Franco: Soldier, Commander, Dictator

By Kane, Robert B. | Air & Space Power Journal, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

Franco: Soldier, Commander, Dictator


Kane, Robert B., Air & Space Power Journal


Franco: Soldier, Commander, Dictator by Geoffrey Jensen. Potomac Books, Inc. (http://www.potomac booksinc.com), 22841 Quicksilver Drive, Dulles, Virginia 20166, 2005, 160 pages, $19.95 (hardcover), $12.95 (softcover).

From May 1980 to June 1983,1 was at an air base 10 miles northeast of Madrid, Spain. Francisco Franco had been dead for five years, and a young king-Juan Carlos-was trying to establish democracy after 35 years of dictatorship. I soon learned that many members of the older generation, wary of "democratic government" and its social ills, yearned for "the good ole days" under Franco. In February 1981, to punctuate the fragility of Spain's democracy and Franco's lingering influence, some conservative military officers seized the National Assembly in Madrid, hoping that the king and army would abolish democracy. Fortunately for Spain, the king-with the army's support-took command, and the rebellion melted away.

In this short biography, Geoffrey Jensen-holder of the John Biggs '3O Cincinnati Chair in Military History at the Virginia Military Institute and a leading authority on modern military history, the Spanish military, and counterinsurgency-has produced an excellent overview of the life of the modern world's longest-sitting dictator at the time of his death. The subtitle accurately reflects the author's framework of the book, dividing Franco's life into three major stages. Throughout this concise and well-paced biography, Jensen consistently shows us how Franco's military experiences influenced his political career as the Nationalist leader during the civil war and then as dictator of Spain.

Although his father was a naval officer, Franco became an army cadet. After commissioning, he steadily rose in rank, helped by assignments to Spain's Army of Africa and its campaigns against the Rif tribesmen of Morocco. He returned to Spain as the commandant of the new military academy. He went back to Morocco and reluctantly joined the Nationalist rebellion against the government in May 1936. Within a year, Franco had become the de facto head of the rebellion. After the end of the civil war, Franco worked to establish a viable government while walking a thin line between the Allied and the Axis powers during World War II. After the war, taking advantage of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, Franco garnered acceptance and economic aid from the West. …

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