Hitler backed the Fascist Nationalists, and used the war to try out weapons and strategies he’d later use in World War II. The Soviet Union backed the Communist Republicans, along with a cadre of American volunteers – the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.
Also backing the Spanish Fascists: Texaco, led by CEO Torkild Rieber, who later hired German Nazis, was fired by Texaco when the US turned resolutely anti-Nazi on the verge of our entry into World War II, and went to work for the Nazis directly.
On Fresh Air:
Nearly 80 years ago, about 2,800 Americans volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War. The war began in July 1936, when Gen. Francisco Franco led a fascist military coup against the the country’s newly elected democratic government. It lasted until Franco’s victory in 1939.
Journalist Adam Hochschild tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that “it was by far the largest number of Americans before or since who’ve ever joined somebody else’s civil war.”
Hochschild chronicles Americans’ involvement in the war in his new book, Spain in Our Hearts. He says that the majority of Americans in Spain (including writer Ernest Hemingway, who reported on the conflict) were sympathetic to the Republican forces who fought against Franco’s Nationalists.