At the beginning of the Republican offensive, the Ascó sector of the Ebro front was an important spot due to the river. The forces of the 35th International Division (belonging to the Spanish Republican Army) were expected to cross the Ebro river through two different areas. In the north of Ascó, the units of the XIth International Brigade Thäelmann were supposed to cross with the goal of occupying the village and advancing towards la Fatarella. Meanwhile, the XIIIth International Brigade Dombrowski were to cross in the south of Ascó, in order to penetrate the enemy’s defense, occupy both the Camposines intersection and Corbera d’Ebre and advance in the direction of Gandesa. Following them, the XVth International Brigade Lincoln had to cross the Ebro in the exact same point and their mission was to provide help with the occupation of Ascó and to continue the invasion towards Gandesa. The point where the forces of the XIIIth and XVth International Brigades were supposed to cross was the confluence of the Torre de l’Espanyol river with the Ebro river, two hundred meters upstream from the current Vinebre pier; it was actually in front of the former kilometric point 181 of the railway line from Zaragoza to Barcelona, in the area of the Mossollo del Mas del Flare (territory of Ascó). In the meanwhile, the crossing point of the XIth International Brigade was set north of Ascó, in the area of Aubals. The Franco’s units defending the Ascó sector were part of the 50th Division, specifically, the XVIth and the XVIIth battalions of Mérida in the front line and the IVth battalion of Girona in the rear guard around la Fatarella.
The attack in the southern sector started at 3 am on the night of July 25, 1938 and the 50th battalion of Adam Mickiewicz (XIIIth International Brigade) operated in the vanguard. After a short firefight, Franco’s forces, surprised by the scale of the attack, moved back in disorder while others seeked refuge in Ascó. Quickly, the progress of the Republican troops went on. The XVth International Brigade crossed the Ebro behind the XIIIth brigade and increased the crack in the enemy’s formation.
Meanwhile, in the northern sector, the XIth International Brigade started to cross at 4 am and faced a more organized resistance which made the crossing more difficult. However, the deep penetration of the Republican forces of the XIIIth and XVth brigades had just weakened Franco’s defense and the Republican units occupied Ascó at 10.40 am. Later on, inside the railway tunnel near Ascó, the command post of the lieutenant colonel Juan Modesto Guilloto León, head of the Ebro’s Army, was established. A republican military hospital was also set up there.
Image 1: Republican forces of the 35th International Division in Ascó. Republican forces of the 35th International Division in Ascó. Source: Historical Archives of the Communist Party of Spain (Archivo Histórico del PCE, in Spanish)..
Image 2: Propaganda image of the Republican forces in Ascó. Propaganda image of the Republican forces in Ascó. Source: Historical Archives of the Communist Party of Spain (Archivo Histórico del PCE, in Spanish).
Image 3: In the center of the image, the lieutenant colonel Juan Modesto (head of the Ebro Army) at his command post, located in the tunnel in Ascó. In the center of the image, the lieutenant colonel Juan Modesto (head of the Ebro Army) at his command post, located in the tunnel in Ascó. Source: Historical Archives of the Communist Party of Spain (Archivo Histórico del PCE, in Spanish).