With the Lincoln-Washington by T. M.

July 19, 2019

ebro_bridgeThe Volunteer for Liberty V.2, No. 30, August 26, 1938

For the Lincolns it was action from the very start. Even before we crossed the Ebro we were under enemy fire and what’s more important, the enemy was under our fire. I don’t mean only the artillery fire that was sweeping the approaches to the river all along the line on the morning of July 25. Every battalion got a bit of that, more or less, in varying degree. I’m referring to  the huge tri-motored bomber that coasted down, low over the beach on which our companies were spread, just as Captain Lamb with part of our first company was shoving off in the first boat with that fine old Spanish name “All Right” painted on its prow. As the rest of Company One shoved off in other boats, the bomber glided low over our heads and our second and third companies, scattered on the sandy ri9ver beach, opened up, rifles and light machine guns. I remember seeing one gunner popping away at the plane, with beautiful bursts of three, while Teniente Abad Garcia, his company commander steadied the gun on his shoulder.

Through all the fire, and while the plane continued to move directly overhead, Captain Wolff’s six-odd feet loomed at the rivers shore directing the men to the boats. Once a hunk of shrapnel the size of two fists shrieked down and plopped in the mud scarcely more than two meters away from him. And the plane kept gliding and strafing occasionally, and our comrades, unafraid kept shooting away. If we didn’t put a dozen holes in that bomber, we didn’t hit him once—but it was an armored plane, and it didn’t go out of commission. After a while it scooted off, and by that time the last boats, with the machine gun company and the Plana Mayor, were across the river.

Of the long march afterward to our first hill, which we took just by climbing, there’s little to say, except that we marched –up and down hills, on rocky and dusty paths. At the end of that first day we had five prisoners. And by the next morning just before we entered Fatarella, we had five more. Outside of Fatarella the battalion waited till mid-day, when we contacted the –Division, our right flank. Then we pushed on down the road, deploying after a kilometer or two. A small fascist force had been sighted in the wooded country ahead. The whole force had been sighted in the wooded country ahead. The whole battalion advanced, and in an hour we had 250 additional prisoners and it was all over, for the moment, at least.

Then marching again—until after midnight, when we sent out a patrol to investigate  suspicious movements off the hill. There, while the battalion rested and dozed, we had our first night skirmish. A few wounded, including Teniente Paulo, commander of the Forth Company, but the companies reformed rapidly –and soon we were on the march again., after eating tinned clams and squids and anchovies and sardines, and bread and marmalade. We needed that meal because our real work was about to begin.

After three kilometers on the morning of July 27, we deployed against the enemy positions on hills facing us. Advancing perfectly we drove them and from their original wooded heights, then over another hill, where our Puesto de Mando was established. Before night we had driven the enemy off still another hill ahead –and the battalion moved up again. That hill initiated the stiff fighting. At the end of the stiff fighting. At the end of that day another group of wounded comrades lay in stretchers waiting to be evacuated.

Jack Hoshooley and Herman Tabb of Company Two, young Wilfred Mendelsohn of the Third Company –and Captain Lamb, Commander of the first company and second-in-command of the battalion.

From then on our attacks were frequent. Over the top time after time; but the enemy, nervous and scared stiff by now, had been sighted by our observation post bringing up 1,000 new troops –they appeared to be of the Tercio, the fascists’ infamous foreign legion. In one morning attack a section of company three (the other two sections had been detailed to deliver our 250 prison (sic)

Stayed out in non-man’s-land from dawn till nightfall, when Bill Wheeler, aided by Jack Shaffran, carried the wounded comrades up. Tom Page was among the wounded, and he took long deep drags of a cigarette while waiting at our first aid post, waiting for Doc Simon to finish bandaging Johnny Murra, on the adjacent stretcher.

The next two days there were frequent attacks –action thick and heavy all the time. Three commissars, of the first three companies were hit –and evacuated despite their insistence on remaining with their companies; Moorie Goldstein, Hal Smith and Larry Lustgarten of Companies One, Two, and Three. The fascists had plenty to do –and they threw everything they had at us –trench mortars, artillery; and their avion bombed the baranco behind our hill.

There was a day of comparative quiet after we moved from this first position but it was needed –for the next day, August 1, was the toughest of the entire action. That was the day we attacked behind the 59th Battalion, in that small, bottle-necked baranco that is already known to most of us as Death Valley. The story of that day and night, with enemy artillery covering the sides of the valley geometrically, and with tracer bullets weirdly lighting the whole scene, will be told, but later; now it’s still too close. Anybody in the 59th or the Lincolns will tell you about it, if you weren’t there yourself. And a couple of comrades have begun to write it up for these pages.

Our final position, where we relieved the __ Brigade just outside of Gandesa, was a rest compared to what had preceded it. Only trench mortars did any damage –and that was slight. But our artillery opened up on the fascist trenches near the soccer field at the town and we could see the enemy scurrying for cover, back into the woods.

The night of August 6th we left this position behind, going into rest- and our part in the first stage of the action was over.

This is far from the entire story; the deeds have not been described, nor the men who did them. The effect on us of the arrival of the papers, with news that the fascist advance in the Levante had been stopped –this too has not been told. And a hundred other things, large and small –painful, joyous, nerve-wracking, enthusiastic – which make up any battle. But this is the bare outline. The men themselves can fill the gaps in this story, just as they did during the action better than anyone else.


Tags: ,