In 1936, a contingent of the fascist forces led by General Emilio Mola hatched a plan to seize the capital from the Republican government. The plan was to launch a surprise attack from Navarre, then move expeditiously across the Somasierra mountain pass to besiege and occupy Madrid.
The troops selected for the offensive were comprised of battle-hardened Carlist and Falangist battalions, arguably the most brutal soldiers of Franco’s entire army. However, Republican forces had long been expecting the attack. A series of bunkers were hastily constructed by the Republican army occupying a strategic position along the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range. The structures, which housed machine gun and sniper nests, were specifically designed to blend in with the region’s rocky terrain.
These measures ensured two things: enemy reconnaissance planes would have difficulty pinpointing positions and ground troops would stumble unknowingly into the line of fire. It was believed that this would significantly slow down the fascists advance toward the capital.
As Mola’s forces crossed the mountain paths, they were met by a cavalcade of militia forces led by Captain Francisco Galán. A ferocious and lengthy battle ensued at Alto del León, which the fascists ultimately lost in humiliating fashion. Those that survived were forced to flee back across the mountains.
The Battle of Guadarrama was one of the more decisive Republican victories of the Spanish Civil War. Sadly, despite numerous victories, it was the fascists who were the eventual victors. Spain would remain under a dictatorship until the mid-1970s when General Franco died.