by E. R. Hooton
Philadelphia: Casemate, 2019. Pp. xii, 274.
llus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $32.95. ISBN: 161200637X
The Military Side of a Highly Political War
While most works on the Spanish Civil War spend more time on politics, in this new treatment, journalist and author Hooton gives us a very military look at the conflict. He speaks of troops and training, commanders and planners, and campaigns and battles, far more than he does of politicians and policies, in a very even-handed account. This means that some long held myths rooted in wartime propaganda get rebutted. Since these are mostly favorable to the Republic (e.g., what happened at Guadalajara and Guernica), some may argue Hooton is pro-Nationalist, but he is on firm ground, and is as often critical of the Nationalist versions of events as he is of the Republican one.
There are, however, a few problems with Morton’s treatment. Morton rather hastily passes from the coup of July 17, 1936, to operations around Madrid in September. This means he misses covering some of the most important – both militarily and politically – actions of the war.
During this period the Nationalists seized a substantial territorial base, and both sides made a number of important mobilization decisions, which worked well for the Nationalists, who leveraged the existing reserve system, giving them a significant advantage despite their initial numerical inferiority. During the same period, the Republic failed to make effective use of the armed forces that had remained loyal, or the existing mobilization base, relying for too long on improvised militias and volunteer force to raise troops; despite mythology, the remnants of the pre-war army played an important role in the defense of Madrid.
As appropriate to the ways in which military events unfolded, Hooton looks at political matters. So, for example, he notes Franco’s frequent willingness to ignore the “advice” of his Axis friends, in contrast to the Republicans, who were frequently pressured into making poor military choices by Spain’s Communists and their Soviet patrons.
Spain in Arms is a valuable read for anyone with an interest in the Spanish Civil War or the coming of World War II.
Note: Spain in Arms is also available in several e-editions.
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