the battle for spain -- 1/18/22

Today's selection -- from A History of the Twentieth Century by Martin Gilbert. The battle for Spain during WWII:

"Hitler and Mussolini sent soldiers and armaments to help the Nationalists. The Republican capital, Madrid, suffered repeated Nationalist bombing and artillery attack, and in February there was a fierce battle south-east of Madrid, when members of the International Brigade faced Moorish soldiers from Spanish North Africa. A British Communist member of the Inter­national Brigade, Jimmy Younger, wrote to a friend: 'It was slaughter. At the end of the first day my Battalion ... 400 strong to start with, was reduced to less than one hundred. I could hear the wounded moaning and calling to us as they lay between the lines. At the end of a week I knew the meaning of war.'

"Supported by a naval bombardment, and with the participation of Italian and Moroccan troops, the Nationalists captured Malaga. An Italian military column took part in the triumphal entry into the city, and throughout Italy the 'Italian victory' was proclaimed. The loss of Malaga caused the Madrid government to reconsider the organizational structure of national defence. Conscription was introduced, and a single military command established.


"Soviet war material continued to reach the Republican forces, but the number of Soviet citizens who were allowed to participate in the fighting was never more than 2,000. Italy sent 70,000 soldiers, including complete military formations. The number of German participants on the side of the Nationalists was at least 10, 000. By the end of February, the Nationalists were in control of thirty-three out of Spain's fifty provincial capitals, but the three main capital cities, Madrid, Barcelona and Bilbao, as well as the most heavily populated and prosperous areas, remained loyal to the Republicans.

"Franco focused his main efforts on the conquest of the Basque provinces. As his forces advanced slowly and with mounting difficulty through Basque country, German pilots bombed the towns through which they believed the Basque troops were passing. On April 26 the German target was the historic Basque capital of Guernica. The first attack was made by German Heinkels dropping bombs near the station and machine-gunning the area around it. The next wave of bombers were the heavier Junkers 52s. The bombing lasted for three hours, leaving 1,645 people dead, many of them shot down as they fled by the machine-guns of the Heinkels. The Nationalists entered Guernica three days later. Outside Spain the impact of the bombing of Guernica was immediate. In Paris, Picasso painted his large black and white mural Guernica, which helped fix the bombing of the town in the public mind worldwide as one of the worst evils of the century."



Martin Gilbert


A History of the Twentieth Century




Copyright 2001 by Martin Gilbert


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