Bob Merriman Commemorated in Berkeley and Spain

December 15, 2019
Milton Berz with a photo of Bob Merriman. Photo Berkeley News.

Milton Berz with a photo of Bob Merriman. Photo Berkeley News.

Robert Hale Merriman, the commander of the Lincoln Battalion who mysteriously disappeared during the Battle of Teruel in early April 1938, has been drawing attention. Milton Zerman, a history major at UC Berkeley, has been raising $1,000 to place a plaque commemorating Merriman and his wife, Marion, outside the Virginia Street apartment building where they lived. Bob Merriman was pursuing his doctorate in Economics at UC Berkeley when he left for Spain. Merriman is believed to have been captured and shot, but his body was never found.

Zerman learned about the Merrimans when he read Adam Hochschild’s Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 for a class. Another plaque honoring Robert Merriman was installed in the Catalan town of Corbera d’Ebre, in April 2018, close to where the Lincoln commander was last seen exactly eighty years earlier. Efforts to locate Merriman’s remains by a research group at the University of Barcelona have so far been unsuccessful.

Zerman told the Berkeley News that he hopes the plaque will help keep the memory of Merriman and the Lincoln Brigade alive. “Merriman is a unifying figure for the campus,” Zerman said. His next plan is to work with the campus to create a memorial to all the Berkeley students who fought in the Spanish Civil War. “We already have monuments on campus to students who served in World War I and World War II, as well as in other wars,” he said. “So I think it could be a suitable addition.”

“In a world full of appeasers and isolationists,” Zerman told the News, Merriman “bucked conformity to fight for what is right, even if it meant putting his own life and reputation on the line. He represents the best of us, as Berkeley students and as American citizens. We should always strive for that level of courage and personal initiative.”