For many years before America made its participation in WWII official on December 8, 1941, the Nazis had been beating up most of Europe. There was another war going on, too, one that we here in America don’t reference a lot: the Spanish Civil War.
This war divided Spain and went on for almost three years - from July 1936 until April 1939. It was the Nationalists (i.e. rebels) vs. the Republicans (i.e. those in power) and it was a nasty fight, as it always is when both sides are convinced they are right and are fighting for power on their own soil. The war started with a partially successful coup by a group of generals against the elected government and then dragged on for three years.
“Outside” countries weighed in with support and supplies. The Republicans got help from Mexico and the Soviet Union. The Nationalists got help from Nazi Germany, Portugal and Italy.
The war was fought with tanks and airplanes as well as on the ground. Germany is said to have provided 600 airplanes and 200 tanks to the rebels. The Germans got the added benefit of being able to analyze and improve their tank tactics in actual battle situations in Spain prior to the big show over Europe 1939-1945.
One of the German airplanes used in Spain was the Messerschmitt Bf 109. This airplane is considered one of the best fighters developed during the WWII era and the Tuskegee Airmen were very familiar with them, shooting down more than 45 Me 109’s (the airplane's short name) in air combat.
|An Me 109 waiting to fly (Photo courtesy luftwaffeair.com)|
After the war, most of the remaining German Me 109s were scrapped, but a number of them were used by Finland and Switzerland for a few years post-war. Interestingly, Spain was given a contract to build them for Germany in 1942, but they had trouble getting engines. Production never really stopped, though, and in 1967, an American producer needed a group of the Me 109s for a movie and Spain was able to provide them (now called the HA-11xx series). This group of airplanes was used in a number of WWII movies for the next 35 years, including 1995’s HBO film “Tuskegee Airmen.”A number of wrecked Me 109s have been retrieved from Russia for restoration but this one, set up to start its rebuild at MeierMotorsGmbH in Germany, was actually used in the Spainish Civil War so we’ve come full circle in our overview of this WWII fighter.
Still in Indiana
The Mustang and RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit are at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. as part of their homecoming festivities. The Traveling Exhibit is on campus today and tomorrow. Today’s public hours are 3 to 5 p.m. and tomorrow’s hours are 8 a.m. until noon.
Countdown to the election: 26 days
The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven 501c3 non-profit organization that operates under the auspices of the Commemorative Air Force. For more information, please visit redtail.org.