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Major Battles of the Spanish Civil War

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Spain in Revolt Videos

Presented here are parts two (in two segments) and three of the Spain in Revolt newsreel. Unfortunately part one of the newsreel has been lost and is unavailable. This newsreel was created at the time of the war and was intended for American audiences. It takes a mainly pro-Loyalist, anti-fascist viewpoint, which at the time was far from the near universal American viewpoint that would exist after the beginning of World War II.

This movie is in the Public Domain.

The siege of Madrid

Since late July 1936 rebel troops under the command of General Mola had been threatening Madrid from the north. Mola's troops had captured the Somosierra passes, but were unable to move forward from that position, due to low ammunition levels and resistance from militia units from Madrid. In the south of Spain the Army of Africa under the command of General Franco had been making swift progress towards the capital. By September 3rd they had captured Talavera de la Reina, the last significant town between the Army of Africa and Madrid. Most expected the capital to fall quickly, but Franco provided breathing room by choosing to relieve the Alcázar at Toledo, where rebels, mostly Civil Guards, had been besieged since the uprising began. This provided Franco with a great propaganda coup and helped to consolidate his position as one of the most important Generals in the rebel camp. However the delay in the assault on Madrid allowed the defenders time to prepare some fortifications.

On November 4th 1936 Franco's troops captured three suburbs of Madrid and it was clear the assault on the capital would begin shortly. The Republican government convinced the CNT to join the government. The following day the government of the Republic abandoned Madrid and moved to Valencia, leaving the CNT with the suspicion that they had been invited into the government in order to make them complicit in the abandonment of Madrid. On November 7th the assault on Madrid proper began, with the Nationalists crossing the Manzanares river. A copy of the Nationalist plan of attack is found on the body of an officer killed in the early fighting, allowing the Republicans to prepare for the following days fighting with the advantage of knowing where to expect the main attack from.

The Nationalists attempted to force their way into Madrid through the Casa del Campo and the University City, but were met with ferocious resistance. Intense and bloody fighting followed for days and the first International Brigade units (foreign volunteers recruited by the Comintern) were thrown into the thick of the fighting. Durruti bought part of his column of anarchists to Madrid from Aragon to aid in the capitals defense. Controversy surrounds the actions of the column in Madrid, with some claiming they broke under fire and others asserting that it was a different unit that gave way (probably another unit from Catalonia). In any case Durruti was shot in mysterious circumstances on November 19th and died of his wounds the following day.

The fighting for Madrid also saw the beginning of the organization of a Popular Army for the Republic, based mostly around the communist Fifth Regiment, to replace the militia system. Although heavy fighting continued in the Madrid area until mid January 1937, the Nationalist advance was effectively stopped. It is estimated that there were around 15,000 casualties on both sides and the city itself with its civilian population was subjected to aerial and artillery bombardment. After January 1937 no further attempt would be made to take Madrid by storm, rather the Nationalists would attempt to encircle the city. Madrid would eventually be surrendered by the Republic at the end of the war following the anti-Communist coup headed by Colonel Casado.