Just over 83 years ago, in the early morning of 25 July 1938, the Ebro Army, composed of the Republican army corps, and the International Brigades – as organised in the 35th Division, began to cross the Ebro river in complete silence.
Some 250 boats left their hiding places, and the leading units began to cross. At the same time, a series of footbridges were installed which would allow infantry to cross. These footbridges consisted of rows of planks placed on cork or casks.
Once the crossing points were secured, the engineers began to build bridges: first the field bridges and then fixed bridges that could support the weight of a piece of artillery or a tank.
On the other side, the fascist resistance at first was a token one. Those defending the attacked sector were taken by surprise, and a large number of fascist prisoners were captured in the first hours. On the afternoon of 25 July, the fascist front between Caspe and Gandesa had disappeared and Gandesa seemed open to Republican attack. So began the battle that has been described as the death knell of the Republic, the longest and largest battle of the Spanish Civil War.
The crossing is captured in a set of photos taken by Harry Randall, an American Brigader who served as chief of the Photographic Unit of the 15th Brigade. They have been preserved by the Tamiment Library at New York University. A selection of the photo set has been provided above and below, presenting the crossing chronologically. It is reported that the mules swam the river.
Posted on 28 July 2021.