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Post A "Volunteer" in the Division Azul
Created by John Eipper on 05/21/13 1:28 PM

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A "Volunteer" in the Division Azul (Henry Levin, USA, 05/21/13 1:28 pm)

My father-in-law was a young man at the time, about 20, and was involved with the anarchist, trade union movement. This was one of three different anarchist groups, and probably the most democratic. Between internecine leftist struggles and greater solidarity and the power of the Fachas, the anarchists were decimated by the Loyalists. My father-in-law was thrown in jail, an experience that he described as one that had excruciating tortures, rats, starvation, and dehumanization.

About the time that the Nazis invaded Russia, he and fellow inmates got an inviting offer of amnesty if they would join the División Azul. The would be given new uniforms and excellent meals, and would get out of jail if they joined and were posted on the Eastern Front to support the Nazi invasion. They were also told that there were no risks of life or limb because of the invincibility of the Nazis in rolling over the Untermenschen primitivos who lacked anything that could counter the superior power and modern equipment of the German army.

The short of it is that my father-in-law took the get-out-of-jail card and was sent to the front with his new clothes. Sadly, things were not as promised. The División Azul was treated as Untermenschen by the German army and the winter suddenly appeared with a fury such that the clothes provided by the Nazis were vastly inferior to the ravages of the cold. Further, the Russians were not turning tail as had been told and were fighting back, despite their great casualties. My father-in-law was wounded and was fortunate to get out of the fighting. Many of his colleagues starved, froze, or were killed in the fighting.

His wound got him back to Spain and a very depressed state. He never reveled in the glory of the experience and mentioned it--to my knowledge--only once in a rare conversation on the topic with my brother-in-law.

JE comments: A horrific case of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. The story of Henry's suegro makes me wonder how many of the "volunteers" were in the same freezing boat.

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  • Another Volunteer in the Division Azul; from Anthony J. Candil (John Eipper, USA 05/22/13 4:15 AM)
    WAISers will remember Anthony J. Candil, a Spanish-born historian in Austin, Texas, who posted a number of comments to the Forum earlier this spring. Anthony sends this response to Henry Levin's post of 21 May:

    Well, I can tell you a different story.

    My uncle Antonio, my father's brother, went on his own will to Russia in July 1941 and came back after the battle of Krasny-Bor, in February 1943, so he spent two years on the Eastern Front fighting with the Blue Division. Actually the real description is 250 Infanteriedivision, and it was integrated in the 18th Army under Generalleutnant Georg Lindemann/Army Group North.

    Uncle Antonio was underage, just 17 years old, and lied about his age to get accepted. Because his brother--my father--had been in the Spanish Civil War and was much decorated, he wanted to achieve something similar. He was neither a "falangista" nor a fascist, just a kid seeking adventure and glory. So he spent the very first months in the training grounds of Grafenwohr, and was promoted to Unteroffizier--kind of Lance Corporal or junior Sergeant. My grandfather only knew of his whereabouts when he received a postcard from his son, already in Germany.

    Once at the front he was part of a special operations unit set up within the Blue Division, and I read in his military records that on one occasion he even managed to get into the Soviet lines and took two prisoners back to the German lines: one lieutenant and one NCO, for what he received the Iron Cross 1st class and the Assault badge, and even some days of leave that he spent in Berlin and Paris. I remember vaguely having seen a picture of him in German uniform in front of the Eiffel Tower with a young lady.

    He was very lucky not to have been even wounded. Upon his return to Spain he went to the Spanish General Military Academy, in Zaragoza, and became a professional officer. He retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He died in 2005, and I went to see him at the hospital, one or two days before his death. He just said to me: "Everything we did was wrong." It was very impressive.

    JE comments: It's just as important to get the Ernst Jünger perspective as that of Erich Maria Remarque, and I thank Anthony Candil for sharing his uncle's story. How did Uncle Anthony manage to leave the División Azul so early in the war (February 1943)? He was fortunate to be demobilized before the Wehrmacht's lot became truly desperate.

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    • Division Azul (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 05/23/13 4:21 AM)
      The División Azul, after pressures from the Allies on Franco, was officially withdrawn on October 10, 1943. However many Spaniards remained with the Waffen SS, and some heroically participated in the last defense of Berlin.

      JE comments: Wikipedia states that 286 surviving Spanish POWs were finally repatriated from the Soviet Union in 1954. Did any of these prisoners publish books on their experience in captivity?


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      • Division Azul Histories and Memoirs (Paul Preston, UK 05/23/13 6:46 AM)

        To answer JE's question of 23 May, there is a very substantial bibliography on the División Azul, the majority by Falangist sympathisers, some by actual participants and relatively little in the way of scholarly studies. There is also quite a significant cinematic production, about which on can read more in Sergio Alegre, El cine cambia la historia Las imágenes de la División Azul (Barcelona: Promociones y Publicaciones Universitarias, 1994).

        Despite intense Allied pressure to withdraw the División Azul, the decision made on 26 September 1943 was not made public and the value of this decision to the Allies was diminished by a further decision to permit volunteers to stay on in German units. Many of the Spanish volunteers joined the SS. On 1 October 1943, the Spanish ambassador in Berlin, Ginés Vidal, informed the Auswärtiges Amt of the Spanish government decision to withdraw the División Azul, citing the fact that volunteers have dried up and the government is having to impose conscription. This was a lie--the Falange was still successfully recruiting. Throughout late October, the repatriation began but those who wished to remain became the Legión Azul. On 3 December, Franco spoke to the German Ambassador, Dieckhoff. When Dieckhoff complained that Spain was giving in to Allied pressure, particularly in the withdrawal of the Blue Division from Russia, Franco said that his own survival depended on an Axis victory and that an Allied triumph "would mean his own annihilation."  Accordingly, he hoped with all his heart for German victory as soon as possible.  (This is from my biography of Franco.)

        The Legión Azul functioned from mid-November 1943 until the end of January 1944. Under even greater pressure from the Allies, it was decided to withdraw the Legión but the so-called "irreductibles" stayed on by volunteering for the Wehrmacht and the Waffen SS. Thereafter, many ex-divisionarios, with help from the German embassy, started to go to Germany to volunteer for the Wehrmacht and the Waffen SS--organized as an entirely Spanish unit of the Waffen SS under Miguel Ezquerra. This is the unit that took part in the defence of Berlin.

        Miguel Ezquerra wrote detailed memoirs of all this. Miguel Ezquerra, Berlin, a vida o muerte (Barcelona: Ediciones Acervo, 1975), in which he claims that he went back to Russia because of the suffocating atmosphere in Franco's Spain. He claims that the Spaniards of the Waffen SS were "los últimos defensores de la Cancillería."  There is a fairly detailed account of the Spanish suicidal participation in the last-ditch defence of Berlin and of the Chancellery in Fernando Vadillo, La gran crónica de la División Azul. Los irreductibles (Granada: García Hispán, 1993).

        Works by participating volunteers, especially senior officers, include:

        General José Díaz de Villegas, La División Azul en línea (Barcelona: Ediciones Acervo, 1967)

        General Emilio Estéban Infantes, La División Azul (Donde Asia empieza) (Barcelona: Editorial AHR, 1956)

        Coronel José Martínez Esparza, Con la División Azul en Rusia (Madrid: Ediciones Ejército, 1943)

        Ángel Ruiz Ayúcar, La Rusia que yo conocí (División Azul) (Madrid: Fuerza Nueva Editorial, 1976)

        Teodoro Palacios Cueto & Torcuato Luca de Tena, Embajador en el infierno (Madrid: Sucesores de Rivadeneyra, 1955)

        There is a huge, favourable, not to say hagiographic, blow-by-blow account by Fernando Vadillo, called La gran crónica de la División Azul. One of the last volumes deals with the Legión Azul: La gran crónica de la División Azul. Balada final de la División Azul. Los legionarios (Granada: García Hispán, 1984).

        As far as scholarly accounts go, the best and most balanced is by Xavier Moreno Julià, La División Azul. Sangre española en Rusia, 1941-1945 (Barcelona: Editorial Crítica, 2004). Also worth considering are the only two books on the subject in English (that I know of): Gerald R. Kleinfeld & Lewis A. Tambs, Hitler's Spanish Legion: The Blue Division in Russia (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1979), and the short overview by John Scurr, Germany's Spanish Volunteers 1941-45. The Blue Division in Russia (London: Osprey Publishing, 1980). A book written in English, but only, as far as I know published in Spanish is Raymond Proctor, Agonía de un neutral (Las relaciones hispanoalemanas durante segunda guerra mundial y la División Azul) (Madrid: Editora Nacional, 1972).

        The work by Kleinfeld and Tambs is pro-Falangist and often uses language inappropriate in a scholarly work. The invading Spaniards are described throughout as heroic, gaining "an immortal place in history," whereas the Russians, referred to as "Ivans," are seen as brutal, vodka-soaked savages.

        Hardly any of the books mentioned, except perhaps Moreno Julià, really place the División Azul in the wider context of Franco's schemes of securing a place at the victors' table at the lowest price possible. I hope this helps.

        JE comments:  Absolutely; few can synthesize massive bodies of bibliography like our own Paul Preston.  I think I'll start with Moreno Julià's book.

        "Securing a place at the victors' table at the lowest price possible":  Paul has succinctly summed up the raison d'etre of the División Azul.

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        • Division Azul and Franco's "Place at the Victors' Table"; from Anthony Candil (John Eipper, USA 05/24/13 5:21 AM)
          Anthony J. Candil sends this reply to Paul Preston's post of 23 May:

          To me apart from "securing a place at the victor's table," in Paul Preston's words, sending the Blue Division to the Russian Front was a way for Franco to play for time and to give Hitler the feeling that Spain was completely on his side, what in reality was never the case.

          So the sacrifice of a few thousand Spaniards bought Franco precious time and alleviated the continuous pressure the Third Reich was making for Spain to join the Axis.

          Churchill saw this crystal clear, and even mentioned it on some occasions.

          And that's probably why he was not to hard on Franco after the war.

          JE comments:  If nothing else, Franco was a wily survivor.  It's often said that the Gallego "va con los de la feria, y viene con los del mercado" (loosely translated, plays both sides of the fence).

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          • Did UK Bribe Spain to Stay out of WWII? (Jordi Molins, Spain 05/24/13 9:38 AM)
            Anthony J. Candil wrote on 24 May:

            "The sacrifice of a few thousand Spaniards [of the División Azul] bought Franco precious time and alleviated the continuous pressure the Third Reich was making for Spain to join the Axis.

            "Churchill saw this crystal clear, and even mentioned it on some occasions."

            Maybe Churchill did not see things so crystal clear, if the UK had to bribe high-level Spaniards (including Nicolás, the older brother of General Franco) with millions of pounds in order to avoid Spain joining the Axis, as reported recently by The Telegraph, citing "secret files."


            I am sorry if the serious WAIS historians already knew this, since apparently this story has been on the Internet at least since 2008:


            I do not know why The Telegraph reports it right now, since they apparently do not cite new evidence.

            JE comments:  What can our Spain experts tell us about the "secret files"?  $10 million of strategic bribes was a bargain compared to the cost of going to war against Spain, but there is the whole "not one cent of tribute" aspect.  This detail, if true, doesn't paint Churchill in the most honorable light.

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            • Did UK Bribe Spain to Stay out of WWII? (Angel Vinas, Belgium 05/24/13 2:55 PM)
              I´m sorry I've missed a lot of the recent WAIS messages on Spain. Two reasons: we´ve been on a computer-free holiday to Alsace, although with iPhone. There is no point in contributing to the past discussion. Paul Preston has said many things I would also have said.

              On the declassified documents mentioned in Jordi Molins's post of 24 May, I cannot but express some perplexity. The story of Churchill's bribe to Spanish officials was broken by Denis Smyth, Diplomacy and Strategy of Survival. British Policy and Franco´s Spain, 1940-1941, Cambridge UP, 1986. It´s part and parcel of standard history. Obviously, the new docs may shed some more light on it. I suppose it´s on some operational details. However, I doubt very much that the overall picture may change.

              It has given ammunition to the media in Spain, perhaps because of the current, and repulsive, bribery scandals which affect the PP Government and the PP itself. Spain is on a path to go back to the 1930s in terms of domestic policies.

              To get a new picture, Her Majesty's Government ought to declassify MI6 docs. As far as I know, this hasn't happened unless indirectly via other departments.

              I'm going to Spain next week and won't be active for a while.

              JE comments: Paul Preston (next in the queue) also cites the work of Denis Smyth, although from an article published in 1991.

              Happy travels to Ángel Viñas in Spain. (Ah, a computer-free holiday! I haven't had one of those in seven years.)

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            • Did UK Bribe Spain to Stay out of WWII? (Paul Preston, UK 05/24/13 3:22 PM)
              On the Internet since 2008? (See Jordi Molins, 24 May.) The first examination of this issue was in an important article by Denis Smyth, "Les Chevaliers de Saint-George: la Grande-Bretagne et la corruption des généraux espagnols (1940-1942)," Guerres mondiales et conflits contemporains, No.162, Avril 1991, pp. 29-54.

              In my book on Franco published in 1993, I examined the consequences in terms of regime policy of the British scheme of bribing important elements in the Spanish High Command instituted as a result of which $13,000,000 had been distributed through General Antonio Aranda. Basically, senior officers who thought that Franco and the Falange needed restraining argued in favour of neutrality. This was the basis of some fascinating power struggles in 1941 and 1942.

              Regarding the myth of a heroic Franco standing up to Hitler, there is no doubt about Franco's preference for the Axis side. He hovered, hoping to get into the war at the last minute and at the lowest price. Hitler could not afford Franco as an ally since, already lumbered with Mussolini, he could not afford what he called "another harvest helper." To make Spain a feasible belligerent would have involved rebuilding her economy and her armed forces. With so many other commitments, that was not a possibility.

              It is pretty clear that, from the summer of 1941, Churchill and Hitler had a mutual interest in keeping Spain neutral. Under such circumstances, it was hardly surprising, as the German Ambassador in Madrid, Eberhard von Stohrer had remarked to General Günther Krappe in October 1941, that the Führer should conclude that Spain was more useful to Germany under the mask of neutrality as her only outlet from the British blockade. On 10 February 1945, Hitler told his secretary, Martin Bormann, "Spain was burning to follow Italy's example and become a member of the Victor's Club. Franco, of course, had very exaggerated ideas on the value of Spanish intervention. Nevertheless, I believe that, in spite of the systematic sabotage perpetrated by his Jesuit brother-in-law, he would have agreed to make common cause with us on quite reasonable conditions--the promise of a little bit of France as a sop to his pride and a substantial slice of Algeria as a real, material asset. But as Spain had really nothing tangible to contribute, I came to the conclusion that her direct intervention was not desirable. It is true that it would have allowed us to occupy Gibraltar. On the other hand, Spain's entry into the war would certainly have added many kilometres to the Atlantic coast-line which we would have had to defend--from San Sebastián to Cadiz...by ensuring that the Iberian peninsula remained neutral, Spain has already rendered us the one service in this conflict which she had in her power to render. Having Italy on our backs is a sufficient burden in all conscience; and whatever may be the qualities of the Spanish soldier, Spain herself, in her state of poverty and unpreparedness, would have been a heavy liability rather than an asset."

              JE comments:  This completely clears up the story of "buying" Spain's neutrality, but I still wonder why The Telegraph, citing recently released "intelligence papers," ran the story only yesterday (23 May 2013).  Author Tom Whitehead should have read his Paul Preston.

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              • Did UK Bribe Spain to Stay out of WWII? Three Relevant Quotes (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 05/25/13 11:07 AM)

                To Paul Preston's post of 24 May, I would like to add three quotations from people whose informed opinion may be of interest.

                About the early period of the war, William Shirer wrote: "As a sop to his naval chief, Hitler promised to 'try once more to influence Franco' so that the attack against the Gibraltar could be made and the Mediterranean closed to the British fleet. Actually, he had already dropped the whole idea. On December 11 he had quietly ordered, 'Operation Felix will not be carried out as the political conditions no longer exist.' Nagged by his own Navy and by the Italians to keep after Franco, Hitler made one final effort, though it was painful to him. On February 6, 1941, he (perhaps somewhat overconfidently) addressed a long letter to the Spanish dictator.

                "'About one thing, Caudillo, there must be clarity: we are fighting a battle of life and death and cannot at this time make any gifts... The battle which Germany and Italy are fighting will determine the destiny of Spain as well. Only in the case of our victory will your present regime continue to exist.'

                "Unfortunately for the Axis, the letter reached the Caudillo on the very day that Marshal Graziani's last forces in Cyrenaica had been wiped out by the British south of Benghazi. Little wonder that when Franco got around to replying--on February 26, 1941--though protesting his ‘absolute loyalty' to the Axis, he reminded the Nazi leader that recent developments had left ‘the circumstances of October far behind' and that their understanding of that time had become 'outmoded.'"

                "For one of the very few times in his stormy life," Shirer notes, "Adolf Hitler conceded defeat. 'The long and short of the tedious Spanish rigmarole,' he wrote Mussolini, 'is that Spain does not want to enter the war and will not enter it. This is extremely tiresome since it means that for the moment the possibility of striking at Britain in the simplest manner, in her Mediterranean possessions, is eliminated.'" (William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, pp. 979-80.)

                In July 1940 Hitler's chief of foreign intelligence, Walter Schellenberg, was sent on a special mission to Madrid. He later recalled in his memoirs: "Madrid was one of the most strongly developed centers of the German Secret Service. Apart from active espionage and counterespionage, its military sector included between seventy and a hundred employees who lived and worked in one of the extra-territorial buildings of the German Embassy. There we had one of our most important short-wave listening posts and decoding stations; also a meteorological station... This station was of decisive importance to our Luftwaffe and U-boats operations off the Bay of Biscay and in the western Mediterranean area, while the center at Madrid also supervised the surveillance of the Straits of Gibraltar. Later, this most important center was to be a source of great trouble to me, for, as the position of Germany grew worse, Allied pressure forced back German influence in Spain step by step. Still, we managed to maintain our full staff there until the beginning of 1945. In our diplomatic exchanges with the Spaniards we used to good effect full lists of the American and British Information Services [read, intelligence agencies] personnel in Spain which we had assembled and with which we justified our own activities."

                In Madrid, Schellenberg first of all visited the German Ambassador Eberhard von Stohrer, who arrived in Salamanca in the second half of 1937 to replace Wilhelm Faupel. Von Stohrer explained to Schellenberg his opinion on policy in Spain. According to Schellenberg, Stohrer had a more comprehensive view of the Spanish attitude and of the great difficulties in bringing about any change. "Spain," Schellenberg wrote long after WWII was over, "had received the greatest support from Germany in the Civil War, and the country, and especially General Franco, was truly grateful. The chief problem in Spain was the economic condition of the country resulting from the great social upheaval caused by the Civil War. Von Stohrer felt certain that the Spanish leaders were sincerely friendly toward Germany, but the friction had been created by Ribbentrop's continual pressure for the formation of a European bloc and the attempts to force Spain into it. Seen from Berlin, this might seem a necessary part of our program, whereas Spain, because of her geographical position and historical development, was more in the nature of a bridge to Africa and was unwilling to surrender this position. Moreover, if Germany was [sic] able to offer enough material aid to satisfy Spain's needs, Franco's chief argument against joining the war would be removed. People were greatly impressed by Germany's military successes, but the opinion among well-informed circles was that the war might go on longer than the military and political leaders of Germany wanted to believe... Von Stohrer's purpose in this long conversation was quite clear. He wanted to use me to warn Berlin against any undue optimism as far as Spain's entry into the war was concerned." (Walter Schellenberg, The Labyrinth, pp. 113-5.)

                However, the accuracy of Schellenberg's reporting should be taken with a grain of salt. Thus, we know that after several embarrassing failures of the early period (the "Paul Lewis Claire" episode and the detention, albeit brief, of Lieutenant Colonel Dudley Wrangel Clarke in a main street in Madrid "dressed, down to a brassière, as a woman," as the British embassy reported to London the following day, the SIS station under Leonard Hamilton Stokes had some striking successes. Thus, in late 1942 it helped to neutralise Germany's infrared surveillance system (code-named "Bodden"), without doubt the one mentioned by Schellenberg, aimed at detecting Allied shipping passing through the Straits of Gibraltar. "Intelligence about Bodden obtained by SIS and the Admiralty," the Official Historian of the Service writes, "was used by [Sir Samuel Hoare, British ambassador in Madrid from June 1940 to December 1944, but also a former Foreign Secretary and a former intelligence officer] from May 1942 onwards to embarrass Franco into ordering the abandonment of the whole undertaking, which was being carried on by the Axis in Spain and Spanish Morocco. By December 1942 Menzies could happily tell Peter Loxley at the Foreign Office that he had learned from 'most secret sources' (signals intelligence) that Hoare's protest of 20 October had 'had a very healthy effect in Spain,' leading to the dismantling of Bodden" (Keith Jeffery, MI6, pp. 402-8).

                JE comments:  My thanks to Boris Volodarsky for joining the conversation.  A question that I'm sure has been addressed by historians:  to what extent was there official interaction between the British and the German diplomatic officers in Madrid during WWII?

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                • Rigmarole and Rigamarole (Randy Black, USA 05/26/13 6:15 AM)
                  In his very interesting post of 25 May, Boris Volodarsky quoted from Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, with an excerpt, "'The long and short of the tedious Spanish rigmarole,' he [Hitler] wrote Mussolini..."

                  I was struck by the word rigmarole and its variant rigamarole. I know the word but it's often misused.

                  Synonyms: double-talk, gobbledygook (also gobbledegook), gibberish.

                  First known use c. 1736. Rigmarole is an alteration of a long list of words.


                  1 : confused or meaningless talk

                  2 : a complex and sometimes ritualistic procedure

                  As in: "We had to go through the rigmarole of installing, registering, and activating the software before we found out it wouldn't work."

                  "He just told us what to do without all the usual rigamarole."

                  In any event, thanks to Boris for reminding us of this interesting word.

                  JE comments: I've always used the "rigamarole" variant, with the extra syllable. Since Shirer was quoting Hitler, it would be interesting to determine what German word was used originally.

                  Randy Black's posting reminds me of the "sockdolager" thread initiated by Robert McCabe a few months ago. Next up (why the heck not?), "caddywumpus," and its variants caddywampus and catawumpus.

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              • UK and Spanish Neutrality in WWII; from Anthony Candil (John Eipper, USA 05/26/13 5:08 AM)
                Anthony J. Candil sends the following:

                I agree totally with Paul Preston (24 May), and certainly do not intend to dispute any of his findings. Let me just make a comment on this issue, which has intrigued me for quite a long time, leading me to do some research for which I have asked official authorization to check the files that are now available, both at the FCO and at the State Department. I'm still working on this.

                My motivation is no other than to shed some light on this fascinating story and make clear for the new generations in Spain that many key relevant personalities with whom we grew up thinking that they were almost heroic chieftains--almost all of them have or had different streets with their names in the main Spanish cities--were in the end no more than corrupt officials and almost traitors to the cause they said they believed in, and to the Head of State to whom they said they were loyal.

                So far I have been able to determine that yes, Sir Winston Churchill authorized funding to be available to bribe some "key Spanish generals" in order to convince them--for a fee--to put some good reasoning in the mind of Franco and, at least, to keep Spain out of WWII and certainly not join the Axis. To me this is perfectly a legitimate weapon of war, and it doesn't suggest any misdemeanor on the part of Churchill.

                However if Churchill did so, he did it following the advice of Captain Alan Hillgarth, a retired Royal Navy officer, who happened to live those days in Palma de Mallorca and was considered an expert on Spanish affairs. Sir Samuel Hoare, the British ambassador in Madrid, shared Hillgarth's view and agreed to the suggestion. So an account was established in New York, in one of the branches of today's UBS, for the amount of $10 million, not the $13 million Paul Preston says, but that could be a mistake somewhere. The exact amount is ultimately of no consequence.

                The problem came when the US administration decided early in 1941 [?] to freeze all banking accounts in the USA linked to warring nations, and Britain was one of these. And that's how the whole thing became public 50 years later, because Churchill wrote personally to FDR asking him not to freeze the "Spanish generals" account on the grounds of the importance of its results for keeping Spain out of the war.

                I'm fully convinced that General Aranda was the head of such a group of generals, and the other ones were likely those who later signed a petition to Franco, in September 1943, to leave office and restore the monarchy on the person of Don Juan de Borbón (General Kindelan, Solchaga, Ponte, Alfonso de Orleans, among others). I haven't found any proof of this, however I'm still looking for some lost link somewhere. It's interesting to remark that all the generals likely involved belonged to the Army and none to the Navy (Kindelan was the chief of the Nationalist Air Force during the Civil War, but even so originally he was an Army [Engineers] officer).

                What I've found is that the only person who ever had access to the funds in that New York account was Mr Juan March, an eccentric Spanish millionaire and clever businessman who had helped the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War, from Palma de Mallorca, who founded the "Banca March" and who was one of the key financial authorities behind the scenes during the Franco era and even helped the present king. Clearly Mr. March was the one who, no doubt about it, played both sides of the fence, as JE has termed it.

                In any case, the whole thing ended after Operation Torch and the Allied landings in North Africa, when the role of Spain wasn't of interest anymore for the Allies. General Aranda even asked in late 1944 for political asylum at the US Embassy after the British Embassy rejected his request. That's why I said that Churchill saw the situation crystal clear--if not in 1940, at least since the end of 1942. In today's released files there is even a letter from General Aranda directly to Churchill asking him, in October 1944, for support to remove Franco and restore the monarchy. (It was a letter that Aranda in a very secretive way managed to pass to the head of the British Institute in Madrid who brought it straight to Downing Street.) Aranda was likely identified as a possible sympathizer for the Allied cause by the Spanish journalist and writer Felipe Fernández Armesto (later nicknamed "Augusto Assia"), father of the present professor of Oxford University, Felipe Fernández-Armesto, and an old friend of mine from my London days.

                On the other hand--and taking into account that I haven't reached yet any conclusion aiming clearly at who, among the generals, and when, and how much they got from the British account--the direction this is taking is leading me to suspect that the main beneficiary of the bribe set up by the British government was none other than Juan March himself, who very likely was misleading the FCO, and even ambassador Samuel Hoare. The generals never traveled outside Spain in those days, Mr. March did frequently, going to Lisbon, London, and even New York, but also to Berlin and Rome. He, if anything, was in charge of making the payments to the generals, and certainly no receipt at all has been found. So, it is very likely that Mr. March simply took most of the money for himself while at the same time he entertained the generals, in Madrid--I am strongly convinced of this--and sent them occasional gifts. Also, again I have no proof yet, some money also likely went to Don Juan de Borbón, then in Switzerland, who those days was in need of financial support to maintain his standard of living. It is my view that Franco was kept aware of most of it--probably not of the origin of the money and gifts Mr. March was giving to the generals--and used this knowledge as a tool of leverage against them when needed. The fact is that all the generals faded away after the war without too much noise and were replaced by younger and not very bright officers extremely loyal to Franco.

                Nevertheless I consider that the whole UK operation was a failure, in the sense that it wasn't really needed and it was an unnecessary waste of money for the British government. Franco had no real intentions of joining the Axis and taking part in the war. The best adviser Franco had was Admiral Canaris, who secretly always conveyed to Franco the message of staying out of the war. On the other hand, the best tools managed by Britain, together with the Americans, to keep Spain out of the war were oil and food, badly needed by Spain then and something that Germany couldn't provide.

                JE comments:  Anthony Candil raises many points here, but the most interesting are the possibility that Mr. March may have pocketed the $10 million in UK funds earmarked for Spain's neutrality, as well as the existence of a generals' plot during WWII to remove Franco and restore the Monarchy.  Did this plot ever go beyond a few letters and contacts with British officials?  General Aranda was arrested in 1943--but survived this ordeal and even outlived Franco.

                Finally, did Captain Hillgarth know Juan March personally from Palma de Mallorca?

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                • Alan Hillgarth and Juan March (John Heelan, UK 05/26/13 12:29 PM)
                  JE asked on 26 May: "Did Captain [Alan] Hillgarth know Juan March personally from Palma de Mallorca?"

                  Yes. This subject is covered comprehensively in Peter Day's 2011 book Franco's Friends--How British Intelligence helped bring Franco to power in Spain (London: Biteback Publishing, 2012).

                  JE comments: Thanks. Henry Levin (next in queue) has posed a question about the controversial multimillionaire Juan March.

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                • Juan March (Henry Levin, USA 05/26/13 12:32 PM)
                  I assume that the Fundación Juan March is named for the same person mentioned in the 26 May post by Anthony Candil. I had several colleagues at Stanford spend time as scholars at that foundation. What is its origin and reputation?


                  JE comments: Juan March got his start as a smuggler in the early 20th century, and seems to have made his first millions trading with both sides during the Great War. His bio has some similarities with that of Joseph Kennedy--shady beginnings, followed by enormous riches, respectability and political power.  March's heirs remain among the wealthiest people in Spain.

                  I'm sure our colleagues (Paul Preston, Ángel Viñas, David Pike and others) could give us many more details on the Fundación Juan March.

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            • Did UK Bribe Spain to Stay out of WWII? (Nigel Jones, UK 05/24/13 3:37 PM)
              I don't quite understand John Eipper's argument that Britain's bribing of the Franco regime to stay out of World War Two "doesn't paint Churchill in the most honourable light." (See JE's comments to Jordi Molins's post of 24 May.) Why on earth not?

              Britain in WWII was engaged in an existential fight for survival against one of the most execrable tyrannies that the world has seen. Particularly in the early part of the War (i.e., before Russia and the US were forced into it) Britain was alone in that fight and it was vital that it did not add Spain to an already strong assortment of enemies. Bribing Franco's Generals and officials with gold was both cheaper and less wasteful than declaring war.

              JE comments: Absolutely; it was a bargain. I was suggesting that Churchill's payment hinted of a tribute, although on second thought, it could just as reasonably be considered an intelligence expense, akin to paying spies or informants.

              "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute," has alternately been attributed to delegates Charles Pinckney or Robert Goodloe Harper in 1797, after the US refused to pay bribes to French officials to stop their attacks on American shipping.


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        • Raymond Proctor's *Agony of a Neutral*; a Meeting with Oswald Mosley (David Pike, France 05/25/13 4:27 AM)
          Paul Preston wrote on May 23 that as far as he knew, the work of Raymond Proctor had not been published in English. But it was published, as Agony of a Neutral (Moscow, Idaho: Idaho Research Foundation, 1974).

          Proctor's brainstorm in that year 1974, of going to Madrid to present his book to Franco in person and thereby obtain the coveted photograph of the two together, gave me the idea, one year later, of sending my own book, Les Français et la guerre d'Espagne, directly to the Caudillo. His chief of staff opened it, and having little knowledge of French he no doubt judged the book by the photographs. His eye would have lighted on the CNT cartoon of Stalin as May Days rapist-murderer. Reaching a quick conclusion, he wrote to congratulate me, as shown in the image below. Three days later the Caudillo suffered his last heart attack. Curiously enough, the book gave the same false impression to Sir Oswald Mosley, Baronet, former leader of the British Union of Fascists, who after seeing it wrote to say how pleased he was that I had come over to his camp. Since what he and I really had in common was a passion for fencing (he was an Olympic and I a university team captain), invitations followed, his to his country estate with its swans gliding in the lake, and mine to address my class at the American University of Paris, where he showed my students how all of Europe's current problems could quickly find a solution, "though not without pain." Thatcher followed, but in gentler form.

          Since we are currently discussing the Blue Division and its evolution in late 1943 into the Blue Legion, I would mention the report I found in Freiburg-im-Breisgau (Spanische Legion, S. 168) dated February 1944, in which a General der Infanterie reports: "The Spanish troops were known from the start for a lack of discipline behind the front so extreme that in no way did it correspond to the concept of a civilized army." The report concluded: "It is absolutely necessary to protect the Estonian population from the transgressions committed by the Spaniards. I ask that the Legion's stay in Estonia be the shortest possible and that arrangements be made for its rapid departure."

          JE comments: Three years ago David Pike sent a detailed post on his two meetings with Mosley. It's worth revisiting:


          In the above post, David mentions that he recorded his conversations with Sir Oswald.  Have these tapes ever been published?

          Also, our colleague Nigel Jones published a biography on Sir Oswald titled Mosley, from 2005.

          Here is the 21 October 1975 letter sent to David from Miguel Cruz Hernández, Franco's Chief of Staff:

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          • A New Book on Weapons and Gold in the Spanish Civil War (Angel Vinas, Belgium 05/26/13 4:27 AM)
            I didn't know about David Pike's meeting with Oswald Mosley, which I find absolutely fascinating. (See David's post of 25 May.)

            I'm working pretty hard to finalise the third revision of my next book on weapons and gold in the Spanish Civil War (several Francoist and right-wing myths will be compared with the relevant documentary evidence), but I would like to inform colleagues interested in the "Blue Division" and able to read Spanish to refer to the various articles lately published in Cuadernos de Historia Contemporánea (revistas.ucm.es), in particular the following issues: extra 2007, nº 31 (2009), and nº 34 (2012). Many of the questions raised in this recent WAIS exchange have found some evidence-based answers in those articles. Unfortunately, I have no time to deal with them in detail.

            On the other hand, colleagues will allow me to express some surprise for the lack of professionalism in Gen. Franco's military cabinet (not for the repression, though). One has to go a long way indeed to find formal letters written in such execrable French.

            JE comments: Mais, oui. Best of luck to Ángel Viñas as he finalizes his manuscript. Some years ago I read Gerald Howson's Arms for Spain (1998).  It will be very interesting to see Ángel's contribution to this important topic.

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            • Gerald Howson's *Arms for Spain* (Angel Vinas, Belgium 05/27/13 8:45 AM)
              I´m a very good friend of Gerald Howson. (See JE's comments on Howson's Arms for Spain, 26 May.)

              I think his book is an outstanding contribution to the debunking of Francoist myths. My own work completes that debunking. I basically use Spanish primary sources which no historian has yet consulted. However, I disagree with Gerald on a fundamental point which has been taken by neo-Francoist and conservative historians with alacrity: the notion that the Spanish Republic was subject to a massive fraud by the Soviets by way of overpricing the military supplies. My own research shows that it was Franco who was overpriced by his comrades in arms, Hitler and Mussolini. The book is due in September.

              JE comments:  The point I remember clearest from Howson's book is that Franco received on credit the latest weaponry from Italy and Germany, whereas the Republic was forced to pay in gold for obsolete French and iffy Soviet matériel.  The credit factor, according to Howson, made the crucial difference:  Mussolini and Hitler had a vested interest in a Franco victory, or else they wouldn't be repaid.

              So it turns out Franco was duped, too?  I very much look forward to Ángel Viñas's new insights.

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              • Gerald Howson (Paul Preston, UK 05/28/13 4:19 AM)
                Ángel Viñas (27 May) is right about the fact that the Soviets' pricing of their aid was not fraudulent. In fact, Gerald Howson, who is also a close friend of mine, is writing a new book and he will be arguing precisely this point on the basis of Russian documentation.

                WAISers who may be familiar with Arms for Spain may not know that Gerald, in his day, was a significant flamenco guitarist. After demobilization from the British army in 1947 (he served in Palestine), he went to live with the gypsies in the caves outside Cádiz. His book on his experiences (The Flamencos of Cádiz Bay) is wonderment to be placed alongside the works of Richard Ford and Gerald Brenan.

                JE comments: A true polymath. I just Googled Gerald Howson, and I came across a number of Facebook photos titled "A Very Polish Affair." I'm a Luddite and don't "do" Facebook, but I gather from what I've been able to see that Howson visited Poland in 1959.  The series contains somber images from Warsaw, Krakow, and Lublin, Aldona's hometown.

                Can Paul Preston tell us anything about these photos?


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              • Soviet Weaponry and Spanish Republic (Angel Vinas, Belgium 05/28/13 4:42 AM)
                Following up on JE's comments to my post of 28 May, I'd like to make two points regarding the quality of Soviet weaponry. Only on two occasions did the Soviets send antique war matériel. The first shipment was made on the Campeche, the first cargo ship (in reality oil tanker) which arrived in Spain in the early October 1936 days. The reasons why this was sent are obscure. The second and last shipment was made in mid-1938. It basically involved artillery.

                The abundance of obsolete Russian war matériel (mainly light weapons) was because, thanks to the non-intervention policy imposed by the Western democratic powers, the Republic had to circumvent it by way of countries such as Poland, Finland and the Baltic States, which took advantage of the Spanish predicament to sell of their old Russian weaponry at exorbitant prices. This development was picked up by British Military Intelligence as early as November 1936. French material was, in general, not so bad except in aircraft, where the Republic depended on the USSR. It was however vastly overpriced, courtesy of the French Popular Front to their Spanish counterparts. As the French say le pognon, c´est le pognon.

                The Germans also sent Franco old war matériel, mainly heavy artillery. Nor were their initial aircraft a match for Soviet planes. The equipment of the Legion Condor was therefore modernised in early 1937. It came as a shock in Berlin that the Soviet Untermenschen could produce better planes than the Aryan race.

                The credit factor is something I explored, with Spanish documentation, as far back as 1976 and 1979 in my first books. I've now brought it up to date. Both Mussolini and Hitler were repaid after long protracted negotiations, but in vastly different circumstances as those obtaining during the civil war. Basically Franco had no problem with his external financing from the very beginning. This is something whose documentary demonstration has studiously been avoided by historians.

                Too bad.

                JE comments:  Le pognon, c'est le pognon--money is money?  I think the French are pointing out a universal truth:  in all but the most extraordinary circumstances, money trumps politics and ideology.

                Fascinating information from Ángel Viñas.  It's a revelation to me that the weaponry sent by the Soviets was often of the latest technology, although the standard Soviet infantry rifle through WWII (Mosin-Nagant 7.62 mm) was a design that first appeared in 1891.

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                • Soviet Weaponry (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 05/28/13 6:25 AM)
                  JE wrote on 28 May: "It's a revelation to me that the weaponry sent by the Soviets [to the Spanish Republic] was often of the latest technology, although the standard Soviet infantry rifle through WWII (Mosin-Nagant 7.62 mm) was a design that first appeared in 1891."

                  It's a little-known fact that the Soviets actually did pretty well in the production of military matériel during WWII, and certainly much better than the Germans did. We all know about Lend-Lease which supplied about 10% of the matériel used by the Soviets, but we know fairly little about the high volumes of production the Soviets achieved during the war, despite having had to pack up their factories lock, stock and barrel and move them to the Urals, to get them out of the path of the advancing Germans.

                  The Soviets were more successful at some types of matériel than others--for example, they made superb tanks, in huge quantities, but relied on the US for their trucks. Some of their aircraft were pretty good, if not a match for the later designs of the Germans. But unlike the Germans, the Soviets produced enough warm clothing and boots--items of matériel no less, and perhaps more important than any weapon, for an army fighting in a harsh climate.

                  If we are talking about technology--then a good indicator is the tank, the most important single weapon system of the war. The Soviets not only far outperformed the Germans in terms of productive capacity, their tanks were also technologically superior to those of the Germans. Soviet success in military production was probably what played the key role in the defeat of the Germans--allowing them to prevail despite mostly poor military leadership and tactics, much inferior to that of the Germans.

                  The case of the Mosin rifle doesn't really show anything--infantry rifles have not generally been high-tech goods, frequently redesigned. The US Army's main infantry weapon, the M16, is now older than the Mosin was in 1941. And although the Mosin design is now over 100 years old, the rifle is still in service today with the militaries of various nations. The Mosin has been much prized as a sniper rifle since before the famous exploits of the Soviet sniper Zaitsev at Stalingrad, and is used for that purpose even today by the Finnish Army, among others.

                  JE comments: Yes, the Mosin rifle is a classic--accurate, easy to clean with no tools, and virtually indestructible. Full disclosure: I own a Mosin, from 1917, that I use for WWI re-enacting. Even at nearly 100 years old, it fires blank rounds with confidence and reliability. A loud and intimidating tribute to Russian technology.  (I've never tried it with actual bullets.)

                  For the details of my geeky yet fascinating hobby, click here:


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                  • Soviet Weaponry (Harry Guilbeau, USA 05/28/13 5:29 PM)
                    In response to Cameron Sawyer (28 May), my understanding of Soviet tank superiority was partly due to the fact that they could get started in cold weather. The German tanks had lead/acid battery starters, which did not do well in cold weather. Germany had hoped for a quick victory and to withdraw before the harsh Soviet winter. The Russian tanks had compressed air starters instead of batteries and did well in extremely cold weather.

                    JE comments: It is a joy to hear from veteran WAISer Harry Guilbeau, who by my quick calculation hasn't written the Forum in five years (a bit more, actually: Harry's last post was from 14 March 2008--my birthday).

                    Hope all is well, Harry. Please don't make us wait another five years!

                    I had no idea about the T-34 tank's compressed air starter. But I found this Service Manual from 1942, translated into English. A fascinating read for fans of WWII's most effective tank:


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                  • Soviet Weaponry (Tor Guimaraes, USA 05/28/13 6:31 PM)
                    I enjoyed reading Cameron Sawyer's 28 May post but was a little surprised that there was no mention of the Shturmovik ground attack airplane, which played a critical role for the USSR in WWII. According to Wikipedia, it is "the single most produced military aircraft design in all of aviation history."

                    JE comments: We haven't dealt thus with specific Soviet weapons, other than the venerable Mosin-Nagant rifle. But one thing we should take away from this discussion is that it wasn't merely the cold and the USSR's infinite supply of manpower that won the war--they developed first-rate weapons and manufactured them in sufficient numbers to prevail over Germany.

                    Next up: Randy Black on the Mosin-Nagant.

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                  • Mosin-Nagant Rifle (Randy Black, USA 05/28/13 6:42 PM)
                    When Cameron Sawyer and John Eipper mentioned the Russian Mosin-Nagant rifle as being part of the arsenal of the pre-Bolshevik and the USSR military, it struck a chord with me (see the 28 May post from Cameron).

                    The background on this Russian-American rifle is that it was introduced-developed by the Russian Imperial Army in 1882. Leading up to the October Revolution, the Russians could not produce them in effective numbers, thus more than three million were ordered from two US factories in 1916: New England Westinghouse and Remington.

                    However, while several million were delivered to the Russians, hundreds of thousands were not delivered by the time the revolution was over and the victors defaulted on payment to the American companies. Had not the US government stepped in and purchased the surplus production, the two firms would have bankrupted. See Wikipedia.

                    Thereafter, the rifles were used in firearms training by the US Army, the National Guard and even high school ROTC units.

                    The rifles were considered effective to about 350 yards but had only a 5-round internal magazine. Many distributed in the USA were later rechambered to the US 30-06 cartridge, and tens of thousands have been sold to American civilian hunters and collectors over the decades.

                    The monthly National Rifle Association even has an ad for the Mosin in its June 2013 edition on page 22. The ad is headlined "Quick! Before it's too late. $799, scope included. Get one before it's destroyed." It's billed as a WWII sniper version.

                    On the matter of which is older, the M16 or the Mosin-Nagant, the M16 was introduced in 1963, which makes it 50 years old this year. The Mosin was introduced in the era, 1882-1891. Thus, the two are approximately the same age as the Mosin was by 1941.

                    However, the M16 that I trained with at Fort Ord, California in 1970 has no technical resemblance to the one that I might shoot in 2013. The Mosin never really changed or improved over its military lifetime, as far as I can tell. Later models of the M16 improved reliability and accuracy tremendously.

                    The M16 that I fired "expert rifleman" with was not particularly accurate at great distances, nor reliable if dirty, a common problem in the wet conditions of Vietnam.

                    I recall shooting my M16 at a target about 300 yards down range on a late spring day when the sun was just above the horizon to my right. The round reflected the fading light as it tumbled end over end at the apogee of its flight about half way to the target. I commented to my drill sergeant that the round appeared to be flying end over end. He confirmed my theory with his that if the round hit someone while tumbling, it would inflict far more damage than if it were just drilling a small hole in the enemy. "That's good, right?" I asked. He smiled and went to the soldier's station.

                    Many American soldiers considered the M16 a "worthless piece of cow dung." Its feeding ramps were unreliable, the internals rusted quickly, the gas powered rifle tended to leak, the flash suppressor was not effective, the springs were weak, the magazines jammed if fully loaded and the extraction mechanism jammed way too often.

                    The biggest surprise was that when I broke my M16 down for cleaning the first time in 1970, the production stamp on the inside of the handgrip displayed the "If it's made by Mattel, it's swell" logo of the famous American toy manufacturer! Mattel made the grips for this weapon throughout the Vietnam War. As a point of reference, Mattel also made the Barbie doll. Colt made the rest of the rifle, but it was never respected by the soldiers who carried it into battle.

                    Most of those flaws were fixed in later versions but the early ones caused the deaths of many US soldiers in Southeast Asia.

                    To this day, I would not own one nor would want one if it were free.

                    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosin%E2%80%93Nagant#United_States

                    JE comments: This explains the universal preference for the AK-47. One remark on gun pricing: $799 for a Mosin-Nagant? I paid $85 for mine ten years ago, albeit without a scope.

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          • David Pike's *France Divided* (Paul Preston, UK 05/26/13 4:51 AM)

            What a fascinating post by David Pike!  WAISers might like to know that there exists an updated version in English of David's superb study of the press and popular opinion in France during the Spanish Civil War: David Wingeate Pike, France Divided. The French and the Civil War in Spain (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press/Cañada Blanch, 2011).

            JE comments:  The Oswald Mosley entry in Wikipedia reports that in 2008, BBC History Magazine named him the "worst Briton" of the 20th century.  It must have been intimidating for David Pike to meet him, even before Mosley received this dubious honor.

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      • Division Azul Histories and Memoirs; from Anthony J. Candil (John Eipper, USA 05/23/13 9:01 AM)
        Anthony J. Candil (Austin, Texas) sends this response to Eugenio Battaglia's post of 23 May:

        Yes, basically what Eugenio says is correct. However initially the División Azul after the disaster of Krasny Bor--Red Wood--on February 10, 1943, and being almost wiped out, was withdrawn from the front and started reorganizing in some rear area in Lithuania. Back in Spain, Franco gave way to British advice and pressure and made the decision to withdraw the bulk of the division. That's why slowly some units started being repatriated and my uncle managed to get back so early to Spain, after having being in combat for almost a year and a half.

        Nevertheless a new unit renamed Legión Azul--Blue Legion--kind of a reinforced infantry battalion, remained in Russia until 1944, in early April. After that Franco's government decided that whoever wanted to continue the fighting could do so on his own decision, but those enlisting in the Wehrmacht would be deprived of Spanish citizenship. Those are the ones who joined the Waffen SS and took part even in the Battle for Berlin. Their commander was a major named Miguel Ezquerra, who eventually managed not to be taken prisoner either by the Soviets or the Allies. After a long and hazardous trip he reached Spain. I have friends who knew him.

        On John Eipper's question about returned captives writing their memoirs, there are two who come to mind. One was Captain Teodoro Palacios, who wrote a book titled Embajador en el Infierno--Ambassador to Hell--that was later used as script for a movie with the same title. Another, and in my opinion much better, book was written by Captain Gerardo Oroquieta, titled De Leningrado a Odessa. Both books are in Spanish and haven't been translated into English, as far as I know.

        I once met Captain Oroquieta, because my father knew him. He was reinstated in the Spanish Army and became a full colonel later on. Captain Palacios achieved the rank of Brigadier General, because he was awarded by Franco the San Fernando Cross--the highest Spanish military award for combat. Their ordeal anyway was impressive, as they were POWs for eleven years in the Soviet Union and returned to Spain in 1954, once Stalin had died. I don't have any proof of this, but it has been said that the blame for such a long time in captivity was due to members of the Spanish Communist Party (PCE) living in the USSR who advised the Soviets not to ever return the Spanish POWs as long as Franco stayed in power. Names associated with this are Dolores Ibarruri--La Pasionaria--and even Santiago Carrillo. Maybe Paul Preston knows more.

        The story of Captain Oroquieta was very impressive, because up to a point he was even legally pronounced dead and funerals took place at a church in his birthplace, in San Sebastián, in the Basque Country. He was a truly Basque officer. Most prisoners--about 5,000--returned to Spain in 1954 on board of a ship named Semiramis hired by the International Red Cross that made the trip from Odessa to Barcelona. Maybe this is why they now want to pay such a tribute to them in Barcelona.

        Nevertheless, besides the Division Azul there were other military units that were sent by Franco to Russia as a contribution to the fight on the Eastern Front. Such as several fighter groups from the Spanish Air Force that were integrated into the Luftwaffe--they were deployed in the Southern theater under Army Group South--and even a minesweeping squadron of the Spanish Navy integrated into the Kriegsmarine was operating in the Baltic Sea. But that's another story.

        JE comments:  All most interesting.  After the war did Franco quickly "re-naturalize" the Spanish soldiers who had forfeited their citizenship by joining the Wehrmacht?

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        • Division Azul Prisoners in the USSR; from Anthony J. Candil (John Eipper, USA 05/25/13 5:08 AM)
          Anthony J. Candil sends this followup to his post of 23 May:

          A small correction, please! I apologize but in my post on the División Azul POWs I misstated the number who returned to Spain in 1954.

          There were never 5,000 ex-prisoners returning from the USSR; I was thinking of the casualties figures. They were just 248 men from the Division Azul--3 were Air Force pilots from the Escuadrilla Azul who fought with the Luftwaffe--on the Semiramis on April 2, 1954 when they disembarked at Barcelona's harbor, as I said, after 11 years of captivity through a variety of Soviet prison camps, many of them in Siberia. Among the prisoners were both Captain Teodoro Palacios Cueto and Captain Gerardo Oroquieta Arbiol. They were also another 34 Spaniards who came along and didn't belong to the División Azul.

          As I said before, Captain Palacios was promoted to Brigadier General in 1972 and died in 1980. Captain Oroquieta died from a stroke--already a full Colonel--in 1972. At the time he was the CO of the Mountain Infantry Regiment Sicilia 67, in San Sebastián, a unit that still exists today although it has no real operational role anymore in the Spanish Army. Both were taken prisoner at the Battle of Krasny-Bor. Captain Oroquieta was the CO of Company 3, Reserve Battalion 250 of the Division. Only 12 men survived from his company, and Captain Palacios was the CO of Company 5, 2d Battalion, Regiment 262, in which only 35 men survived (a typical infantry company in the División Azul had a regular strength of approximately 200 men).

          According to the late professor Gabriel Cardona (University of Barcelona and former officer of the Spanish Army), the casualties of the División Azul were 4,954 men killed and 8,700 wounded, plus 372 taken prisoner by the Russians, out of a total of circa 47,000 men who fought within its ranks.

          I thank professor Stanley G. Payne, who advised me of my mistake.

          Please see enclosed the funeral leaflet for Captain Oroquieta, which were distributed on March 10, 1943 at the church in San Sebastián. This is really a must for historians! Happily, when Oroquieta reappeared in 1954 his former sweetheart had remained single, and finally they got married and had three sons. Different fates happened to others who discovered that their wives had assumed them dead and married other men.

          JE comments:  Here is Oroquieta's "death" notice from 1943.  Fascinating--the Captain's alma still had 29 years to serve on this earth:

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  • More "Volunteers" in the Division Azul (Paul Preston, UK 05/22/13 4:43 AM)
    Henry Levin's story of his sogre (21 May) makes perfect sense.

    Some of the members of the División Azul were convinced Falangists and others went to get out of jail, to avoid starvation or to put an end to their political persecution. José, the father of my closest friend in Spain, was a doctor who served on both sides. He had completed his medical studies in Madrid where, at the Residencia de Estudiantes, became a friend of Lorca and Buñuel. On his return to the Levante to start his career, he was called up to fight for the Republic. He was captured by the Francoists and, because of his medical skills, was recycled into the rebel forces. His father, Nicolás, a liberal and also a doctor, had been one of the most prominent Republicans in their home town and had, in fact, famously proclaimed the Republic on 14 April 1931, personally raising the Republican flag on the town hall.

    In 1941, he was in jail under sentence of death for this crime. To get him out, José and his brother volunteered to serve in the División Azul. Like Henry's sogre, he never wanted to talk about it. A similar story could be told of Luis García Berlanga, the great Spanish film director. His motives for volunteering were similar. The difference was that he would talk about it.

    JE comments:  In the US Civil War, combatants who changed sides were known as "galvanized."  The term usually referred to Confederate POWs who donned the blue uniform to get out of prison, but I presume there were also some Northerners who switched to gray.  The ex-Confederate Yankees were often sent to frontier duty in the West, where their loyalties would not be put to the test. 

    "Galvanized" soldiers are traitors to one side and never fully trusted by the other, but civil wars are like that.  People do what they must in order to survive.

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