which the 

Machine Gnu C pany was formed at the base. Upon arrival at 

the front he was m.-nli: Adjutant. Under fire he was level-headed 
and bold. 

The Irish respect their dead — they honor them. Not only uie 
ones who died in this war against fascism, but those who died 
against British imperalism. I will never forget that Easter Sunday 
service held in the front-line trenches, facing the fascists less than 
two hundred paces away. 

The Connolly company fell into line. Kelley stepped oul 
and spoke, not only in honor of those who had died fighting the 
Fascists in Spain, but in the honor of James B. Connolly, for 
whom the company was named, the leader of the Easter rebellion 
in 1916. It was one of the most impressive sights I have ever seen. 

The Cubans were no less great fighters than the Irish and the 
Canadians — oh, the Canadians. They proved the statement maae 
by Lord Beatty, during the World War that the greatest soldiers 
in the world came from Canada. 

Take the case of Francois Billedeau of Toronto, For three dayb 
he went over the top, three times each day and each time he 
returned, he returned with prisoners. A kindly fellow, he was 
loved by all of us. General Copic, the Czech who commanded the 
Division, was so pleased with the work and the heroism shown by 
Billedeau that he decorated him and presented him with a gold 
watch. Billedeau tells stories of Almeria, the town to which he 
was sent when he was wounded. It is a town in southeastern Spain 

23 



where many wounded soldiers are recuoerati™ (Tl ■ ■ i 

is Oliver Law who tJK' h , 8Te /, h « tI «i of fascism. There 

Gun Comply t££ resn^Tt . ^T M °°^ Machine 

m£nd.*£d^t?ha r s n a sh0 l- sl ™/-'-n negro who, 
and Alonzo Wa£n he ro TlT "'I' 1 * Va,Ue ° f foUr » en 

Mills bomb he was p^nareL a"** T* StiIi clu,c h™& the 
hurst got him P P led t0 *"* when the machine |un's 

machine-gun nests ad X in g ne could find no more 

^daytfKa^li'^ 11 "* ^^ **«»*** 
loused that he does ^t^Z^^T " J* 
«"» e„ed ln the ir desperation or whose Tact werlffrt, to 

24 



immobility by the horror of it? The day when men of the Lincoln 
Battalion learned that all values are relative to life, and when life 
is cheap all other values cease to exist. 

What of heroism can be said when all of the men of the bat- 
talion charged into face of certain death — to escape it only by 
some freak whim of fate? Was it cowardice that made some men 
scream like stricken animals, after a bullet had plowed itself into 
their flesh; was it bravery that compelled others to keep their 
reason though their life blood was streaming from their bodies? 
To describe the brave deed of one who risked his life for the sake 
of a comrade is to forget or ignore those countless deeds of des- 
perate courage that were not recorded on human minds befuddled 
by the horror that encompassed them. 



25 



CHAPTER SEVEN 

A F1 2n the ,.? 7th •*• W ^ Ie line C0Merned itseIf *®> consoli- 
S\. danng the gains made. The fascist, were prevented from 

gettmg control of the Valencia-Madrid road So a regula" 

system of 21 g- zag trenches were constructed with sand bagC- 

ports and peep holes to do the firing f roB1 . Commutations 

trenches leadmg out of the main trenches gave an Sate ne 

work of narrow passageways fairly safe from stray buE The 

fasces too arranged a systematized line of trenches. 

Merman "Xt'r ^^ "**'? ^^ and ™ n - suc ^ 
iviernman as battalion commander. 

Light exchange of rifle and machine gun fire continued at all 

times between both sides. It became more or less a battle between 

niper against sniper except that our artillery shelled the fasdsts 

Hme°s S theTscIS M °™7-r n T and ****• * h ™ «-fS 
times the fascists received a disturbing barrage. They did not 

often respond w lt h their artillery. Trench mortars, however were 
showered upon us on numerous occasions. 

The day March 14 is chalked up as a day of particular sienifi 
cance to the Lincoln Battalion and in the history of the b 3e 

ot Hnef^ 6 f8SCiSt9 ""*/ * 8perate attem P l * treak th fugh 

t ou ^ left whTch° nCentr ^ ed f ^ h T kst fire °" * e batta,i °n 
to our left wh,ch consisted of recently enlisted, young Snanish 

troops. It was a sulky day. It rained in jerks. En emy t!nks fired 

m our trenches and charged toward the young troops Because of 

inexperience, confusion followed among'them andThey eft hdr 

renches to seek better cover behind the hills. The fascia lie 

to what had happened, jumped into the evacuated trencnes. The 

Americans were quick to grasp the criticalness of the situation and 

ought then- way into the left flank. A few Moors wer k S and 

t Smet T f ° ^ eXt T e lfift ^ faSCiStS — ded inloTd 
mg t5U meters of our trenches, 

J. Roberts Raven, who had returned to the front lines a few 
<%s previously, after having recovered from a wound luffed 

26 



during the attack of February 23rd, was one of the first to run to 
I he left flank after the break. He was seriously injured in an 
heroic attempt to rout the fascists. This letter from the hospital 
written to P. Cooperman tells the story: 
Dear Coop, 

"Just writing to let you know what happened to me after you 
left. I rushed up about 350 meters of empty trenches bringing 
up all the Spaniards I could rally around* Then I met a Canadian. 
The trenches had been filling up gradually at our exhortation of 
'No Pasaran.' Suddenly we ran into four soldiers whom we 
thought were our own at first, but their helmets and clothes proved 
ihem to be fascists. They tried to capture us. We tore away from 
them and ran back thirty meters and grabbed some grenades. My 
Canadian comrade opened the lever of his grenade and handed 
it to me which he should not have done. However, I crawled up 
towards the fascists under cover of the Spaniards' fire who had 
just come up, and was about to toss the grenade when there was 
a terrific concussion in front of me and I felt my face torn off. 
Naturally, I dropped the grenade from my hand having been 
knocked out. My own grenade exploded at my feet filling my legs 
with shrapnel. 

"My comrades must have retreated again and I kept crawling 
blindly, dragging my body through those trenches over all kinds of 
obstacles calling 'Comrade, Comrade.' Words cannot describe the 
agony, the exhaustion with which I dragged myself through those 
narrow trenches. Finally, I felt somebody near me and he 
touched me, and an hour or so later somebody was carrying me 
and I landed at the hospital here. Most of the shrapnel in my 
legs has been removed, also both my eyes. They were too bad 
for repair. Tell my comrades I said, 'No Pasaran* and I hope we 
didn't lose those trenches." 

On April 5, the battalion again went over the top supporting 
an advance movement on the left flank. The Garibaldi Battalion, 
fresh from their victories at Guadalajara, led the attack. The 
Domoroski Battalion to the right of the Garibaldi charged next, 
then came the Spanish troops and the Lincoln Battalion. The 
fascists bombarded our lines with trench mortars, heavy artillery, 
and rifle grenade bombs. A sweeping machine gun and rifle fire 
ripped open our sand bags. One of our tanks charging in front 

27 



Garibald^B^M- *" in ° a P acitated h anti-tank bnllets The 
The casu^ the Jy ^ Ct s ,^ 8Cning a WmW — 



^ : :i'Hy-; r * , ; : -: ,, :. ! ; i .;- ,, i l j 




dfer of *t Llneorn Baffalfon Waiting for the 



Sfgnal to Go Over fho T 



op 




28 



C II A I'TER EIGHT 

AS we became situated in a definite sector of the front, the 
/"% need for diversion was felt. Frederick Lutz, new political 
chief, carried on the work where Jones left off. A canteen 
was set up whore incidental articles could be bought, such as: 
candles, Bash lights, writing material, etc., far too little to meet 
the needs of lli< men. The one thing that the men wanted most 
could not I btained . . . AMERICAN CIGARETTES! ! ! 

A small library was established that had on hand books by Jack 
London, Sinclair Lewis, Fannie Hurst, John Dos Passos, and 
many other well known writers. Magazines were passed out. 
Newspapers l" meet the needs of practically every language group 
were available. There was so little reading material that the print 
was almost worn off the pages by constant thumbing. God, how we 
longed for more books from home. A barber shop was created to 
meet the tonsorial requirements of the men. 

A hole in I he ground deep enough to offer sufficient protection 
from stray bullets and a barber with a sharp razor, did a lot to 
keep the men in a healthy appearance. Next a radio was bought. 
Three loudspeakers arranged at proper distances made it possible 
for the whole buLlalion to listen in at convenient moments. A wall 
paper was made up of two iron posts with a canvas shelter half 
stretched between them. The name was given it after suggestions 
came in from ihe comrades. It was called "The Daily Manana." 

The paper included news of the day, appropriate newspaper 
clippings, hum or, drawings and cartoons sketched by local talent, 
special notices, letters of interest, biographies of those who died in 
battle, and stories, experiences written by the men themselves. In 
this way the wall paper became not only news but served as an 
expression of human emotion and gratified the intellectual needs. 

An annoying problem was that of lice. The crawling vermin 
entrenched themselves in our clothes and conducted a War among 
themselves. What is more uncomfortable than lice making their 
nests on one's body? Of course a period of delousing followed. 

29 



Dr. William Pike N™ V 1 i . 
k*P the health standard 7f leten i^l*'^ ", great deaI «► 

Seventy-three days of trench S* J lgb leVeL 

our presence, artillery dS u f ' T beSt ?T adeS kiUe ° H 
and crackling overhead, baX blood I^T^' bU " etS whinin 8 

The ^K^^ff^^ *" ^ Brf ^ -e. 
^oved from the front Ind^t "* ° f ^ Br ^was 
Henares, the birth pl ace "fr ^ a " Clent tow « °<S2Sle 

■ ^e fascist airpiat ?£*£%>**" °' "°° n «^" 
topping hundreds of homo cLT ^V™* 7 other night 
many homes in the worki^^ £f ? t ^ ^ Mattered and 
of cement and bricks. ThKl beenf ^^ d ° Wa in a heap 
t on. The majority of tho e KferfT T l ° terr ° rize the P°P"Ia 
Now when night comes fCS^*?" ~ *° d children. 
«els of the town itself and about Z. 2 S ° '" under ground tun- 
the .holes of the hills nearby ^ thon8and others_pl aces in 

J " this yilh s ^ t^cslebinted Mav T> a „ TU , 
out Promineml71n^e7il^-^-r^- 7 T he Americans stood 

^idMdMedicai Co^^^-^^^^^USsleamejbTTirst 

A merican and ^S tS" 5 ^^ 
d|dm_action. The wreatT^S^^ 
nfles, and horizontal cross sticfa N^f^TfT* 51 *^* 5 ^ 
sturdy s „p port Acrofis £ ^ abwe ^d below it provided a 

width in the colors of th e gov e ~ fl °f * ^ a ffieter * 

wuh the inscription «En Cor£" ^^ yelW ' P ur P le ~ 

tn all their actions the men of tl« t • i ~ 
t^guished themselves by E —i- 11001 ] 1 BattaIion "ave dis- 
they have come to Spamto d e fen d ^ dWOti ° n t0 * e oause 

Th, is the story of the Lincoln Battalion thus fa, 

J-bere u still work to be done- 

30 



I 






This is the story of the Abraham Lined 
.Battalion, so far . . . 

There is still work to be done- 

TOSS SstSi^r 

which ll-ey deprived thlselv', ° f f " 1Me Oomforts ° f 

Thev writ* £ 7 ""emselves to go into the trenches. 

ease the s S o/ ,he f """I""" 89 ' 6 " 68 - A S°° d -<>ke helps to 

books SZ^S^Z? 01 ^ T ChOCOkt " S - 
periods of inactivity sort, . '«^«tu a l hunger during 

shoes- these SrSraSTSESS^ f d titS - 
much to the Andean fighters MUST ITntl £ ^ "^ S ° 

tW W™ t Sjfi^ ^^ W0 'V 0r US 5 well as for 
giving fldXnSjTJ*" " Ca " t0 ^ ^ mCn Wh ° are 
ch5f ^ Send y ° Ur C °" tributi - ^ ^ -oney order or 

Fraternally yours, 

PHIL BARD, 

, Executive Secretary. 

Friends of the Abraham Lincoln BattTtT^ ' 

Roon, 810, 1 2S West 45th StreeK^cg U . 4 . 4175 

I enclose $ 

Friends of the Abraham 1^]^^ Wy contri ^<» to the 

-'ft&KSrfiLS" in lhe wolk * he * *• - * 




Name. 



Address 

Telephone 

Published by the Friends 



of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion