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Written By: Peter Ayers Wimbrow, III
*Click images below to view larger versions.
Gen. Franco reviewing victorious troops in Chevy trucks.
Victory Parade
Gen. Franco at the reviewing stand as 200,000 troops march by as part of the victory parade in Madrid 19 May 1939. The parade lasted more than five hours.
Gen. Baron Dr. Wolfram von Richthofen.
Franco's Morrocan troops.
Victory Parade in Madrid.
Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon.
Nationalist Victory Parade.
   This week, 70 years ago, the world witnessed the official celebration of the Nationalist’s victory over Republican Spain, with a huge parade down Madrid’s “Broadway,” La Gran Vía, from the Calle de Alcalá to the Plaza de España.  
    The parade had originally been scheduled in April, shortly after El Caudillo announced the end of the war.  It was then postponed to May 2nd.  Finally, May 15th was set as the date.  Then Generalísimo Francisco Franco, speaking from Málaga, hinted that he could not consider the war over, and there came reports from Rome that the parade would take place on May 30th.  It was said that some of Franco’s monarchist supporters objected to Italian participation. However it went forward on Friday, May 19th in a driving rain.               
    On that day,  El Caudillo was driven in an open car, escorted by his loyal mounted Moroccan warriors along La Gran Vía, to the reviewing stand, cheered by the crowd. After he arrived at the reviewing stand, he was presented with the Grand Cross of San Fernando, with Laurels Spain’s highest military honor.   
    Then, more than 160,000 selected Nationalist Troops, with 3,000 trucks, 1,000 canons, 3,000 machine guns marched in review, together with 700 planes overhead.  First came 10,000 soldiers of the Cuerpo Legionario Italiano, led by its Commander, General Gastone Gambara. As they passed, tens of thousands of Madrileños cheered them with shouts of, “Viva el Duce!” and “Viva Italia!”  They were followed by the units of the Nationalist’s Ejército Nacional, including, among others the Spanish Foreign Legion, Fuerzas Regulares Indígenas of Morocco, the monarchist Carlists from Navarre with their red berets and the fascist Falangists with their blue shirts. The Portuguese Legiäo Viriato, contributed by Portuguese dictator António Salazar, also passed in front of El Caudillo.
     In the skies above, veteran German pilots of the Legion Kondor and the Italian pilots of the Aviazione Legionaria, joined with their Spanish compañeros of the Fuerza Aérea Nacional, to form the words “VIVA FRANCO” above the marching troops.  The pilots of the Fuerza Aérea Nacional  were led, in that formation, by Commander and Ace, Ángel Salas Larrazábal. Commander Salas would later lead the Escuadrilla Azul against the Soviet Union, as part of the Luftwaffe, under the command of Baron von Richthofen.
    The 5,000 man German contingent, on the ground, bringing up the rear, was led by Luftwaffe General Baron Dr. Wolfram von Richthofen, who wrote in his diary, “I am driving at the front. The spectators go wild.”  The General was a cousin of the famed “Red Baron” of World War I fame, planned the raid on Guernica and would earn the coveted Field Marshal’s baton in 1943.  As a result of his experience in Spain, he was able to bring the Luftwaffe’s ground support tactics to their maximum effectiveness, which the Wehrmacht would demonstrate in Poland, France, Belgium, Holland, Yugoslavia, Greece and the Soviet Union. As the German soldiers passed the wildly cheering Madrileños, they were greeted with, “Viva el Führer!” and “Viva Alemania!”
    El Caudillo could see the adulation of the Troops while they marched in review, as he watched from a raised platform on the Castellana, renamed “Avenida del Generalissimo,” above which was a triumphant arch.  Upon the top of the arch was emblazoned, in gold, the word VICTORIA, while  FRANCO was emplaced three  times on each side.  For the occasion, he wore the blue shirt of the fascist Falange Party and the red beret their of their enemies, the monarchist Carlist party. For five hours, he watched as the Troops marched, and tanks rumbled, past, and the planes roared overhead.
    The following day, El Caudillo de España, Generalísimo Francisco Franco attended services at the Cathedral of Santa Barbara, where he prayed that God help him lead his people to, “...full imperial liberty, for Thy glory and that of Thy Church.”  Strewn upon the steps at the entrance to the church were 10,000 palms. There, the Generalisimo surrendered his sword to Cardinal Isadoro Goma y Tomás, and gave thanks for his victory, “... over the enemies of truth.”
    The German contribution to the Nationalist’s war effort was channeled, primarily through the Legion Kondor, which is most famous for its aerial component, although it had an armored component as well. The Kriegsmarine also contributed. No more than 10,000 Germans served in Spain at one time. In all, about 19,000 served, of which 298 died. The Legion lost 232 aircraft. The cost, to the Reich, was half a billion Reichsmarks or $215,000,000 in 1939 dollars. The Legion’s first commander, Hugo Sperrle and Baron von Richthofen became Luftwaffe Field Marshals.
    The Italian contribution to the Nationalist’ cause came in the form of, first, Corpo Truppe Volontarie, which was later changed to Cuerpo Legionario Italiano, and Aviazione Legionaria. There were also contributions from the Regia Marina. At its height, the Italian contingent numbered about 50,000, with a total of 78,500 serving, of which 6,000 were killed and about 12,000 wounded. The economic cost, of $400,000,000 - almost 20% of the Italian budget - was so crippling that Italy never really recovered.
    20,000 Portuguese served the Nationalist cause in the Legião Viriato, of which 8,000 died. It was named for Viriathus, who led the resistance against the occupation of Lusitania, which, more or less, became Portugal.
    The losing Republican cause was aided by 32,000 volunteers from 52 nations serving in the International Brigades. These included: the famed American Abraham Lincoln and George Washington Battalions, which, due to heavy casualties were later combined with the Canadian Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion; the Italian Garibaldi and Figlio Battalions; the German Thälmann, Hans Beimler and Edgar André Battalions; the Latin-American Español Battalion; the French André Marty, Commune de Paris, Henri Barbusse, Henri Vuilleman, Louise Michel, Marseillaise, and Pierre Brachet Battalions; the Austrian Zwölfte Februar Battalion; the Czechoslovakian Tomas Masaryk Battalion; the Polish Mickiewicz and Dabrowski Battalions and the British Battalion. Of these volunteers, 9,934 (16%) were killed and 7,686 (12.9%) were wounded. Nine hundred Americans died fighting for the Republican cause in Spain.
    The U.S.S.R. sent 2000 pilots and tankers to aid the Republicans, although there were never more than 700 in the country at any one time. Several future Soviet Marshals served in Spain, including Kirill Meretskov, Rodion Malinovsky, Grigory Kulik, and Ivan Konev.
    Spanish deaths totaled more than 500,000, of which many were by execution. The Republicans executed, at least, 37,843, of which 7,000 were Catholic clerics. As many as 200,000 were executed by the Franco government. As late as 1940, there were still 280,000 Spaniards imprisoned by the Franco government. Knowing what awaited them at the hands of the Nationalists, 500,000 Republican supporters fled the country, as the end came.
    On October 17, 2008, Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón, in a 68-page opinion, granted a Petition to open 19 mass graves, thought to contain thousands of bodies of the victims of Nationalists’ executions. As of that date, according to the Judge’s investigation, 114,266 victims have been identified. Judge Garzón, it may be remembered, attempted to prosecute former Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet for “Crimes Against Humanity,” and has opened investigations into the conduct of several Bush Administration officials for their part in sanctioning and/or authorizing the torture of prisoners.
    El Caudillo, Generalísimo Francisco Franco had said, at the beginning of the war, that, “I will save Spain from Marxism at any price.” When asked, “Even if it means killing half of Spain?,” Franco replied, “I repeat, at any price.”  The price had been nearly that.

Mr. Wimbrow writes from Ocean City, Maryland, where he practices law representing those persons accused of criminal and traffic offenses, and those persons who have suffered a personal injury through no fault of their own.
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