1936 Spanien 1939 embroidered cuff title with Russia braid for soldiers of the Legion Condor of the Spanish civil war.
Following the military coup in Spain on 17 July 1936 at the start of the Spanish Civil War, the Nationalists requested the support of Hitler’s Germany and fascist Italy. The first request for German aircraft was made on 22 July, with an order for 10 transport aircraft. Hitler decided to support the Nationalists on 25 or 26 July, but was wary of provoking a Europe-wide war. The Reich Air Travel Ministry concluded that Nationalist forces would need at least 20 Junkers Ju 52s, flown by Luft Hansa pilots, to carry the Army of Africa from Spanish Morocco to Spain. This mission became known as Operation Magic Fire Feuerzauber).The joint Spanish-German “Spanish-Moroccan Transport Company” (Spanish: Companía Hispano-Marroquí de Transporte, HISMA) and an entirely German company, the Raw Materials and Good Purchasing Company (German: Rohstoffe-und-Waren-Einkaufsgesellschaft, ROWAK) were established. This involvement was kept covert, hidden from both foreign and economic ministries, and funded with three million Reichsmarks.
The organisation and recruitment of German volunteers was also kept secret. The first contingent of 86 men left on 1 August, unaware of their destination. They were accompanied with six biplane fighters, anti-aircraft guns and about 100 tons of other supplies. They were positioned at Tablada airfield near Seville, and accompanied by German Air transport began the airlift of Franco’s troops to Spain. Germany’s involvement grew in September to encompass the Wehrmacht’s other branches; Operation Magic Fire was renamed Operation Guido in November. A wide belief was that the soldiers would train the Nationalists, and not engage. The Kriegsmarine provided submarines from 24 October and also provided various surface ships and coordinated movement of German supplies to Spain. German U-Boats were dispatched to Spanish waters under the code name Ursula.
In the two weeks following 27 July, German transport moved nearly 2,500 troops of the Army of Africa to Spain. By 11 October, the mission’s official end, 13,500 troops, 127 machine guns and 36 field guns had been carried into Spain from Morocco. Over this period there was a movement from training and supply missions to overt combat. The operation leader, Alexander von Scheele, was replaced by Walter Warlimont. In September, 86 tons of bombs, 40 Panzer I tanks and 122 personnel had been landed in Spain; they were accompanied with 108 aircraft in the July–October period, split between aircraft for the Nationalist faction itself and planes for German volunteers in Spain.
German air crews supported the Nationalist advance on Madrid, and the successful relief of the Siege of the Alcázar. Ultimately, this phase of the Siege of Madrid would be unsuccessful. Soviet air support for the Republicans was growing, particularly through the supply of Polikarpov aircraft. Warlimont appealed to Nazi Germany to step up support. Following German recognition of Franco’s government on 30 September, German efforts in Spain were reorganized and expanded. The existing command structure was replaced with the Winterübung Rügen, and the military units already in Spain were formed into a new legion, which was briefly called the Iron Rations (Eiserne Rationen) and the Iron Legion (German: Eiserne Legion) before Hermann Göring renamed it the Condor Legion (German: Legion Condor). The first German chargé d’affaires to Franco’s government, General Wilhelm von Faupel,[nb 1] arrived in November, but was told not to interfere in military matters.