MAR I INSURGENT
The nice weather in central and southern Spain was short- lived and a warm front has brought thaw to the north as well. Rain has returned, everyone is sloshing through mud everywhere, and rivers in Navarra, Aragon, and Cataluna are in flood. Though hampered by mud, the Nationalist juggernaut in Aragon pressed forward. A Battle Royal developed for Zaragoza, defended by a motley array of People’s Army, Catalan, and Anarchist troops, armed workers, and local militia. Both sides called in whatever air support could be made available. The Insurgents finally retained control of the sky, but some of their ancient aircraft suffered losses from accurate AA fire. In the end, the city fell to a concentric attack with ample support by aircraft and heavy artillery and spearheaded by two newly formed Requete divisions. To add insult to injury, some of the Republican Dewoitine fighters ran out of fuel when no longer able to land in Zaragoza, and had to crash-land behind Nationalist lines. Elsewhere in Aragon, Loyalist resistance has stiffened, but additional Insurgent reinforcements are on their way from Madrid. In the mountains southeast of Teruel, the isolated Nationalist battle group (one mountain battalion with artillery), for three months now kept in supply only by air drops, slipped through the encircling ring and took up a new position closer to the coast, where they are poised to face the next onslaught. In Madrid, Guardia Civil has taken over the task of restoring order. Rail service through the city was restored. The airport was converted to a major military air base with strong AA protection. All other fronts remained quiet. The Mexican stand-off in the Mediterranean continued. The Italian submarines keep the Republican Fleet bottled up in Catagena, but find no targets. Meanwhile, Nationalist shipping in the Atlantic and Biscay can proceed unimpeded.
Mar I 1937
MAR I LOYALIST
Reeling from the loss of Madrid, Lorca, and Zaragoza in quick succession, the Loyalists mounted only one major operation. With new reserves thrown in and the entire People’s Air Force assigned to support role, Loyalist mountain troops finally managed to liquidate the obnoxious Nationalist mountain force that had moved disturbingly close to the coast. Otherwise the Loyalists strenuously strove to reinforce their endangered Aragon front, hindered by the attrition of their raIl capacity.
The recapture of Zaragoza has given the Insurgents a good air base close to the front, and has enabled them to establish a rail head closer to the Pyrenees, facilitating supply of their mountain positions at the French border. In Aragon, initiative has passed completely to the Insurgents. The Loyalists now face a dilemma: They can create “hero” cities or positions at important points, but then have to take greater losses when these are bypassed and eventually mopped up; or instead they can keep their front straight and strong by tactical retreats and hope for “DR” results where the battering ram hits, but that way they have to concede precious territory more quickly. Counterattacks are out of question in view of the Nationalist superiority in numbers at this front, except in the Pyrenees close to the French border. Here, however, any troops advancing there court danger of being cut off if the Nationalists should shift their Schwerpunkt to the country north of the Ebro. In southern Castilla the People’s Army still fields superior numbers and stronger armor. However, the Nationalists have reinforced their front to the point that an offensive against it does not appear attractive. The saga of the Nationalist mountain forces has ended. This handful of men has caused the Loyalists grief and resources quite out of proportion. It is unlikely that such an operation will ever occur against because the fronts are now rock-solid and tight, no longer even allowing mountain troops to sneak through anywhere.