Rebel Leader Building New Totalitarian State

Milton Bronner

The Pittsburgh Press/August 7, 1938

With the bitterest civil war in modern history now in its third year, Rebel Generalissimo Francisco Franco finds himself the master of two-thirds of bleeding Spain.

Behind the fronts where 850,000 troops still are locked in struggle, this warrior son of a warrior father is erecting a state patterned after Fascism in the 30 of the 47 provinces which the rebels have conquered. Rich farm lands, mines, industrial sections and seaports are under Franco’s domination, giving him an opportunity to run them as he hopes some day to run all Spain.

With a million lives already lost in battles and air raids, and with untold millions of dollars of property damage in all the great cities, Franco’s biggest job is winning peace in the territory which he already rules. For, unlike Hitler and Mussolini, whose Fascist revolutions were comparatively bloodless. Franco is achieving his dictatorship only at a great price.

There is probably not a family in Spain that does not mourn the loss of some male member. There is probably not a family that has not suffered pecuniary loss. A country which was never among the progressive states of Europe has been so wrecked from end to end that it will take decades to repair the damage and bring it back to normal.

Franco has to overcome the bitter hatred of thousands. He has to redeem the promises he has made to all and sundry. The soldier now must show that he is a statesman. And up to the time that he became the head of the rebel movement, he had never performed anything but soldiery tasks.

Francisco Franco was born in the northwestern Spanish Province of Galicia, where his father was commander of the naval base at Ferrol. The senior Franco had three sons and from their babyhood he determined their careers. Nicolas, the eldest, was to go into the navy like himself. Francisco was to be a soldier, and Ramon, the youngest, was to be an airman.

At 14 Francisco entered the Spanish Military Academy. Finished with school, he saw his chance for rapid promotion in Spanish Morocco. The Riffs were, as always in rebellion. General Berenguer was organizing native troops to fight them. Spanish troops were also employed.

Young Franco’s decision proved his wisdom. He became the youngest lieutenant, the youngest captain and the youngest general in the recent history of the Spanish army. In Morocco he took part in numerous engagements, one time being seriously wounded by a bullet which penetrated his stomach and just grazed his lungs.

During this part of his service, he had charge of Moroccan regulars. Later, when Colonel Milan Astray formed a Spanish Foreign Legion, Franco offered his services and was appointed to a command.

Back then the Legion and the Morrocans were always used by Spain as shock troops in quelling native rebellions. Franco was with them when they recaptured the Melilla zone and won the Military Medal for himself.

In 1923 he became lieutenant colonel and shortly afterwards colonel of the Foreign Legion. Under Dictator Rivera’s orders, he directed occupation of the Bay of Alhucemas. Spanish Morocco was now pacified. Franco got his reward by being made a Brigadier General in 1926. In view of his future career as a rebel leader, his biggest asset was the genuine liking and admiration the Moroccan troops and the Foreign Legion had for him. They said they would follow him anywhere. Ten years later they did.