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On This Day - Spanish Civil War Remembered



     Just as we were celebrating my wife's 90th birthday, Dan Wilhelmi reminded me that I was marking another anniversary, recorded in this New York Times dispatch: the 1936 outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, which caught me in Madrid and my friend, the historian of that war Burnett Bolloten, in Barcelona. Here is the censored report of William P. Carney:
     Spain Checks Army Rising as Morocco Forces Rebel
     2 Cities in Africa Bombed
     Leftist Cabinet Quits. Resigns After Blocking Home Plot by Jailing Many Officers.
     Seville Revolt Crushed but All Spanish Morocco Is Held by Revolutionary Force Numbering 20,000.
     Outbreak in the Canaries .
     Warships Rushed to Both Areas -- Workers Had Assured the Government of Support
     Wireless to The New York Times
     Madrid, July 18 (Passed by the Censor) -- The Spanish Government announces that an extensive plot against the republic has broken out. It is now learned from the government that rebels seized the radio station in Ceuta, Spanish Morocco, and broadcast an announcement purporting to have been issued by the Seville radio station stating that all government buildings in Madrid had been seized.
     The government also announces that the Morocco operations were connected with a similar plot in Spain.
     The plot was quickly suppressed, according to the government, by promptly arresting many army officers, including General Barrera, who entered the Guadaljara military prison this morning.
     Moroccan Towns Bombed
     The government further states that the military aviation remained loyal to it and that bombing planes sent from Spain bombarded Ceuta and Melilla, also in Spanish Morocco.
     [A rebel force of 20,000 held complete control over Spanish Morocco last night, refugees reaching Tangier said, according to an Associated Press Dispatch.]
     It was learned from official sources that General Queipo de Llano had illegally declared martial law in Seville and had attempted to start a rebellion, which was quickly smothered by loyal troops there. [From French border points came reports of fighting in various Spanish cities, including Cadiz, Burgos, and Barcelona, according to The Associated Press, and at Hendaye it was rumored that all the garrisons in Andalusia had risen.]
     A telegram from the Civil Governor at Las Palmas, the Canary Islands, said that he and the commanding officer of the Civil Guards there were barricaded in the Governor's palace, which was surrounded and besieged by rebel troops. The Socialist workers' union at Las Palmas has declared a general strike to show its sympathy with the government.
     Situation in Madrid Normal
     Madrid presented a perfectly normal aspect today. It was officially denied that the rebels' plan was gradually to close in on the capital and strike here last. The government said in an official statement broadcast repeatedly today from the Ministry of the Interior, "Public order has not been disturbed in Madrid or anywhere in the provinces." The government categorically repudiated rumors that troops had crossed the straits from Morocco and landed at Algeciras or that General Francisco Franco, military Governor of the Canary Islands, had joined the rebellion. [Reports from North Africa said General Franco was heading the revolt in Morocco.] Rumors of a military uprising in the Balearic Islands were also officially refuted.
     It was officially announced that a "foreign airplane" intended to bring the revolt's leader to Madrid from Morocco had been seized. A joint note issued by the Socialist and Communist labor organizations was broadcast by a union radio station in Madrid tonight. It said that the Marxist trade unions would declare general strikes wherever martial law has been declared by military governors without the government's authorization. All the higher army officers in Madrid called on the War Minister last night to assure him of their loyalty and readiness to fight for the defense of the republic.
     A statement broadcast by the government early this morning said: "Enemies of the State are still indulging in spreading false news, but the loyalty of all the forces in Spain to the government is general. Only in Morocco are there still parts of our army that are showing a hostile attitude toward the republic. "The Ceuta radio station is trying to create alarm by broadcasting the announcement that some ships have been seized by rebel troops and are heading for the peninsula. The news is completely false. "At the moment our fleet is making for Spanish Morocco ports and is encountering no opposition in its efforts to restore peace. Peace and order will be completely restored very shortly. "The government wishes to make known once more that the rumor in connection with the proposed declaration of martial law in Spain is absolutely baseless. There is no power in Spain other than the civil one and all other subordinate to the civil power, which is the one power in command." The Socialist party's official newspaper, El Socialista, with bold headlines today urged the workers to "close up the guard with the necessary rigor for the decisive occasion." "The regime now faces the difficult test with which it has been threatened for sometime," it added. "But the regime has at its disposal reinforcements as reliable as they are considerable. These reinforcements have been offered unconditionally to the government by Leftist parties and organizations.
     "As they mount guard, the workers still have not forgotten the repression they suffered in Asturias [chief scene of the 1934 revolt]. The workers know well what they could expect if the regime's adversaries triumphed and succeeded in establishing a Fascist corporative State." A special Cabinet council was convoked tonight at the War Ministry. Although the Socialist leaders Indalecio Prieto and Francisco Largo Caballero have no portfolios in the government, they were invited by Premier Santiago Casares Quiroga to attend. Jose Lucia, prominent member of the Catholic Popular Actionists and leader of that party in Valencia, sent a message to the government saying: "As a former Minister of the republic, as leader of the Valencia Catholic party, as a Cortes Deputy and as a Spaniard, in this great hour for my country and ignoring party differences for the moment, I wish a place by the side of the government as being the real institution impersonating authority in a republican country against a violence and rebellion."
     My report: This censored report concealed the truth. The situation in Madrid was not normal. The streets were deserted as taxis comandeered by workers' militia careened around town, looking for subversives. While the people living in the Residencia de Estudiantes stayed in its relative security, I refused to give up my daily walk down the main avenue, the Castellana, now deserted. A taxi ground to a halt, with militia pointing their guns at me. Two jumped out and searched me for arms. I protested, pointing to the arm band given out by the British consulate, proclaiming me to be a "súbdito británico"--a British subject. I still have it. The militia snarled : We are in Spain!", but, finding no arms on me, jumped back in the taxi, which roared off.
     Madrid was surrounded until July 31 (my 25th birthday), when Albacete was taken by the Republicans, allowing trains to get through to Valencia. I was ordered out on the first train. It was a dangerous journey; the train pushed a freight car ahead to make sure the line was not mined. After endless stops and starts, the train arrived in Valencia, where we were driven through sandbagged streets to the port. We were all searched, some being forced to strip. Then launches took us to HMS "Devonshire", which that evening sailed for Marseilles.
     What the people searching me in Valencia overlooked was a book I was holding in my hand. Carefully hidden in the spine, typed on the thinnest paper, was a detailed report on events in Madrid written by my friend Ernest Grimaud de Caux, Madrid correspondent of The Times of London, which published it under the headline: "The Tragedy of Spain; First Uncensored News from Madrid." It caused a sensation. I gave the original to the Hoover Library. A photocopy adorns the room in which I am sitting.

Ronald Hilton - 07/18/99


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