Madrid Offensive

The Civil War In Spain provided a testing ground for the German Wehrmacht, as well as the Soviet and Italian armies. The Luftwaffe's Condor Legion air wing Is the best-known German formation to have assisted Francisco Franco's Nationalist army, but the German Army also sent a small motorized unit, Including a number of tanks, to Spain.

In the battle of Guadalajara, northwest of Madrid, both sides committed some of their best units as the Nationalists tried to cut off Madrid, still held by the Republic despite repeated attacks. Franco sent In the tough Moroccan brigades of the corps-sized Soria Division, and the Italian "volunteer" corps, the CTV, provided three divisions of Blackshlrts and the Llttorlo division. This last was supposedly a regular army division, though the army had as little to do with It as possible. The troops were In their 30s, unemployed workers who had signed up either as colonists for Libya or Ethiopia, or for work as extras In the movie Scipio in Africa, then In production In Libya. They were deeply surprised when their ship docked In Cadiz, they received rifles and uniforms, and they learned that they had volunteered to fight Communism.

The Republic committed some of Its own top units, Including the elite 11th Shock Division and a number of International Brigades Including the "Garibaldi Battalion" of anti-fascist Italians, which successfully Induced over 1,000 CTV soldiers to desert with promises of fair treatment, and then massacred them. Also present were a brigade of Germans and Austrlans, the extremely tough Spanish El Campeslno Assault Brigade, and the Soviet-manned 1st Tank Brigade with over 100 T-26 and BT-5 tanks.

Guadalajara proved a disaster for the Nationalist cause, especially for the CTV. Madrid would hold out for two more years as the war continued In Spain.

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