History Shapes Men, Men Shape History : Francisco Franco


Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program
Choi, Won Ho
Term Paper, AP European History Class, December 2007



Table of Contents


I. Introduction
II. The Life of Francisco Franco
II.1 Early Years
II.2 From Francisco Franco to General Francisco Franco
II.3 General Francisco Franco and the Second Republic
II.4 General Francisco Franco, the Dictator
III. History Shapes Men
III.1 Spanish-American War
III.2 Spanish Civil War
IV. Men Shape History
IV.1 Restoration of the Monarchy
IV.2 From the Second Republic to Dictatorship
V. Conclusion
Notes
Bbliography



I. Introduction


            The lives of individuals make up history as a whole. On the other hand, the historical background of an era greatly influences the lives of people. In short, history shapes men, and men shape history. This proves to be true for many historical figures. This paper will focus on the life of Francisco Franco and show how history shapes men and men shape history.

II. The Life of Francisco Franco

II.1 Early Years
            Francisco Franco was born on 4th December 1892 in the port city of Ferrol, Spain. Franco's father, Nicol?s Franco Salgado-Araujo, worked for the Spanish Navy; and his mother, Pilar Bahamonde Pardo de Andrade, also came from a family with strong naval connections. Franco had three siblings Nicolas (who also becomes a naval officer), Pilar, and Ramon.
            Born into a family with strong naval connections, Franco wanted to follow the footsteps of his father by joining the navy. However, Spain had been making financial cutbacks as a consequence of her defeat in the Spanish-American War. As a result, the number of posts available in the Spanish Navy was reduced and the 14 year-old Franco had to join the Spanish army instead.
            Franco received his education at the Infantry Academy in Toledo, the most prestigious military training center in Spain. After receiving three years of military education, Franco graduated as a second lieutenant. In 1910, Franco was stationed in mainland Spain for two years.
            In 1912, Franco was sent to Morocco where a war was going on between the Spanish and the Rif tribe of Morocco. Between 1912 and 1916, Francisco Franco gained the reputation as a courageous and cunning officer; consequently, he won the Military Cross (la Cr?z Militar) in 1913 at the age of 20. In 1916, Franco was badly wounded in a skirmish at El Biurtz. However, his survival marked him permanently as a 'man of luck' among the native troops. In the same year, Franco was also awarded promotion to major and stationed in the northern Spanish region of Asturias.

II.2 From Francisco Franco to General Francisco Franco
            Franco met two people in Asturias who greatly influenced his life: Mar?a del Carmen Polo y Mart?nez Valdes, his future wife; and Jose Millan Astray, the founder of the Spanish Foreign Legion (1). Franco had reached the rank of major in 1917 and played a prominent role in strike-breaking in the Asturian coal fields. In 1920, Mill?n appointed him as second-in-command of the Spanish Foreign Legion. Franco, along with the Legion, quickly developed a reputation for brutality. In 1923, Franco replaced Millan as the commander of the Legion. In the same year, Franco married Maria, the daughter of a wealthy merchant.
            By the time Franco left Morocco in 1926, he was promoted to brigadier general (2). By doing so, Franco became Europe's youngest general. In 1928 Brigadier General Francisco Franco was appointed as the head of the Joint Military Academy in Zaragoza, an academy designed to foster future army officers.

II.3 General Francisco Franco and the Second Republic
            Between 1923 and 1930, Spain was ruled by the military dictatorship of General Miguel Primo de Rivera. As prime minister, Primo de Rivera ruled Spain with an iron fist: he "abolished the Spanish Constitution, imposed martial law and severe censorship, and made all political parties illegal" (3). However, his term came to an end in 1930, when he stepped down due to political unpopularity. Spain held democratic elections for the first time in sixty years. When the Spanish people voted overwhelmingly for a republic, Alfonso XII also abdicated the Spanish throne and left the country. So in 1931, Spain became a republic for the second time (la Segunda Republica).
            In the general election of 1931, the Socialist Party (PSOE) won an overwhelming victory; and Niceto Alcala Zamora, a moderate Republican, became prime minister. However, Franco was supportive of right-wing, monarchist views. Consequently, the republican government mistrusted him and considered him as a potential threat to the Republic. He was posted to locations away from Madrid to keep him from other pro-monarchy army officers.
            In 1934, the miners in the northern region of Asturias started a strike. The government used Franco and Moroccan mercenary troops to suppress the Asturian miners' strike. As a result of his success, General Francisco Franco was awarded the highest position in the Spanish Army: Chief of the General Staff.
            By 1936, when the next national elections came around, the republican and left-wing factions had united to form the Popular Front (el Frente Popular). On the other hand, right-wing groups in Spain formed the National Front. The Popular Front defeated the National Front, and gained control of the next government. The government, afraid of a military uprising, transferred right-wing military leaders to posts outside Spain. This included Franco, who was appointed as governor of the Canary Islands.
            In February 1936 Franco joined other Spanish Army officers, such as Emilio Mola, Juan Yague, Gonzalo Queipo de Llano and Jose Sanjurjo, in an attempt to overthrow the Popular Front government ? this military uprising marked the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. With Mola as its leader, the Nationalist Army suffered several defeats. By the end of September 1936, the nine other generals involved in the military uprising came to the conclusion that Franco should become commander of the Nationalist Army. Franco was also appointed Chief of State.
            Franco and his Nationalist Army, with the support of German and Italian troops, gradually began to take control of Spain. In February 1939, the Nationalist Army was able to close the last frontier with France. Franco now concentrated his forces on the now isolated Madrid and its defenders eventually surrendered the city on 31st March. On April 1, 1939, the Republican forces officially surrendered to the Nationalist forces and Franco established his government as the official government of Spain. After all of this fighting, Franco sought to prevent further conflict by ceremoniously laying his sword upon an altar in a church, vowing to never take it again unless Spain was invaded.

II.4 General Franco, the Dictator
            By the end of the Spanish Civil War, Spain was economically ruined and politically divided. At this point, Spain was still in a rather unstable condition. Many guerilla rebels continued to attack Nationalist forces. Franco suppressed his remaining political opponents by executing thousands of people and placing tens of thousands in exile. Franco's command of Spain remained strong and he was in no significant danger of being deposed after these efforts.
            Despite his strong connections with Hitler, when the Second World War broke out in 1939, Franco maintained a neutral position and did not take sides. On October 23, 1940, Franco and Hitler met in the city of Hendaye, France to discuss Spain joining the Axis powers. Franco demanded a lot in return, including control of Portugal, North Africa, Gibraltar, and military supplies, causing Hitler to back off. Franco did, however, provide small amenities to Nazi forces, such as usage of Spanish naval ports
            After WWII, Spain had been isolated as a consequence of supporting Germany. The Allied Forces imposed sanctions and on Spain which resulted in a significant economic impact. However this changed in the early 1950s when Spain was considered as a "strategically important geographical location" (4) in the Cold War era. Franco's strong anti-Communism made him popular with the United States. Franco entered into trade and military agreements with the US; and in 1955, became a member of the United Nations. This paved the way for Spain's economic growth in the 1960's.
            In 1969, Franco announced that Prince Juan Carlos de Borbon would succeed to the Spanish throne upon Franco's death. By the 1970's Franco was on the decline, both politically and physically. Francisco Franco died on the 20th November 1975 after having been in ill health for some years. Juan Carlos was crowned King of Spain on the 22nd November 1975.

III. History Shapes Men

III.1 Spanish-American War
            The Spanish-American War greatly influenced Francisco Franco's life. However, it was not the war itself but rather the consequences of the war that influenced Franco. As a result of the Spanish-American War, Spain lost the remains of its empire. The losses from the war caused Spain to reduce the number of naval officers. Under normal circumstances, Franco would have joined the navy, following his father's footsteps. However, the changes of circumstances forced Franco to join the army instead.
            Another impact due to the war was Franco's posting in Morocco. The defeat to America caused many Spanish people to blame the government. In response, the Spanish government tried to reclaim its lost imperial glories by focusing on Morocco. Many soldiers were positioned in Morocco, and Franco was among them.

III.2 Spanish Civil War
            The Spanish Civil War was the most decisive event that lead to Franco's dictatorship. Prior to the Civil War, Franco was only one of the many talented military officers in Spain. It was the Spanish Civil War that provided the basis for Franco's rise to power. By joining Mola's rebellion against the Popular Front government, Franco became part of mainstream of the Nationalist Army. When the Nationalist Army gained control of Spain, Franco reemerged as General Franco, the dictator.

IV. Men Shape History

IV.1 Restoration of the Monarchy
            Franco was a firm advocate of the monarchy. Thus he found the establishment of the Second Republic as unwelcoming. When he gained control of Spain, he had plans of restoring the monarchy. As a matter of fact, Franco actually declared Spain a monarchy in 1947. However, he did not designate a monarch prior to the announcement of Juan Carlos' succession. Franco maintained a "monarchy reinstated with vacant throne". (5) Upon Franco's death, the monarchy was restored to Spain.

IV.2 From the Second Republic to Dictatorship
            After the abdication of Alfonso XII, Spain became a republic for the second time, and democratic elections were held for the first time in sixty years. In other words, Spain had reestablished a democratic government. Francisco 'restored' dictatorship in Spain by gaining power. 1939 marked the end of the Spanish Civil War as well as the Second Republic. From then till 1975, Spain was under the severe dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Progress towards democracy continued only after the death of Franco in 1975.

V. Conclusion
            As can be seen in the life of Francisco Franco, history does indeed shape men and vice versa. Francisco Franco turned out to be who he was because historical circumstances forced him to make certain decisions. The Spanish-American War and the Spanish Civil War were among the two most influential events. On the other hand, Francisco Franco also had great influence on the history of Spain. Franco restored the monarchy to Spain, and 'restored' dictatorship to Spain. Through Franco's life, we can learn the lesson that the lives of individuals can play a big role in the shaping of history.


Notes

(1)      An elite unit of the Spanish Army formerly intended as a Spanish equivalent of the French Foreign Legion.
(2)      A military ranking between Colonel and Major General
(3)      Francisco Franco, from Spanish Talk
(4)      ibid.
(5)      Article "Francisco Franco", from Wikipedia


Bibliography

Note : websites quoted below were visited in June 2008.
1.      Dunder, Jonathan. "Francisco Franco Biography." The Free Information Society. 5 June 2008 .
2.      Article "Francisco Franco.", from Encyclopaedia Britannica Micropaedia Volume 4. 15th Edition, 1998
3.      "Francisco Franco." from : Spanish Talk. 5 June 2008 .
4.      "Francisco Franco." from : Spartacus Schoolnet. 5 June 2008
5.      Article "Francisco Franco." from Wikipedia. 5 June 2008
6.      Pierson, Peter. The History of Spain. United States of America: Greenwood P, 1999
7.      Salvado, Francisco J. Twentieth-Century Spain. Hong Kong: St. Martin's P, 1999.