The hectic pace of the Spanish civil war has picked up even more as both sides appear to scramble to make best use of the remaining weeks of fair weather before onset of the rainy season.
SEP I INSURGENT
Events took a dramatic turn in the northern separatist provinces. As expected the Asturian “government” collapsed after the fall of Gijon. The remaining, not yet fully assembled Asturian forces surrendered. National Guadia Civil is restoring order in Gijon. Only small groups of loyalists and separatists are still holding out in the mountains. Meanwhile, the strong Galicia Corps of Moroccans and Carlists advanced along the coast, squashing the last major defense position on the road to Santander about 30 miles from that city. In the mountains to the east the nationalists broke through the overextended separatist lines. A massive attack along the main Burgos-Bilbao highway by elite troops transferred from Asturias and Extremadura struck the seam between the Santanderos and Basques, crushing the main defense position. A mobile spearhead supported by bomb-carrying Ju-52s had bypassed that position and reached the coast at Laredo, then swung east toward Bilbao to overpower the hapless local police and firefighters to whom the safety of that city had been entrusted. Large depots were destroyed and most of the armament factories were seized almost intact. Still farther east, a commando of engineers and mountain troops managed to infiltrate the Basque lines near the French border and seize control of San Sebastian, whose local militia had been shaken by a naval bombardment. The capture of Laredo, Bilbao, and San Sebastian has deprived the Basques of their bases and all ports through which they could be reinforced. In Aragon the nationalists frantically attempted to patch up their badly shaken front. The People’s Army raiders were cleared out of Zaragoza with the help of reinforcements from Navarra, and a local counterattack near Huesca successfully restored a coherent line. However, Zaragoza and Huesca are now in the front line and must expect an even more furious onslaught as the “ideological purification” of the Catalan cities approaches completion and the troops engaged in it will become available. The insurgent mountain battallion that had penetrated to the Mediterranean coast between Castellon and Tortosa blew up portions of the coastal highway and rail line and still blocks all traffic. The mountain position near Teruel still holds out in isolation, blocking the main rail line from Valencia to the interior. In Castilla the loyalist raiders astride the Burgos-Zaragoza rail line near Soria were surrounded and overwhelmed. Nationalists infiltrated the widely spaced loyalist positions in the Jarama valley and sneaked into Guadalajara, cutting off a loyalist detachment at Siguenza. Otherwise the Madrid front remained quiet, with most of the Guadarrama range now in nationalist hands. In Andalucia the nationalists accelerated their offensive along the Cordoba-Madrid axis and initiated a second one from Granada toward Lorca. Both gained ground and yielded prisoners in substantial numbers. The northern thrust is about to emerge into open country on the approaches to Cuidad Real and Valdepenas, almost halfway from Jaen to the important rail junction Alcazar de San Juan, whose fall would threaten Madrid from the rear. The southern pincer advanced through difficult mountain terrain. The main loyalist defense position east of Guadix was outflanked and overpowered. Vanguards penetrated to within 35 miles of Lorca. A small task force was split off to seize Almeria and isolate a loyalist detachment in the Sierra Nevada. The loyalist front between Toledo and Almeria is in shambles. Reinforcements sealifted from Morocco finally put an end to anarchist reign in Huelva. Practically all of Andalucia is now under insurgent control. Largely owing to pressures from Britain and France, Mussolini withdrew the cruiser and battle squadrons of the Regia Marina. This put an end to the blockade of Valencia and Cartagena. However, the destruction of the republican Atlantic fleet by the Italians, the commissioning of the new heavy cruisers *Baleares* and *Canarias* at ElFerrol, and the acquisition of four Italian destroyers have given the nationalists parity in surface forces. On paper the loyalists still have a superiority in submarines. However, with Italian submarines covertly operating on the nationalist side, the latter in effect have the upper hand at sea. At this time the nationalists have been concentrating their surface forces in the Gulf of Biscay while trying to keep the loyalists bottled up in the Mediterranean by a submarine blockade of the Straits of Gibraltar. In the air, a squadron of Fiat CR-32b fighters arrived from Italy and attempted to contest the previously absolute republican control of the skies over Aragon. However, more aircraft will be needed to make a definite impact.
SEP I LOYALIST
Thoroughly demoralized by the fall of Bilbao and San Sebastiant and the relentless bombardment by the nationalist fleet, the Basques holed up in the rugged terrain of the interior rather than mounting counterattacks to regain their cities. The Santanderos meanwhile retreated into their capital for a last- ditch stand, thoroughly blowing up roads and rail lines on their way. In Aragon the loyalists initiated their long-expected offensive. Surprisingly, they attacked the strongest point of the insurgent line, the city of Zaragoza. Overcoming unfavorable odds they achieved complete success and inflicted substantial casualties. Mountain troops advanced along the French border to outflank the insurgent position. The mountain battalion that had blocked the Barcelona- Valencia coast road was finally overpowered. Also, Albacete was stormed by Anarchists troops. On the Madrid front the loyalists shortened their lines and started constructing a fortified inner defense ring. The exposed position in the Jarama valley east of Guadalajara was vacated. In central Castilla the loyalists withdrew from Ciudad Real and Valdepenas to concentrate in a new defense line just forward of the strategic Cartagena-Madrid rail line and road. All that could be spared at other fronts was thrown in here to stop the nationalist drive on Alcazar de San Juan. The threat to Madrid from this direction now seems averted. “No pasaran!” At the Mediterranean coast, newly raised reserves disposed of the nationalist spearheads in the mountains near Lorca. With support by the entire republican fleet the troops cut off in the Sierra Nevada managed to recapture Almeria and reestablish tenuous contact with the forces advancing from Lorca. Substantial reinforcements were sealifted from Barcelona to Cartagena. Anticipating the fall of that port city, loyalist merchant ships put to sea from Santander, giving up a first attempt to reach the Mediterranean when the Italian submarines could not be lured into lifting their blockade of the Straits, then sailing back into the Biscay into internment in Bayonne under the noses of the nationalist fleet (five failed interception attempts, each with 50% chance of success!). Laxness of rear security in Cataluna came home to roost: A large shipment of field gun components from France destined for Barcelona was held up at the border by the manufacturer because portions of the rail net were still controlled by renegade elements.
The loyalists now pay a price for their impetuosity. In the Biscay provinces the overextension of their lines proved fatal: The Basques’ surrender is a foregone conclusion, and Santander, without artillery, is expected to follow suit. The nationalist Aragon front is still holding, if barely, so the loyalists’ dream of a Catalan-Basque link-up is fading. Meanwhile, the failure to guard rear ares adequately and to reinforce Castilla and Andalucia from Cataluna in time has precipitated a crisis in the south and has left Madrid vulnerable. The natioalists are in dire straits in Aragon and may well have to concede that province entirely unless a very early arrival of the rainy season grants them a reprieve. This is to a large part because their strained logistics make it hard to get substantial reinforcements to the front that is farthest from Morocco and Sevilla, their sources of strength (the insurgents started with only about half as much rolling stock as the loyalists, and Zaragoza is roughly twice as far from Sevilla as Madrid and Almeria are from Barcelona via Valencia). The insurgents’ inability to transfer large forces and supplies over long distances practically dictates offensives along the Cordoba-Madrid or Granada-Murcia axis or both. The options for additional operations were against Santander, Bilbao, or Madrid (from either Talavera or Avila). Rightly or wrongly they chose Bilbao, no doubt because of its armament industry and with the rationale that the best way to counter the loyalist Aragon offensice is to eliminate the Basques before the Catalans can relieve them. This turned the contest in Aragon and the Basque provinces into a race with time, which the nationalists now appear to be winning. The French, staunch allies so far, are beginnig to ask, “are we supporting a losing cause?” and may not keep their border open much longer. In the span of two weeks, six cities have changed hands: Bilbao, SanSebastian, Huelva, Albacete, Zaragoza, and Almeria, the latter two twice. However, stockpiled supplies are beginning to run low on both sides, so the tempo of fighting is expected to slacken.