Division Española de Voluntarios
When the news of the German invasion of Russia
reached Spain on 22 June 1941, the Spanish Foreign Minister
Ramon Serrano Suñer offered the German Ambassador Eberhard von
Stohrer military assistance from the "Falange" (Spanish Fascist
Party) and the Army.
This offer was provided in return for Germany's military contribution
and of Russia's involvement in the Spanish civil war.
Initially Hitler tried to convince Franco in directing a formal
declaration of war against Russia. However, at that time Spain
needed recuperation from the civil war conflict that had devastated
the country. In addition a formal alliance with Germany would
result in a grain and oil embargo from Great Britain. Franco
compromised with Hitler, by opening recruiting offices all over
Spain for volunteers who wanted to fight against communism.
When the recruiting stations were closed on 2 July 1941, the
number of volunteers exceeded more than the 18,000 men required.
The excess personnel were enlisted as replacement troops during
the summers of 1942 and 1943.
The General Staff issued a directive on 28 June 1941 to the
commanders of the various military regions in Spain and Spanish
Morocco, which laid down the terms for recruitment. The volunteers
were used to form the "Division Española de Voluntarios" (Spanish
Division of Volunteers).
The volunteers were to be enlisted for the duration of the campaign.
All officers above the rank of second lieutenant were to be
The division was structured according to the traditional Spanish
model with four infantry regiments, each bearing the name of
their commanding officer. However since the German Infantry
Division had only three regiments, the Spaniards had to reorganize
and place the excess personnel in reserve. Each regiment was
composed of units from different military regions.
In early July, a Spanish Military Commission was sent to the
Reserve Headquarters in Berlin to discuss the structure and
organization of the German Division. The Spaniards advised the
Germans that they were recruiting a division of 640 officers,
2272 NCOs and 15,780 troops. The Spaniards discovered that the
Germans required at least 580 NCOs more and about 100 fewer
officers. In addition the Germans demanded their own transportation
of 300 trucks and 400 motorcycles.
On July 7, after much delegating between the Spanish Commission
and both the German and Spanish Embassies, the commander-in-chief
of the reserve army, General Fritz Fromm informed the Spaniards
that the Reich would bear all costs of the Spanish Division.
The troops would be combat paid, dependents allowance, hospitalization
and free franking privileges. The logistic support required
to support the Blue Division was provided by the German Wehrmacht.
By August 21, 18,000 troops 5610 horses and 765 vehicles were
assembled and loaded into freight cars to a camp at Grafenwohr
in Bavaria under the leadership of General Agustin Mu�Grandes.
These troops were immediately outfitted in German uniforms (with
the Spanish national arm shield inscribed "ESPAÑA" placed on
their right shoulder). It was officially named the 250th Infantry
Division but commonly known as the Spanish Blue Division.
The division was broken up into three regiments, the remainder
were distributed among the regiments This division was composed
of Army and Falangist personnel who were accustomed to wearing
blue shirts. Barely a month in Grafenwohr, the Blue Division
traveled by train to an assembly area between Treeburg and Grodno
By early September the Blue Division was assigned to Army Group
Center and was ordered to take part in "Operation Typhoon" the
assault on Moscow. After taking some action in Vilna, the division
was reassigned to Army Group North, 16th Army. The 16th Army
held the right flank of Army Group North from Lake Seliger in
the south to Lake Ladoga in the north.
By October 1941, the division was assigned to I Corps, which
was deployed along the front line between Novgorod and Lake
Ilmen. The divisional staff had its headquarters at Grigorovo,
thereafter it was based in the outskirts of Leningrad. The division
fought well as part of a special task force under Army Group
North's rear area commander, General Franz von Roques, which
struck eastward between Novgorod and Chudovo. The Blue Division
fought a stubborn defense of Novgorod, an action that earned
Gen. Muñoz Grandes an Iron Cross 1st Class. He later was awarded
the Knight's Cross and Oak Leaves.
In January 1942, Franco ordered the Spanish Ambassador Maryalde
to pressure the Germans to pull the Blue Division out of the
line. The fierce Russian winter and a continuous series of Soviet
counterattacks had caused heavy casualties to the division.
Most of the original members of the division were withdrawn
from the front lines after a year service. The replacements
were usually professional-legionnaires or soldiers.
During September 1942, the Blue Division was deployed to the
Krasny Bor region. It was placed under the command of 18th Army.
On December 12, command of the division was hand over to General
During February 1943, the Leningrad and Volkhod Fronts linked
to form a corridor south of Lake Ladoga. On the eastern side,
the Soviets launched an attack on the area from Kolpino to Krasny
Bor, which was held by the 4th SS Police Division and the Blue
Division. The town of Krasny Bor was defended by 5600 Spanish
soldiers, which comprised of elements from the 262nd, 263rd
and 269th regiments. Besides a few special units, which included
a Dutch artillery unit, the artillery amounted to twenty four
guns and no tanks.
The Spanish Blue Division held off various attacks from three
Soviet Rifle Divisions and two tank battalions, altogether 33,000
men, supported by sixty T-34s, several formations of anti-tank
guns and 187 batteries of artillery. In the process, the Soviets
succeeded in gaining two miles of ground and taking Krasni Bor.
The Spaniards suffered 3645 total casualties, however the small
territorial defensive cost the Soviets 11,000 casualties and
were forced back by a German counter-attack in March.
By spring 1943, 2000 Spanish replacements were being requested.
The German 254th Division relieved the Blue division from defending
Krasni Bor. The Blue Division withdrew to a quieter sector near
Nikolajeska. Meanwhile, increasing pressure from the U.S. and
Great Britain was being put on the Spanish Government. With
the German defeat at Kursk and the fall of Mussolini, on July
25, Franco began looking for means to withdraw the Blue Division
without risking retaliation from the Germans.
By August 1943, the Blue Division withdrew from the front line
prior to repatriation of the bulk of the troops. On October
17, the Blue Division withdrew from the Leningrad front to a
reserve position behind Oranienbaum. General Esteban Infantes
was awarded the Knight's Cross. The return of veterans to Spain
was done with a minimum of ceremony and by November 163,347
men were quietly repatriated. General Esteban Infantes returned
to Spain on 17 December 1943.