Monday, Mar. 22, 1937
Twenty-one years ago a boatload of bewildered Italian immigrants sifted through the mill of Ellis Island. One of the number was swarthy, stocky Fortunate Manure, a Sicilian. In the United States Fortunato Manure did not do so badly. He raised a family of seven children, worked as a laborer at various jobs, was able to act enough like a U. S. citizen to get himself a U. S. passport, but the Depression of 1929 left him without a job. One son found work in Philadelphia, the rest of the Manure family in 1931 joined thousands of other disillusioned immigrants and trekked back to Italy. In 1935 Fortunato Manure was called up by the Fascist Government, popped into a uniform and set to digging roads in Ethiopia. Last week unfortunate Fortunato Manure, bearded, bedraggled, found himself in the spotlight of world news, blinking at a row of Red Militiamen in the cellar of Madrid’s War Ministry, answering questions fired at him by rows of foreign correspondents.
“What are you doing in Spain?” barked one.
“Working for Mussolini,” said Fortunato Manure in English.
Beyond that all he knew was that one morning he packed his kit in Ethiopia under the impression that he was to be sent back to Italy, found himself a few weeks later disembarking from an Italian transport at Cadiz, officially a member of Spain’s Foreign Legion. Last week Fortunato Manure was one of some 200 Italians, ranging in rank from privates up to a Lieutenant-Colonel, who were captured by Madrid’s defenders in five days of furious strife which badly broke the point of the so-called “Italian Spearhead” thrusting at Madrid from the northeast on the Guadalajara front.
Even official Berlin broadcasts admitted the Italians had suffered heavy losses, Rome was mum with mortification, and Madrid broadcasters had the Italians fleeing headlong as at Caporetto, in utter rout, abandoning field guns, anti-tank guns, ammunition, food and even that soldiers’ treasure—cigarets—as Soviet bombing and pursuit planes harried them from the skies’ and Red Militiamen charged after them through deep mud and slush.
“It is the fortune of war—one day we are on top, another below,” commented wise, eagle-bald Madrid Defense Junta Commander General Jose Miaja. “We have had a better day than the previous ones, but it is no cause for ringing bells.
A little triumph—if it creates over-optimism—may do harm.” So hard had the Whites been stung northeast of Madrid, though they were getting an offensive under way from the south, that General Miaja doubtless feared the enemy would in exasperation use poison gas for the first time in Spain’s present war. The White’s blatant “Radio General” Queipo de Llano ominously broadcast that White Generalissimo Franco “has enormous supplies of gas, but will not use it, unless Madrid uses it first.” In Moscow jubilant Izvestia cartooned an Italian general squealing from Spain to Mussolini for help. In Spain the Red Militia were coached to greet Italian deserters from the Whites with open arms, cries of “Hurrah for the Italian People!”
How Was & How Is
Monday, Mar. 29, 1937
Objective editors noted with keen interest last week that Niceto Alcala. Zamora y Torres, who was the Republican President of Spain up to less than a year ago and today earns his living as a journalist in France, has now contributed to the Swiss Journal de Geneve his historic recollections of how things went in Madrid under the premiership of Manuel Azana who today is the Leftist Government’s President of Spain.
“The Government gave reign to the mob, tools in the hands of their leaders, to establish a Dictatorship of the Streets as well as over the Government itself,” writes Alcala Zamora, describing events a few months before the Civil War began as he saw them as President of the Republic. “Anxiety increased. There was panic on the stock exchange. … I lost all hope when I saw that four Governmental instructions had been framed with extraordinary partiality toward those who were culpable . . . [officials who] had supinely allowed the burning of churches, private houses, offices and workshops before the eyes of a passive and impotent public. . . . The regime was that of Parliamentarianism gone mad. . . . The extremists of the Popular Front knew well how to maintain themselves without the Cabinet. The latter was nothing more than a pliable instrument, the mere plaything of the real power.”
Ex-President Niceto Alcala Zamora had no connection last week with either Spanish Rightists or Spanish Leftists, except that the latter have his two sons. “The Government of Valencia has thus pointed a contraband dagger at my heart by taking from me hostages beyond all price,” wrote Alcala Zamora in the Journal de Geneve. “An aching heart has steeled itself by a supreme effort to recover the fullness of its liberty, the liberty of the pen and the liberty of action—action faithful to my convictions as a patriotic Republican.”
“Armies of Tin Soldiers!” Equally brimming with Spanish passion last week in Madrid was its Defense Junta head, bald General Jose Miaja who at first tried to keep his Red Militia from growing over confident at their success northeast of Madrid in driving Italian Rightists back nearly 20 miles (TIME, March 22). The General by last week had toured the ter rain from which the Italians fled, abandoning roughly 2,000,000 rounds of am munition, and his pride in Spanish prow ess was at bursting point. A group of neutral Red Cross doctors and nurses offered General Miaja a likely audience of foreigners, and with gusto he let himself go about the Italians: “Are these the men on whom the countries which wish to in flame the world must rely? Then I say to the Democratic countries: ‘Awake! Do not fear these armies of tin soldiers which try to strike fear into the hearts of the world! Their inefficiency has been dis closed in Spain.’ “
Italian captives were lined up in the Ministry of War, harangued by Minister of Education Jesus Hernandez: “Italian prisoners! Sons of Italy! What hatred, what bestial sentiment brought you here to murder our wives and children and de stroy our homes? I speak to you as brothers — and you shall not be executed! [Cheers from the Italians]. Like you, we wish to work, but without permitting our selves to be oppressed by low salaries and a miserable existence. Italian brothers ! When you return home, you can tell your people how the ‘Red Barbarians’ treated you in Spain.” [Cheers, huzzahs].
Statistics & Bombs. It was announced officially in Madrid that 980 buildings had been completely or partially destroyed up to last week, 1,490 persons killed and 3,488 wounded by Rightist bombers. Advancing with the Leftists last week, U. S. correspondents found bedraggled, war-shocked townspeople just poking their heads out of the cellars of Brihuega, 50 miles from Madrid. “For eleven days it has been Hell!” exclaimed a woman who, like most of the citizens, had dived into her cellar as the Italians captured the town and stayed there, trembling, famished until they were driven out. Upon walls were chalked in Italian “Long live Mussolini! Long live Generalissimo Franco!” and in Spanish the Rightists’ battle cry “UP SPAIN!” The correspondents, noting with surprise that the town seemed almost undamaged, drove on. On the way back they looked forward and upward to see one of the most ferocious bombing raids and air combats of the war. A total of nearly 50 Rightist and Leftist planes were involved, swooping, diving and dogfighting all over the sky, motors bellowing, machine guns spitting Death—the entire air battle over in 15 minutes, sky cloudless and serene.
The correspondents, old hands by now at this sort of thing, drove into town. Cabled New York Timesman Herbert L. Matthews: “Now, indeed, Brihuega was a shambles. At least ten large bombs had been dropped within a few square blocks right in the centre of the town. Streets were filled with gaping holes, rocks, wooden beams and bricks. A dozen houses were nothing but shapeless masses of stones and wood in which soldiers were feverishly digging for bodies.
“Two stretchers were carried by with inert bodies, mercifully covered with blankets. Then came three stretchers with wounded. Then still others. Women ran screaming through the streets in terror that could not be allayed, despite the return of safety.”
A frantic group of mothers and children persuaded the journalists to take them in their car to a place of perhaps greater safety. At first the children whimpered and cried as the car jounced along, then a 7-year-old Spaniard was asked by Mr. Matthews: “What do you think of all this?”
“Very good!” replied the child, sitting up and smiling happily. “The bombs destroyed our school.”
Such was Mr. Matthews’ own state of mind that he described this answer as “the only rational remark of the whole astonishing day.” To predict the outcome of the war, or even its next phase, had begun to seem to experts sheer folly. According to latest dispatches, this week General Miaja’s militia and his International Column were pushing steadily toward Generalissimo Franco’s base at Siguenza.
Monday, Apr. 05, 1937
A word that no Italian likes to hear is “Caporetto,” the name of the Alpine village where in 1917 the Italian army broke and ran in the most ignominious rout of the War. Italians heard that word many times last week as fact after fact emerged to show that the defeat of the Italian legions was overwhelming, catastrophic, perhaps un piccolo Caporetto (“a little Caporetto”). Air fighters on both sides are now so good that daylight bombing of important centres is considered too risky. Madrid has not been daylight-bombed for two months. In Salamanca even veteran Hearst Correspondent Karl von Wiegand had to write, and the Rightist censors felt they had to pass, this glorious Leftist news:
“The wiping out of Italy’s mechanized divisions at Guadalajara is forcing upon Franco consideration of the question whether insurgent strategy in whole or in part must be revised. Il Duce’s legionnaires were chewed up worse than is gen erally known. Their defeat resulted in the failure of the Easter Offensive which aimed at closing the bottleneck exit from Madrid.”
Other sources indicated that shattered Italian legions had had to be withdrawn entirely from the Guadalajara front. Their places were taken by long over worked Moors and Spanish Rightists. One hundred and fifty miles to the southwest another Italian force was in the field, operating against the Leftist city of Pozoblanco. Nearby was a prize almost as valuable as Madrid itself, the mercury mines of Almaden, oldest and richest in Europe, vital to munition makers throughout the continent. Anxious to make up for the ignominy of Guadalajara, these Italians with their Spanish allies attacked, were beaten back, attacked again, ended Holy Week just about where they started. Other fronts were at a standstill too. The Red militia were even given week-end leave in Madrid, but there was no rest for Madrid Defender Miaja. He went to the dentist.
Novel-reading admirers of Ernest Hemingway, who boasts that he sharply distinguishes in his own mind between Novelist Hemingway (gruesome, gory, hyper-cynical) and Journalist Hemingway (objective, conscientious and in good taste), were struck by his description of signs of Italian valor on the battlefield of “little Caporetto” or Brihuega last week. “The scrub oak woods,” cabled Journalist Hemingway, “are still full of Italian dead that burial squads have not yet reached. Tank tracks lead to where they died, not as cowards but defending skillfully constructed machine-gun and automatic-rifle positions, where the tanks found them and where they still lie. The track of a tropical hurricane leaves a capricious swath of complete destruction, but the two parallel grooves the tank leaves in the red mud lead to scenes of planned death worse than any hurricane leaves.
“The untilled fields and oak forest are rocky and the Italians were forced to build rocky parapets rather than attempt to dig the soil where a spade would not cut, and the horrible effect of shells— from the guns of the 60 tanks that fought with the [Leftist] infantry in the Brihuega battle—bursting in and against these rock piles made a nightmare of corpses. The small Italian tanks, armed only with machine guns, were as helpless against the medium-sized [Madrid] Government tanks, armed with cannon and machine guns, as Coast Guard cutters would be against armored cruisers.
“Reports that Brihuega was simply an air victory, with [Italian] columns stampeded and panicked without fighting, are corrected when the battlefield is studied. It was a bitterly fought seven-day battle, much of the time rain and snow making auto transport impossible.
“In the final assault, under which the Italians broke and ran, the day was just practical for flying, and 120 planes, 60 tanks and about 10,000 Government infantrymen routed three Italian divisions of 5,000 men each. It was the coordination of those planes, tanks and infantry that brings this war into a new phase.
“You may not like it and wish to believe it is propaganda, but I have seen the battlefield, the booty, the prisoners and the dead.”
Thus many of the big new Russian tanks which Soviet newsreels show rushing in terrifying fashion across the Red Square are now giving mighty account of themselves in Spain, and so is the International Column directed by Stalin’s ablest practical maker of war outside Russia, famed General Emilio Kleber.
It seemed that Benito Mussolini, who at latest reports had withdrawn to seclusion on his farm, where it is Il Duce’s habit to make grave decisions, would now have to admit that Dictator Stalin’s agents are getting together the better Spanish war machine. Mussolini had to decide either to pull out his Italian legions in defeat or hurl in large numbers of Italian regulars. At week’s end Il Duce’s problem was intensified by signs of rebellion in the Rebel ranks. From sources so many and so diverse that neutral observers like the New York Times, crack London Correspondent Frederick T. Birchall believed them came stones c widespread trouble among General Franco’s men: In Spanish Morocco 30 officers of the Tetuan aircraft post were shot for conspiracy; at Malaga 20 Italian carabineers were lined up against a wall and at Algeciras a batch of non-commissioned Italians in the Pavia Regiment were mowed down for plotting General Franco’s assassination.
Reported Correspondent Birchall: “There is a British tendency to attribute this development, always supposing that it is true, to two causes—disillusionment among Italians serving in Spain, many of whom believed they were going out to service in Ethiopia, and growing uneasiness among the Spaniards over the spread of Italian military, political and commercial influence in their country.”
Monday, Feb. 07, 1938
Two WARS AND MORE TO COME—Herbert L. Matthews — Carrick & Evans ($2.50). Direct, unphilosophical reporting by one of the ablest New York Times correspondents, on the Italian campaign in Ethiopia and the siege of Madrid. The eleven chapters on Ethiopia make the Italian advance more of a pushover than U. S. readers would have guessed; the twelve Spanish chapters, written from the Loyalist side, give a confused account of political developments, a vivid description of the battle of Brihuega, which Matthews considers one of the most decisive in history.