Franco: Soldier, Commander and Dictator

By Aboul-Enein, Youssef | Infantry, January/February 2006 | Go to article overview

Franco: Soldier, Commander and Dictator


Aboul-Enein, Youssef, Infantry


Franco: Soldier, Commander and Dictator. By Geoffrey Jensen. Potomac Books: Dulles, Virginia. Online at www.potomacbooksinc.com. 135 pages, 2005.

Potomac Books, which was previously Brassey's Books, is a premier publisher of military titles. Their exquisite military profile series has more than two dozen biographies of the world's most influential military leaders from ancient times to the present. Every year, expect three to four new and fresh biographies that offer both the novice and specialists a quick understanding of the major military leaders of all time. This year the biography of Francisco Franco, Spain's Generalissimo is featured, written by a leading authority on the Spanish military - Geoffrey Jensen.

Like many dictators, Franco is controversial, and there is a tendency to ignore his military thinking and focus on his repressive rule of Spain that lasted over four decades. Jensen was masterful in showing readers how Franco's experiences fighting insurgencies in Morocco shaped his strategic thinking and compelled him to gain insight and experience on the operational arts of war. By the time Franco arrived in Morocco in 1912, the Spanish had attempted to dominate the country for 50 years. He was a young infantry lieutenant who was surrounded by Spanish officers mired in an insurgency that the Spanish military academies hardly prepared them for. The state of Spanish arms in Morocco was reduced to a force demoralized by officers inattentive and outright neglectful to the needs of their troops. The Moroccans knew they were outgunned by modern Spanish weapons and used hit and run tactics. Franco was among the first officers to realize that conventional warfare tactics were useless and developed new techniques including long-range heavy mortar attacks on mountain strongholds. He would evolve an appreciation for the deliberate planning of combined arms, logistical planning and use of airpower. However, Franco never appreciated blitzkrieg tactics or the maximizing the use of armor.

Franco was an africanista, a label applied to Spanish officers who believed in their divine imperial mission in Morocco. He engaged Riffian tribesmen along the Melila coast, and despite making gains, civil authority in Madrid cut the ability of the Spanish colonial forces to press the attack. As a first lieutenant, he refined his skills of careful planning, logistics and lines of fortification. …

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