INSURGENT DEC II
While the north remained drenched in mud and sleet, central and southern Spain enjoyed a return of dry weather. The Insurgents were quick to take advantage. Marshaling overpowering superiority they extended their hold on the Cartagena-Madrid rail line southeast of Alcazar de San Juan and broke determined Republican resistance to advance in strength onto the Valencia- Madrid rail line northwest of Cuenca. For the second time, all rail connections with the capital have been interrupted. In a local operation the Insurgents also crushed the enemy salient west of Lorca to regain their positions held in November before the Loyalist foray. Despite rain and sleet the maneuvering in the mountains around Teruel continued, with Nationalist patrols interfering with the communications lines of the strong Republican contingent forward of that city. All other front sectors remained quiet. Transport planes made supply runs from Valladolid to sustain patrols in the mountains between Teruel and Cuenca, and Nationalist merchantmen traveling in protected coastal waters ferried supplies into Aguilas.
LOYALIST DEC II
Faced with daunting Nationalist superiority on both flanks and threatened to see a good part of their forces cut off, the Loyalists decided to abandon Madrid’s narrowing supply corridor. Guards, the Thaelmann and Marty International Brigades, and local militia supported by artillery and engineers holed up in the city proper while the all other formations disengaged and retreated to new lines between Cuenca and Alcazar de San Juan. Armor and motorized troops, short on fuel, brought up the rear but managed to limp to safety. Rail lines, roads, and some installation at the Madrid airport were blown up. The headquarters and training organization of the International Brigades was moved out of harm’s way to Valencia. Although in full retreat on the approaches to Madrid, the Loyalists returned to the offensive at the Teruel and Lorca fronts. Sweeps in the mountains northeast of Teruel wiped out Nationalist patrols that had been threatening rear communications. At Lorca, strong Anarchist and Republican forces with air support launched a major pincer movement and succeeded in isolating the strong and bothersome Insurgent mountain position north of the city. All other front sectors remained quiet. Naval activities remained restricted to ferrying of supplies from Bracelona to Valencia.
The isolation of Madrid constitutes a major victory for the Insurgents. Thanks to its strong defenses the capital is not in immediate danger, but a siege is bound to take its toll. Moreover, the Insurgents can now establish a direct supply line from their main basis in Andalucia through Alcazar de San Juan and Aranjuez to their troops on the approaches to Cuenca, obviating the need for the long and cumbersome line of communications through Calatayud and Guadalajara. However, an attack on Madrid itself may have to await better weather and arrival of more artillery. Although outnumbered on most fronts, the Loyalists have kept up local counterattacks. Their shortened front is now fairly strongly held. However, they are scraping the bottom of the supply barrel.