Hidden History: America’s Attempt At Restarting The Spanish Civil War

An oft heard refrain in recent years aimed at Brits on social media after reading some horrible Islam-related news report or horror is, “Thank God America saved the English from all speaking German.

This is a mock reference to the British going Muslim instead. As history is reviewed and the tertiary effects come to light, the American win in World War II looks increasingly like a win for International Communism.

Because of the Venona cables, memoirs, the KGB’s files, and other sources, President Roosevelt’s administration full of communists can be discussed with far less pushback now that the formal, explicitly one party state reigns supreme. Not just the administration, but the security forces in FDR’s era were riddled with communists and fellow travelers. Some took the opportunity to settle old fights with fascists. One nearly restarted the Spanish Civil War that lasted from 1936-1939.

The OSS was the forerunner to CIA. It started humbly in 1942 with one foreign correspondent as its first spy or, better labelled, asset. General Donovan’s doors were flung open with little background checking and a bias towards recruiting men with experience who just wanted to fight with fascism.

One man who started out striving for peace and avoiding the war, but was very anti-fascist, was Donald Downes. Downes’ skills for the OSS were developed as part of the International Free World Association, a known communist front with KGB connections that spied on his fellow Americans in the America First movement. The Anti Defamation League and CIO helped Downes, and FDR was willing to look past the revolutionary rhetoric in exchange for the votes. Downes joined the OSS and delivered its greatest failure of the war: Operation Bananas.

The mission was supposedly simple: observe Spanish airfields on the off chance that they were actually German airfields.

In measure of loss or life and stakes, the failure is relatively mild. Jimmy Carter’s Iranian Desert One fiasco merits a page, and that lost just a fewer men but had far greater effect on national psyhce. There were eighteen men lost, equipment wasted, the near push of a neutral to the Axis, and many apologies to Gen. Franco. Leaving it near-unsearchable might be the contention between those connected to World War II Mediterranean espionage and those that aren’t that Downes’ Operation Bananas was a preface to restarting the Spanish Civil War.

Downes was an academic who served in intelligence, as was Carleton Coon. Coon claims Bananas was a wild decision by those wishing to restart the Spanish Civil War. Downes defends his actions as just following orders. His orders were to observe. Just observe the chance that Germans were building airfields in Spain. Downes went well beyond that.

Franco’s regime caught onto the operation early. They killed eight in a firefight and executed ten afterwards, while also arresting over 200 Spanish citizens. For an observation operation, it seems large. The problem Downes runs into is explaining in his memoir how he requested $6,000,000 in gold pieces to buy off generals, just in case. The group that Downes put together was so secret that despite Gen. Donovan’s allowance of a special Spanish group to form under Downes, Downes had made it “independent of the Spanish Desk in OSS.” Downes also writes of meeting with Dr. Juan Negrin, a prominent socialist who worked with communists. Dr. Negrin promised partisans to fight evil Franco and put some of his best operatives at Downes’ call.

Operation Bananas was ruined when they were abandoned of sorts, due to the Allied effort. Some the incompetence can be blamed on the fact they held a fateful meeting of all agents in the one location where they kept their weapons and ammunition. This plan was sniffed out within a month of implementation, and the Americans did not bother Franco the rest of the war. Downes wrote that America betrayed them after the war when they let Franco’s regime stand.

Before brushing aside the idea that this operation did not have that civil war goal in mind, consider the circumstantial evidence. The Allies created partisan movements in any European nation they could. Yugoslavia’s Tito received air drops behind Axis lines and would later win electoral victory over nationalist elements. Downes himself admitted of meeting an opposition figure and preparing to bribe generals. The fact that there was genuine concern Franco would take Gibraltar or side with the Axis. Better yet, there has been no link to Bananas’ details.

Exploring for yourself is going to take more legwork. That may be the best bit of evidence yet. This dog that didn’t bark bit of evidence is how a mission mentioned as the OSS’ biggest failure in World War II does not even have a Wikipedia page.

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6 Comments

  1. This was an interesting piece of history. Maybe you should check ru.wikipedia.org for a piece on Operation Bananas? 😉

  2. You guys don´t have a WordPress Like button. I find it court to click a like button to let (the author) know that I´ve looked at an article. So I´m making this comment instead.

  3. { The author of Cloak and Gown: Scholars in America’s Secret War (1987) has pointed out: “Downes collected Yale stories and regaled his classmates with gossip about their professors; he loved to keep late hours, reading, visiting, and then to sleep in the next morning, the janitor daily bringing him breakfast in bed. Even then his friends noticed Downes’s quick passion, his ready commitment to what he regarded as the moral side in a controversy, and his general lack of respect for another person’s system of knowledge: he stood outside other cultures, peering in, curious, unaffected, yet somehow and paradoxically angry with others for their failure to be curious themselves about how reality was essentially a moral construction.” }

    By the way; relatively unrelated, are you familiar with the 2004 work «The Secret War Against Sweden: US and British Submarine Deception in the 1980s»?

  4. Laguna Beach Fogey July 12, 2016 at 10:53 am

    Back in the ’90s about 20+ years ago, when the internet first got started, I used to troll Abe Lincoln Brigade veterans and their family members online, which, I’m happy to say, caused them some distress. I noted at the time that these old mofos were proud and unrepentant about their service, but there was also a lot of bitterness. With good reason. Never forget, never let up.

  5. Tito didn’t win any elections, he won through force of arms after the Allies stopped supporting the Chetniks (royalist, nationalist guerillas who both resisted and collaborated with the Germans selectively) and started supporting the Communists. Once Allied support stopped flowing, the Chetniks were doomed militarily and lost the civil war to Tito.

  6. “Before brushing aside the idea that this operation did not have that civil war goal in mind, consider the circumstantial evidence. The Allies created partisan movements in any European nation they could. Yugoslavia’s Tito received air drops behind Axis lines and would later win electoral victory over nationalist elements. ”

    One detail. If somebody was thinking about creating partisan movements in Spain, he should be fired right away.

    You don’t need to create partisan movements in Spain. They appear like fucking mushrooms after the rain. After the Civil War, there were republicans partisan movements everywhere for almost a decade. They were so numerous that there’s even a name to describe the ones during the 40s: maquis.

    Basically, war in Spain has been always about guerrillas, partisans, and war of attrition. That was the way the French invasion was fought back in Napoleon times, and it was an important part of Civil War too. In Spain it’s an open secret that nobody entered Spain during WW2 because nobody wanted to face guerrilla wars with people who had three years of experience. That applies to Allies, who were far from happy with Franco, but that applies to Hitler too, who was equally far from happy with Gibraltar channel open for Allies.

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