José Sanjurjo y Sacanell, 1st Marquess of the Rif (March 28, 1872 – July 20, 1936) was a Spanish Army General officer who was one of the chief conspirators in the military uprising that led to the Spanish Civil War. Sanjurjo did not live to take part in the war itself, as he was killed at the very outset, in the crash of the plane which was to take him from Portugal to Spain on 20 July 1936. Francisco Franco ultimately succeeded Sanjurjo as the leader of the Nationalist faction.
José Sanjurjo in The War That Came Early
José Sanjurjo (1872-1943) was the leader of the Nationalist faction of the Spanish Civil War. He maintained political ties with Germany and Italy, both of which provided aid in the form of men and arms. In turn, Sanjurjo supported German Chancellor Adolf Hitler's claims in Czechoslovakia, bringing Spain into the Second World War.
Sanjurjo was in exile in Portugal in 1936 when the Spanish Civil War broke out. Sanjurjo immediately flew to Burgos, Spain in a small two-seater plane. Sanjurjo, a vainglorious man, had been determined to bring his entire wardrobe with him. However, the pilot, Major Juan Antonio Ansaldo, feared that the weight of the wardrobe would put them (and by extension, the Nationalist cause) at unnecessary risk. Ansaldo appealed to Sanjurjo's vanity, reminding him how important he was to the cause. Sanjurjo relented, and left his wardrobe behind. The plane safely arrived in Burgos, and Sanjurjo immediately took control of the Nationalist forces.
By 1938, Sanjurjo's forces held roughly half the country. This did not include Madrid, however. In 1936, Sanjurjo could quite easily have taken Madrid from Republican forces. However, he decided to relieve the Alcázar fortress at Toledo, and Madrid remained Republican.
Even so, the knowledge that he had Sanjurjo's support helped bolster Adolf Hitler's confidence as he made demands on the Sudeten region of Czechoslovakia. When a greater European war broke out in September of 1938, Sanjurjo also declared war on Britain and France. He personally led the siege of Gibraltar, with the aid of German and Italian forces, and oversaw its fall in early 1939. After this, however, foreign aid to both sides dried up, as Germany and the Allies were concentrating all their efforts on the fighting in France. Nonetheless, in March 1939, Sanjurjo decided to concentrate on taking Madrid.
Initially, the Nationalists gained some momentum, taking the University City District within a few weeks. However, they could not get into Madrid proper. The Republicans succeeded in pushing the Nationalists out of University City by the middle of the summer.
Concerned, Sanjurjo visited the front personally. He spoke with various men, including Sgt. Miguel Carrasquel and Pvt. Joaquin Delgadillo. Sanjurjo asked for, and received, an honest assessment of the war effort from Carrasquel. Agreeing that there were problems, Sanjurjo moved down the line. He and his entourage briefly came under fire, but survived.
Sanjurjo maintained the offensive on Madrid for the remainder of the year, and into the next, but the line outside Madrid continued to hold on into 1940. Even the "big switch" of Summer of 1940 didn't particularly advantage Sanjurjo; while Britain and France now aligned with Germany and were no longer supplying the Spanish Republic, Germany was not in a position to help the Nationalists much more than they had been. The Republic also gained one unexpected advantage: the arrival of a regiment of Czechoslovak troops who had been fighting in France, and refused to join the war against the Soviet Union.
As fighting dragged on into 1941, the Spanish Civil War was once again a stalemate. Gradually, things began to turn against the Nationalists through 1941. The British military launched a coup that deposed the appeasement-minded government of Horace Wilson in the spring. Britain promptly withdrew from the Soviet Union, and began bombing German territory while fighting Italy in North Africa. While France continued its alliance with Germany for the time being, the French government also began supplying weapons to the Republic. And in December, Czech sniper Vaclav Jezek killed Francisco Franco, one of Sanjurjo's most talented generals.
The Nationalists managed to hold their positions throughout 1942 and into early 1943. Vaclav Jezek actively pursued Sanjurjo, but for the longest time, Sanjurjo didn't oblige him. Finally, on a rainy day in the Fall of 1943, Sanjurjo visited the front, and Jezek shot him in the face.
The Nationalists fell to infighting almost immediately, allowing the Republicans to rapidly retake the country. Several Nationalist officers fled to Portugal. Others were caught by the Republicans and summarily tried and executed. Finally, in early 1944, José Millán Astray became the last overall commander of the Nationalists just long enough to formally surrender and end the war.
- Hitler's War, pgs. 3-7.
- Ibid., pg. 434.
- Ibid., pg. 8.
- Ibid., pg. 20.
- Ibid., pgs. 206-209.
- Ibid., pgs. 327-328.
- Ibid., pgs. 434-435, 441-444.
- West and East, pg. 50.
- Ibid., pg. 176.
- Ibid., pg. 187.
- Ibid., pgs. 188-191.
- The Big Switch, pg. 155.
- Ibid., pg. 245.
- Ibid., pg. 352.
- Coup d'Etat, pgs. 151-152.
- Ibid., pgs. 205-206.
- Ibid., pg. pgs. 408-409.
- Two Fronts, generally.
- Last Orders, pg. 144-146.
- Ibid., pgs. 287-289.
(The War That Came Early)
|Commander of the Spanish Nationalists
July 1936 to Fall 1943
José Millán Astray