The forgotten letter in which eight generals of the Army asked Franco to resign

Updated:11/12/2020 12:20h

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The situation was as tense as it was grotesque. On September 15, 1943, while the WWII still shook Europe, Jose Enrique Varela, arrested for his monarchical ideas a decade before and a recognized military man on the National side after having liberated the Alcázar of Toledo, he presented himself decided in the Palace of El Pardo. In his pocket he guardedly kept a dangerous document that only eyes should read. Perhaps because of the tension of the moment, perhaps out of sheer habit, he entered Francisco Franco without any formality and with his usual baton in hand.

To Franco, who had already been advised of the content of the letter by the Opus Dei intellectual Rafael Calvo Serer, the forms bothered him more than the gale that was glimpsed on the horizon and lectured, like a child, the military man. As revealed by the Hispanicist Paul Preston in «Franco. Caudillo of Spain »and Juan Fernández-Miranda and Jesús Calero in «Don Juan against Franco. The secret papers of the regime », forced the military veteran to leave the room and call before going back into the office. He then gave him a stern reprimand for daring to carry a baton in his presence. Protocol stuff.

José Enrique Varela, to Franco's left
José Enrique Varela, to Franco’s left – ABC

Released the tension, the dictator allowed Varela to hand over the document he kept. He unfolded it and soaked himself in it. «Don’t you estimate, when the time comes, provide Spain with a state regime that, like us, longs for? ”Said one of the sentences. It was a letter signed by up to eight senior Army officers (the Sol, Davila, Orgaz and company) in which they requested the return of the monarchical system to Spain. In a very polite and sibylline way. OR “Phrased in terms of vile flattery”, as he later wrote Jose Maria Gil Robles in your journal.

As was usual for him, he didn’t make a face. Nor was there an instant political reaction. On an official level, the dictator gradually received the signatories in the following days. To hear their opinions, he stated. But the reality is that, at the stroke of «patience, self-confidence and calm exterior“(As Preston says in his work), he managed to outwit fate once more and thwart this attempt at monarchical restoration. One of the many that occurred after the Civil War. Thus, the augury already made by the general of the National side was fulfilled. Miguel Cabanellas when he learned that Franco had been appointed head of state by the National Defense Board in September 1936:

Cabanellas, the general who warned about Franco
Cabanellas, the general who warned about Franco

«You do not know what you have done, because you do not know him as I do, who was under my command in the Army of Africa as head of one of the units in the column under my command; and if, as they want, Spain is going to be given to him at this time, he will believe that it is his and will not let anyone replace him in the War or after it, until his death.

The fact, the most astute will have noticed, has certain current aspects. Not because of the perennial controversy that exists around a dictator who is used like a smokescreen by “Huns and Hotros”, in Unamonian terminology, when appropriate. Or not only, well … The real cause is the controversy that has been generated in recent days with the two popular letters in which dozens of retired Army commanders accused a “social-communist government, supported by pro-independence filoetarras” to threaten the “decomposition of the National Unity.” And, as the philosopher Giambattista Vico wrote, sometimes it seems that history is cyclical.

Against Franco

It is difficult to find the germ that motivated the monarchical generals to rise up, in a more or less scandalous way, against Franco. Although there are some linked figures, since the end of the Civil war, to that trend. The main one was, as Fernández-Miranda and Calero collect, Alfredo Kindelán, staunch defender of handing over power to El Ferrol, but only temporarily and as a means of reinstating the Royal Family in the country. This official went on to explain that “some two hundred thousand Spanish monarchists hate Franco and want him to leave power without delay” in an interview with the “International News Service.”

The historian Luis E. Togores, for his part, he affirms in «Franco against Hitler. The Untold Story of Spain during World War II “, that” the clique of advisers and monarchists that surrounded the suitor began to work to attempt the return to Spain of the Bourbons “at the same moment in which the Third Reich stormed Poland. In their words, both they and a series of generals from the national side with the same political ideas tried to convince the dictator to leave power in favor of Don Juan de Borbón. To do this, they even suspected that they would approach Germany in exchange for their army expelling the Caudillo from command.

Alfredo Kindelán
Alfredo Kindelán – ABC

From then on the road was long, the hard work and the monarchists who joined this cause in the shadows, many more. In the 1940s one of the vertices on which all the conspirators revolved was Eugenio Vegas Latapié, a defender of Don Juan willing to do almost anything to wrest command from Franco. His son was aligned with soldiers as recognized during the Civil War as Juan Yagüe (famous for directing the defenses in front of the Ebro), Agustín Muñoz Grandes (commander of the Blue Division) or, among many others, Gonzalo Queipo de Llano.

But Vegas wasn’t the only standout pillar. Among all this list of monarchical conspirators, one more name arose from the 1940s: Luis Orgaz. High commissioner in Morocco and supporter in principle of Franco, he soon plotted against him when he observed, like Kindelán, that he did not intend to part with power. As he wrote Gil Robles In his diary, this military man put on the table the real possibility of carrying out a coup against the dictator:

Orgaz, one of those who opted to speak out against Franco
Orgaz, one of those who opted to speak out against Franco

«General Orgaz has communicated to Sainz Rodríguez, through Sangroniz, that he is ready to rise up in favor of the monarchy with more than one hundred thousand men and in agreement with Aranda and other generals. For this he wants to have the guarantee of immediate recognition by the allies.

Orgaz asked Gil Robles himself to contact the Allies so that, in some way, they would guarantee his recognition once he had taken power and the Second World War came to an end. The royalist politician, however, answered him bluntly:

“The mentality of this poor man is curious, to whom I have not addressed myself at all, and who only thinks of being president of the first government of the monarchy using the political force of others!”

The letter of discord

It was precisely Orgaz who, seeing himself deprived of the necessary support to establish the monarchy by force, decided to present the proposal through the regulatory channel. In those he was when, as he explains Jesus Palacios Tapias In “Franco’s Letters,” he was informed that a series of officers (most of them lieutenant generals) had written a letter in which they respectfully intended to request Franco to leave his post and cede power to the monarchy.

The September 8, 1943, Orgaz added thus he joined his signature to those of Fidel Dávila, José Solchaga, Alfredo Kindelán, Andrés Saliquet, Miguel Ponte Y Jose Enrique Varela. The text could not be more courteous:

«Excellency: The high hierarchies of the Army are not unaware that today it constitutes the only organic reserve that Spain can count on to overcome the hard times that destiny may reserve for it for the next date. For this reason they do not want to give an excuse to external and internal enemies to suppose their union broken or discipline relaxed, and they took care that subordinate hierarchies did not intervene in the exchanges of views to which their patriotism forced them. That is why they also go to the most discreet and respectful medium Bahamonde, Francisco Franco. to expose their concerns to the only hierarchy superior to them in the Army, doing so with affectionate sincerity, with their only names, without assuming the representation of the armed community, neither required nor granted.

Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco

Comrades in arms are those who come to express their concern and concern to those who achieved with their effort and by their own merit the highest rank in the armies of Land, Sea and Air, won in a victorious and difficult war; the same, with variations in people, some imposed by death, which about seven years ago in an airfield in Salamanca we invested you with the maximum powers in the military command and in that of the State.

On that occasion the resounding and magnificent victory sanctioned with laurels of glory the success of our decision, and the act of excessive will of a few generals became a national agreement by the unanimous, tacit or clamorous assent of the people, to the point of that the extension of the mandate beyond the term for which it was foreseen was lawful.

We would like the success that accompanied us then not to abandon us today by asking our generalissimo with loyalty, respect and affection, if he does not consider, as we do, the time has come to endow Spain with a state regime, which he longs for, as we do, that reinforces the current with unitary, traditional and prestigious contributions inherent to the monarchical form. The occasion seems to have come not to delay any longer the return to those genuinely Spanish modes of government that made our country great, from which it deviated to imitate foreign fashions. The Army, unanimously, will uphold Your Excellency’s decision, ready to suppress any attempt of internal disturbance or underhanded or clear opposition, without harboring the slightest fear of the communist ghost, defeated by its victorious sword, nor of foreign interference.

“We would like the success that accompanied us then not to abandon us today when we ask our generalissimo with loyalty, respect and affection, if he does not consider, as we do, the time has come to endow Spain with a state regime”

This is His Excellency, the request that some old comrades in arms and respectful subordinates raise within the greatest discipline and sincere adherence to the Generalissimo of the Armies of Spain and Head of his State.

Franco couldn’t be more sly. He received each and every one of the signatories in the palace to know their opinions and measure their weaknesses. Furthermore, he constantly toyed with the false idea that, sooner or later, would return power to the monarchy, although without setting deadlines. In his favor he had powerful military personnel such as Muñoz Grandes or Moscardó he hadn’t stamped his signature on the paper, although he knew they felt the same way. In fact, the defender of the Alcázar of Toledo withdrew his name shortly before the handover due to fear of reprisals. In the end everything remained the same, although the culprits were, little by little, deprived of their respective positions.

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