19 Marzo Victory at Guadalajara!

March 18, 1937, was a turning point in the Spanish Civil War.  Up to that point, the Republic had been on its heels fighting one holding battle after another and losing several.

From Landis:

On March 18 the Republican forces under General José Miaja, the

Ernest Hemingway in Spain. Photo: ALBA PHOTO 11_1353, Tamiment Library, NYU

defender of Madrid, launched an attack along the entire front above Guadalajara.  The tanks of PavlovSpanish troops of Lister, of El Campesino {Valentín González}; and of the Anarchist, Cipriano Mera, the Volunteers of the 11th and 12th International Brigades; and the Republican air force under Hidalgo de Cisneros, swung to the offensive.  By the end of the day the entire Italian army was in wild retreat up the Aragon highway. …. Ernest Hemingway who was on the scene, spoke of “mountains” of ammunition, shells, grenades and provisions.¹

A Spanish History channel one hour video describing the battle is available on YouTube.  A clip from the film showing the Pavlov T-26 Tanks which supported the Garabaldi Brigade is here.

Russian T-26 Tank at Guadalajara taken from the YouTube video of the Spanish History Channel’s Battalla de Guadalajara.
General Enrique Lister with a captured Italian blackshirt flag. From the “Battalla de Guadalajara”

Landis assesses the damage to the Fascists:

Franco apologists say that only three hundred prisoners were taken and that there were but two thousand dead and three thousand wounded.  These figures appear in most of the pro-Franco dissertations on the Spanish War.  But, since the statistics do not agree with even the captured data from German and Italian archives during World War II, we will rely on the more consistently valid reports from the men on the scene.  It is quite indicative, for instance, that the Italian ambassador to Fascist Spain, Roberto Cantalupo, refers to the Italian dead in terms of “several thousands”.  A final consensus of the more conservative Republican figures lists the Italian losses as approximately 3,000 dead; 6,000 wounded, and upwards of 2,000 prisoners.¹

While the Republic did not have the strength to continue this advance in March 1937, Guadalajara gave the Republic the time to bring in more materiel from abroad while Internationals continued to arrive at Albacete.  It is said that the victory was short lived and the gains were minor.   But two years in the future, those Italians who were captured at Guadalajara, and were kept alive in Republican prisons, were traded on a 1:1 basis for International Brigade Prisoners.  The value of this asset should not be forgotten for the hundreds of Brigadistas who were spared execution after capture in 1938 because Franco and Mussolini had decided that they needed living prisoners to get the Italians back to Italy.  Some of those American prisoners have children alive today (and part of the Friends and Families of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade).  They owe homage to the thousands who fought at Guadalajara for this victory.

What Robert Merriman knew of these battles, he saw from the number of wounded coming into Murcia hospitals.


¹  Landis, The Abraham Lincoln Brigade, ibid., p. 123-124.

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