Guardia de Asalto
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|Assault Guard Corps
Cuerpo de Guardias de Asalto
|Common name||Guardia de Asalto|
|Formed||January 30, 1932|
|Superseding agency||Compañía de Vanguardia|
|Legal personality||Governmental: Government agency|
|Governing body||Ministry of Governance|
|Overviewed by||Directorate-General of Security|
|Parent agency||Cuerpo de Seguridad|
The Guardia de Asalto (English: Assault Guard), usually shortened to Los Asaltos or just Asaltos, were the blue-uniformed urban police force of Spain during the Spanish Second Republic. It was the urban analogue to the green-uniformed Guardia Civil which patrolled the countryside. The Assault Guards were special police units created by the Spanish Republic in 1931 to deal with urban violence. At the start of the Spanish Civil War there were 18,000 Assault Guards. About 12,000 stayed loyal to the Popular Front government, while another 5,000 joined the Nationalists.
Following the overthrow of the Spanish Monarchy in April 1931, the new Republican regime created the Guardia de Asalto as a gendarmerie style national armed police that could be used to suppress disorder in urban areas. Armed and trained for this purpose, it was intended to provide a more effective force for internal security duties than the ordinary police or the conscript based army. Since its creation in 1844 the 25,000 strong Civil Guard had been available to be ordered into the larger cities in the event of unrest but this efficient rural force, officered from the army and with an oppressive image, was not seen as being necessarily in sympathy with the new Republic or particularly suited for urban operations.
The Ministro de la Gobernación Miguel Maura accordingly reorganized elements of the existing police into a more heavily armed republican security force for service in the cities, leaving the countryside to the Guardia Civil. As an initial step Compañías de Vanguardia (Vanguard Companies) were created. These were subsequently redesignated as Sección de guardias de Asalto). As a part of the reformed Cuerpo de Seguridad they served as control force for masses of people, like the modern anti-riot squads. In 1932, the Cuerpo de Seguridad was renamed as the Cuerpo de Seguridad y Asalto.
The Civil War
Assault Guards played a critical role in preserving the republic during the early stages of the military insurgency that opened the Spanish Civil War, most notably by helping to crush the army uprising in Barcelona and through their contributions to the defense of Madrid, where they did a disproportionate share of both the fighting and the dying. As noted by a Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM) militant who also participated in the Siege of Madrid,
"The guards were the only efficient police corps created by the republic, and in Madrid they were a revolutionary force made up almost exclusively of socialist youth or other left-wingers. Their importance in the fighting that was about to come was equally decisive; it was they who, in the first couple of months, virtually saved Madrid.... In the actual fighting it was the assault guards who again took the brunt, so much so that I can truthfully say that virtually not one Madrid assault guard or officer remained alive after six months."
Perhaps because of the prominence of Assault Guards' interventions on behalf of the left-leaning republicans in the first days and weeks of the conflict, in concert with the perception among many on the left that the Guardia Civil historically tended to support the interests of the middle and upper class and their status quo, there seems to be a widespread, but mistaken, view that Guardia Civil units overwhelmingly supported the Nationalists, while most of the Assault Guards stayed loyal to the Second Republic. In reality, though somewhat more Civil Guards went over to the Nationalists than continued serving the Republic, and although more Assault Guards remained loyal than fought for the Nationalists, large numbers of personnel from both organizations could be found on either side of the conflict.
- Fraser, Ronald (1979). Blood of Spain: An oral history of the Spanish Civil War. New York: Pantheon. pp. 107, 117. ISBN 0-394-73854-3.
- Guardia de Asalto at Spartacus Educational
- La guardia de asalto. Policía de la República, por Alejandro Vargas González, Cuadernos Republicanos, nº 53, Otoño 2003.
- Sección de historia de la página personal del Subinspector Cartujo