Between July 1936 and April 1939, Spain suffered a bloody civil war as a coalition of Nationalists under Generalissimo Francisco Franco staged an insurrection against the Second Spanish Republic. Nationalist forces had won the bitter struggle, at a steep cost: Some 300,000 fighters killed on both sides, with another 200,000 civilians dead in the crossfire. Franco would rule Spain as dictator for the next 35 years.
But the Spanish Civil War had significance far beyond the Iberian peninsula. European observers watched the fighting closely, alternately portraying the conflict as a fight between dictatorship and democracy, as a class struggle, and as a struggle between communism and fascism.
It is not difficult to spot antecedents of the massive global conflict within the Spanish Civil War. Nazi Germany and fascist Italy furnished munitions and supplies to the Nationalists; the communist Soviet Union furnished support to the Republicans. Hitler used the Spanish Civil War to test new German military equipment and doctrine, and to provide his forces with combat experience for the war he had already planned to launch.
Though the United States remained officially neutral in the conflict, some 2,800 Americans made their way to Spain to fight on the Republican side, most famously in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Those returned veterans would become the subjects of the first serious scientific study of fear in battle, insights that would help the United States prepare its own troops to fight in the Second World War.
Join Christopher Hamner, a professor of history at George Mason University, as explores the war and its impact of the world.
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