José Millán Astray (5 July 1879 - 1 January 1954) was the founder and first commander of the Spanish Foreign Legion, a prominent Nationalist leader during the Spanish Civil War, and a major early figure of Francisco Franco's Regime in Spain. During the war, he earned the reputation as a fierce and violent fanatic for the cause. He was Franco's Minister of Press and Propaganda for a time, before he was embroiled in an adulterous scandal. He was quietly exiled to Lisbon, Portugal by Franco, and fell into relative obscurity until his death.
Having lost an arm and an eye during a war in Morocco in the 1900s, Millan was known as "El glorioso mutilado."
José Millán Astray in The War That Came Early
José Millán Astray (1879-1944) had earned a fearsome reputation before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. In 1936, on the flight from Lisbon to Burgos, José Sanjurjo, having agreed to leave behind his wardrobe as a safety precaution, idly wondered who could possibly replace him in the event of his death. He suggested Millán Astray as a possible candidate to his pilot, Major Juan Antonio Ansaldo. Both were amused by this idea, although Ansaldo felt some horror at the idea of "skeletal fanatic" such as Millán Astray leading Spain.
Ironically, after years of fighting that even brought the Civil War into the fold of the Second World War, Millán Astray did become the default leader of the Nationalists in Fall 1943, after Sanjurjo was killed by a sniper the prior Fall, and the Nationalists fell to in-fighting and desertion. In March 1944, Millán Astray officially surrendered to the Republicans. He was allowed to make a last speech to his men, and then maintaining a proud façade, taken into custody and executed in short order. Millán Astray was honest enough to admit that he would have treated his enemies in the same way, had he been on the winning side.
Millán Astray had previously lost an eye and a hand in combat. On the date of the surrender, he wore an eye patch that matched the colors of the Nationalist banner.
Chaim Weinberg, who was invited to attend the ceremony since he was one of the longest serving American Internationals in Spain, felt a grudging respect for Millán Astray, who, unlike other Nationalist generals, chose to remain with his soldiers to the bitter end, and who was undaunted at the prospect of being soon summarily put to death.
Millán Astray is alive at the end of his final scene, but all the characters take it for granted that his execution will take place.
(The War That Came Early)
|Commander of the Spanish Nationalists