Jarama Series: Organization of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion

February 12, 2016
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In the Jarama Series, The Volunteer Blog will present a series of articles examining the experiences of volunteers in the Abraham Lincoln Battalion from its formation to the Brunete Offensive in July 1937. Articles will focus both on the battalion’s formation as well as on the individuals who served. These articles are intended to provide the reader with a better appreciation of the men and women who made up the first American combat formation in Spain.

Jarama Series: Organization of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion

The Lincoln Battalion

The Abraham Lincoln Battalion was significantly understrength when it moved to the front on February 15, 1937.  The Lincoln Battalion was still being formed and only had a total of three companies and lacked most ancillary services present in fully formed units. While the strength of the battalion is normally cited as above 400; the actual strength of the formation was likely significantly lower with no more than 350 volunteers.[i] Battalions in the Republican Army normally fielded three or four infantry companies and a machine gun company with a total strength of 600.

Figure 1. Organization

organization

 

The group is the building block of the infantry company. In Spanish units the group was composed of 8 soldiers. In the Lincoln Battalion group strength tended to be slightly higher with an average of eleven soldiers. There were normally three groups in each section and three sections in each company.

The Lincoln’s 1st Company was likely larger than an average company because it included two nominally independent formations: the James Connolly Column and the Centuria Antonio Guiteras. There is no record of the strength of the Company’s first section. A surviving roster for the second section, the Irish Connolly Column, lists a total of 41 volunteers. The third section, the Centuria Antonio Guiteras, is normally cited as having 60 volunteers. This gives a total of approximately 136 volunteers for the 1st company. An average infantry company size based on groups with 11 volunteers with the inclusion of command teams is 123 soldiers.

The 2nd Company was more likely under strength. Two undated rosters for the company depict formations that were well short of the projected average. The first is a handwritten one-page roster that was compiled no later than February 15, it lists three understrength sections with a total of 55 volunteers (See Figure 2.).  The second three-page handwritten roster, compiled on either February 26 or 27, lists two sections with a combined strength of 62 soldiers (See Figure 3). Either or both of these rosters may be incomplete, but even taking the higher of the two rosters this still leaves the company at less than half strength supporting the belief that the Lincoln numbers are overstated.

The number of soldiers assigned to the Lincoln’s Machine Gun Company is unknown but comparable formations normally fielded around 75 soldiers. Machine gun companies were normally maintained at or near full strength because much of the battalion’s combat power resided with their weapons.

The Lincoln Battalion’s headquarters was significantly understrength. A battalion headquarters normally included the battalion’s staff officers as well as special functional elements including runners, scouts, sniper, armory, first aid and transport. Strength in a full-sized headquarters often approached that of an infantry company. Signal and scout sections were notably absent from the headquarters when it went to the front. The International Brigade Headquarters provided Dutch medical personnel and stretcher bearers to augment the Lincoln’s medical section.[ii] The Lincoln’s Headquarters in all likelihood had less than 50 men assigned.

It is important to remember that the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, while predominately American, included volunteers from many other nationalities notably Canadian, Chilean, Cuban, Danish, Dutch, English, Filipino, Greek, Irish, Mexican and Spaniard. This Tower of Babel added an increased level of complexity to the battalion leadership’s task of building an efficient military formation.

jarama2

Top left to right: Robert Hale Merriman, Battalion Commander; John Scott, Commander Co. 1; Al Tanz, Quartermaster. Bottom left to right: Dr. William Pike, Battalion Surgeon; Andrew Royce, Commander Co. 2; Douglas Seacord, Commander MG Co.

Military and Political Leadership

The Lincoln Battalion’s military leadership was in constant flux going through numerous changes even before entering combat.  The Battalion’s first commander James Harris was selected by the Communist Party (CP) before the departure of the first volunteers. Harris, despite having some military experience, is not regarded as a strong commander. William Herrick who travelled to Spain along with Harris implies that Harris had a drinking problem that only increased as he encountered the stress of forging and training the unit.[iii] While Harris’ rank as battalion commander was confirmed before the battalion left for the front, he was quietly relieved of command.[iv] Harris briefly rejoined the unit at the front and led the battalion on a night movement in no-man’s land before being sent back to the rear.[v]

Robert Hale Merriman the Battalion Adjutant then took command of the Battalion. Merriman arrived in Spain from Russia and received an appointment as the Lincoln Battalion Adjutant despite being a non-Party member. Merriman put his university Reserve Officer Training Course (ROTC) experience to good use organizing the Lincoln’s training program and overseeing the staff.

The Battalion’s leadership was in flux as it left for the front. Merriman was the acting Battalion Commander. John Scott, an English volunteer, commanded the First Company. Steven Daduk a non-political volunteer with a dubious record as a pilot commanded the Second Company. Douglas Seacord, an engineer who was rumored to have lectured at West Point, commanded the Machine Gun Company. Staff officers in the battalion headquarters included Al Tanz as the Quartermaster and Phillip Cooperman as the Battalion Secretary.

Merriman’s promotion resulted in a reorganization of the Battalion’s command structure. Shortly after reaching the front Merriman moved Steven Daduk into the Adjutant position from command of Company 2. Andre Royce, an army veteran from Iowa, was promoted to command Company 2.

Politically the Lincoln Battalion also underwent significant changes between its formation and first combat. Political Commissars were assigned down to the group level; however, records identifying individual Section and Group political commissars are spotty at best.[vi]

Phil Bard, the political officer for the first group of American volunteers transferred to Albacete to fill the newly created post of Base Commissar for the Americans. Bard appointed a triumvirate of Commissars: Marvin Stern, Phillip Cooperman and Bernard Walsh as his replacements.[vii] They in turn were replaced by Sam Stember. Stember was a 47-year old World War I veteran and Communist Party functionary. Despite these qualifications he proved to lack the balance of leadership qualities and political acumen required to effectively deal with the International Brigade Headquarters while meeting the needs of the men. Stember spent most of his time in the XV Brigade Headquarters. Shortly after the Jarama campaign Stember was recalled to the United States.

Figure 2. Company 2 (First Roster)

Lincoln Battalion Co. 2, undated, Sandor Voros Spanish Civil War Collection, Series 2, The XVth International Brigade Records, Box 3, Folder 30, Adelphi University Archives and Special Collections, Garden City, NY

This Handwritten one-page Co. 2 roster is undated however, it contains the names of men who were aboard the two trucks that took a wrong turn into fascist lines on February 16, 1937. This places the date as prior to or on February 15, 1937.

The full names of the volunteers are provided in the cases where they can be identified. Original transcriptions are in parenthesis ( ).  Comments are in [ ]. Unidentified volunteers are marked with an *.

 

Company 2  [55 volunteers]

Company 2, Section 1  [14 volunteers]                              

Taylor, Robert Munson. Section Leader

Jelin, Maurice. (M Jenlen), Group Leader, Killed February 27

*M. Pters. Assistant Section Leader

Rappaport, Irving William. (J Rappaport [?])

Rappaport, Milton Mordecai. Killed February 27

Skolnick, Abe. (M Skolnick)

Schindler, Harry. (Shinidler)

Represas, Dominick. (Represes), Jarama Lost Trucks

Mickenberg, Morris. (Makar)

Chocheles, Isadore. (Chockoles)

Granat, Morris. (Teitelbaum)

Steinberg, Harry. WIA February 27, 1937

Argirakas, Matthew Mateos

Mantell, Benjamin Martin. Killed February 27

 


Company 2, Section 2
 [27 volunteers]                   

Section 2, Group 1  (9)              

Tieger, Rudolph. (Triger), Group Leader & Section Political Commissar, Killed February 27

Sheir, Nathan Meyer

Grumet, Leonard

Gebin, Sam. (Geben)

Pattikis, Vasilios Nicola. (Pathily), WIA Jarama

Salvini, Frederick

Schintone, Victor P.

Hall, Maxwell

Vilar, Angelo Perez


Section 2, Group 2  (7)    

Sanchez, Enrique [?]. Group Leader

Laguerra Colino, Jose. (Laguana)

*Pients

Mitchell, Irving

Cox, Thomas, Jr. Jarama Lost Trucks

Dempsey, Russell Fielding. Jarama Lost Trucks

Venazano, Eugenio. (Venzano), Appears to have transferred to the Dimitrov BN, Killed February 27


Section 2, Group 3  (11)

Joannou, James. (Joanon)

Rochester, Sterling Taylor [?]

Rosner, Hyman [?]

Bush, Willy

Suarez Pineiro, Luis

Neipold, Paul. Section Leader, Killed February 27

Bernstein, Hilliard Edgar. Assistant Section Leader

Corona, Arturo. Cuban, [CC, Company Commissar/Commander?]

McGroty, Eamon. (McGroty, A. Ts), Irish, Killed February 27

Beattie, Henry Scott. Canadian, WIA February 27

Hagiliou, John. (Hagelis SS), (SS service sanitaire ie. Medic?)

 

Company 2, Section 3  [14 volunteers]                                                   

 

Hourihan, Martin William. Section Leader

 

Section 3, Group 1 (3)                                              

Bilodeau, Roger. (Bilodean), Canadian, Group Leader

Kuchmiy, Miak, (Kurlmy), Canadian

Leige, Clare. (Clare), Canadian, Killed February 27

 

Section 3, Group 2   (6)                                             

Sabot, John. [aka Sabol], (Sahne), Group Leader

Ryan, Lawrence K. Canadian, WIA February 27

Dikigian, John

Fuller, Henry Hoyt. [?], (Tuller)

Garcia, Andres Menandes. Canadian, Killed February 27

Diaz Collado, Tomas [?], (Dias)

 

Section 3, Group 3  (4)               

Kresciak, Domanick. (Krisciak)

Plaza, Augustin

Bedard, Joseph Thomas. (Bedarry [?]), Canadian

*Rosal

 

Figure 3. Company 2 (Second Roster)

 

Lincoln Battalion Co. 2, undated, Sandor Voros Spanish Civil War Collection, Series 2, The XVth International Brigade Records, Box 3, Folder 30, Adelphi University Archives and Special Collections, Garden City, NY

This handwritten 3-page Co. 2 roster is undated. Based on the presence of several replacements on the roster the date is likely either February 26 or 27, 1937, on the Jarama Front.

The full names of the volunteers are provided in the cases where they can be identified. Original transcriptions are in ( ).  Comments are in [ ].  Unidentified volunteers are marked with an *.

Company 2 [62 volunteers]

 

Royce, Andrew Lee. Company Commander

Levine, Sidney [?], 2nd in Command

 

Section 1 [33 volunteers]

Virgil, Morris. Section Leader

Goldstein, Milton. Assistant Section Leader

 

Section 1, Group 1 (11)

Haddock, Philip Carroll. (Haddock, Rouli), Group Leader

Forristall, James Eugene. (Jim), Assistant Group Leader

Lenthier, John. Arrived as a replacement on February 26, Killed February 27

Krauthamer, Max

Soich, George. (Joe), Killed February 27

Santiago, Santonja. (Santaigo, John)

Haskell, Daniel. Killed February 27

Ofsink, Melvin.

Sedlacek, John.  (Sedlach, James)

Whitney, Gordon Porter.

Seigel, Samuel.

 

Section 1, Group 2 (9)

Burdick, Milton. Killed February 2, Group Leader.

Rosenstein, Joseph. WIA February 27, Assistant Group Leader.

Brier, Morris.  Arrived as a replacement on February 26

Romanuk, A. (?). (Romoni, Angela); Canadian.

Nedvar, Joseph. Arrived as a replacement on February 23, WIA February 27

Contouris, Antonio. (Douris, Anthony)

Lenway, Charles Clyde. Killed February 27

Smith, Owen Jefferson

*Consten

Schneiderman, Rubin. WIA February 27

 

Section 1, Group 3 (10)

Pereira, Joaquin. (Joquim); Group Leader.

Thoma, Anthony Haji. (Antonis)

Danko, John. Killed February 27

Treer, Martin. (Treir); Canadian.

Mills, Rudolph. (Mill)

Palu, John

Halepis, Kostas. (Halebis, Gost)

Martyniuk, Wladyslaw [?].  (Walter; Martypiah, Walt), Canadian

Lysetz, Hryhorii. (Lisetski, Gregory), Canadian

Hallmon, Nicholas. (Nickols)

 

Company 2, Section 2 [27 volunteers]

Ladman, Louis. Killed February 27, Section Leader

Brent, John [?]. Canadian, Assistant Section Leader

 

Section 2, Group 1 (10)

Ulvi, Anton. (Uvil); Group Leader

Pangalos, Theodoros M. (Panglost), Assistant Group Leader

Tamler, Boris. (Bud), Arrived as a replacement on February 22

Rehil, Joseph Francis

Lucas, Frank. (Lukaszewis, Frank)

Ambatiellos, Spyros. (Amatields, Spyr)

Biggone, Vincent [?]. (Bicca)

Etala, Stanley. (Stala)

Severdia, George Anthony

Fitzgerald, Daniel Andrew Lee. Arrived as a replacement on February 26

 

Section 2, Group 2 (11)

*Elston, B. Group Leader.

Hochberg, Emannuel. (Emanuel), Assistant Group Leader

Appleton, Owen

Wendorf, Paul

Nusser, Charles. Arrived as a replacement on February 26

Troxil, Stephen Edward

Hershkowitz, Herman [?] Sail List

Stevens, Douglas. [real name Stepanian, Badrig Der],  Canadian

Belkowitz, Sam.

Weisenfeld, Nathan. (Weisenfield, Wesson)

Weinberg, Jerry.

 

Section 2, Group 3 (4)

Carlson, Carl Joseph. Group Leader; Killed February 27

Mickenberg, Morris. Assistant Group Leader

Howard, Joseph Hyman. (Joe)

Peck, Samuel. (Sam)

 

[i] Landis states 450 volunteers; Arthur Landis, The Lincoln Brigade, (New York: Citadel, 1968), 40; Rolfe states 428; Edwin Rolfe, The Lincoln Battalion, (New York: Stratfod Press, 1939), 31.

[ii] Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (RGASPI), Fond 545, Opis 6, Delo 47, ll. 5; Several Dutch volunteers appear on a partial roster of Lincoln Battalion volunteers including Van Brink, John DeWit and Jan Koestal.

[iii] William Herrick, Jumping the Line, The Adventures and Misadventures of an American Radical, (Oakland, California: AK Press, 1998), 148; Peter N. Carroll The Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1994), 95.

[iv] Rolfe, The Lincoln Battalion, 30; and Herrick, Jumping the Line, 148; both agree that Harris was removed before the battalion left for the front on February 15. Landis states that Harris was still in command at the front and was not removed until after the nighttime march between the lines on or about February 19.

[v] Herrick, Jumping the Line, 164.

[vi] Political Section Co. 1, undated, Sandor Voros Spanish Civil War Collection, Series 2, The XVth International Brigade Records, Box 3, Folder 31, Adelphi University Archives and Special Collections, Garden City, NY provides information on the political organization of the Company One.

POLITICAL SECTION CO. 1

Section 1 Leppo Section Commissar
Group  1 Wallack Group Commissar
Group  2 Cobert Group Commissar
Group  3 Duval Group Commissar
Section 2 [blank] Section Commissar
Group 1 O’Brien TT Group Commissar
Group 2 Morrison Group Commissar
Group 3 Donnelly Group Commissar
Section 3 Landeta Section Commissar
Group 1 Gomez, R. Group Commissar
Group 2 Roldan Group Commissar
Group 3 Rodrigues, G. Group Commissar

[vii]Herrick, Jumping the Line, 148.

 

 

References

 

Carroll, Peter N. The Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1994.

Herrick, William. Jumping the Line, The Adventures and Misadventures of an American Radical, Oakland, California: AK Press, 1998.

Rolfe, Edwin. The Lincoln Battalion, New York: Stratford Press, 1939.

Landis, Arthur. The Lincoln Brigade, New York: Citadel, 1968.

Tisa, John. Recalling the Good Fight, An Autobiography of the Spanish Civil War; Massachusetts: Bergin and Garvey Publishers, 1985.

Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (RGASPI) ((Российский государственный архив социально-политической истории (РГАСПИ)); Records of the International Brigades (Comintern Archives, Fond 545)

Sandor Voros Collection, Spanish Civil War Collection, Adelphi University Archives and Special Collections, Garden City, NY. [Special thanks for the invaluable research assistance by Bianca LaVeglia.]

Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, Sail List.

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3 Responses to “ Jarama Series: Organization of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion ”

  1. judy glock on February 12, 2016 at 10:04 am

    not seeing torgoff, leo
    he was in one of the two trucks and was killed that day??
    judy glock
    great niece of leo

  2. Chris Brooks on February 16, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    Judy,

    Your uncle’s fate is discussed in the 16 February 2016 blog post about the Lost Jarama Trucks.

    Yours,

    Chris Brooks

  3. Scott Patrick on April 12, 2016 at 7:19 pm

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for this awesome Jarama Series. Very educational! I was wondering, what sort of uniforms were members of the Lincoln Battalion issued when they arrived in Spain? What sort of weapons? How well-supplied were they?

    Thanks,

    Scott

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