German Ju-52 plane
Repository: Adrian Shubert Personal Collection, Toronto, Canada
Date Created: 1939
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Germany
Shown in this postcard celebrating the return of the Condor Legion to Germany, the Junker Ju-52 was a product of Germany’s efforts to evade the limitations on its armed forces imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. It was developed by the Junkers company during the 1920s as a civilian transport plane, but once it was armed it became crucial for the Luftwaffe’s logistics during World War II. Before that, however, it played a hugely important role in the Spanish Civil War as part of the initial German military aid that made Franco’s victory possible.
After the rebellion of July 18, the bulk of the Spanish navy remained loyal to the government of the Republic. As a result, the Army of Africa was essentially trapped in Morocco. The arrival of 20 Ju-52 and 51 Heinkel fighters from Germany on July 28 provided the means for Franco to overcome this situation, transporting 14,000 men and 500 tons of materiel by air over the next four months. Later, after they had been integrated into the Condor Legion, the Junkers would also be used as bombers. The Condor Legion was the superbly armed and trained military unit that Hitler sent to Spain to get combat training and test equipment and tactics as well as to assist Franco. The Nazis applied the lessons they learned in Spain during WWII.
The Condor Legion was formally created in November 1936. Aviation was at its heart, but it also consisted of land and naval units. By the end of the Civil War, some 19,000 men had been part of the Legion, and it had used at least 600 planes, including some of the most advanced of the day: the Stuka dive bomber, the Messerschmitt BF-109 fighter, and the Heinkel 111 bomber. It also had the most modern artillery, including anti-aircraft batteries. Together with the aid sent by Fascist Italy, this gave the rebels air superiority during virtually the entire conflict.
The Condor Legion also had some 200 Panzer 1 tanks, although their contribution was limited by their weak armour. The anti-tank guns were much more effective, countering the superior tanks the Soviet Union sent to the Republic. The German navy also played a role. This was often limited to spying on and intimidating the Republican navy, but at times it engaged in hostilities. One of its submarines sank a Republican C-3 submarine near Málaga in November 1936 and a German naval squadron bombed Almería in May 1937.
The Germans, as well as the Italians, intervened in Spain many months before the Soviet Union, and their aid was more consistent and effective. It was also illegal. First, because they were assisting an illegitimate regime against the recognized government of a sovereign nation; second, because they were violating the Non-Intervention Agreement they had signed in August 1936; and finally because it was used to attack the armed forces and civilian population of a country with which they were not at war.