It was the late summer of 1937 when I met Johnson. He was at Jarama before that and afterwards at Brunete. He was at Teruel and on the Ebro. He was at Calaceite and on the Aragon front. I tried to get news of him from people who were there, but few people knew of him.
Someone told me who had met him that he was well and only once wounded, in the arm.
‘The boys like him,’ they said. ‘He's a good fellow.’ He didn't want to rise in the army or give orders, they said, but he was a good man. He took what was coming.
He was still in Spain when they started to ship the International Column out and he was caught with others in the great retreat from Catalonia when the German artillery came through. The last word I had of him was from someone who was with him waiting in a tunnel by Port-Bou to get over the frontier. This man hadn't known Johnson, but was beside him, and just caught his name. He was sitting there with them, very cold and hungry, and not knowing what in hell would happen next with the aeroplanes overhead and the roads jammed with half a million people outside. He didn't say anything, this man said. He didn't seem worried or unhappy. He was just sitting there. This fellow guessed he came through alive, but he didn't see him again. Myself, he said, looking back and considering quietly a war that was not very satisfactory, all things quietly considered, myself I find one satisfaction knowing Johnson is still alive. There are some men, this fellow said, you can't kill.