The Politics of Revenge: Fascism and the Military in Twentieth-Century Spain

By Paul Preston | Go to book overview

4

Franco and his generals, 1939-45

At the end of the Civil War Franco had an army of 1,020,500 men, including 35,000 Moroccans and 32,000 Italians. It was battle-hardened but in technical and operational terms it was hardly an appropriate force to defend Spain in the major conflagration which was about to break out. The Spanish Civil War had not been a modern war, but rather one which at times was reminiscent of the frontier skirmishes of Spain's colonial wars in Africa, and at others harked back to the trench warfare of the First World War. The modern equipment which had been used and tested by the Germans and Italians was taken back with them when their troops returned home. The Spanish armed forces had virtually no air cover and exiguous mechanized armoured units. There were 850,000 poorly equipped infantrymen to 19,000 artillerymen and the Spanish cavalry was still more dependent on the horse than on the internal combustion engine. In the summer of 1939 a major effort was made to collect and classify abandoned military equipment from the Civil War battle fronts. This helped quantitatively but added to the heterogeneity of material. There was also a partial demobilization, whereby the army's sixty-one divisions were reduced by half. The wartime army was replaced by an army of occupation for which the Caudillo kept over half a million men and 22,100 officers on a war footing. That was 47 per cent more officers than the combined French metropolitan and colonial armies. 1

Absorbing, in 1941, 45.8 per cent and, in 1943, 53.7 per cent of the state budget, a land army of this size was totally disproportionate to the resources of a country devastated by civil war. 2 The decision not to demobilize fully was not part of a coherent defence policy. Certainly, it reflected the fact that the victory of 1 April 1939 had not definitively put an end to prewar social and political tensions. Sporadic hostilities would

1 Carlos Ruiz Ocana, Los ejércitos espanoles. las fuerzas armadas en la defensa nacional (Madrid, 1980), p. 113; Report of the German High Command, 10 August 1940, Documents on German Foreign Policy, (henceforth DGFP) Series D, vol. X (London, 1957), pp. 461-4, Stanley G. Payne, Politics and the Military in Modern Spain (Stanford, 1967), p. 421.

2 Julio Busquets and Gabriel Cardona, 'Unas Fuerzas Armadas para el Movimiento' in Justino Sinova (ed.), Historia del franquismo, 2 vols (Madrid, 1985), Vol. I, p. 162.

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