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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post During My Service on Spain's Defense Staff, I Saw the Secret US-Spanish Treaty Documents
Created by John Eipper on 01/08/22 3:26 AM

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During My Service on Spain's Defense Staff, I Saw the Secret US-Spanish Treaty Documents (Anthony J Candil, USA, 01/08/22 3:26 am)

I found very interesting the explanations given by our friend Ángel Viñas (January 6th) regarding the secret clauses of the 1953 pacts between Spain and the United States.

I understand they have never been made public here in the US. Obviously, many treaties and international agreements are not for public consumption.

However, most of these documents were published in 2003, in Spain, by a small think-tank led by Mr. Antonio Marquina, a tenured professor of International Relations at the University of Madrid. Certainly, Ángel's work took place much earlier.

In any case, I imagine Ángel is well aware of the fact that the file he found by 1979 was not the only one. A much more complete set was in the documentation center at the Spanish Joint Defense Staff (Estado Mayor de la Defensa/EMAD) in downtown Madrid. That set of files even included details that were not communicated to the Foreign Affairs Ministry by the military on the grounds of national security (and the traditional lack of trust between diplomats and military).

EMAD in 1979 was also the site for the Combined Spanish-American Staff that was overseeing all cooperation between US and Spanish forces. I have to say that this cooperation was very fruitful and both sides enjoyed a nice relationship. There was another American cooperation unit set up within the headquarters of the Spanish Air Force (Ministerio del Aire), on the third floor, called the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG).  It was entirely staffed by US officers.

The documents Ángel talks about were of common use for consultation purposes when needed. I read them myself many times and all I had to do was to tell one my subordinates to bring them to me.

The joint activities between US and Spanish forces were rarely communicated to the Foreign Affairs ministry, due to the lack of trust I mentioned before. I am not saying it was the right thing to do, but that is the way it was. The lack of mutual trust was exacerbated after the Socialist victory in the Spanish general election of 1982.

Not everything was perfect, certainly, and difficult situations that could not be hidden to the Foreign Affairs Ministry happened many times, such as the support given to Israel during the Yom Kippur War in 1973, when American jets were landing at Torrejón Air Force Base, in the vicinity of Madrid.  These planes were then painted with IAF markings, refueled and armed, taking off again heading for Israel and straight into combat. This occurred with the full cooperation of the Spanish Air Force and without saying a word to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, which went ape when they found out, but to no avail whatsoever.

There was also a particular incident in January 1966, called "the Palomares incident," over Almería, in southern Spain, when a B-52 bomber carrying four nuclear bombs collided with a USAF KC-135 tanker, and the bombs were spread both on land and at sea. (Three were found on land near the small fishing village of Palomares. The non-nuclear explosives in two of the weapons detonated upon impact with the ground, resulting in the contamination of a small area. The fourth, which fell into the sea, was recovered intact after a search lasting two and a half months, struggling against Soviet ships and submarines which were there also searching for the bomb. The film Men of Honor with Robert de Niro and Cuba Gooding Jr., begins and ends with the Palomares bomb recovery by US Navy personnel with the support of the Spanish Navy at all times.)

We'll talk more about this incident on its coming anniversary on January 17.

At this point I must say that I managed to consult the documents mentioned by our Ángel in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as a lieutenant colonel on the Defense Staff, as much as I needed to in the line of duty. It never occurred to me to make them public, obviously, yet at the same time, they all made sense to me. It was clear then that the Soviet Union had represented a threat to our Western way of life and the only way out for Spain was to trust the United States.

Nevertheless, I fully subscribe to Ángel's view when he says that definitive history doesn't exist. This is applicable to all those who claim having found the indisputable truth.

JE comments:  Anthony, you've given us a fresh perspective on a topic we've visited numerous times. Allow me one question on something I know nothing about:  how common is the knowledge that the US changed the "livery" on its fighter planes to Israeli markings for the Yom Kippur war?  Were these aircraft sent into combat with US personnel, or were Israeli pilots brought in?


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  • More on the Secret Hispano-US Treaty, 1953 (Angel Vinas, Belgium 01/08/22 4:00 PM)
    I thank Anthony Candil for his information of January 8th. As far as I can ascertain he is correct.

    Let me add something. When I published the main documents on the 1953 pacts in 1979, I was aware that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had never been in possession of quite a lot of documentation. With a view to complementing it, I got in touch with the head of cabinet of the Prime Minister Adolfo Suárez in 1980 or 1981. My aim was to receive permission to consult the military file. Ambassador Alberto Aza agreed and got it touch with the minister of Defense, Agustín Rodríguez Sahagún. He didn't see any objection and I was instructed to write to Admiral Ángel Liberal Lucini, undersecretary for Defense. I did so. After three weeks I received a very terse reply. The file was top secret. A week later the Prime Minister resigned. Rodríguez Sahagún followed. A month later the February 23rd coup d'etat took place.


    The file is in pristine condition. As far as I know nobody from outside government has seen it.


    Of course, I have a feeling about the direction of its contents. That direction I explored in my second book, En las garras del águila. That many military (Francoist) men wouldn't like its contents to be shown is for me a certitude. That the successive Spanish Governments held back is no surprise.


    I'm used to those obstacles. I gained experience with the file on the "Moscow gold." What was behind all this? The incompetence of the whole Francoist establishment, starting with Franco himself. And their lies to the Spanish public and to friendly governments.



    JE comments:  Ángel, seven years after Adolfo Suárez's death, enough time has passed to re-evaluate his premiership.  My very superficial opinion has always been that he was well-meaning, centrist even in name (Centro Democrático), and possibly the ideal person to transition Spain to democracy.  I know you prefer your history to be more"vintage," but might you offer an insider's perspective?

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    • Adolfo Suarez and the Transition to Democracy (Angel Vinas, Belgium 01/10/22 4:08 AM)

      John Eipper is an excellent editor and always asks new questions or raises new issues to our posts. In this case, about Spanish PM Adolfo Suárez.


      However, I am not in a position to pass a personal judgement on him and the US relationship.  There is a lot of literature dealing with the transition and the place of the US-Spanish connection therein. I haven't explored it documentarily from an academic point of view. On the other hand I frequently part company with Spanish academics on this subject.



      One has to take into account that Suárez was more interested in domestic issues and he wanted no major problems in foreign policy to arise if the cost might become to high. Foreign Affairs was left in the able hands of Marcelino Oreja, a career diplomat with a background on the US since Castiella's times.


      I prefer to refer readers to Morten Heiberg, US-Spanish relations after Franco, 1975-1989. The Will of the Weak, 2018.


      Personally, I picked up the subject from the point of view of Spanish security policy since 1983. What I thought at the time was published in a few articles, both in Spanish and English.


      WAISers may not believe me, but I can assure them that what I'm going to write isn't a figment of my imagination. Two generals, Manuel Gutiérrez Mellado, VP of the Government for Defense, and Ramón Salas Larrazábal, historian, independently came in discussions with me to the same conclusion: under Franco Spain had behaved like a "sepoy State" vis-a-vis the US. Curiously enough, the same formulation was used by my former mentor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Carlos Fernández Espeso. I wouldn't have used it. My verdict was that Spanish foreign policy under Franco was more Schein than Wirklichkeit and strictly cut to his own (not Spanish) political needs.


      JE comments:  Today's German lesson:  Schein und Wirklichkeit roughly correspond to appearance and reality. Wily political figures like Franco always manage to find a balance between the two to keep their grip on power.


      My semester in Granada (1985) corresponded with Spain's admission into NATO, which became official under the Socialists in 1992.  Everywhere you walked you saw "OTAN no, bases fuera" grafitti.  Possibly it was the work of one busy artist with plenty of paint.  Ángel, was there ever serious opposition to Spain joining the alliance?


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      • Spain's Entry in NATO, and My Involvement (Angel Vinas, Belgium 01/11/22 8:23 AM)
        I gladly reply to John Eipper´s question about Spain's entry in NATO.

        As an executive advisor to Spanish foreign ministers Fernando Morán and his successor Francisco Fernández Ordóñez I was mainly active on the NATO issue. I had the great fortune that the two directors general mostly concerned by it were Carlos Fernández Espeso (International Security and Disarmament) and José Manuel Allendesalazar (North America). There were never any frictions among us. We worked along the same lines.


        The obstacles were domestic in nature and, to a certain state, homemade. The Socialists had opposed NATO membership before the previous PM, Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo, achieved it thanks to a majority in Parliament. Calvo Sotelo, with whom I had never a good relationship, had conceived of the need for membership before he became prime minister.


        Over his reasons much has been speculated. To me the most cogent argument he put forward was the true one: if his party didn't achieve membership the likely alternative, PSOE, wouldn't do it. He may also have speculated about the need for NATO membership in order to expose the Spanish military to other non-American foreign cultures and experiences. In any case, Calvo Sotelo chalIenged the arguments put forward by all the parties on the left of the political spectrum.


        Membership created for Spain a completely new situation in terms of foreign and security policies. There was a need for evaluating the consequences of two possible paths of action; denouncing the Treaty of Washington or remaining in NATO. The pros and cons were minutely examined until the new PM Felipe González presented to Parliament his proposals for Spain's foreign and security policy. It took into account the electoral promises made in the PSOE program of 1992. The Government would examine the implications of any course of action. González suggested remaining in NATO with some operational exceptions.


        I didn't keep any papers. Many years later I don't regret that decision. Had I kept some I might have been tempted to write something. There is always a way of circumventing the Official Secrets act if you know what happened and why and follow the leaks given to some media. I preferred to have them destroyed. No regrets.


        JE comments:  As for other "military cultures," one of the most important would be the depoliticization of Spain's armed forces--i.e., creating a mindset that wouldn't dabble in coups, pronunciamientos and other mischief.  Ángel, do you sense that this was a principal motivation for seeking NATO membership?


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  • Israel-Spain Military Cooperation During Franco Period (Anthony J Candil, USA 01/11/22 12:57 PM)
    Collaboration in the military field between Spain and Israel under the umbrella of the United States was extensive and comprehensive at the same time, and not always entirely open to US eyes. The Israelis were very aggressive and eager to achieve results, and whenever it suited them best they didn't wait for a green light from the Americans. The same applied to the Spaniards. However, I must say that the US knew about this cooperation but preferred to look the other way. 

    And before anything, I want to bring to your attention that prior to 1986, Spain and Israel didn't even have diplomatic relations!  So, imagine how much the Foreign Affairs Ministry knew! Nothing! 


    That was the case in 1973. All that happened then at Torrejón Air Base was privy to US, Israeli and Spanish eyes. I don't recall the media mentioning anything at all, but of course, all media was under control of Franco's regime, which turned out to be very convenient for all purposes then. I recall having heard that Israel was very grateful to the Spanish government. And the US too, then with president Nixon at the White House. The Spanish side was happy too, as the majority of the Spanish military were entirely pro-Israel and fully anti-Arab.


    It is my understanding that the pilots flying the Phantom jets off Torrejón Air Base were American and changed crew after landing in Israel.  But there were some Israeli personnel in the neighborhood camouflaged as Spanish, something not too difficult to achieve. I won't discount the possibility that some pilots could have been Israeli but I doubted it. The Israeli pilots were pretty busy those days. 


    It is my understanding also that after the war someone high from Israel visited Franco at El Pardo (his residence) in appreciation. (The head of Franco's military household was the father of a good friend of mine.)


    On the other hand, apart from some of us who had connections within the general staff, the issue was pretty much kept in total secrecy. The Foreign Affairs Ministry ended up knowing the issue but was told to look the other way.


    In any case, as I said, military cooperation between Israel and Spain was pretty much straightforward then.  As an example I will tell you a case in which I was personally involved. The Spanish Army had by the mid-1970s an extensive array of US-supplied main battle tanks: M-48 Patton, and was looking to modernize and retrofit most of them. Among the new items needed was the British (it was a British design) and American main gun L7 of 105 mm, but the UK vetoed the sale to Spain on political grounds. What was the option then? Israel. 


    Israeli military industries then produced a version of the British gun that was the same but with some additional differences that qualified the gun as Israeli and not British. And that was it. The Spanish Army at the US Chrysler factories in Spain (at Villaverde, near Madrid), with US and Israeli help, was able to modernize all its US M-48 tanks to a new standard that was named M-48E with a much more powerful 105 mm gun identical to the one in service with the US M-60 tanks. I was myself involved in testing the prototypes. (Of course optics, power pack, transmission and so forth were provided by US manufacturers via US military to the Spanish Army without involving anybody else.) 


    Nothing of this was ever disclosed to the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


    For Israel it was pretty convenient--they said it was even better--not to have an embassy in Spain. (Israel used to have only a tourist office in Madrid that worked as a de facto embassy.) I remember one of the Israeli officers who worked with me those days and ended up being a good friend of mine. He had been born in the Spanish Morocco and even had a Spanish identity card!


    Cooperation with Israel those days was in all fields. It was said that there was not a thing the Arabs would say or do in Spain without Israel not knowing. And the US was totally aware at all times. 


    JE comments:  Fascinating, Anthony, especially the roundabout saga of the Anglo-Israeli guns.  Possibly there's more to the story than what you can reveal, but please tell us more about your friend's father, Franco's military attaché.

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    • Spain, Mossad, and the Exodus of Moroccan Jews (Sasha Pack, USA 01/12/22 10:55 AM)
      I have been reading Anthony Candil's posts on Spanish-Israel military collaborations with great interest I would just like to add an earlier example--one that is known to the historical literature, but was unknown at the time outside of Franco's innermost circle.

      In 1956, Mossad established a base of operations secluded in the swamps around Gibraltar Bay to smuggle 25,000 Moroccan Jews into the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla, whence they then were moved on to Israel. Emigration to Israel was illegal in newly independent Morocco, which was seeking to prove its anti-Zionist bona fides for Arab League membership. Zionism had not particularly taken root among Moroccan Jews hitherto, and the Moroccan government made it a priority to suppress Zionist propaganda. The sudden and spontaneous flight to Israel, and also to the Americas, in the years after 1956 gives a sense of the fear of impending disaster among Morocco's Jews.


      JE comments:  Sasha, another fascinating episode in the little-known story of Franco-Israeli relations (here I don't mean France; I mean Franco).  Franco must certainly have known of Mossad's presence.  Was he paid off to look the other way?  "Encouraged" to do so by the Americans?

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      • Emigration of Jewish Moroccans, and Spain's Role (Anthony J Candil, USA 01/13/22 11:05 AM)
        In response to Sasha Pack (January 12th), before anything I want you to know that despite being a very young officer in those days, I was pretty much involved in high places and in many confidential things, due to my knowledge of languages and not because I was an expert. 

        That's why I was fully involved in the early days of Spain in NATO and on different negotiations regarding military issues with other countries. The Spanish military never grasped much knowledge of foreign languages and my being fluent in English, French and Italian was pretty much appreciated. I owe that to my father, who had a clear vision of how the world should be.


        Cooperation with Israel was certainly blessed by Franco but it wasn't too difficult. As I have mentioned, the Spanish Armed Forces were 90 percent pro-Israeli. Israel, among other things, procured certain items of equipment that Spain wanted but that other Allies preferred not to supply. Keep in mind that while Franco was still in power many Western countries did not want to deal much with Spain on the grounds of being a country ruled by a dictator, which amounts today to being a great hypocrisy. Spain was a country where Israeli officials moved freely, precisely due to the fact of not having diplomatic relations.


        Returning specifically to Sasha's post, I didn't know about the establishment by "the Institute" of a base at Gibraltar to help Moroccan Jews escape into the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla and from there to Israel.  I can tell you that I know the Jewish population within the Spanish Protectorate in Morocco was quite relevant. 


        My mother's family lived mostly in Spanish Morocco where they held possessions and properties until 1956 precisely when Morocco became independent as a country under the rule of King Mohammed V, grandfather of the current King. (My maternal grandfather was a civil engineer and architect who built much of the public works in the Spanish protectorate.)


        I do recall my mother saying that she has many Jewish friends and she always spoke nicely of the Jewish community there. In other words, she had friends among the Jewish community but none on the Muslim side. Many of her Jewish friends relocated to Spain after Morocco's independence but others went to Israel. 


        The new Moroccan government mistreated the Jewish community. Keep in mind that Morocco declared war on Israel and even sent some troops to fight Israel on the Syrian front during the Yom Kippur war. (Morocco had sent troops to Egypt too when the Six-Day War erupted but they arrived after hostilities had ended)


        I do realize, however, that my mother's family was not typical of the majority of Spaniards. I grew up feeling my mother's feelings towards Israel and those feelings are still deeply rooted inside me. 


        JE comments: I just checked, and Morocco's Jewish community now numbers barely over 2000, although it was nearly a quarter of a million in 1947.  This despite (or because of?) independent Morocco's prohibition of Jewish emigration.  Some sources say this measure was strictly due to the Jewish community's outsized importance in the economy.


        Anthony, your father (whom I had the privilege of meeting) was a WAISly guy ahead of his time.  There's no substitute for the mastery of languages!


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        • Jewish "Re-Immigration" to Spain; My Doctor's Story (Timothy Ashby, -Spain 01/14/22 4:24 AM)
          My local private General Practitioner in Cala Ratjada, Mallorca, near where I live, is a woman in her late 60s named Doctora Moisés Dosal.

          She told me that her family re-emigrated (note the "re-") to Spain from Morocco when she was a child, which would have been during the Franco regime. Other relatives emigrated to Israel. Her husband, who shares the practice with her, is named Dr. Serra Comas and is also Jewish.


          Doctora Moisés has traced her family back to before 1492 when they fled to Morocco, and she said they had always practiced Judaism "even in the worst of times." She didn't know how many Jews lived in Spain currently but told me she had read that 20% of the modern Spanish population were of Jewish descent. She also said, rather proudly, that General Franco was Jewish. I have read of the latter rumour but have never seen any evidence for it. Perhaps some fellow WAISers may have researched this?


          JE comments: We have three of the world's leading Franco authorities in the WAIS ranks, so you've asked at the right place, Tim! Franco certainly hated the "Jewish-Bolshevik-Masonic" cabal, at least publicly, but this tells us nothing about his DNA.


          The good Dra Moisés sounds like a fascinating person, who takes the long view when it comes to migration.  Sources say that Spain's current Jewish population is some 50,000, most probably less, which surprises me.  Wouldn't more old Sephardic families want to "return" to the homeland--especially since Spain is an awesome place to live?

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