Republican Landing in Mallorca
Repository: Adrian Shubert Personal Collection, Toronto, Canada
Creator: Puig Farran, Andreu, 1904-1982
Contributor: La Vanguardia
Fond or Collection
Repository and Location
Adrian Shubert Personal Collection, Toronto, Canada
Date Created: 1936
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Barcelona, Spain
Between August 16 and September 4, 1936, Republican militias attempted to conquer the island of Mallorca, along with nearby Ibiza and Formentera. As happened virtually every time they confronted the more experienced and better armed and disciplined rebel forces in the open field, they failed. This defeat, which coincided with the loss of Irún, marked the beginning of the end for the Republican militias. It was also significant for two other reasons. One was that, along with Badajoz and Irún, Mallorca was a strategic defeat. With the first, the Francoists ensured the integrity of the territory they held, and with the second they isolated the north of the Republican zone from France. With Mallorca, they held onto a crucial base for controlling the Mediterranean. The other reason was that Mallorca was a turning point in Italian intervention in the war.
The Republican forces commanded by Captain Alberto Bayo consisted of some 8,000 men. Most were anarchist militias from Barcelona under the control of the Central Antifascist Militias Committee of Catalonia and the Generalitat. After some diversionary landings on the nearby islands, which also took away the element of surprise, they landed with the rest of the government forces near Puerto Cristo and Punto Amer. There was not much coordination and it was difficult to get from their landing places in the north of the island to the capital of Palma in the south. Their plan was confusing and they executed it slowly. This meant that the invaders spent too long on the beach heads, which allowed the troops of the garrison, reinforced by Falangist militias, to bottle them up. The role of the Italian planes and troops and the presence of two cruisers in Palma harbour, in an operation co-ordinated by the Fascist Arconovaldo Bonaccorsi, was crucial.
Rebel control of the air made the Republican position indefensible. They retreated on September 4, leaving behind large numbers of wounded and missing who were then executed. Italy now had a strong position on the islands and began to build up its forces there, especially the air force that would play such a large role in bombarding Republican cities on the Mediterranean coast. Bonaccorsi, who gave himself the title the “Red Count”, became the real power on the island. He organized the Falangist patrols known as the Dragons of Death that launched an authentic reign of terror that included the deaths of between 2,000 and 3,000 people. It was this repression that led French Catholic writer Georges Bernanos, who was initially a supporter of Franco, to write his A Diary of My Times, a book that mobilized liberal Catholic opinion against the rebels.
Mallorca also became the main Francoist naval base in the Mediterranean and, with Italian and German support, this allowed them to establish their dominance over the less well organized and internationally isolated Republican fleet.