They wanted to restore Spain, the Spain of old, a Spain where the dominant institutions were the large estates in the countryside, no more of this nonsense of land reform. There would be no trappings of democracy, no free trade union. The army would remain – would reign supreme.
It would be a military dictatorship, and education would be handed back to the Catholic Church. And you can actually see photographs of bishops and cardinals giving the fascist salute alongside nationalist officers. So it was a pretty stark difference between what two kinds of Spain these two sides wanted.
.. GROSS: You said that Franco’s war was against modernity.
HOCHSCHILD: Absolutely. I mean, he also talked about regaining the Spanish Empire of old. But of course, it was always very foggy how that would happen because the former Spanish colonies in South America, for example, had been independent for hundreds of years. So exactly how the empire was to be regained wasn’t clear, but he certainly had the idea of an empire on his mind.
.. he also talked about regaining the Spanish Empire of old. But of course, it was always very foggy how that would happen because the former Spanish colonies in South America, for example, had been independent for hundreds of years. So exactly how the empire was to be regained wasn’t clear, but he certainly had the idea of an empire on his mind.
And in fact, after Franco and his nationalists won the war, he bargained with Hitler about whether he was going to actually join the Axis in World War II – finally decided not to because Hitler wouldn’t give him everything he wanted, which were a huge swath of British and French colonies in Africa and a slice of France. So he was definitely somebody who want0ed to expand his power.
.. One of the most interesting characters that you write about in this book is the head of Texaco oil, Torkild Rieber. He was the head during the Spanish Civil War, and he supported the fascist cause, the military coup in Spain. And he made a deal with Franco’s regime. What was the deal?
.. He not only did that but he gave them the oil at a big discount, which, as far as we can tell, he never told Texaco shareholders or even his board of directors about. And he violated American law in a couple of ways because U.S. neutrality legislation was pretty strict
.. And this information was passed on to the Nationalists to help submarine captains and bomber pilots look for targets. Twenty-nine oil tankers heading for the Spanish Republic were destroyed, damaged or captured during the war. And in at least one or two cases, we can specifically tie it to information supplied by Texaco. So the United States might be neutral, but Texaco had gone to war.
.. GROSS: Wow, Texaco was acting – because of Rieber – was acting like a spy.
HOCHSCHILD: Absolutely, absolutely. I don’t know of any parallel where a private corporation has supplied a vast amount of intelligence information to a warring government secretly.
.. many of the principle weapons that the Nazis used during World War II had their first trial in combat in Spain – the Messerschmitt 109 fighter plane for example, the Stuka dive bomber, the 88 millimeter artillery piece, which could be used both for antiaircraft purposes and also shelling on the ground. And American soldiers were the victims of these things in Spain, American volunteers.
So this war was really a testing ground for Hitler. And he learned a great deal from it about the strengths and weaknesses of these different weapons.
.. a woman named Virginia Cowles, who was 26 years old when she arrived in Spain, never been to college.
.. What makes her reporting so good, I think, is that she’s one of the very few people who reported from both sides in the war.
She reported from the Republican side. Then she set her sights on being able to get into Nationalist Spain, which was very difficult, especially for a journalist who had written from the Republic. But she managed it, traveled all over the place, was the first foreign correspondent in Nationalist Spain to be able to quote Nationalist officers admitting that they had bombed Guernica – because this was something that Franco and Hitler were strenuously denying.
.. if President Franklin Roosevelt had agreed to sell arms to the Democratic side in Spain, that maybe the Democratic side would’ve won.
Spain would not have become a fascist country. Hitler wouldn’t have been victorious in Spain because Hitler was aligned with the fascist side in Spain. And maybe he would have thought twice before invading so many other countries, and he wouldn’t have had all the military experience that the Spanish Civil War provided for his troops and the tests that it gave to his new bombers and artillery.
So do you think it’s possible that if the U.S. had been willing to sell arms to Spain, that World War II wouldn’t have happened? Or it wouldn’t have happened in the same way that it did?
HOCHSCHILD: I don’t think World War II wouldn’t have happened because Hitler was determined to conquer the world, especially Eastern Europe, the Balkan and Caspian oil fields. This is what he had his eye on. And I think a setback in Spain would not have deterred him from that. But I still think it could’ve made a difference if the Spanish Republic had won because during World War II, Franco was sort of a de facto ally for Hitler.