Friday, 31 March 2017

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 31st March – 19th June 1937

THE BATTLE FOR BILBAO

The Nationalists forces in the North, led by General Emilio Mola, began an offensive against Basque forces in Vizcaya with the intention of capturing the Basque stronghold of Bilbao. The Basques, who were not well armed and who were led by General Francisco Llano de la Encomienda, gave ground, and the towns of Durango and Guernica surrendered on 28th April after suffering heavy bombing by units of the German Condor Legion.

He-111s of the Condor Legion preparing to bomb targets in the Basque region.
After the death of General Mola in an air crash on 3rd June, General Fidel Davila took command of the Nationalist forces. By 11th June the Basques had withdrawn behind the "Ring of Iron" defences around Bilbao, but these proved to be less than effective when subjected to heavy artillery bombardment. Under cover of the bombardment the Nationalists breached the outer defences and the "Ring of Iron" collapsed. On the night of 13th June most of the civilian inhabitants of Bilbao were evacuated, and on 18th June the last units of the Basque army, now led by General Mariano Gamir Ulibarri, abandoned the city. The Nationalists entered Bilbao on the next day.

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