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Why did the United States not fight in the Spanish Civil War?


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The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936 caught the United States still struggling its way out of the Great Depression, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt still placed his primary priorities on domestic affairs, as well as accommodating a majority of Americans who preferred isolationism. The rest of Europe was taking a neutralist stance and Roosevelt implemented a policy of strict neutrality. In practice, politically motivated volunteers from other countries streamed in to fight for both sides, including 2,800 Americans idealistically supporting the Republic (President Ronald Reagan later honored their courage in spite of their choosing to fight on “the wrong side,” which induced my father to ask if that made Francisco Franco y Bahamonde, Benito Mussolini, and Adolf Hitler the “right side”). Clandestine weaponry deliveries trickled in from France, Canada and other countries, but three exceptions blatantly violated the general European policy of non-involvement by shipping over weapons and military personnel with barely the pretense of unofficiality: the Soviet Union aiding the Republican Loyalists, and Italy and Germany the Nationlists.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History Group
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