During the Spanish Civil War, conservative elements within Spain supported a military revolt against the Republican government. After an initial military coup failed to gain control of the entire country, a bloody civil war broke out, fought with great ferocity on both sides. The fascist governments of Italy and Germany aided the rebels, called Nationalists. The Republican Party received aid from the Soviet Union and the International Brigades, which consisted of volunteers from Europe and the United States.
The Spanish Civil War began on July 18, 1936, with right-wing Spanish military officers revolting in Spanish Morocco and spreading to mainland Spain. General Francisco Franco broadcasts a message from the Canary Islands calling for all army officers to join the uprising and topple Spain’s leftist Republican government. Three days later, the rebels had captured Morocco, most of northern Spain, and several key cities in the south. In other cities, including Madrid, Spain’s capital, the Republicans were able to put down the uprising. Republicans and Nationalists, as the rebels were called, seized control of their respective territories
Before the revolt
Alfonso XIII of Spain authorized elections in 1931 to elect a new government, and voters overwhelmingly decided to abolish the monarchy and establish a liberal republic. As a result, Alfonso went into exile and the Second Republic was proclaimed, initially dominated by middle-class liberals and moderate socialists. During the elections in November 1933, conservative forces regained control of the government after the landed aristocracy, the church, and a large military clique opposed the Republic. Organizations of labor and leftist radicals forced liberal reforms in the first two years of the Republic, and the independence-minded region of Catalonia and the Basque provinces achieved virtual autonomy. Socialists launched a revolution in the mining districts of Asturias, while Catalan nationalists rebelled in Barcelona. Franco crushed the so-called October Revolution on behalf of the conservative government, and in 1935 he was named army chief of staff.
Beginning of the war
After new elections in February 1936, the Popular Front, a leftist coalition, came to power. Franco, a monarchist, was sent to an obscure command in the Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa.
Army officers feared that Marxists would overthrow the liberal government. Franco reluctantly agreed to join the military conspiracy scheduled to begin in Morocco at 5 am on July 18 and in Spain 24 hours later. The difference in the time allowed the Army of Africa to secure Morocco before being transported to Spain’s Andalusian coast by the navy. During an afternoon in Melilla, Morocco, on July 17, the rebel plan for the following day was uncovered, and the rebels were forced into premature action. Melilla, Ceuta, and Tetuan were soon in the hands of the Nationalists, assisted by conservative Moroccan troops opposed to the socialist government in Madrid. Despite learning of the revolt soon after it began, the Republican government took few measures to prevent its spread to the mainland.
Spanish garrisons across Spain rose in revolt on July 18. Workers and peasants fought the uprising, but the Republican government denied their weapons in many cities, and the Nationalists soon took over. While the Nationalists gained control of conservative regions, such as Navarre and Old Castile, they stayed in their garrisons in other areas, such as a fiercely independent city such as Bilbao. A Nationalist revolt in the Spanish navy largely failed, and warships run by sailors’ committees secured several coastal cities for the Republic. However, Franco managed to bring his Army of Africa across from Morocco. During the next few months, Nationalist forces rapidly overran many Republican areas in central and northern Spain. The city of Madrid was besieged in November.
Spain’s fascist party, the Falange, unified the Nationalist forces under Franco’s command in 1937, while the Republicans fell under the communists’ control. The Germans and Italians provided planes, tanks, and arms to Franco, while the Soviet Union aided the Republicans. Thousands of communists and radicals from France, the USSR, America, and other countries joined the International Brigades to support the Republican cause. The significant contribution of these foreign units was the successful defense of Madrid until the end of the war.
The end of the Civil war
The Nationalists cut the territory of the Republicans in half by driving into the Mediterranean Sea in June 1938. Franco launched a significant offensive against Catalonia later in the year. In January 1939, its capital, Barcelona, was captured, and shortly after, the rest of Catalonia fell. The Republican cause was lost, so its leaders tried negotiating peace, but Franco refused. The Republicans surrendered Madrid on March 28, 1939, bringing the Spanish Civil War to an end. It was the bloodiest conflict in Spanish history, with lives lost up to a million. Franco governed Spain until he died in 1975.
Legion Condor attacks against Lleida became especially infamous since they were aimed to the school known as Liceu Escolar de Lleida. 48 children and several teachers died in it that day, 300 people were killed on the November 2 bombings altogether, and the town would be bombed and sieged again in 1938, when it was conquered by Franco's forces.
The battle was one of the bloodier actions of the war with the city changing hands several times, first falling to the Republicans and eventually being re-taken by the Nationalists. In the course of the fighting, Teruel was subjected to heavy artillery and aerial bombardment. The two sides suffered over 140,000 casualties between them in the two-month battle.
Entry of nationalist forces to the city of Teruel, during the Spanish Civil War. The combatants fought the battle between December 1937 and February 1938, during the worst Spanish winter in twenty years. The battle was one of the bloodier actions of the war with the city changing hands several times, first falling to the Republicans and eventually being re-taken by the Nationalists. In the course of the fighting, Teruel was subjected to heavy artillery and aerial bombardment. The two sides suffered over 140,000 casualties between them in the two-month battle.
Casualties and injured lie on the streets during the Siege of Gijón, one of the first actions in the Spanish Civil War The siege saw the anarchist militia crushing a small Nationalist garrison in Gijón, between July 19 and August 16, 1936. The militia - nominally fighting in defense of the Republic - laid siege to the Simancas barracks in the city of Gijón. These were defended by about 180 soldiers and Guardia Civil officers who had risen in support of General Franco's rebellion and seized the post for the Nationalists.
Republican position at the Battle of Brunete (6 July - 25 July 1937), Fought 15 miles west of Madrid, was a Republican attempt to alleviate the pressure exerted by the Nationalists on the capital and on the north during the Spanish Civil War. Although initially successful, the Republicans were forced to retreat from Brunete and suffered devastating casualties from the battle.
Air raid attack on the Basque town of Guernica, Spain, during the Spanish Civil War, by the German air force's Condor Legion and the Italian Aviazione Legionaria, under the code name: Operation Rügen. The number of victims of the attack is still disputed; the Basque government reported 1,654 people killed.
Spanish woman is injured and helped by Assault guards in Madrid during riots in the 1936 Election. Assault Guards enforced security on election day, many freed from their regular posts by the carabineros. Six people were killed during the elections, and perhaps another 30 injured.