Wentzell’s Shattered: The XVth Brigade Against Franco’s 1938 Aragon Offensive

January 22, 2024

Wentzell, Tyler D. “Shattered: The XVth Brigade against Franco’s 1938 Aragon Offensive,” chapter 4 in Armies in Retreat, Chaos, Cohesion, and Consequences, eds. Heck, Timothy G. and Walker D. Mills, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: Army University Press, 2023.

Major Robert Merriman, Chief of Staff, 15th International Brigade: March 1938, Photo Unit #: B316, Harry Randall: Fifteenth International Brigade Films and Photographs; ALBA PHOTO 011; box 1; folder 11-0122; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, 70 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.

Tyler Wentzel’s account of The Retreats in March and April 1938 provides a great overview of this chaotic chapter in the Spanish Civil War.  During a period of less than thirty days, the XVth International Brigade was broken and shattered, rebuilt, then shattered again by the Nationalist Army. Wentzell expands on the account of The Retreats presented in his book on Edward Cecil-Smith Not For King or Country. Cecil-Smith the commander of the 60th Battalion, the “Mac-Paps”, of the XVth Brigade left a detailed after-action report. Wentzel used a wealth of primary and secondary sources to document this military disaster.  International Brigade records held in the Russian archives in Moscow paired with oral histories enabled Wentzel to establish a definitive timeline for the campaign.

I highly recommend Wentzel’s chapter which is part of a larger study of the cause and impacts of retreats on military formations. Armies in Retreat, Chaos, Cohesion, and Consequences includes other works that focus on other famous and forgotten retreats and I encourage readers of The Volunteer Blog to peruse the remainder of the book.

Armies in Retreat, Chaos, Cohesion, and Consequences is available for free as a download from the Army Heritage Center Foundation.