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Soon after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936, Francisco Franco, the key leader of the Nationalist rebel armies, persuaded the Italian leader, Benito Mussolini, to support his campaign by providing military hardware, including many and varied aircraft. The success of the first unit, sent at the end of July, then led Mussolini to provide personnel, munitions and other supplies on a regular basis as elements of an expeditionary force of the Italian Royal Air Force known as the Legionary Air Force (or Aviazione Legionaria in the original Italian). This expeditionary force was involved in a great number of strategic bombings, including the Bombing of Madrid in November 1936.
The present cartoon suggests the confidence of Franco in October 1937, following the success of his forces in attacking Gijón, in Asturias, which effectively brought the war in the north to an end and created a secure power base. Nevertheless, Italy would continue to provide the rebels with aircraft and personnel until they won the civil war in March 1939 – a total of 764 planes and almost 5,700 pilots over three years. Italy’s involvement in the civil war brought Mussolini closer to Hitler, Germany also having supported the rebel armies, and so strengthened the Axis.