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Franco's Navy

Francisco Francos father was an officer in the Spanish Naval Administrative Corps, and his mother was a conservative, upper-middle-class Roman Catholic. The previous four generations of Francos family, and his elder brother, were naval officers, and Franco himself seemed destined to follow that path. Reduced admissions to the Naval Academy, however, forced him instead to enlist in the army in 1907, when he was just 14 years old.

United States Navy Commander John M. Kersh, Jr. wrote in 2001 that "Spain historically has been very dependent upon imports and diligently maintained sea lines of communication with a relatively strong navy.When the government was not quickly overthrown in a coup, the coup degenerated into a war ofattrition. Accordingly, each side quickly became dependent upon the importation of warmaterials. Should either the Republicans or Nationalists not be able to maintain their sea linesof communication, the war would be lost despite the valiant efforts of the soldiers on land.Fundamentally, the government of Spain, the Republic, lost the Spanish Civil War because theywere not able to control the seas and maintain the sea lines of communication."

Spain had remained neutral during the First World War. The Spanish Civil War started July 17, 1936 and lasted until March 31, 1939. The Spanish Navy played a key role at the outset of the Spanish Civil War. Franco's base of power was the Army of Africa. The Army of Africa was composed of fierce Moslem fightersand the Spanish Legion (some 32,000 men). They had significant war fighting experience and were a much more professional and competent Army than that of mainland Spain. Once resistance was suppressed in Morocco, it was most important that the Army of Africa be transported to Spain by the Spanish Navy.

The officers of the Spanish Navy were aristocratic, for the most part monarchist and had little understanding of sailors who primarily had Republican sympathies. The crews of most ships mutinied, but the killing of the officers of the Spanish Navy had a deleterious effect on the Republic'sability to employ their preponderant naval forces against the much smaller Nationalist Navy. The enlisted crews of the Republican Navy controlled enough ships to interrupt the Nationalists' plans of transporting the Army of Africa via ship to the Spanish mainland. Hitler was convinced that the Nationalists should be helped initially in some small way and some JU-52 transport aircraft were immediately flown to Morocco.

During the six months from July to December of 1936, the outnumbered Nationalist Navy had established both moral and technical ascendancy over the Republicans. Although outnumbered for the entire war the Nationalists were never to lose the initiative at sea. By a supreme effort the managed to add the heavy cruiser Canarias to their fleet in early September 1936. In order to get Canarias to sea and into the fight as soon as possible she had been commissioned with only three 8-inch turrets instead of the planned four. She also was armed with smaller AA guns than originally designed. The fourth 8-inch turret would, however, be added later in the war. Besides decreased armament, Canarias also had a brand new crew made up mostly of untrained volunteers.

The Nationalist fleet quickly redeployed to dominate the Strait of Gibraltar. On 29 September 1936, Captain Francisco Moreno arrived in the Strait with the Nationalist cruisers Almirante Cevera and Canarias surprising and easily defeating the remaining Republican defenders. The Battle of Cape Spartel was the culminating point in the naval war. Given control of the seas, the Nationalists quickly moved additional men and material from Spanish Morocco to Spain. Nationalist naval strength was boosted when the second heavy cruiser, Baleares, joined the fleet at the end of December 1936. Like her sister ship Canarias, Baleares went into service with only three turrets instead of the designed four. Her fourth turret would be fitted in the summer of 1937.

At the start of the war, the British had the first ships on scene for evacuation of refugees. Other navies became rapidly involved with ships "pier side" including the Italians on 20 July 1936, the French on 21 July, followed by the Germans and the Americans. The number of German and Italian ships involved in evacuating refugees was significant. The Germans deployed a large portion of their Navy, including the "pocket battleships" Deutschland and Admiral Scheer, the cruiser Kln, plus six torpedo boats. The Germans and Italians maintained a significant naval presence in Spanish waters for the remainder of the war and would periodically rotate their ships through for training.

In October 1937, alter months of negotiation, the Nationalists finally obtained agreement from the Italian government for the sale of some destroyers. Unfortunately for Franco's navy, as Mussolini had other fish to fry, he had no Intention of selling modern ships to Spain. The four ships provided by Italy were obsolescent and almost worn out.

One of the most important factors in the Nationalists' eventual victory in the Spanish Civil War was the direct and decisive involvement of the German Navy. Germany never had less than 50 percent of her Navy in Spanish waters supporting Franco. Germany had typically two of her three "pocket battleships," four of six cruisers, one torpedo boat flotilla and as many as four submarines (The subs operated west of Gibraltar) deployed to support the war

Germany had too many missions and too few warships. They needed to get the Nationalists more involved in the war to the extent could lessen the burden on the over-extended German Navy. The solution was to strengthen and train the Nationalist Navy. The Germans had few ships themselves, but they did provide training to the Nationalists, whose warships would attack unarmed merchantmen and either bring them into port or sink them. The Nationalists started their Kreuzerkrieg (cruiser war) campaign in December 1937. Over time, Franco's Navy became more proficient and there was no need to rely on the Italians again to conduct un-restricted submarine warfare to slow down the Russian supplies.

In March 1939 the Franco Government declared a blockade by against the long coastline 300 miles or thereabouts of Central Spain still in Republican hands, not an ordinary blockade apparently, but a "Sink at sight" blockade, with the warning that there were submarines prepared to carry out this ruthless policy. There were no submarines of the Spanish Navy at the disposal of General Franco and his Government. There were never any submarines on his side. The submarines that had taken service on behalf of General Franco are Italian submarines, and everyone knew it. The British navy famously stood by while Franco's navy sank British merchant ships, while Hitler's Condor Legion bombed Guernica.

General Franco maintained Spanish neutrality during the Second World War. Franco,a fascist and military ruler, had been sympatheticto Nazi Germans during and after World War II. This prompted an international blockade, which crippled Spains growth. Opposition to Franco in the immediate postwar period and the lingering hostility to his regime today stem largely from the popular identification of his regime, particularly among western European leftist groups, with those of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Spains relations with other Western European powers have improved markedly since the early postwar years. Spain was then excluded from the OEEC and NATO, and the Franco regime was condemned by the UN and barred from membership therein. The UN also recommended that Spain be barred from membership in international agencies associated with the UN and that UN members withdraw their chiefs of mission from Madrid.

As of 1947 the Navy numbered 29,000 officers and men, including 7,500 Marines. Adequate modern naval equipment was lacking and shortage of fuel restricted naval maneuvers. The single most important foreign policy achievement of Franco was the signing in September 1953 of bilateral economic and defense arrangements with the US.

By 1957, with the exception of the Navy, which made slow progress in absorbing U.S. aid due to its budgetary difficulties, the Spanish armed forces utilization of US Military Assistance Program [MAP] support continued to improve toward satisfactory levels, and their training record was considered excellent.

By the late 1950s, once international isolation of General Francos regime started to relax, the first modern vessels acquired by the Spanish navy were five Fletcher class destroyers. They meant a fresh breath for the fleet, but were already obsolete.

In the early-1960s, the Armada started to think of home-built warships, and it naturally turned to Great Britain. The idea was to locally build "Leander" class frigates. By 1963 the two countries were a long way towards receiving an order for ships of British design, fitted with a great deal of British equipment, for the re-equipment of the Spanish navy. All that was cancelled because at the time Franco was at the helm. Negotiations went on until, by one account, the new Labour government of Harold Wilson, elected in 1964, vetoed the tecnology transfer to "fascist" Francos navy.

By another account, because of the premature disclosure in the British Press, authorised by the Ministry of Defence, that negotiations were going on, the Spanish took umbrage and went back on the negotiations. From about 1961, this kind of negotiation with the Spanish Government had taken place, off and on, and to some this last one was no more real than the previous ones in the past two or three years.

The Spanish would have had the full outline and the up-to-date construction, propulsion, armament of the well-known post-war established "Leander" frigate. But they would also have had what the UK had added at a later time the addition of the missile, the Seacat. The Seacat is part of the normal equipment of a Leader class frigate and the missile would most likely have been adopted by the Spanish Navy if the recent negotiations with Spain had not been frustrated.

It was all particularly unfortunate for the British because, after years of patient work, the frigates deal had become the symbol of a new era in Anglo-Spanish commercial relations in a rapidly developing market. The UK was in a fortunate position in this respect because, following exclusion from the Common Market, Spain had also found herself out in the cold and had turned to Britain as the natural outlet. So, in spite of strong American, French and German competition, the British really were "going places".

Nor was it simply the loss of a valuable contract for the frigate blueprintswhich, incidentally, involved no long-term credits. It was a question of modernising the whole Spanish Navy; and whoever got the contract would find great opportunities in the re-equipment of the Navy and in the training of personnel over a period of 20 or 30 years. Then again, the close relations between the men of the Navies would have brought an entirely new relationship between the two countries which could not have failed to be beneficial. There was also a great deal of technical equipment involved. Spain is backward in electronics, and whoever got this contract would at once have got in on the inside of future development. The whole electronics industry in Spain would have tended to become geared to British industry. And so it was with many other technical items.

The Armada turned to the United States. The American administration had no problem to offer the Knox design. But the Knox did not fulfil all spanish requirements. The Armada needed a multirole surface combattant, while the American frigates were primarily ASW ships, so they were thoroughly re-designed, losing the helicopter in the process, and becoming the Spanish "Baleares" class.

Spain undertook a major revision in navy doctrine in 1966 with efforts by the National War College faculty and an ad-hoc group of senior officers. Most of their work appears to have been programmatic in nature - defining future navy requirements rather than basic battle doctrine.

Terrebonne Parish (LST-1156) was laid down as LST-1156 on 2 January 1952 at Bath, Maine, by the Bath Iron Works; launched on 9 August 1952. Soon after returning from Panama, the ship began preparations for her upcoming transfer to the Spanish government. On 29 October 1971, the ship was decommissioned and turned over to the Spanish Navy at Little Creek, Va. Subsequently renamed Velasco and designated L-11, the ship served Spain into 1980.

USS Cabot got a new lease on life in 1967, when she became the Spanish Navy's carrier Dedalo (Spanish for Daedalus), serving until 1989. The US Navy's Independence class carriers were vital components of the great offensive that tore through the central and western Pacific from November 1943 through August 1945. They were Cleveland class light cruiser reconfigured as an aircraft carrier. The Independence class design featured a relatively short and narrow flight deck and hangar, with a small island. There was also little margin for growth, as their post-war careers showed. Bataan saw Korean War combat duty with Marine Corps air groups. She and Cabot received anti-submarine warfare modernizations in the early 1950s, emerging with two smokestacks instead of the original four.

In 1967, after over twelve years in "mothballs", Cabot was loaned to Spain, in whose navy she served as Dedalo. The loan was converted to a sale in 1972. Ddalo initially deployed with the Spanish Armada as an helicopter-only ASW carrier operating the SH-3D Sea King and other helicopters from 1967 to 1976. After testing in 1972 it was decided to order and deploy STOVL AV-8S Matadors (AV-8A Harrier) when Ddalo was overhauled. Since the Harriers downdraft on vertical landing would have damaged the wooden deck protective metal sheathing was installed on the rear area of the flight deck. The first batch of six AV-8S single seat and two TAV-8S two seat aircraft were delivered to the Armada Espaola throughout 1976.

A second batch of four AV-8S aircraft was delivered in 1980. Unlike some carriers used for Harrier operations, a ski-jump to assist STOVL takeoff was never installed on the Ddalo, limiting the maximum takeoff weight of the Harriers. She then typically carried an air group of eight AV-8S fighters, four Sea King ASW helicopters and four AB 212ASW Twin Hueys although Sikorsky S-55/CH-19s, AH-1 Cobras and other specialized helicopters from the army, air force, and navy flew from her flight deck.

Dedalo was stricken by the Spanish Navy in August 1989 and given to a private organization in the U.S. for use as a museum ship. However, during the subsequent decade plans to memorialize Cabot/Dedalo met with no success, and the now much deteriorated ship was sold for scrapping in 1997. After the failure of a lengthy legal effort to preserve the old carrier, she was cut up at Brownsville, Texas, beginning in November 2000.

In March 1973, the United States Ambassador, Horacio Rivero, himself a retired admiral, was caught in an embarrassing controversy here over the Spanish Navy's rejection of three much-used American warships. The warships-three destroyers named the Shelton, Keyes and the Hanson - were to go on indefinite loan to Spain under the terms of the 1970 Agreement of Friendship and Cooperation that called, in part, for help to the Spanish armed forces in return for American access to air and naval facilities on Spanish soil. The three ships, which dated back to the era of World War II but had since been modernized saw much duty in the Vietnam war. But Spanish officials let it known that the ships were found wanting. and the naval authorities said they would wait for somethmg better to turn up.

With Franco's death in 1975, the Bourbon monarchy was restored, but as a constitutional monarchy.





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