Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Have Americans Invaded Spain?

Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Spain
Have Americans ever invaded or fought in Spain?  You might be surprised by our answer from the Spain chapter of America Invades...

"Fantastic place to visit with loads and loads of amazing sights and history, Spain is a big country by European standards.

With Spain at the very western end of Europe (along with Portugal, of course) and the Spanish a major naval power for much of their history, it’s hardly surprising that they played such a big role in the European exploration and settlement of both North and South America. The Brits, of course, were not far behind them, and with a long history of hostility between the two countries, there was bound to be trouble.
Ezcaray, Spain
So interestingly, among the first Americans fighting in Spanish regions is one from before the Revolution on behalf of the Brits—although fighting may not be quite the right word since John Halsey, born in Boston, was a privateer, a sort of pirate with official government permission to be a pirate but only attacking enemy ships. In 1704, with Britain at war with the Spanish (or at least some of them since confusingly there were Spanish on both sides), Halsey arrived in the Spanish Canary Islands (popular holiday destination and part of Spain, even though they’re stuck out in the Atlantic off the coast of Africa) and attacked assorted Spanish ships.

After all the wars between Spain and Britain, Spain was only too delighted when we rebelled against English rule, and the Spanish crown supplied the rebel colonies with food, ammunition, and intelligence during the American Revolution. King Charles III of Spain even sent livestock to George Washington’s farm at Mount Vernon. Very friendly.

22 Americans fought on board HMS Victory at Trafalgar
However, on October 21, 1805, Admiral Horatio Nelson led the Royal Navy to one of the most decisive victories in its history off the coast of Spain at the battle of Trafalgar. Twenty-two Americans served aboard Nelson’s flagship, the Victory, with many more throughout his fleet. A percentage of these were, no doubt, pressed men, those forced to serve in the fleet. Serve, though, they did with honor and shared in the victor’s prize money, as was their right.

In 1815, we again ventured into Spanish waters when, during the Second Barbary War, Commodore Stephen Decatur scored naval victories over Barbary pirates based in Algiers at Cape Gata and Cape Palos off the coast of Spain. On that occasion, even though we were in Spanish waters, we were actually fighting the Barbary pirates rather than the Spanish.
Virgin Mary, Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Spain
But things were getting distinctly less friendly between the United States and Spain. In 1818, Andrew Jackson led a successful invasion of Florida during the First Seminole War, and the Spanish ceded Florida to the United States in 1821, which is how Jacksonville, Florida, got its name.
In 1898, the United States, led by President William McKinley, went into a full-scale war with Spain. In the Spanish-American War, however, despite occasional plans for us to do things, like attack the Canary Islands (again), in the end, there was no actual fighting in Spain. Therefore, we cover that war in the Cuba and Philippines chapters.

In 1936, the Spanish Civil War, as sort of a pre-game warm up for World War II, broke out. It’s a fascinating and important war and deserves to be better known. When General Franco mounted a right-wing military coup against the left-wing Spanish government, foreign volunteers flooded in from across the world to defend the republic, and among them were plenty of Americans. The Soviet Union supported the republic. Hitler and Mussolini supported Franco.
Oliver Law, First African American to Command American forces
The best-known American unit sent to aid the floundering republic was the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, or Battalion, many of its volunteers being members of the Communist Party United States, but there was also a George Washington Battalion, later amalgamated with the Abraham Lincoln unit. The fighting was ferocious, and Americans were in the thick of it in bitter struggles battles, like the Battle of Jarama and the Brunete and Aragon offensives, with horrifying casualty rates to match. Something like eight hundred of the approximately twenty-eight hundred Americans who served in the Spanish Civil War were killed. Oliver Law was a US Army veteran, a Chicago taxicab driver, and a Communist party member; during the Spanish Civil War, he became the first African-American officer to lead an American military unit. Many US veterans of the Spanish Civil War would go on to serve in the OSS during World War II.
The Moment of Death, Robert Capa
Ernest Hemingway and the woman who would later become his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, went to Spain to report on the war. Robert Capa, a friend of Hemingway’s, took his famous dying soldier photograph in the Spanish Civil War (see...http://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com.es/2014/03/capa-hitchcock-rear-window.h).

Even Errol Flynn, a naturalized American citizen, went to Spain as a war correspondent. The Loyalist side attempted to recruit Errol to their side in the conflict and gave him a machine gun, but he decided that killing people for politics in somebody else’s war wasn’t really his cup of tea.
Not all our military involvement with the Spanish Civil War was unofficial, For instance, in August 1936, the destroyer USS Kane was sent to Bilbao in Spain to rescue American citizens. On the way into Bilbao, a three-engine monoplane dropped bombs within a hundred yards, and the ship’s crew had to open fire three times to drive it away. Kane then joined up with USN Squadron 40-T under the command of Arthur P. Fairfield, which during its time in the area rescued hundreds of Americans and others from the war.
Church Door, Ezcaray, Spain
With German assistance, Franco eventually led the Nationalists to victory in the bitter civil war.
Spain officially remained neutral during World War II, though it did send the so-called Blue Division to fight alongside the Germans in Russia, and German U-boats were able to utilize the “neutral” ports of Spain to resupply. Amidst fears that Franco might still join the Axis cause “Wild Bill” Donovan, the head of the OSS, visited Madrid, and an OSS detachment was established in Spanish Morocco. The OSS made contact with the remnants of the Republican underground and exiled Spanish government to explore the possibility of subverting Franco’s regime, but that was about as far as it got.
Pub / Cafe in Logrono, Spain
"The Wayne in Spain is not to be disdained!"
After the war, fascist Spain was a political pariah for a time, but today Spain is a constitutional monarchy and a member of NATO and the EU.

We have major bases in Spain. Rota, once a sleepy fishing village near Cadiz, has served as a US naval base from 1953 to the present. It is referred to as the “Gateway to the Med” for the US 6th Fleet and other NATO forces since it’s very close to the straits that lead from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. The USAF also maintains Morón Air Base in Andalucia."


Travel Notes: Special thanks to Jimmy and Alex of Duvine for guiding me and our group through Spain.  See...www.duvine.com


You can purchase your own signed copy of America Invades here...www.americainvades.com
Or you can find regular copies here on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598427/


2 comments:

Bill Funk (USMC) said...

There was also Torrejon AFB outside of Madrid, which is where my father was stationed and what took our family to Spain in 1961. It was a SAC (Strategic Air Command) base. Franco’s Spain was dead broke in the late 50’s and desperately needed money, which is why he agreed to rent the bases to the U.S. During the Cuban crisis, the base was filled with heaps of KC-135 aircraft that refueled the B-52’s. The whole base was always on alert with teams ready to take off and bomb the enemy (Russia) on a moments notice. They would have drills daily. At that critical moment in the Cuban missile crises, Torejon would have definitely been on the Russian hit list. I think it is still a base today used by the Spanish. It is almost adjacent to Barajas, the Madrid airport.

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