Spanish Civil War, 1938–1939

Spanish Civil War, 1938–1939

This article covers the Spanish Civil War in the period from the start of 1938 to the end of 1939.

By this period, Franco had already become dominant. Yet the outcome of the war was still not certain. This was to progressively change as the Nationalist foces notched up several victories.

The battle of Teruel was an important confrontation between Nationalists and Republicans. The city belonged to the Republicans at the beginning of the battle, but the Nationalists conquered it in January. The Republican government launched an offensive and recovered the city, however the Nationalists finally conquered it for good by February 22. On April 14, the Nationalists broke through to the Mediterranean Sea during the Aragon Offensive, cutting the government-held portion of Spain in two. The government tried to sue for peace in May, but Franco demanded unconditional surrender, and the war raged on. The Nationalist army pressed southward from Teruel and along the coast toward the capital of the Republic at Valencia but were halted in heavy fighting along the fortified XYZ Line.

The government now launched an all-out campaign to distract the Nationalists from their attack on Valencia and to reconnect their territory in the Battle of the Ebro, beginning on July 24 and lasting until November 26. Although the campaign was militarily successful at first, it was fatally undermined by the Franco-British appeasement of Hitler in Munich. The concession of Czechoslovakia destroyed the last vestiges of Republican morale by ending all hope of an anti-fascist alliance with the great powers. The Republicans were eventually defeated and withdrew in November 1938, another significant step towards Franco's final victory.

The retreat from the Ebro all but determined the final outcome of the war. Eight days before the new year, Franco struck back by throwing massive forces into an invasion of Catalonia.

The Nationalists conquered Catalonia in a whirlwind campaign during the first two months of 1939. Tarragona fell on January 14, followed by Barcelona on January 26 and Girona on February 5. Five days after the fall of Girona, the last resistance in Catalonia was broken.

On February 27, the governments of the United Kingdom and France recognized the Franco regime.

Only Madrid and a few other strongholds remained for the government forces. On March 28, with the help of pro-Franco forces inside the city (the "fifth column" General Mola had mentioned in propaganda broadcasts in 1936), Madrid fell to the Nationalists. The next day, Valencia, which had held out under the guns of the Nationalists for close to two years, also surrendered. Victory was proclaimed on April 1, when the last of the Republican forces surrendered.

After the end of the War, there were harsh reprisals against Franco's former enemies on the left, when thousands of Republicans were imprisoned and between 10,000 and 28,000 executed. Many other Republicans fled abroad, especially to France and Mexico.

Detailed chronology: 1938

; January 8: Republican troops commanded by Generals Hernández Sarabia and Leopoldo Menéndez take the city of Teruel, surrendered by Colonel Rey d'Harcourt. The harsh winter conditions prevent the timely arrival of troops sent by Franco under the command of Generals Varela and Aranda.; February 20: Republican troops are forced to abandon Teruel and follow the highway to Valencia, under pressure from Moroccan troops commanded by General Yagüe. End of the Battle of Teruel.; March 6: The naval battle of Cape Palos (a Nationalist heavy cruiser "Baleares" is sunk by Republican destroyers).; March 13: France reopens its borders for the transit of arms to the Republican zone.; April 5: Socialist minister of defense Indalecio Prieto quits in protest at the level of Soviet influence over the army. ; April 15: The Nationalists reach the Mediterranean at Vinaròs, dividing the Republican zone in two.; June: France once again closes its borders.; July 5: The international Non-Intervention Committee reaches an agreement regarding the withdrawal of all foreign volunteers from Spain.; July 24: Start of the Battle of the Ebro. Republican forces attempt to divert the Nationalists from attacking Valencia and to diminish the pressure on Catalonia. At first, the Republican troops, commanded by General Modesto, achieve considerable success, but were limited by superior Nationalist air power. Heavy combat continued into November; September 21: Doctor Negrín, head of the Republican government, in a speech to the League of Nations, announced that the International Brigades will be pulled from the combat zones. The withdrawal begins October 4.; October 30: The Nationalists counterattack, forcing Republican troops back across the Ebro.; November 16: End of the Battle of the Ebro.; December 23: The battle for Barcelona begins. A six-pronged Nationalist attack is launched, with separate columns from the Pyrenees to the Ebro. They take Borges Blanques, surround Tarragona and reach the outskirts of Barcelona. The Republican government retreats from Barcelona to Gerona, although troops continue to maintain the defense of the city.

Detailed chronology: 1939

; January 15: France once again allows arms to flow to the Republic.; January 26: Barcelona falls into Nationalist hands.; February 5: The l War within the Civil War. The Consejo de Defensa Nacional, headed by Colonel Casado, tries without success to negotiate with Franco.
The Republican government goes into exile in France.;March 28: With the virtual disintegration of the Republican army, the Nationalists take Madrid.;March 29: Effective end of hostilities.;April 1: Franco announces the end of the war.

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