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The Civil War and its Aftermath

After the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, a majority of the officers remained to fight in the Republican forces, as much from a sense of obligation to the legitimate government as on ideological grounds. Their units usually stayed intact and followed them. Many remained with the forces controlling the areas in which they found themselves. More conservative officers tended to join the Nationalist forces of the rebellion. The Republican forces controlled the larger share of the land, including the cities of Madrid and Barcelona, at the beginning of the war. Their troops often fought superbly; however, their leaders were less effective than those of the Nationalist army, which also had the better disciplined of the army's fighting units (those that were based in Morocco) and better organized international support, primarily from Germany and Italy. Moreover, in Franco they had by far the most gifted combat leader (see The Spanish Civil War , ch. 1).

At the outset of the war, the Nationalists controlled most of the highlands of the north, much of the western part of the country, and a part of Andalusia (Spanish, Andalucia) in the south (see fig. 4). The Republicans controlled the northern coast and most of the country east of Madrid, including all of Catalonia (Spanish, Cataluna; Catalan, Catalunya). It became apparent that the war was to be a long struggle, when Franco's forces from Andalusia advanced to the Madrid area in the early months of the war but failed to take the city.

In subsequent campaigns, the Nationalist forces expanded the areas they held to include most of the northern, the southern, and the western portions of the country. During the last year, they drove a wedge between the Republican forces in Madrid and Catalonia, decisively defeated those in Catalonia, and seized Barcelona. Forces in Madrid could no longer be supplied. The city and the Republican cause were surrendered in March 1939.

Franco's victorious troops had by then been molded into a powerful and well-equipped army, organized into sixty-one divisions. Its strength compared favorably with other European armies on the eve of World War II. The country's energies, however, were spent. It soon became apparent that a force of that size was not needed to maintain order and that it could not be supported under the prevailing economic conditions. By 1941 demobilization had brought the army down to twenty-four divisions in peninsular Spain. Its offensive capability was already depleted; with only one motorized division, it was rapidly becoming out of date.

Franco avoided being drawn into World War II, although a volunteer Spanish unit known as the Blue Division served with German forces on the Soviet front between August 1941 and October 1943. Fully outfitted and financed by Germany, it fought almost entirely in the Leningrad sector. The 40,000 volunteers who served in the Blue Division swore allegiance to the German dictator, Adolf Hitler, rather than to Franco or to Spain (see Foreign Policy under Franco , ch. 1).

Although the economy had recovered to pre-Civil War levels by 1951, the army was ill-trained and poorly equipped, lacking modern armaments and transport. Substantial United States assistance after the signing of the Pact of Madrid in 1953 helped to reverse the deterioration and contributed to a slow improvement in quality. World War II-vintage tanks and artillery were introduced into the army, new and refurbished ships were supplied to the navy, and the air force was equipped with modern jet aircraft (see Military Cooperation with the United States , this ch.).

An important reorganization of the army in 1965 grouped it into two distinct categories: an intervention force organized to protect against external threats, and a territorial defense army divided into nine regional garrisons. Both forces were deployed in such a way that they were available to protect against internal disorder rather than to defend the country's borders. The strongest units of the intervention force were concentrated around Madrid, in the center of the country; others were assigned to the nine military regions under captains general into which the country was divided, in such a manner as to maximize security against regional dissidents.

Data as of December 1988

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