Spaniards in American Service During WW2

Some Spaniards were in American service during World War 2.

Admittedly I’m guessing a bit here. I know the Basque Code-Talkers were American servicemen but I’ve not so sure about the others. The other units existed but I only assume that they were in American service given where they served, i.e. France 1944-45.

Help Wanted

Please get in contact if you have more information. I’m sure I haven’t found all the units and I always appreciate more details about the ones already on the list.

Spaniards in American service:

Basque Code-Talkers

Rafael de la Cruz emailed in to say …

Besides all the units you mention there were also Basques fighting the Japanese in the Pacific Theatre along with the Philippines guerrillas and the US Army. Among several actions they did the same the Navajo (and other Indians) transmission units: code talkers. They also acted as Coast Watchers. As for the ETO, Spain also sent navy men to the Kriegsmarine. It wasn’t a fighting unit although they were forced to see some action. Different expeditions of officers and crew were sent to learn naval warfare and the manning of E-boats since Spain was going to buy a batch of those boats. There were also a good number of individuals (ex-Republican Army) fighting in the Red Army and Soviet Air Force. There were other individuals working with the British Intelligence, especially from Catalonia.

Pedro J. Oiarzabal is also looking for Basque code-talkers or other Basque veterans of WWII or the Korean War.

I am a PhD student at the Center for Basque Studies, University of Nevada, Reno. At the moment I
am researching the participation of Basque-Americans in WWII and The Korean War. In particular, I
am interested in the so-called Basque code-talkers or the use of the Basque language in
intelligence/communication services (Signal Corps Unit, since 1942, in San Diego or San Francisco
communication centers during the Pacific Campaign). According to some sources Capt. Frank D.
Carranza, and Lte. Nemesio Aguirre were involved in the use of the Basque language, under the
command of General Nimitz at his California HQ. However I have not found any substantial
information on the matter and that is the reason I am contacting you. Also, I am interested in
contacting WWII or The Korean War veterans or relatives which could have been involved in
aforementioned service. I would appreciate if you could help me in the research –through the
publication of this note in your website -if possible.
Thank you,

Pedro J. Oiarzabal
Center for Basque Studies
University of Nevada, Reno
NV 89557
Phone (775) 784-4854
Fax (775) 784-1355

15 May 2002

Basques at Normandy

Basque units – probably sailors – saw service alongside Allied units at the Normandy landings on D-Day (Kurlansky, 1999).


Kurlansky, M. (1999). The Basque History of the World. Canada: Alfred A. Knopf.

Guernica Battalion (Gernika Batalloa)

A battalion formed by the Basque Nationalist Party to fight for the Allies in France (Kurlansky, 1999). It contained 200 men and was commanded by Kepa Ordoki. Ordoki and 60% of his men were veterans of the Spanish Civil War. The unit was part of the Foreign and Moroccan Mixed Regiment.

After the liberation of Paris (1944), the Guernica Battalion along with the FFI, the Spanish Nationalist Union, and a unit of Moroccan volunteers fought the last battles in France (Kurlansky, 1999). Their task was to flush out the Germans garrisoning the south-western coast of France – some 25,000 troops. Although isolated from their homeland the Germans had no trouble with supplies – these came from Francoist Spain.

Basque Flag

On 14 April 1945, three weeks before the end of the war, the Guernica Battalion, Spanish Nationalist Union, and the Moroccan volunteers attacked the last Germans in the Gironde, the Bordeaux wine region on the Atlantic coast (Kurlansky, 1999). The Germans were entrenched in the Pointe-de-Grave, a point of land guarding the entrance to the mouth of the Gironde, the river that leads to Bordeaux. Fortress Gironde, as it was known, had a garrison of 4,000, significantly more than the attackers. 15 hours of combat through the budding vineyards lead to an allied success.

Liberated France offered the Croix de Guerre to the members of the Battalion, but they declined, preferring the medal go to their national flag (the ikurriña) instead (Kurlansky, 1999).

The Basque Nationalist Party was based in New York after the Civil War (Kurlansky, 1999). This suggests the battalion might have been equipped by the Americans. This supposition is also supported by the fact the battalion was operating in an American zone in south west France.


Kurlansky, M. (1999). The Basque History of the World. Canada: Alfred A. Knopf.

Spanish Nationalist Union

A Communist Republican Unit fighting for the allies. Involved in taking Fortress Gironde (see above) in conjunction with the Guernica Battalion (Kurlansky, 1999).


Kurlansky, M. (1999). The Basque History of the World. Canada: Alfred A. Knopf.

8 thoughts on “Spaniards in American Service During WW2”

  1. “the Spanish Nationalist Union”?????

    Why you write “the Spanish Nationalist Union” if Kurlansky wrote
    “the BASQUE Nationalist Union” in the
    book “The Basque History of the World”????

    • Because Kurlansky talks about both the:
      – “Spanish Nationalist Union”: a Spanish unit of communist veterans from the Spanish Civil War
      – “Basque Nationalist Party”: a Basque Nationalist political party based in New York after the Spanish Civil War

  2. The Basque Nationalist Party-Partido Nacionalista Vasco- was, and still is, a confessional political party. During the Spanish Civil War, due to the approvement of the autonomy statute by the legal republican goverment, defended the legality, mainly because the fascist rebels, although catholic, where against any kind of nationalism out of the spanish nationalism. Collaboration between basque goverment and central republican goverment was difficult. When the North Front collapsed, the PNV setlled a exiled goverment on their own, not recognaising the Exiled Republican Goverment settled in Mexico. Besides, the basques contacted with the US Goverment oferying its intelligence service. The relations between communist and basques were no good, even during the combats. Most of the spaniards who fought with the allies were from leftwing ideology, althought the french treated badly, many erolled the Frencha Army. The first who arrived to Paris and got Von Choltziz surrender where spaniards of the 2 DB of General De Clerc.

  3. Dear friends,
    Many years ago I asked for your help and knowledge regarding the so-called “Basque code talkers”, now (and finally) I completed an extensive research on NARA archives, in collaboration with my friend Guillermo Tabernilla. We did not find any evidence that corroborates the existence of the use of the Basque language by the US Armed Forces during WWII. It is bluntly a myth.
    The findings of our research can be found at this link (though it is written in the Spanish language, for now). You can download it for free at:
    I would appreciate your help by disseminating the research.
    Many thanks and best regards,
    Pedro J. Oiarzabal


Leave a Reply