domingo, 30 de octubre de 2011

GERDA TARO IN BRUNETE BATTLE AND LAST PICTURES TAKEN BY THE PHOTOJOURNALIST BEFORE BEING RUN OVER BY A TANK ON JULY 25, 1937

Text and Indicated Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza




The photojournalist Gerda Taro died on July 26, 1937 in the English Hospital of El Goloso in El Escorial after being accidentally run over by a Republican T-26 tank approximately at 18:30 h in the afternoon of July 25, 1937, around 1,5 km beyond the north exit of Villanueva de la Cañada, when she went along with Ted Allan on the right running-board of a black car on which they had just got on (it took three Republican soldiers inside, and whose driver stopped the vehicle on identifying both of them when they made him signals from the right side of the road) which advanced at full speed towards El Escorial.

The pictures made by Gerda Taro during the Battle of Brunete between July 6 and 25, 1937, a high percentage of which were found in The Mexican Suitcase, together with others which only existed as vintage copies, do increase even more if feasible her greatness as a photographer and do verify that she made during the last days of her life what was probably the best reportage of her photographic career, risking her own life in a lot of moments to manage to get a remarkable assortment of images showing the harshness of war.

STARTING PHASE: THE REPUBLICAN TROOPS CONQUER BRUNETE. ARRIVAL OF GERDA TARO AT THE VILLAGE
In May of 1937, a preliminary report by Komarm Gregori Kulik (head of the Russian military advisers) confirmed the weakness of Francoist defenses in this area and asked for an attack on the village of Brunete (located 28 km on the west of Madrid) by the Republican Army of Manoeuver, that would have as main goals to free pressure from the Francoist siege of Madrid and simultaneously to delay Franco´s plans in the North Front as much as possible, because after Bilbao fall in June, the capture of Santander seemed inevitable.

Such a possibility was thoroughly studied by the high commanders of Republican Army, and after some weeks of painstaking arrangements and watching of the enemy positions, above all by Vicente Rojo (Supreme Commander of the Republican Army of Manoeuver) and Juan Modesto (Commander of the Republican V Army Corps), they approved the attack scheme, which attained an almost utter surprise, with the Republican troops beginning their movements previous to the onslaught at 22:00 h in the night of July 5, 1937, with El Campesino´s 46th Division on the right, Líster´s 11th Division in the center and José María Galán´s 34th Division on the right, they all infiltrating across the Francoist positions of the sector placed between Navalagamella and Villanueva del Pardillo.

Líster´s forces, which were the most powerful unit, passed between Quijorna and Villanueva de la Cañada, with their flanks being protected by the Special Battalion, and at dawn , the assault forces were in position: the 101th Brigade by Los Llanos crest, the 10th Brigade in the north of Quijorna, the 3th Brigade in Villanueva de la Cañada and Líster´s 11th Division surrounded Brunete.

And at 5:30 a.m of July 6 1937, the Republican artillery, that had gathered a great quantity of ordnance for the attack, shelled the Francoist defenses in the area for half an hour, after which 84,000 men of the Republican Army started their thrust with the support of 220 cannons, 130 tanks, 40 armoured vehicles and 300 aircraft, having a big numerical superiority at those moments, since the best units of the Francoist Army were in the North Front.

The Francoist forces on the zone, belonging to the 71th Division under the command of Ricardo Serrador Santés (made up by Falangists and around 1,000 Moroccan soldiers integrated within the VII Army Corps of general Varela) are surprised in a front sector that they have scarcely protected, with a defense located in small isolated garrisons.

Brunete was taken by Líster´s 11th Division on July 6, 1937, and from that day, Gerda Taro was making photographs throughout what would quickly turn into the Battle of Brunete, one of the most bloodiest and fiercely fought ones by both sides during the whole Spanish Civil War, in a shambles that would have to render a figure of casualties of 20,000 dead soldiers to the Republican Army and 17,000 to the Francoist one.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Russian tank T-26 rolls across Brunete, after the capture of the village by Líster´s 11th Division.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

This image taken by Gerda Taro proved that the Republican troops had really captured the village of Brunete.


Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Valentín González, "El Campesino", commander of the 46th Division during the Battle of Brunete.

SECOND PHASE: ENTRENCHMENT OF THE REPUBLICAN TROOPS IN BRUNETE AND ITS SURROUNDINGS. BEGINNING OF THE ATTRITION WAR

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Many of the images made by Gerda Taro prove that once thay had captured Brunete, the Republican troops entrenched themselves inside the village and its surroundings, instead of profitably using the tactic advantage to try a further penetration up to Villaviciosa de Odón and Navalcarnero, which was the original plan.

Though it is true that they lost a good chance to take significant advantage of the initial success, it isn´t less true that the Republican high commanders knew that Franco would send soon troops coming from the North Front, and with the exception of Brunete, the rest of Francoist garrisons of Quijorna, Villanueva del Pardillo and Villafranca del castillo resisted with huge tenacity (Franco had ordered them to withstand to the death on their positions to gain time until the arrival of reinforcements from the North Front) the Republican attacks, in such a way that three days were needed to occupy Quijorna (captured on July 8, 1937), five to take the strategic La Mocha crest (which fell on July 10) and six to conquer Villafranca del Castillo and Villanueva del Pardillo, for which it was necessary to send to those areas the 2th and 111th Brigades belonging to the XVIII Republican Army Corps under the command of colonel Enrique Jurado.

Villanueva de la Cañada had been captured during the night of July 6, 1937, after enduring throughout the whole day the attempts of assault made by the 16th and 18th Republican brigades of the 34th Division under the command of lieutenent colonel Galán, reinforced with battalions of the International Brigades of General Walter´s 35th Division, and it only fell after the death in combat of the Francoist commander of the position and all of his officers.

This Numantian defense implemented by the scarce Francoist forces in the area, fighting against overwhelmingly superior in numbers Republican effectives, and in which it was decisive the very high combat morale of the Tiradores de Ifni Moroccan soldiers (in Quijorna) and the 5th Tabor of Regulares of Larache (in Villafranca del Castillo) along with their great accuracy in long and medium range shots made with their 7 x 57 mm Mauser rifles performing the role of pacos, slowed the advance of a high percentage of the Republican units during the first week of the battle, a very valuable time which would enable Franco to send from the North Front some infantry, artillery and aviation units, that as we´ll see later, were a key factor to balance the battle and recapture Brunete after 20 days of ruthless battle.

It´s also important to bear in mind that albeit the Republican Army had significantly improved its operating efficency in comparison to the popular militias which fought during the first months of war, and it had been reorganized according to the directives of the Russian military advisors integrated within its High Command, having been able to frame the old popular militias and new contingents of compulsory recruitment into brigades, divisions and army corps (with the bonus of the just created Army of Manoeuver, made up by the most experienced in combat Republican units, and whose aim was to rapidly march with offensive missions to specific sectors), we mustn´t forget that they are troops mostly made up by former militiamen and forced levies whose performance in the medium and long term is much more efficient in defense than attacking, the latter being a side in which logically the professional Francoist forces of the Army of Africa with its legionnaries and Moroccan Tabors of Regulares, along with the Navarrese Brigades, were far superior.

Vicente Rojo, Juan Modesto, Líster and Matallana (the most important Republican high commanders during the battle of Brunete and who performed a brilliant role in it from a military viewpoint) know it.

They are aware that although they have achieved an outstanding success, advancing 16 km in few hours and capturing Brunete, the stubborn resistance of the little Francoist garrisons in other villages of the zone surrounded in the rearguard (Quijorna, Los Llanos, Villanueva de la Cañada and Villanueva del Pardillo) which were also targets and that they have needed some days to conquer, has made them lose a highly valuable time (even, the stout defense of Quijorna by Francoist troops had forced Modesto to send the 35th Republican Division -originally located in Valdemorillo- in support of El Campesino, when that unit had to follow the advance of Líster´s 11th Division, trying to take further advantage of the starting success of the thrust).

In such circumstances, the importance of surprise factor had greatly evanesced since July 8, 1937, and a further stretching of lines striving after reaching Villaviciosa de Odón, Sevilla la Nueva and Navalcarnero (which was the initial scheme) could be hugely dangerous, because plugging that penetration route is the feared 13th Division under the command of colonel Fernando Barrón (which was in reserve in Madrid Front but has been incorporated to the Battle of Brunete on July 6, 1937 by an order of general Varela), made up by many of the most toughened elite units of the Army of Africa, with abundant legionaries and Moroccan tabors of regulares in its ranks, the latter ones being specialist in carrying out very fast encircling manoeuvers and quickly annihilate Republican units, as they´ve already proved during the first year of war.

On the other hand, Líster is rather wary, since he knows that Franco will send soon elite troops from the North Front, as it will happen, with the arrival at the the zone of the Navarrese Brigades IV and V, very strengthened with Moroccan soldiers of tabors of Regulares.

Once Brunete had been captured, and after realizing the remarkable success of the starting attack made by the Republican Army of Manoeuver on July 6, 1937, there were some doubts in the Republican high commanders, specially in Líster, who when trying to assault the village of Sevilla la Nueva. found a strong resistance, firstly by Francoist forces under the command of loieutenant colonel Cuevas and a few hours later by the 1st Flag of the Spanish Legion, coming from Chapinería, that stopped Líster´s troops two kilometers beyond Brunete, so the commander of the Republican 11th Division decided to come back to Brunete south surroundings, entrenching in the outskirts of the village with his thousands of men, trying to avoid by all means to be encircled in medium term by the professional troops of legionaries and Moroccan tabors of regulares of Barron´s 13th Division, lower in numbers but featuring higher flexibility and ability of adaptation to different combat circumstances, both offensive and defensive ones.

It´s also true that Líster kept a huge numerical superiority at those beginning moments of the Republican attack and he had then the way free towards Navalcarnero, which was the directive given by Vicente Rojo, so exceedingly valuable hours were lost.

Nevertheless, the topic about whether Líster should have gone on advancing or not, continues being a debate, above all regarding the possibility of having reached Sevilla la Nueva and Navalcarnero, for one of the important goals of the Republican onslaught was to cut Extremadura Road.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Here we can see three Republican soldiers in a trench on the south outskirsts of Brunete.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Three Republican soldiers resting inside a trench in the south purlieus of Brunete.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Throughout the whole Battle of Brunete, temperatures were very high, between 38º C and 42º C. Here we see a group of Republican combatants resting during a pause in the fight.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

A Republican soldier wearing a helmet on his head and handling a little espiga mortar placed on top of a valley near the south of Brunete.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Another image showing the massive entrenchment performed by the Republican troops in Brunete and its south surroundings from July 1937 after the capture of the village at daybreak of that day.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Four Republican soldiers inside a trench located on top of a hill near the south entrance to Brunete. The one most on the left is naked from waist upwards, because of the suffocating heat.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

The lavishness of weaponry used was massive by both contenders. Here we can see a Republican soldier photographed inside his trench while he aims his rifle through some sand sacks. On the back area of his rawhide belting, on both sides of the cartridge pouch, he is taking two Polish Model 31 grenades.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

As a complement to the digging of trenches all over Brunete and its south surroundings, including the nearby slopes and hills, the Republican troops built a series of bunkers located on strategic areas for the defense against the Francoist forces. Here we can see one of them placed on the southeast of the village, whose church tower can be seen in the distance, on the right of the image background.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Some Republican soldiers protected behind parapets inside a trench and aiming their rifles through holes among sand sacks located on its top.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Ten Republican soldiers resting during a break in combats. The one in the background on top area of the image, is wearing shorts and is naked from waist upwards, striving after getting relief from the suffocating heat. Some of his comrades are smoking. Another one, clad in a French helmet, is reading a newspaper. The weariness is visible in them, specially in the man with one of his knees on the ground and the one wearing a cap with eye shade (lower left corner of the photograph).

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

A Republican soldier sleeping face up on the ground by a rifle. The fatigue brought about by combats stress and the very high temperatures of Brunete area in July 1937, made that exhaustion had a quick effect on them, while the Francoist troops of the Spanish Army of Africa, above all the legionaries and Moroccan soldiers of tabors of Regulares, who were used to living under this context, had a bigger resistance to weariness, along with a far superior combat morale.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Gerda Taro struggles to get the best possible pictures, sharing with Republican soldiers the stifling heat which prevailed throughout the days of Brunete Battle. Here she photographs a combatant from inside a bunker.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

A Republican trench excavated on a slope near the south outskirts of the village of Brunete. Some uniforms of Republican soldiers can be seen in the image, together with different helmets and some Russian Mosin-Nagant Model 1891 caliber 7.62 x 54 R rifles with their typical bayonet whose design had been rather implemented for its use being permanently attached instead of taking it apart with a baldric.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Republican troops on the slope of a gully located between the south outskirts of Brunete village and the bridge on Guadarrama river near Villaviciosa de Odón, on which they have dug a dense network of trenches.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Valentín González "El Campesino" with a Republican officer. Albeit being a man featuring great courage, energy and shrewdness, he was far from the talent of prominent Republican military commanders during the Spanish Civil War like Vicente Rojo, Juan Modesto, Tagüeña, Líster, Hernández Saravia, Etelvino Vega, etc.

Though he moved well during the starting stage of the Battle of Brunete, infiltrating within the Francoist garrisons, his euphoria and his steady desire to be center stage was hindering for the Republican side, since communist political authorities (trying to encourage him as much as feasible) put under his command - which was an error- all the tanks and heavy artillery of Modesto´s V Army Corps, and his stubborn pincer attacks on the Francoist defenders of Quijorna (which couldn´t be captured until July 9, 1937) and Los Llanos crest, meant big losses in both men and tanks (a total of 14) for the V Army Corps, delaying the advance of the Manoeuver Army, which enabled Franco to gain an exceedingly valuable time to send reinforcements from Santander Front.

Besides, the Republican 46th Division was about to run out of ammunition, while the very tough resistance of Quijorna Francoist garrison (which had been reinforced with a battalion) facing the attacks by El Campesino, forced Modesto to send the 35th Division (under the command of Karol Swierczewski, known as "General Walter", and located in Valdemorillo) up to the area of Quijorna to help him, when the initial plan was that this unit would support with its 32, 11th International and 108 Brigades the spearhead advance of Líster´s 11th Division.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Two Republican tents pitched on the slope of a ravine near the south outskirts of the village of Brunete. A further detail captured by Taro and fully verifying that Enrique Líster´s troops and the International Brigades taking part in the battle, adopted a defensive scheme after the taking of Brunete.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

A very young Republican soldier photographed by Gerda Taro.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

The journalist Claud Coburn, a correspondent for The Times London newspaper in Germany and United States until 1933, and later a columnist of The Week and Daily Worker (on the left of the image) and the commander of the British Battalion of the International Brigades Fred Copeman (on the right) pose for Gerda Taro. Though they are smiling and try to appear as good as possible in the picture, the suffered fatigue and stress is highly visible in the sharp faces of both and their countenance expression, specially the journalist.

Hanging from his neck, Fred Copeman is wearing Carl Zeiss Jena Deltrintem 8 x 30 old version binoculars, featuring a porro optical prism with achromatic lenses and angular eyepieces free from distortion and designed by Albert Koenig with four elements without anti reflection coating.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Two Republican soldiers inside a trench near the south the outskirts of Brunete. The closest man to the camera is wearing a shirt with its sleeves rolled up and some top buttons unfastened, trying to allay the unbearable heat, while a second combatant, visible behind him, on the right of the image, has his hair completely rumpled, has been unshaven for some time and his face clearly reveals the lassitude because of the uninterrupted fight during some consecutive days.

On the left of the image, in the background, you can see a Mosin-Nagant Model 1891 Russian rifle with its bayonet fixed.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Some Republican soldiers resting and feeding themselves by a trench dug on top of a hill and sheltered with sand sacks.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

A young Republican soldier with his shirt sleeves turned up photographed by Gerda Taro.

THIRD STAGE: INTENSIFICATION OF ATTRITION WAR AND DEVASTATING FRANCOIST COUNTEROFFENSIVE
From July 10, 1936 the feared arrival of Francoist reinforcements takes place. They are the 12th Division (called ´Provisional´, created for this battle and under the command of Asensio Cabanillas), the Brigades of Navarra IV (colonel Camilo Alonso Vega) and V (colonel Juan Bautista Sánchez) brought from Santander Front and reinforced with abundant contingents of Moroccan tabors of Regulares, so to practical effects they´re equivalent to divisions and the Moroccan 150th Divison (colonel Eduardo Sáenz de Buruaga) which was in Mérida.

Therefore, the 100% of Francoist military commanders governing divisions during the Battle of Brunete (Barrón, Asensio Cabanillas, Sáenz de Buruaga, Camilo Alonso Vega, Juan Bautista Sánchez) along with general Varela - who has his command post in Boadilla del Monte- , are high officers belonging to the Spanish Army of Africa and featuring a lot of years of combat previous experience in the War of Morocco.

Likewise, very important aerial effectives of the German Condor Legion arrive at Brunete area. They´ve been sent from the North Front with the best available units and pilots, integrated in:

a) Jagdgruppe J/88 under the command of Major Merhardt von Bernegg, and including the Jagdstaffel 1. J/88 Marabu (with 12 Me-109 B1 under the command of Hauptmann Palm), the Jagdstaffel 2. J/88 Zylinderhut (with other 12 Me-109B1, under the command of Oberstleutnant Lehmann) and the Jagdstaffel 3. J/88 Myckimaus (with 12 Heinkel He 51 C-1 for ground attack, under the command of Oberstleutnant Roth).

b) KampfgruppeK/88 under the command of Major Robert Fuchs, including the Kampfstaffel 1.K/88 (with 12 Junkers Ju 52, under the command of Oberstleutnant Knauer), the Kampstaffel 2.K/88 (with other 12 Junkers Ju 52, under the command of Hauptmann von Delmesingen), and the experimental squadron of bombardment Versuchsbombersdtaffel VB/88 (with Heinkel He-111, Dornier Do 17 and Junkers Ju-86, under the command of Oberstleutnant von Moreau).

This massive sending of German combat aircraft of the Condor Legion to Brunete, with a high percentage of pilots who will later be aces of the Luftwaffe during the Second World War, will be finally the most decisive factor to curb the Republican offensive started on July 6 (and which had dominated the aerial space until those moments, with 300 planes, and a significant quantity of Polikarpov I-16 Moscas and Polikarpovs I-15 Chatos among them), in spite of the remarkable performance of very good Republican pilots like Anatoly Serov (one of the world pioneers of night hunt with his I-15 Chato), Frank G. Tinker, Alexandr Minaiev, Boris Smirnov, Harold Dahl and otehrs who made what they could with their Polikarpovs I-16 Moscas and Polikarpov I-15 Chatos against the most modern German aircraft.

This forces Modesto, Commander of the Republican V Army Corps, to order that many Russian 76.2 mm M38 caliber cannons be installed in antiaircraft configuration in the north and south surroundings of Brunete, such as proved by this important picture made by Gerda Taro on July 23 or 24, 1937, and in which three of these artillery pieces can be observed.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

On July 10, 1937, Francoist troops have managed to stop the Republican offensive practically in all of its important places.

This way, from the fourth day after the beginning of the Republican offensive, the Battle of Brunete turns into a brutal attrition fight, in the middle of a frightful heat and steady use of ordnance for each meter of disputed ground, with Líster´s 11th Division entrenched between the south outskirts of Brunete and Sevilla la Nueva, Barrón´s 13th Division plugging the way towards Navalcarnero, and Sáenz de Buruaga´s 150th Division occupying the left flank of Perales river.

This is a turning point of the battle.

Franco appoints general Varela supreme commander of his troops in the area and orders him to counterattack as soon as possible, with which the Provisional Army Corps of Brunete is established, and the aforementioned Navarrese Brigades being incorporated into it.

So, a shambles begins in which the starting scheme of the Republican high commanders focused on the concept of manoeuver prevailing over the frontal clash, inevitably becomes a clearly static battle.

Juan Modesto, commander of the V Army Corps and one of the best prepared Republican military high officers, is furious because of the very valuable time lost during the previous days, but is able to accurately read the situation: Franco is trying to annihilate them, above all with his elite units of the Army of Africa (Barrón´s 13th Division and Sáenz de Buruaga´s 150th Division) and the Navarrese Brigades IV and V.

The Republican XVIII Army Corps is exhausted, after some days of fight in which it hasn´t managed to capture Romanillo and Mosquito hills, where Asensio Cabanillas stoutly defends the Francoist right sector with his 12th Division, bringing about the wearing away of the 13th and 15th International Brigades, and also of Jurado´s XVIII Army Corps (Divisions 34 and 10).

On July 11, 1937, Modesto is reported both the wearing out of Jurado´s XVIII Army Corps and the news that 13 Republican combat aircraft Polkikarpov I-15 and I-16 have been shot down by the German Messerschmitt BF-109B-1 of the Staffel 2. Jagdgruppe/88 Zylinder Hut under the command of Obersleutnant Lehmann, which are playing havoc, and on July 12, 1937 he knows that the Russian pilot Alexandr Minaiev (Commander of the 1st Republican Squadron of Polikarpovs I-16 Moscas) has just died in aerial combat over Villanueva de la Cañada.

Modesto is aware that they´re about to lose the air power initiative they had had till that moment, so he orders both El Campesino´s 46th Division and General Walter´s 35th Division to entrench themselves and accompany Líster´s 11th Division in an utterly defensive profile.

Though from July 10, 1937 the German Messerschmitt BF-109B1 had a sway over the air space of Brunete and nearby villages, a real air feat happened on July 13, 1937 when the American pilot Frank G. Tinker, flying the Polikarpov I-16 CM-023 Mosca belonging to the 1st Squadron under the command of Alexandr Minaiev,- the same model of aircraft appearing in the picture- shot down Ufzz. Güido Höneb´s Messerschmitt Me-109B1. Frank G. Tinker would end the war with a total of 8 confirmed victories: two Me-109B1, three Heinkel He 51 C-1 and three Fiat CR-32. Both Frank G. Tinker and Harold Dahl (a member of the 1st Squadron of I-15 Chatos under the command of Ivan Eryomenko) were two American pilots who fought in the Battle of Brunete and had been hired in December 1936 by the Spanish Republican government to combat with the Republican Air Force. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The Francoist high commanders go on amassing more and more effectives on the area, in a clear spreading of forces previous to a massive offensive.

From this moment on, the Battle of Brunete turns into a savage grinding down war, in which both sides defend with their lives each milimiter of terrain, with constant assaults of both Republican and Francoist infantry under drumfire of machine guns, cannons, mortars and rifles, to which must be added the machine gunning and bombing of ground forces by aviation, a scope in which the Republican units are the most impaired by the action of the German Condor Legion.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

After the arrival of Francoist reinforcements, the casualties toll in the Republican ranks increased swiftly, in the same way as in the Francoist side. The battle was gradually resulting in a gruesome no quarter attrition war, with unprecedented levels of violence and men slaughtering.

Here we can see an injured Republican soldier being transported on a stretcher from first line of fire to the rearguard to be attended.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York
An injured Republican soldier lying on the ground and surrounded by several combatant comrades.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

During the Battle of Brunete, the stretcher-bearers of both sides worked unremittingly. In this image we can see two Republican soldiers conveying an injured comrade to a first-aid station.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

During the Battle of Brunete, Gerda Taro was highly active, going to very different areas to get pictures, often being not only capturing scenes on the defensive zones of trenches, but also very near the first line of fire, being abundant her photographs of evacuation of wounded Republican soldiers, which daily amounted to thousands of them.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Tower of Brunete church with a huge hole made by the direct impact of heavy caliber Francoist artillery.

The using of churches towers and all sort of high buildings as an observation point, was a common practice in both sides throughout the whole Spanish Civil War, so they became a usual target of enemy ordnance. In this regard, the most sadly famous example was the Bullding of Telefónica Company in the Gran Vía of Madrid, which was shelled by shots of general Varela´s artillery made from Garabitas Hill in Casa de Campo, with Schneider 155/13 mm cannons featuring a range of 11 km, some of whose howitzers, because of inaccuracy, fell on Red de San Luis and Callao areas, killing a lot of civil passers-by.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

The tower of Brunete church, together with its attached aisle, were destroyed in 4/5 parts by shots of artillery during the battle, having to be greatly refurbished after the Spanish Civil War, after which only the lower zone of the granite walls stood, currently showing the impacts of rifle and light and medium artillery on its façade.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York
Gerda Taro photographs some Republican soldiers searching for survivals among the debris of several destroyed houses. The village is being smashed both by Francoist artillery shells and bombs dropped by German Ju 52 and Heinkel-111 aircraft of the Condor Legion supporting Barrón´s 13th Division attack.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Varela has also attached Wilhelm Ritter von Thoma´s Tank Battalion (belonging to the Condor Legion) with 45 Pzkpfw I tanks to Barrón´s troops.

Impressive picture taken by Gerda Taro. The photojournalist is in inside the village of Brunete, risking her life to get images like this, in which we see three Republican soldiers looking for survivals or wounded among the ruins of more shattered abodes.

The sight is desolating. The dwellings have been smashed into pieces and only the timber beams and the lower area of their walls remain standing from their original structure. Smoke and chaos wrap everything. Stress and anxiety are noticeable in the soldiers, who fear there are buried comrades under the debris.

Barrón´s forces have already reached the outskirts of Brunete four times, attacking through the center, but his onslaughts have been driven back by Líster´s 11th Division and general Walter´s 35th one.

Fighting is fierce and combats to the death are sustained both in the center and flanks, since Franco has ordered to conquer Brunete at all costs and has placed the Navarrese Brigades IV and V on the left and right of Barron´s tremendous frontal attack, and their push has already resulted in the retreat of the Republican 16th Mixed Brigade, so the encirclement danger of Brunete is apparent.

Franco knows that his troops are suffering a very high toll of casualties before the very dogged Republican defense, so he conceives the plan of creating a new as impregnable as possible defense line, having as approximate boundary the north outskirts of Brunete and the three kilometers of the road linking Brunete with Villanueva de la Cañada. He can´t wait any longer to begin again the operations in the North Front of Santander, strategically much more important. That´s why Barron´s 13th Division frontal attack and Navarrese Divisions through the flanks onslaughts are so violent.

Incredibly, Gerda Taro is still inside Brunete village streets. Artillery shells and aviation bombs explode everywhere. The combat front is within a few hundred meters distance.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Taro goes on taking pictures. Several Republican high officers heve been recommending her to flee the village for some days, because Barrón´s 13th Division is striving after assaulting Brunete and the bombing by Francoist ordnance and aircraft is steadily increasing, so death danger is huge.

But the photojournalist ignores the advice. She is endeavoring to get the best possible photographs. She knows that these are historical moments and it´s important to be there, to keep track of some events that even currently, 74 years after, and within XXI Century, still make one shiver.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Brunete has become a ghost village, Almost 100% of its houses and buildings have been destroyed.

The savage combats in the surroundings of the village go on.

Franco and Varela have ordered Barrón and his 13th Division to conquer Brunete as soon as possible, because they need to urgently resume the operations in the North Front, because the attack of the Republican Army of Manoeuver, which started on July, 6, has brought about a one month delay in the advancement on Santander.

The legionaries and tabors of regulares attack en masse against Líster and general Walter´s men. Distances begin to be reduced and the dreaded clashes with fixed bayonets start.

The Moroccan troops try to encircle the trenches of 11th and 35th Republican divisions, but they can´t, because of the great quantity of effectives and the resolve in the defense. Each meter of gained ground means scores of killed soldiers.

Líster and General Walter´s men are worn. They have been fighting round-the-clock for three days. Many of them are veterans of Jarama and Guadalajara battles, both Spaniards and international brigadists.

They are wearied and now have to fight against the élite infantry of the 13th Francoist Division.

The German Panzers I try to find a tactical point of breakage. They wish to test their blitzkrieg in Brunete. That´s after all the reason for which they´ve come. But it is a type of tank lacking a cannon - it´s only equipped with two MG13 7.92 mm caliber machine guns- and every time they try advancing with that intention, they´re received with a barrage of Republican shells from the adjacent hills to Brunete, still in Republican hands.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Gerda Taro is hearing everything: the impacts of the howitzers of cannons and mortars, the explosion of the bombs dropped by the German Ju 52 and Heinkel 111, the constant burst of machine gun fire, etc, but she keeps on making photographs inside the village.

Líster´s defensive line has proved to be very efficient, in such a way that until the early rising of July, 20 there aren´t significant changes in the location of the large units, though Francoist troops have retaken Mount Perales (July 19) and Villafranca Castle (July 20), which have been subsequently followed by some Republican attacks across Cumbre Hill and the line of Guadarrama river.

Barrón´s 13th Division can´t break the lines of 11th and 35th Republican divisions in Brunete, and the Navarrese Brigades IV and V have had a very high casualties toll since July 19.

The percentage of casualties in the Republican side is also appalling.

The situation stalemates and Varela decides launching the definitive attack on Brunete, ordering that all the Francoist artillery pieces of different calibers open fire against the nearby slopes to the village.

This saturation bombing has an effect on Líster and general Walter´s very tired men.

On July 22, 1937 the Republican lateral defensive lines begin to weaken and the Moroccan soldiers of tabor of regulares integrated by Franco into the Navarrese Brigades IV and V some months before following Mohammed Ben Mizzian´s advice, start making their highly swift movements trying to encircle the Republican trenches on both sides of Brunete, while Barrón´s infantry attacks very powerfully in the center, with the aim of fixing as many Líster´s troops as possible.

Líster realizes it. His 11th Division can be encircled and annihilated in a matter of few hours, so he orders a tactical retreat towards the area of Brunete Cemetery, a hill on which they had been focusing a good part of the defense since July 19, and from which they dominate with artillery, mortar and rifle fire a good percentage of the adjacent areas to Brunete, and at the same time they can try to protect from there the rest of Republican forces fleeing from Brunete towards Villanueva de la Cañada when Barrón and the Navarrese Brigades break the front lines.

This way, Enrique Líster takes on July 22, 1937 the painful decision to go on resisting only in the Cemetery and its surroundings, and little by little - covered by the most forward men of his defensive line- the bulk of the Republican 11th Division arrives there. They will endure on that position for three more days.

Líster´s decision is wise, saving many thousands of men of his 13th Division from a certain death, because on July 24, 1937, Francoist troops modify their offensive configuration: after battering the defensive Republican flanks, Sáenz de Buruaga and Asensio attack through the center, while Barrón does it through the east, breaking the Republican front line on this spot by means of a fierce assault of the 5th and 6th Tabors of Regulares of Melilla Number 2, after which he captures the whole of Brunete, with the exception of the Cemetery area, located on top of a hill dominating most of the surroundings of the village and where Líster´s 11th Division is waiting for them, entrenched in some defensive lines.

Also on July 24, 1937 at 10:00 h in the morning, the Alvarez Entrena and Santamaria Francoist regiments belonging to colonel Coco´s Brigade integrated within Barrón´s 13th Division, manage to assault the slopes laterally dominating the stretch of road between Brunete and Villanueva de la Cañada.

From the village of Brunete, only the cemetery is now in Republican hands and there are going to happen in that area some episodes that though in much lesser scale of men and weaponry, will reach peaks of dramatism which won´t have anything to envy of what happened in 1942, during the Second World War, on the 102.0 Mamáyev Kurgán Hill.

FIGHT TO THE DEATH IN THE CEMETERY OF BRUNETE BETWEEN LÍSTER´S 11TH DIVISION AND THE 5TH AND 6TH TABORS OF REGULARES OF MELILLA NUMBER 2
Early morning of July 24, 1937. Barrón´s 13th Division has captured almost the whole village of Brunete - totally reduced to debris- after breaking the Republican lines in the east.

There aren´t Republican forces resisting inside the streets of the village, but only in the slope of the Cemetery (Líster´s 11th Division) and in the lateral areas near Brunete (above all forces belonging to general Walter´s International Brigades).

The Navarrese Brigades have been for some days bearing the brunt of the final stage of the Francoist counteroffensive on Brunete and they have suffered a lot of casualties, but after many days of pressure, the Republican flanks are about to crumble before Camilo Alonso Vega and Juan Bautista Sánchez´s troops.

After a few resting hours, Barrón launches at dawn the 5th and 6th Tabors of Regulares of Melilla Number 2 against Líster´s 11th Division, located on the Cemetery of Brunete.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Líster´s troops stick to their positions and shoot a flood of artillery, mortar and machine guns shots against the fierce Moroccan soldiers from an elevated position.

Hair-raising yells in Chelja dialect fill the atmosphere near the Cemetery of Brunete. The tabors of Regulares of Melilla don´t give up and try to reduce distances to take the Republican positions through assaults with fixed bayonets, being held back once more with a great number of casualties.

Many veterans of Jarama and Guadalajara battles also cry and encourage one another.

Barrón grasps that the defensive Republican position in the Cemetery is very strong.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Attempts of assault by the Moroccan forces go on and they literally rebound against the Republican 11th Division, which from top of the Cemetery area slope can control any Francoist movement of penetration from every angle.

But little by little, relentlessly, the Moroccan infantry is getting the upper hand. They´re better equipped (many of Líster´s men are using Mexicansky rifles in bad condition), sport much longer combat experience, the professional officers are logically of higher level from a military viewpoint, and the accuracy in the shots of the soldiers of both tabors is far superior, so Líster´s 11th Division casualties begin to quickly increase.

Nevertheless, the Republican defense of Brunete Cemetery and its surroundings doesn´t yield.

Barrón decides using once more all of his artillery against the Republican soldiers of Líster´s 11th Division defending the Cemetery, and a bombardment with mortars and cannons begins. Some German Ju 52 and Heinkel 111 bombers also attack Brunete cemetery from the air.

Inevitably, Líster´s 11th Division, that has been steadily fighting for almost three consecutive weeks, starts giving in. The explosions of shells and bombs are killing many of the 11th Division Republican soldiers, since the scarce depth of the trenches they had dug barely protects them from shrapnel.

Quickly, the Republican officers order that a percentage of their troops keep on with the defense against Barrón´s troops and that others dig at full speed deeper trenches all over the available space of the cemetery, because they fear a massive attempt of assault by the Moroccan troops at any moment.

Skeletons of old graves begin to appear, and the Republican soldiers take them apart as they can, with the inevitable panic. Francoist cannon and mortar shells go on falling endlessly. Many Republican combatants haven´t got enough time to take the skeletons aside, crouching by them in the bottom of the trenches to avoid the explosions shrapnel.

The context is apocalyptic by the minute.

Barrón´s Moroccan infantry of Tabor of Regulares attack again en masse Líster´s 11th Division positions in the Cemetery area. There are already widespread fights with fixed bayonets on the sand sacks of republican trenches. The carnage is even bigger in both sides and there´s a moment in which it´s impossible to fight without to tread on corpses.

The 11th Division is exhausted, but it keeps on fighting with great courage against vert professional Francoist troops of the Army of Africa. It has lost 75% of his men.

The Moroccan soldiers of Tabors 5th and 6th of Regulares of Melilla Number 2 of Barrón´s 13th Division are also weary and they withdraw to rest.

The night falls on the knoll on which the Cemetery of Brunete is located, and throughout it attacks and counterattacks by both sides go on happening, but the Francoist troops haven´t been able to capture the cemetery yet.

Fight keeps on without any interruption during the whole morning of July 25, 1937, with very high losses for both contenders, but the Republican defenders of Brunete Cemetery still resist.

The afternoon of July 25, 1937 arrives. Barrón becomes impatient, since a small target like Brunete Cemetery and its adjoining areas is slowing the total capture of the village ordered by Franco from his headquarters in Villa del Prado, and since 16:00 h in the afternoon he orders a further massive coordinated attack of all the available artillery and Junkers 52 and Heinkel 111 German aircraft of the Legion Cóndor, whose effect is devastating and wreaks havoc among Líster´s men.

Once again, the Moroccan tabors 5th and 6th of Regulares of Melilla Number 2 hurl themselves fiercely at the trenches of Líster´s 11th Division, trying to finally break their lines, but they´re stopped once more by the very strong Republican defense.

Notwithstanding, this attack renders the Republican soldiers defending the cemetery of Brunete almost without stamina and running out of ammunition.

Líster and his officers along with most of his troops start the retreat towards Villanueva de la Cañada, while a contingent of Republican soldiers of the 11th Division stays at the cemetery, covering their backs and opening them a defensive path.

The night of July 25, 1937 comes and the 6th tabor of Regulares of Melilla Number 2 and the IV Battalion de las Navas attack Brunete cemetery again and they capture it through assault.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

All the men of Líster´s 11th Division who remained both on the hill of the cemetery and inside it die on their posts up to the last man.

HASTY ESCAPE FROM THE NORTH SURROUNDINGS OF BRUNETE TO SAVE LIFE: GERDA TARO ABANDONS THE VILLAGE WITH TED ALLAN EMBEDDED WITH REPUBLICAN TROOPS. LAST PICTURES MADE BY THE PHOTOJOURNLIST BEFORE SHE RUNS OUT OF KODAK PANCHROMATIC NITRATE 35 MM FILM
Afternoon of July 23, 1937. It´s not possible to stay longer inside the streets of Brunete, about to be captured by Barrón´s 13th Division (which will go into the village during the early morning of July 24), and Gerda Taro, embedded with Republican troops, flees Brunete on foot with Ted Allan following north direction towards Villanueva de la Cañada, walking across the field area on the right of the road.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The massive helter-skelter flight of republican forces - which will take place two days later, on July 25, 1937- hasn´t happened yet. Líster´s 11th Division still resists in the cemetery of Brunete and troops of the International Brigades endure with great difficulty the onslaughts of the Navarrese IV and V Brigades on the village flanks.

Gerda Taro stays the whole July 24, 1937 and the morning and afternoon of July 25, 1937 approximately at 1 km on the north of Brunete, in an area of countryside a few hundred meters from the road going to Villanueva de la Cañada, together with Ted Allan and the Republican contingent with which they have left the village of Brunete.

Taro keeps on making all the pictures of Brunete she can, now from the distance.

Suddenly, she hears some strong explosions, whose echo rumbles clearly over the machine guns bursts of fire and rifles shots which are constantly heard in the background, and she gets three pictures in which captures the smoke of the explosions of Barrón´s 155 mm ordnance that have just exploded near Brunete church and whose smoke columns are still rising.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

In two of the photographs it is apparent that the photojournalist is near a wire fence area while she makes the pictures.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Taro is rebuked by some Republican officers and Ted Allan, who advise her to stop making photographs and be worried about her security, for danger is maximum and Cóndor Legion aircraft can appear at any moment.

The clues clearly indicate (specially the information given by Ted Allan in Putney, London, in July 1969) that Gerda Taro, Ted Allan and the Republican soldiers have been located for some hours in an area of countryside with trenches in the north outskirts of Brunete, a few hundred meters from the stretch of road Brunete-Villanueva de la Cañada, and at some moments they have had to take shelter inside the quoted trenches to protect themselves from the waves of German Heinkel He 51 C-1 biplanes which are bombing and machine-gunning the Republican troops on retreat, in the same way as the Me-109B1, that (with a great part of the Republican aviation present in the skies of Brunete having being destroyed and not being bound to devote themselves to fly at higher altitude - as they did until July 22- to keep the aerial superiority while the Ju 52 and Heinkel 111 attack the strategic and tactical targets) are also strafing in low flight the Republican forces disorderly fleeing Brunete.

Gerda Taro hasn´t given up getting pictures, photographing with her two Leicas the smoke columns, the German combat aircraft in the air and the earth mountains raised by the bombs when exploding on the ground, constantly going out of the trench in the middle of the bombing (the negatives corresponding to these moments disappeared, and their whereabouts is currently unknown, in the same way as happened with a certain quantity of footage shot by Taro with a 35 mm movie camera during the Battle of Brunete).

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

But around 16:30 h in the afternoon of July 25, 1937, realizing the increasingly violence of the attack by Cóndor Legion aircraft, the Republican officers commanding the contingent of combatants with which Gerda Taro and Ted Allan go embedded on the north outskirts of Brunete (approximately 1 km from the village, where it is not possible to stay inside the trenches any more without the risk of being taken prisioners, because the Francoist troops advance towards there) give the order to go walking more northbound, towards Villanueva de la Cañada, and they begin advancing with that direction, marching on foot across the area of countryside on the right of the road, whose ditches are full of Republican killed and injured soldiers after some hours of sorties made by the German planes.

They are reported the piece of news that th 14th Republican Division, which was in a wood in the north of Brunete waiting for the best moment to counterattack and relieve Líster´s 11th Division on the area of the cemetery of Brunete, has been surprised by the Ju 52 and Heinkel 111 of the Cóndor Legion which have bombed them at will for hours, annihilating its operative capacity and killing a very high quantity of Republican soldiers, so the survivors are now going to the rearguard, also bound for Villanueva de la Cañada.

The defenders of Brunete Cemetery, wholly isolated, with scarce supplies of food and water, on the brink of physical collapse and without any chance of being relieved, are about to be wiped out.

Panic has spread and all the Republican troops which were present in Brunete and its nearby zones also run away to Villanueva de la Cañada to create a new as stout as feasible defensive line, while the aircraft of Cóndor Legion move almost at pleasure in the skies of Brunete and its nearby areas.

The Republican forces with whom Gerda Taro and Ted Allan walk towards Villanueva de la Cañada across the countryside area on the right of the road stretch linking Brunete with that other village located 5 km more in the north, are under maximum fidgets, because Cóndor Legion has been strafing this way with its Me-109B1 and bombing it with its He 51 C-1 ground attack aircraft for two weeks, so they fear that the German planes can appear at any moment.

Stretch of the road linking Brunete and Villaviciosa de Odón, approximately 2 km from Brunete. The image is taken with the camera oriented in opposite direction to the walking march of Gerda Taro and Ted Allan (who were going on foot towards Villanueva de la Cañada across the countryside area near the right side of the road during late afternoon of July 25, 1937). The Brunete church tower can be seen in the distance. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Both the road and the countryside zone on its right begin to be overcrowded with all kinds of vehicles full of troops that escape disorderly from Brunete, in the middle of a spread panic, either across the road itself or across the areas near the ditch splitting it from the countryside area on the right, which brings about even a greater chaos, since everybody wants to save their lives in the midst of a paroxism climax catalysed by the steady vision of hundreds of killed and wounded Republican soldiers along the whole road Brunete-Villanueva de la Cañada in both ditches.

Gerda Taro, Ted Allan and the contingent of Republican troops within which they´re embedded, have already advanced approximately 2 km bound for Villanueva de la Cañada, walking across the countryside area on the right of the road,

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

when suddenly some Messerschmitt Me-109B1 in low flight belonging to the Jagdgruppe 88 under the command of Major Gotthard Handrick (who had replaced von Bernegg since July 18, 1937) appear and start to strafe the road

Cries and confusion spread everywhere.

They see in front of them a black colour car (which could be the same vehicle appearing by three Russian 76.2 mm M38 cannons in antiaircraft configuration in the outskirts of Brunete and previously photographed by Gerda Taro) and a truck have been hit by the machine-gunning of the German aircraft.

Once more, Gerda Taro ignores the advice of some Republican officers shouting her to shelter, and she gets her first picture of this event. Ted Allan (who admires her very much and at the same time is very respectful regarding Gerda Taro´s relationship with Capa, who had trusted him the security of Taro during his stay in Paris) gets exasperated.

Photo: Gerda Taro

Gerda Taro, very courageous and daring by the minute, approaches as much as possible to the strafed black car (which increasingly smokes) and the Republican soldiers who are picking up the killed and wounded Republican soldiers from the ground.

These images are very dramatic. You can almost smell the smoke and share the fear and anguish of the men visible in the picture, who are afraid of a new attack by the German planes. Taro captures with mastery the feeling of jitters. The car can explode at any moment.

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

The photojournalist goes on proving a huge mettle and passion for what she does.

She keeps on getting pictures, and this time she photographs the truck which has also been strafed by the Me-109B1 aircraft of the Cóndor Legion in low flight, but she has got the cold blood to wait for the appropriate moment to put into the frame the Republican soldiers who are trying to help the wounded combatants and pick up the corpses from the ground, with the truck being very near them, and the risk of explosion of it increasing every second.

The men appearing in this image are bent forwards and one can clearly perceive their strain. They begin to doubt whether going on helping the wounded soldiers or thinking about their own security and take shelter before the impending explosion of the truck,

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

whose forward area explodes with a lot of flames, which is photographed by Gerda Taro, who moves quickly towards the back area of the vehicle, with one of her two Leicas: the chromed Leica III (Model F 1933-1939) with a non coated Leitz Summar 5 cm f/2 (featuring a number of scratches and cleaning marks on its delicate frontal element) and captures the moment,

Photo: Gerda Taro. © ICP New York

taking a second picture from a bit more backwards position, because of security reasons.

While this happens, the German Ju 52 and He 111 keep on bombing the Republican troops still being on the hill of the Cemetery of Brunete, and also smash what remains of the 14th Republican Division which came to help them, while the ground attack biplanes Heinkel He 51 C-1 attack in low flight the antiaircraft Republican batteries in the outskirts of Brunete, in formations of nine planes flying together, with all of them simultaneously dropping the six fragmentation bombs taken by each one, with a devastating chain effect on the artillery men of the Republican ordnance in every point attacked, in spite of the small size and weight of them, and likewise taking part in the machine-gunning of the Republican forces on retreat.

In the middle of this war maelstrom, with chaos reigning supreme and waves of Me-109B1 and Heinkel He 51 C-1 attacking different stretches of the road Brunete-Villanueva de la Cañada (with a distance of 5 km between both villages), Gerda Taro goes on striving after getting as many pictures as she can, risking her life once and again.

From here on, thanks to a text written by the Canadian writer Ted Allan on July 22, 1969 in Putney, London, remembering what happened that July 25, 1937 in the afternoon, when he escaped from Brunete with Gerda Taro, and the valuable information he gives, elrectanguloenlamano.blogspot.com has been able to discover the location in which Gerda Taro was run over by a Republican T-26B tank, which wasn´t between Brunete and Villanueva de la Cañada as many sources indicate, but 1.5 km on the north of Villanueva de la Cañada, on the road going to Valdemorillo and El Escorial.

Likewise, always following the very important information reported by Ted Allan, a Jewish Canadian writer and friend of Capa and Taro - with whom he was her last hours of life on 25 and 26 July 1937- which has been fundamental for the clearing up of events, above all from the moment Gerda Taro ran out of 35 mm film for her Leicas (which happened during the escape on foot from Brunete to Villanueva de la Cañada, when the photojournalist and Ted Allan were around 2 km from Villanueva de la Cañada, and that has been the most jumbled phase and the one raising more difficulties for our research), elrectanguloenlamano.blogspot.com has been able to reenact Gerda Taro´s last minutes of life and the moment in which she was smashed by the Republican T-26B tank, finding the place where it happened.

We´ve photographed the same locations and landscapes they walked across, the spots they marched on top of T-26B tank they climbed (together with a Scottish doctor of general Walter´s 35th Division and a badly injured Republican soldier) in Villanueva de la Cañada to escape towards El Escorial, and the 1.5 km stretch of road on top of the aformentioned tank after leaving behind the village of Villanueva de la Cañada, after which they stopped at a makeshift dressing station installed inside a white colour house located on the north outskirts of Villanueva de la Cañada, with Gerda Taro and Ted Allan finally going up on the right running-board of a black car which was advancing at full speed bound for El Escorial with three wounded Republican soldiers inside its back seat and which stopped when Taro and Allan made signals to the driver - which recognized them- from the right side of the road close to the little improvised first-aid station, and a few meters beyond, the car crashed into a T-26B Republican car that lost control after been attacked by German aircraft of the Cóndor Legion when it was also running away from Villanueva de la Cañada, and invaded the road.

Here are the events such as they happened from the moments in which Gerda Taro and Ted Allan were approaching to Villanueva de la Cañada, walking across the countryside area on the right of the road. We´ve photographically verified every stage, proving the accuracy and authenticity of the description given by Ted Allan in 1969 and about which he was the first to thoroughly report in the world.

Besides, it was Ted Allan who accompanied Gerda Taro the day in which the occurrences happened. It was Ted Allan who was standing on the right running-board of the black car with Gerda Taro just before the photojournalist was run over by the T-26B tank. Therefore, nobody better than him knew really how things took place.

GERDA TARO AND TED ALLAN ARRIVE AT VILLANUEVA DE LA CAÑADA WITH A SCOTTISH DOCTOR OF GENERAL WALTER´S 35TH DIVISION

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Gerda Taro and Ted Allan go on advancing on foot two further kilometers across the countryside area on the right of the road, bound for Villanueva de la Cañada, together with a Scottish doctor of general Walter´s 35th Division.

They have kept on seeing many other hundreds of killed and wounded Republican soldiers, along with abundant vehicles and tanks who were escaping from Brunete and have been destroyed by the Condor Legion German aircraft.

This stretch Brunete-Villanueva de la Cañada of the road linking Navalcarnero with El Escorial has become to all intents and purposes a giant cemetery of men and vehicles.

Everybody goes on running disorderly aghast, panic-stricken, while the Me-109B1 and the He 51 C-1 keep on unceasingly strafing and bombing the thousands of men of the Republican forces on retreat, being particularly devastating the sorties of Heinkel He 51 C-1s in groups of nine aircraft flying very close to one another and that with their low height bombings through the ´chain technique´, all of them simultaneously dropping the six fragmentation bombs taken by each one, result in a great number of killed men within the Republican ranks and the survivors most times very seriously injured.

Taro and Allan are already (previous colour picture) at approximately 2 km from Villanueva de la Cañada, and they keep on walking across the countryside area on the right of the road trying to reach that village, together with the Republican soldiers and officers also advancing on foot with them.

Ted Allan mentions that Gerda Taro ran out of 35 mm film at this moment.

They go on advancing and finally, they begin reaching the south outskirsts of Villanueva de la Cañada.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Gerda Taro and Ted Allan walk into Villanueva de la Cañada village together with the Scottish doctor of general Walter´s 35th Division.

Because of the very high temperature and the overcrowded streets with a lot of hundred of injured Republican soldiers, most of them are with their wounds in the open air, and mostly unattended, since the sanitary personnel was overwhelmed, it all aggravated by the water shortage, Ted Allan says that the village stank.

Ted Allan also remembers that once inside the village of Villanueva de la Cañada, they came across two Republican soldiers sitting on the ground by a badly injured comrade and that the Scottish doctor who had been with them since they began the escape from Brunete -and that had lost his medical equipment during it-, exhausted and overstressed, started to cry that he hadn´t anything whatsoever to attend the wounded man, lacking even bandages.

Ted Allan states that when the Scottish doctor lift the blanket covering the wounded Republican soldier, they could observe that he had got his two legs completely mangled, as if they had been inside a meat mincer, and that suddenly, they saw a Republican tank (probably a T-26B) that they stopped, raising the wounded man on it, and subsequently they all (Gerda Taro, Ted Allan and the Scottish doctor) climbing on top of it, beginning the march towards a small dressing station beyond the north exit of Villanueva de la Cañada.

They try to save the life of the wounded soldier and also themselves, for the village of Villanueva de la Cañada and its south and north accesses, in the same way as Brunete, are being strafed and bombed in low flight by the Me-109B1 and He-51 C-1 of the Cóndor Legion.

Ted Allan also mentions that four T-26B Republican tanks advanced behind them, likewise bound for El Escorial, trying to escape from Villanueva de la Cañada.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza



Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The T-26B tank on which Gerda Taro, Ted Allan, the Scottish doctor of General Walter´s 35th Division and the seriously injured Republican solider are climbed upon, arrives at the makeshift first-aid post inside a white colour rural house located a few meters on the right of the road and which disappeared after the war.

Ted Allan remembers that they lowered the badly injured soldier from the tank that had taken them here from Villanueva de la Cañada and that the Scottish doctor found a car and went quickly inside him to search for ambulances, because there were great quantities of wounded men, generally poorly attended - many of them dragged and others were taken by comrades the best they could-.

He also remembers that the four T-26B Republican tanks which had accompanied them from Villanueva de la Cañada and the T-26B on which they had advanced climbed onto it from that village up to the rural house turned into an improvised dressing station, had parked by it.

Likewise, Ted Allan reports that Gerda Taro and him, saw a black colour car approaching at full speed across the road.

Both of them made signals to his driver, and he stopped, They asked him if he could take them to El Escorial and on recognizing them, he acceded, but Gerda Taro and Ted Allan realized that the back seat was occupied by three seriously wounded Republican soldiers, so the photojournalist threw her cameras on the car front seat and both she and Ted Allan climbed onto the right running-board of the vehicle, which resumed its march at top speed towards Valdemorillo and El Escorial, where they tried to arrive as soon as possible for the three wounded soldiers to be attended.

Ted Allan remembers that after advancing a few meters beyond, they realized that there was some confusion ahead of them, and suddenly they saw a T-26B Republican tank that had penetrated out of control inside the road (after being strafed in low flight by a Francoist aircraft, probably a Heinkel 51 C-1 or Me-109B1 of the Cóndor Legion) and with an erratic trajectory it converged on their course.

The driver of the black colour car on whose right running-board Gerda Taro and Ted Allan are standing swerves on the left (which according to Ted Allan´s report means that the T-26B tank came from the countryside area on the right of the road) to avoid the collision with the 9.6 ton vehicle, but the crash happens.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The T-26B tank hits the right area of the black car on whose running-board Gerda Taro and Ted Allan are.

Both of them fall to the road. The photojournalist is smashed by the tank, which literally destroys her from waist downwards and makes her a terrible wound in her abdomen.

Ted Allan is also wounded, his legs have been hit and he can´t move them. He is seeing that a lot of blood is sprouting from his right leg.

Two Republican soldiers come running and grab him, taking him to the gutter of the ditch, striving after protecting him, since the German aircraft can return to attack at any moment.

Suddenly, Ted Allan sees Gerda Taro´s face looking out of the overturned black car, part of which has been crushed by the tank, in the same way as the photojournalist.

The rest of Gerda Taro´s body is not visible, because it is under the black car.

Ted Allan can only see her face. Gerda Taro yells. She suffers from frightful pains in her abdominal area and asks help to Ted Allan, who is desperate and can´t do anything, because - though not so seriously as Taro- he is also wounded and has lost the mobility in his legs.

Ted Allan sees the T-26B which has crashed into them stopped on the road. The man on its turret is looking at him terrified.

As a consequence of the impact, the black car has turned over.

The German aircraft attack again. Everybody runs towards the right area of the road, trying to shelter themselves in the ditch. One of the men who are by Ted Allan runs away quickly and lies on the slope of the ditch, looking for its protection. The other one grabs Ted Allan, who goes on without being able to move his legs and drags him towards inside the ditch. Many others run panic-struck across the countryside.

Once the danger has ended, Ted Allan looks for Gerda Taro again, but she isn´t under the black car any more. She asks about her and is told that she´s just been taken in an ambulance bound for the English Hospital of El Goloso in El Escorial.

One of the Republican soldiers brings her a fabric brown belt. Ted notices that it´s completely smashed, with its wooden buckle broken into little pieces. It´s Gerda Taro´s belt.

Ted Allan watches his watch, which indicates 18:30 h in the evening. He approaches it to his ear and realizes that it doesn´t tick. It stopped just at the moment of the collision of the T26B tank against the right area of the black car on whose running-board Gerda Taro and he were standing.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

IMPORTANCE OF THE PHOTOGRAPHIC REPORTAGE OF BRUNETE BATTLE MADE BY GERDA TARO
The original negatives of a significant percentage of the pictures taken by Gerda Taro in Brunete between 6 and 25 July, 1937 found inside the Mexican Suitcase, along with the previously known vintage copies of other photographs made by Taro in Brunete and whose original negatives whereabouts is not known, enable to know much more painstakingly and in depth the greatness and scope of the graphic story implemented by the German photojournalist from Jewish descent on one of the most important and bloodiest battles of the Spanish Civil War.

The level of effort carried out by Gerda Taro to make this photograohic reportage during three consecutive weeks was certainly huge, risking her life a lot of times and fighting to her utmost to get as good pictures as possible, embedded within Republican troops and visiting different areas of the front lines, both in the adjacent zones to the village of Brunete and even inside its streets in the final satage of the Francoist counteroffensive.

What Gerda Taro made in Brunete features a huge historical and photojournalistic weight.

But undoubtedly, the unknown until now pictures made by Gerda Taro in Brunete and found inside the Mexican Suitcase mean a turning point in the History of the Battle of Brunete, because they´re images greatly allowing to track the complete sequence and evolution of events, along with the different phases of the battle, the weaponsry used, etc, but above all, the moods of the soldiers in verious moments, their instants of glee, their fears, their anguishes, their exhaustion, the latent danger of death, the explosions of the shells ...

75 years after the battle and her death after been run over by a tank, it´s trully fascinating that this extraordinary and heartrending reportage made by Gerda Taro, showing us vividly what really war is about, has come to light recently and allows us to get back three quarters of a century in time to try to locate ourselves in a highly dramatic context, which was lived and suffered by the tens of thousands of men who participated in the battle of Brunete, along with their families, because the persistence of this battle throughout time, both in combatants and his desendants is very big.

On the other hand, it´s very important to mention the great work implemented by three people whose toil and effort have been fundamental for the beginning of the more than remarkable increase in value of Gerda Taro´s photographs, together with a much thorough knowledge of her images yield: Irme Schaber, Cynthia Young and Kristen Lubben.

After the demise of the maestro Richard Whelan, a full-fledged photographic encyclopedia and the greatest expert of all time on Robert Capa and Alfred Stieglitz, Irme Schaber (biographer of Gerda Taro and top authority in the world on the photojournalist), Cynthia Young (ICP Assistant Curator and organizer of top-notch photographic exhibitions like Wegee in 2006, This is War! Robert Capa at Work and The Mexican Suitcase) and Kristen Lubben (ICP Associate Curator) went on with their praiseworthy labour studying the figure of Gerda Taro, managing to reach new peaks in the grasp of the photojournalist, which resulted in three significant articles in 2010:

- Preliminary Remarks on Gerda Taro´s Documentation of the Defense of the Andalusian Mining Region (Irme Schaber).

- The Process of Identifying 4,500 negatives (Cynthia Young).

- ´ Reportage Capa & Taro ´ Collaboration and Uncertainty (Kristen Lubben).

Besides, the itinerant worldwide photographic exhibition Gerda Taro (which was a great attendance success in Now York, London, Milan, Barcelona, Rotterdam, Stuttgart, Madrid and Salamanca) and that was internationally active for three back-to-back years, between September 26, 2007 and April 3, 2011, was a historical milestone which meant a turning point in the diffusion of the figure of Gerda Taro and her position in the place she really deserves.

VESTIGES OF BRUNETE BATTLE
The battle of Brunete left an outstanding quantity of remnants, some of which are currently in good condition, the most famous ones being the bunkers built by both contenders.

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza


THE LIVING MEMORY OF THE BATTLE OF BRUNETE


The Battle of Brunete left an indelible remembrance in all of the soldiers who took part in it. Here we can see an amazing scene in which Spanish Republican combatants of the Spanish Civil War who fought in Brunete Battle and integrated in the 9th Company of the II Armoured Division of the Free France under the command of general Leclerc, are about to enter Paris on August 25, 1944, seven years after the Battle of Brunete, whose logo appears on the tank front area.

Copyright Text and Indicated Pictures: José Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSA
Inscribed in the Territorial Registry of the Intellectual Property of Madrid