The Moroccan port of Ceuta is only 20 kilometers from Spain, but for the man staring across the Strait of Gibraltar toward his homeland, the distance between the two coasts must have presented a formidable strategic challenge. Short and pudgy in his general’s uniform, with an almost boyish face that would later make him an easy target for Western political cartoons, Francisco Franco was to become in many ways the most unlikely of the 20th century’s dictators, yet perhaps its most enduring. For now, though, the greatest question facing him was how to move some 34,000 soldiers of his Army of Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar and into Spain. Together with a number of other senior military leaders, most based within Spain, Franco had conspired with General Emilio Mola to declare an insurrection on 17 July 1936 against the recently and narrowly elected leftist Popular Front government. But as word of the rebellion spread, the insurgents’ plan for a swift victory faced a major setback: The bulk of the Spanish navy had remained faithful to the government.
The Generalissimo's Naval War
When the Spanish navy failed to join the insurrection that led to the Spanish Civil War, Nationalist leader Francisco Franco leaned on a strategy of attrition and foreign support.
By Adam Nettina