VIDA BAJO REGLA DE FRANCO
UNDER FRANCO'S RULE
Falange Party Symbol - The Yoke and Arrows - Francisco Franco, El Caudillo
Those of us working on this website debated whether we
should give space to a fascist dictator but decided that the site would be
incomplete without remembering what it was like to live in a country under
Those of us in the Class of 1964, those that came before us, and many that came
after, also lived in a country without the freedoms our fathers were stationed
there to protect - an ironic reality of the geographic necessity of
strategically positioning forces during the Cold War.
It may not have been necessary except for the fact that Charles de Gaulle,
President of a country so many of our men and women died liberating, was in the
process of kicking our military forces out of his country. He did so
cynically knowing that we had no choice but to remain in Germany, still between
La Belle France and the Soviet threat.
Anticipating this eventual move by the French, and the driven by the need to
disperse our strategic forces so they wouldn't be concentrated and more
vulnerable just in northern Europe, and the few other places where we maintained
SAC bases overseas, our government signed a Status of Forces agreement with
This move angered many in our country and around the world who thought
doing so helped legitimize Franco's government, one that was something of a
pariah in Europe and the world in general at that time. It also angered
many in our armed forces since Franco's Spain facilitated, if not outright
supported, Nazi operations during WWII. For example, San Sebastian, on the
Bay of Biscay, was a well-known safe haven for Nazi submarines and other naval
craft during WWII.
As youngsters, temporary residents, and living under the protection of the US
Government, most of the oppressiveness of the Franco regime didn't touch us at
all. We gave a nod to the extreme conservatism of fascist Spain in our
dress requirements and the standards of behavior we were expected to maintain,
often more in the breach than in their observance.
In the winter, American men and boys with the military over the age of 14 had to wear
a coat and tie after 7 PM for the late fall, winter, and early spring
months. Women and girls over 14 were expected to wear dresses, and no one was
allowed to wear blue jeans outside of the living areas. Families could not
possess more than one automobile and a second motor vehicle could have no more
than a 50 cc engine.
Coming from the States where most of our friends were in the process of getting
their drivers licenses, this seemed to some of our young minds as a real
hardship. Cheap taxis, public transportation, and Shank's Mare all but
rendered this "hardship" nothing but a minor
Carlos, King of Spain
Years later, when I lived overseas and got to know some Spaniards in the expatriate
got an earful about the U.S. military presence from an entirely different
perspective. Many of them, mostly from families that lost loved ones and
much of what they owned in the Spanish Civil War, continued to resent the
treaty. Some were especially resentful about the presence of a foreign
military base just outside their capital city, a position I find completely
understandable when I think about the possibility of a foreign military base
just outside Washington, D.C. They did acknowledge, in fairness, that the
money the US Government pumped into the local economies near the bases was very
Added to our presence in Franco's Spain was an additional emotional dimension in
the Spanish mind. Within the living memory of many Spaniards was the
Spanish-American War of 1898, one in which we humiliated Spanish Forces in
Manila Bay, and drove them from the last of their major Western Hemisphere
colonies. On a personal basis, none of this affected their extreme
courtesy and hospitality, something we all remember with affection.
Others in our class relate that, in their later travels to Spain, in
conversations with Spaniards, some voiced a yearning, sotto vocce,
for some aspects of life under Franco. They were particularly agitated at
the increase in crime that seems to plague democracies with laws respecting
civil rights and that also have high unemployment rates. Under Franco,
such crimes were not rampant, although the prisons were not only full of
political prisoners, but also of petty criminals who might languish there for
years beyond what our penal code might dictate.
We all knew that one should not run afoul of the Guardia Civil, men who we all
remember for their unique headgear, and who patrolled mostly in pairs toting
submachine guns in plain view. Some of us did have the opportunity to meet
these men in their professional capacities as "peacekeepers," and
regretted it mightily.
Something I found interesting about the Spanish Government's arrangements during
our stay was that Juan Carlos, heir to the Spanish throne, lived in Spain and
cooperated with the existing government in anticipation of an eventual transfer
of power to a government in which he would become the sovereign. It was
interesting in that Franco's ascension to power deposed Juan Carlos's father.
The Falange Party is still apparently a viable political party in Spain, if web
searches are any indication. It does not seem to have nearly the
membership of other political parties.
I had the opportunity, while living in Poland, to meet some Spanish communists
whose parents were given asylum after the Spanish Civil War. Parts of the
former Soviet bloc are apparently now home to Spanish political refugees and
their descendents. Their stories are fascinating but too long for posting
Anyone who would like to post their opinions and experiences about this aspect of our life in Spain
is welcome to send written contributions.
begin to smell a rat.
Miguel de Cervantes