Italian occupation of Majorca

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Majorca
Majorca
Italian-occupied territory

1936–1939
Flag Coat of arms
Flag Coat of arms
Location of Majorca
The Balearic Islands during the Spanish Civil War.
Majorca is the large central island.
Light blue: Italian / Spanish Nationalist-occupied territory.
Grey: Spanish Republican-occupied territory.
Capital Palma
Government Occupation
Proconsul
 -  1936 Arconovaldo Bonaccorsi
Historical era Interwar period
 -  Established 1936
 -  Disestablished 1939

The Italian occupation of Majorca lasted the entire Spanish Civil War. Italy intervened in the war with the intention of annexing the Balearic Islands and Ceuta and creating a client state in Spain.[1] Indeed fascist Italy sought the possible acquisition of the Balearic Islands due to its strategic position in which Italy could use the islands as a base to disrupt lines of communication between France to its North African colonies and between British Gibraltar and Malta.[2] Italian flags were flown over the island.[3] Italian forces dominated Majorca, with Italians openly manning the Majorcan airfields at Alcúdia and Palma, as well as Italian warships being based in the harbour of Palma.[4] However some historians -like Gilbeto Oneto and Rosaria Quartararo- expressed a criticism about this supposed Italian plan to annex Majorca.

Characteristics[edit]

Prior to all-out intervention by Italy in Spain, Mussolini authorized "volunteers" to go to Spain, resulting in Fascist Blackshirt leader Arconovaldo Bonaccorsi (also known as "Count Rossi") led a raiding force that landed on the largest Balearic island of Majorca, and seized control of the island.[5] Bonaccorsi was sent to Majorca to be an Italian proconsul in the Balearics.[6] Bonaccorsi proclaimed that Italy would occupy the island in perpetuity.[7] Bonaccorsi initiated a brutal reign of terror in Majorca, arranging the murder of 3,000 people on the island accused of being communists, including emptying its prisons by having all prisoners shot.[8] During the aftermath of the Battle of Majorca, Bonaccorsi renamed the main street of Palma de Majorca Via Roma, and adorned it with statues of Roman eagles.[9] Bonaccorsi was later awarded by Italy for his activity in Majorca.[10]

Italian forces launched air raids from Majorca against Republican-held cities on mainland Spain.[11] Initially Mussolini only authorized a weak force of Italian bomber aircraft to be based in Majorca in 1936 to avoid antagonizing Britain and France.[12] However the lack of resolve by the British and French to Italy's strategy in the region, encouraged Mussolini to deploy twelve more bombers to be stationed in Majorca, including one aircraft flown by his son, Bruno Mussolini.[13] By January 1938, Mussolini had doubled the number of bombers stationed in the Balearics and increased bomber attacks on shipping headed to support Spanish Republican forces.[14] The buildup of Italian bomber aircraft on the island's airfields and increased Italian air attacks on Republican-held ports and shipping headed to Republican ports was viewed by France as provocative.[15]

After Franco's victory in the civil war, and several days after Italy's conquest in the Balkans of Albania, Mussolini issued an order on April 11 or 12 1939, to withdraw all Italian forces from Spain.[16] Mussolini issued this order in response to Germany's sudden action of invading Czechoslovakia in 1939, in which Mussolini was aggravated by Hitler's swift success and sought to prepare Italy to make similar conquests in Eastern Europe.[17]

Criticism of the supposition[edit]

Gilberto Oneto, an Italian historian, wrote the following about Bonaccorsi and the Italians in Majorca:

The nationalist revolt, suppressed in all of Catalonia, has happened successfully only in the island of Mallorca, but the Republicans are going to occupy it. The Italian government has a strong interest (not just strategic) for the Balearic Islands. Action is needed urgently. Need someone skilled enough, smart, determined and ruthless, and they remember the beefy bolognese squadrista Bonaccorsi. On August 26, 1936 he landed at Palma, calling himself Count Aldo Rossi ("Conde Rossi" or el Conde de Leon y Son Servera for Spanish). Resolutely takes command of the disorganized local nationalist forces, puts together 2.500/3.500 men between soldiers, legionaries of Tercio, volunteers, soldiers of the Guardia Civil and Falange, and deals with strong decision against the Republican forces (6000 to 10,000 men) landed 10 days prior to Manacor, commanded by General Alberto Bayo, a theorist of guerrilla warfare and the future "ideal teacher" of Fidel Castro. With the support of the Italian airforce on September 3 Bonaccorsi defeats the Republicans who begin a disastrous retreat that ended on day 12. After the victory of Manacor Bonaccorsi appoints himself military commander and inspector general of all the troops, creating the "Dragones de la muerte". On 20 September with 500 men he landed in Ibiza, camouflaged. He also takes Formentera and Cabrera. Only Minorca remains in the hands of the Reds, protected by a secret agreement between Italy and England. Bonaccorsi then starts to do the "pacificacion" of Majorca, "cleaning" the island from marxists. George Bernanos describes the nearly 3,000 executions of communists done by Bonaccorsi's Dragones de la muerte, but he did not see the early violence (nearly 1,500 nationalists killed only in Majorca) of the marxists done before the arrival of Bonaccorsi. In reality, the Bonaccorsi murders were only 700 (or 1500, as reported by the Italian consul in the Balearic islands), but this was enough to create huge complaints from France and England (even if in Majorca the civil war deaths were in percentage one tenth of those happened in continental Spain). The pressures were such, that he was forced -by diplomatic missions- to be returned to Italy on December 23, 1936. Additionally, Mussolini did not like the Bonaccorsi boasting that Italy was to remain forever in Majorca.

In Oneto's opinion, the Italians only supported (initially, when Bonaccorsi landed in the island) the possibility of promoting a semi-independent Majorca (under Italian influence) in case of Republican victory in the Spanish civil war. But with Franco's victory, they understood that this project of "partial" independence was impossible.[18]

Historian Rosaria Quartararo pinpointed that all the Spanish Republican commentaries on supposed Italian control of Majorca were based on the possible segret agreement of the 1920s between Mussolini and Primo de Rivera over Italian control of ther Balearic islands, an agreement that was never demonstrated by documents or proofs.[19] She even noted that the Italians had only 500 men (supported by a few dozen airplanes and some ships) in Majorca, when Bonaccorsi seemed to be the possible "governor of Majorca" in 1936, and they were too few to control an island with nearly half a million inhabitants and with more than 25,000 Spaniards fighting each other in a civil war. Furthermore, Mussolini knew that Francisco Franco was totally contrary to any territorial concession to Italy of Spanish areas, not even in the Spain's colonies in Africa.[20]

After Bonaccorsi return to Italy, the Italians did not express intentions of taking control of the Balearic islands.[21] Mussolini wanted only an air base in Minorca,[22] and in early 1939 he just made a little & informal request to Franco about it (receiving a denial). Successively in spring 1939 he ordered the withdrawal of all the Italian forces in Spain.[23]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ R. J. B. Bosworth. The Oxford handbook of fascism. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2009. Pp. 246.
  2. ^ John J. Mearsheimer. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. W. W. Norton & Company, 2003.
  3. ^ S. Balfour. Spain and the Great Powers in the Twentieth Century. Routledge, London, England, UK; New York, New York, USA: 1999. p. 172.
  4. ^ LIFE 22 November 1937.
  5. ^ Mr. Ray Moseley. Mussolini's Shadow: The Double Life of Count Galeazzo Ciano. Yale University Press, 2000. Pp. 27.
  6. ^ Mr. Ray Moseley. Mussolini's Shadow: The Double Life of Count Galeazzo Ciano. Yale University Press, 2000. Pp. 27.
  7. ^ Raanan Rein. Spain and the Mediterranean Since 1898. London, England, UK; Portland, Oregon, USA: FRANK CASS, 1999. Pp. 155.
  8. ^ Mr. Ray Moseley. Mussolini's Shadow: The Double Life of Count Galeazzo Ciano. Yale University Press, 2000. Pp. 27.
  9. ^ Abulafia, David. 2001. The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean. Oxford University Press. p. 604
  10. ^ Mr. Ray Moseley. Mussolini's Shadow: The Double Life of Count Galeazzo Ciano. Yale University Press, 2000. Pp. 27.
  11. ^ S. Balfour. Spain and the Great Powers in the Twentieth Century. Routledge, London, England, UK; New York, New York, USA: 1999. p. 172.
  12. ^ Reynolds Mathewson Salerno. Vital Crossroads: Mediterranean Origins of the Second World War, 1935-1940. Cornell University, 2002. Pp. 32.
  13. ^ Reynolds Mathewson Salerno. Vital Crossroads: Mediterranean Origins of the Second World War, 1935-1940. Cornell University, 2002. Pp. 32.
  14. ^ Reynolds Mathewson Salerno. Vital Crossroads: Mediterranean Origins of the Second World War, 1935-1940. Cornell University, 2002. Pp. 29.
  15. ^ Reynolds Mathewson Salerno. Vital Crossroads: Mediterranean Origins of the Second World War, 1935-1940. Cornell University, 2002. Pp. 32.
  16. ^ Robert H. Whealey. Hitler And Spain: The Nazi Role in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939. Paperback edition. Lexington, Kentucky, USA: University of Kentucky Press, 2005. Pp. 62.
  17. ^ Robert H. Whealey. Hitler And Spain: The Nazi Role in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939. Paperback edition. Lexington, Kentucky, USA: University of Kentucky Press, 2005. Pp. 62.
  18. ^ Canosa Romano: Mussolini e Franco
  19. ^ Rosaria Quartararo: "Política feixista a les Balears (1936-1939)" p. 154
  20. ^ Rosaria Quartararo: "Política feixista a les Balears (1936-1939)" p.162
  21. ^ On December 14, 1936 British prime minister Eden wrote a memorandum to the Great Britain Parliament, where he warned that Italy could create a "Protectorate" in Majorca. Mussolini answered denying any intention related.
  22. ^ Rosaria Quartararo: "Política feixista a les Balears (1936-1939)" p. 165-173
  23. ^ Gatta, B. Gli uomini del Duce. Chapter IV