With the Mac-Paps by Dave Gordon

September 13, 2019
David Gordon, Commissariat, August 1938; Harry Randall: Fifteenth International Brigade Films and Photographs; ALBA PHOTO 011; 11-0234 (B726); Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives Elmer Holmes Bobst Library 70 Washington Square South New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.

David Gordon, Commissariat, August 1938; Harry Randall: Fifteenth International Brigade Films and Photographs; ALBA PHOTO 011; 11-0234 (B726); Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives Elmer Holmes Bobst Library 70 Washington Square South New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.

The Volunteer for Liberty, V2, No. 31, August 5, 1938.

The Army of the East is coming to the aid of the Levante!

Like a bolt of lightning this sweeping thought penetrated every company, every unit, every soldier in the Army.

How? Where?

Again the smashing lightning idea. Along a front of more than a hundred miles we would cross the Rio Ebro. Swiftly, secretly we could cross. The weak human defenses would rapidly be overpowered. The enemy was to be encircled. We were to push forward. Success called for surprise speed and audacity.

Questions: If the whole

Army of the East knows this, if every soldier is discussing it a day or two prior to the event, surely the enemy will know. And when it knows it will throw in reserves and try to halt us.

What about the fascist fortifications we’ve heard so much about? And their network of machine-gun nests? How could we cross in the day time with all their aviation?

Surprise, speed, audacity – and faith in ourselves and in our command; these were the impelling forces to guarantee success. Above all – every sacrifice to relieve the Levante, to change the course of the war in our favor. With the crossing of the Ebro we would achieve still more; gain territory, morale, material; crack a significant position of the enemy organization.

We had to win!


It was pitch dark when the Mac-Paps were assembled. Fall in! Quiet! No rattling of canteens; no clatter of rifles; no talking; no smoking. The Ebro was to be taken — and more.


In a few minutes the Battalion was marching. It was a slow march. Marching men and camions with artillery, munitions, tanks were moving simultaneously. But we went, the Battalion steadily pushing towards the riverfront.

A brief sleep. Then up and marching before dawn. With the first rays of light the enemy artillery opened up, dropping their shells some distance from us. Soon we reach the waterfront. Word had passed around that the 13th Brigade had already crossed.

Rowboats were on the shores. Company by company groups piled into the boats. Enthusiasm ran high. The enemy had evidently been put to flight by those who crossed before us. The Rio Ebro was ours.

Once across the river, the observation avion paid us visits. One plane at a time came, flying low, looking for us; strafing. The Activists, the anti-avionists had not forgotten their lessons. As soon as the plane would fly low, scores of rifles cracked out and the plane would suddenly highsoar and away.

Our advance continued towards Asco. It was our job to take the town. While our artillery was pounding at the pueblo, the fascist artillery tried to impede our forward march. We kept going on. The shells caused a few casualties but could not impede the Battalion. New recruits and veterans alike were determined to go on.

It did not take long before we reached Asco. It looked deserted. Taking no foolish hazards, a few squads were sent to infiltrate into the town from several directions. Barely a shot was fired. The enemy had run. Only a few remained –easily taken prisoner.

In one house one of our Mac-Pap boys was startled when he saw a fascist soldier sitting with a rifle between his feet. Our comrade was as frightened as the fascist, he said later, but he felt that the one who would make the first move would capture the other. The Mac-Pap made the firs move, arrested the fascist and felt much better after that was done.

A bit later the entire Battalion was in town. Prisoners and material were captured. Guards were placed in town and the remainder of the Battalion went ahead.

All through the hot day and through half the night we marched. We rested on the Gandesa road outside Corbera. In the morning we moved on for a bit, took a further rest and in the afternoon we moved forward to attack.

After a few hundred yards of marching and infiltrating we drew the enemy fire. The comrades moved ahead rapidly infiltrating in a manner showing confidence and good training. From hill to hill the fascists were beaten back. In less than two hours we advanced almost two kilometers.

Then came the “Pimple” –the damned, high fortified fascist hill supplied with a number of machine guns and plenty ammunition from which any advance from all sides could be viewed by the enemy.

Twice the enemy came over the top to attack us and twice they were beaten back. On the other hand our assaults were checked by heavy enemy fire coming from three directions from the “Pimple,” from a valley on our right flank and from Gandesa.

The Mac-Paps joined the British Battalion in two assaults. The “Pimple” didn’t bust. Its fire superiority was tremendous.

Later during the artillery barrages and exchanges of rifle fire, while digging fortifications and reorganizing the companies we reflected on what had taken place.

News came to us that the Italian-German offensive in the Levante had been stopped. More, our troops under the impetus given by our advance captured villages and hills in counter attacks. Franco-Hitler-Mussolini had to withdraw troops and materials from other fronts to prevent complete loss of the Eastern zones.

We had achieved our main objective –the Levante gained a respite from the heavy fascist offensive; it gained time in which to dig in more strongly and in which to move certain units in to counter attack. We achieved more –much territory was gained and the River Ebro was in the hands of its rightful owners again.

Our faith in final victory was strengthened; our pride and faith in the soldiers, commanders and commissars of the Mac-Pap Battalion and of the whole army increased many times over. Our faith in ourselves and in our cause becomes unshakeable.

Those of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion who have given their lives in this operation are those to whom the major honor must be bestowed for our success. Many of our best have fallen –fallen in a drive against the fascist enemy which has shaken the world.

The Ebro shall never be forgotten. The fine work of the Mac-Pap Battalion will live forever, dovetailing with the movement of the entire Army of the East.

The Mac-Paps are ready to march again, ready to avenge the dead, ready to deal the final deathblow to the fascist invasion of the Spanish Republic.


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