Spanish Civil War – December 1937

December 15

The battle of Teruel begins.

The Battle of Teruel was fought in and around the city of Teruel during the Spanish Civil War in December 1937 – February 1938. The combatants fought the battle during the worst Spanish winter in twenty years. It was one of the bloodier actions of the war. The city changed hands several times, first falling to the Republicans and eventually being re-taken by the Nationalists. In the course of the fighting, Teruel was subjected to heavy artillery and aerial bombardment. The two sides suffered over 140,000 casualties between them in the two month battle. It became one of the decisive battles of the war. Francisco Franco’s use of his superiority in men and material in regaining Teruel made it the military turning point of the war.

Battle of Teruel Photographs Robert Capa

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In late December 1937 and early January 1938, Capa covered the Battle of Teruel

The eventual Republican victory reclaimed the city from Nationalist hands on January 7, 1938. Capa entered the town on about December 19 with Ernest Hemingway and New York Times reporter Herbert Matthews with the first Loyalist forces. Much of the fighting was house to house, and the fierce snowstorm and freezing temperatures made the city a nightmare for both soldiers and civilians, who were first evacuated into cellars and then to neighboring Escandón. In this roll of film, Capa photographed the Loyalist soldiers as they crept through destroyed buildings and searched for Nationalist soldiers. This series presages Capa’s dramatic photographs of Leipzig in 1945 at the end of World War II. There, while photographing American forces on a balcony looking out for German snipers following the German surrender, a soldier was mortally shot before Capa’s camera.


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