Fans of the Second Republic try to explain its defeat by the involvement of Italy and Germany in favor of the rebel side and the boycott of the “legal” side by the democracies, especially the United Kingdom. These arguments, which are limited to weighing the tons of weapons received by each side of the Spanish Civil War, fade into the background when one considers the initiative and determination with which the citizens acted in the first months of the war. In Afghanistan and Vietnam, the power of meat won over the power of steel.
The Popular Front won only one solid victory throughout the war and it was the defense of Madrid, a defensive battle. Instead, the rebels made progress one after another, especially in the second half of 1936, in conditions of clear inferiority.
Reconstruction of the Navy
An example of ingenuity, audacity and will in the face of laziness and even enemy stupidity is the example of a general Queipo de Llano in Seville, flaunting his few forces to give the impression that he had many more troops. The Navy is another matter.
In his plans for a coup d’état, General Emilio Mola He had almost no navy and no contacts with officers of this kind. Perhaps because of the conservative nature of the officers and because the only function assigned was to ensure the passage of the army from Africa to the peninsula.
The uprising took the sailors by surprise, who did not communicate with each other and were not ready. In addition, on the morning of July 18, radio operator Benjamin Balboa, a member of the Freemasonry, who was on duty at the Naval Communications Center in Ciudad Lineal (Madrid), notified the government and his comrades of the uprising. Many crews arrested officers and even killed them. It is estimated that half of the officers died at the hands of their subordinates.
At the end of July, of the three major naval bases, Ferrol and Cadiz joined the rebels, while Cartagena, as well as the naval ministry, remained with the government. Madrid had two-thirds of the ships, almost 67,000 tons, 30,000 more than the rebels. They had a battleship Spaincruise Admiral Servera and a very old cruiser Republic (subsequently renamed to Navarre), one destroyer and no submarine; months later they commissioned the cruisers Balearic Islands D Canary Islands.
In the Spanish Civil War marine element it was necessary. Such was the audacity of the rebellious sailors that, with fewer ships, but much more courage, the national fleet dominated Spanish waters; carried out the transportation of the legion and regular troops to the peninsula; secure trading traffic; sank 35 merchant ships and captured another 227 obedient to the government of the Popular Front, and sank 18 foreign ships and captured 97; locked the detachment in Cartagena.
Well, this fleet, Franco gave him a scolding órdago, which is known as ‘Vinaros’ horn’.
Sea stop in the Mediterranean
As soon as Teruel was re-established in February 1938, Generalissimo Franco took advantage of the momentum of his troops, and the demoralization and disorganization of the Popular Army, to launch the Aragonese Offensive, in which the Army of the North, made up of various army corps, intervened. Italian divisions.
The Moroccan army corps headed towards Lleida and then south to the mouth of the Ebro and the sea. April 15, 1938 IV Navarre Division under the command of General Camilo Alonso Vega, came to Vinaros (Castellón) and cut the republican zone into two parts. It seemed that the war was about to end, but there were still the bloodiest battle, conquest of Catalonia and coup in Madrid.
On May 31, 1938, Franco, who included in his ranks the captain-general of the Navy, restored part of the small national detachment. It, moreover, lost on March 6 cruise Balearic Islandssunk in the Battle of Cabo de Palos, with 786 men on board (Infante Juan de Borbón asked Franco to serve on this ship, which the soldier refused him, fortunately for the son of Alfonso XIII).
In his speech reproduced ABC from Seville (and later not included in caudillos or official histories), Franco mixed praise with reproach. First, he spoke phrases like the following: “You are the warriors of the sea, and you will be the masters of a new generation.” But then these paragraphs passed through the ranks of the sailors formed in the port of Vinaroz:
“The slogan for the authorities is to make yourself loved and respected, because if this happened all the time, if there was constant affection, we would have a larger fleet and at that time the Spanish flag would fly even more triumphantly, and I would not say with greater glory, because it is humanly impossible.
To be loved and respected by the superior, to be loved and desired by the inferior, boundless fidelity, the requirement of obedience; this is the rule of warriors; This is the rule of Spain and the honor of the navy.”
A song about camaraderie between commanders and sailors, which everyone took as a reproach classism practiced by officialdom with his subordinates both on ships and on land, and on whom the mutinies of non-commissioned officers, sailors and technicians were blamed when the officers tried to join the uprising. This situation explains why the PCE managed to infiltrate the navy with much more force than the army.
Evil but obedient
The commanders of the Navy liked Franco’s speech so much that they not only qualified it as the “horn of Vinaros”, but also tried to hide it. Five years later, at the opening of the Naval Academy in Marina, in August 1943, Franco delivered another, calmer speech in which he unreservedly praised the sailors.
Another difference in the characters of the combatants on both sides is that the officers of the Navy did not break with Franco and disobey his orders, nor did they boycott them, unlike what happened in the People’s Army.
At the beginning of the war, the militias killed commanders who seemed suspicious to them; later, communists and socialists killed anarchists and “Pumists”; then the detachments of the communists received more supplies than the detachments of other parties. Finally, defiance reached the generals.
In December 1938, when the subjects began the conquest of Catalonia, General Vincent Red, chief of the Central General Staff, planned a counterattack in the south of the peninsula, known as Plan P. His upgrade included an attack in the Peñarroya sector (Córdoba) followed by a landing at Motril (Granada). General Jose Miaja, commander of the Army Group of the Central Region and the savior of Madrid, refused to obey his boss, which discouraged the head of the detachment in Cartagena, Admiral Miguel Buiz. In the end, in January 1939, only a ground attack was carried out, the last Republican offensive of the war, which killed about 8,000 Spaniards.
Already Red explained in the book published in the same 1939 that the defeat of the Popular Front was due to internal disagreements, and the nationalists, although from time to time they butted each other, gave their strength to defeat the enemy. But the head of the People’s Army will pretend to know more about the war than the academic left will eighty years later!