Golpe de Mano literally means “blow of the hand” (Proctor, 1974). The Spanish troops of the Blue Division of World War II used this term for a limited assault. The assault force would consist of 5-40 men, under either an officer or NCO, and armed with automatic weapons, hand grenades, bayonets, and knives (meat cleavers were also favoured). The force would work their way through the Soviet defences, defusing mines and marking their path for the return journey. The attackers would eliminate the Russian sentries then split up in the enemy positions causing as much damage as possible in the few minutes available (never more than 20-30 min). The Spaniards would then regroup, and withdraw under cover of an heavy artillery barrage, taking any prisoners with them.
The Fascist government of Spain contributed an infantry division to the Axis effort in World War II. The Spanish Volunteer Division was designated the 250th (“Blue”) Infantry Division of the Wehrmacht on 25 July 1941. The Division left active service on 23 December 1943 after seeing considerable and bloody combat on the Eastern front, particularly around Leningrad. It was called the “Blue Division” (Division Azul) because the original uniform included the distinctive dark blue shirts of the Spanish Fascists (the Falange), however, the Division adopted German uniforms as soon as they reached Germany. Their climatic encounter of the war was the Battle of Krasny Bor.
Many Spanish Republicans found refuge from the Spanish Civil War in the USSR. The Soviets happily drafted these men when the Germans invaded in 1941. For example Rubén Ruiz Ibarruri, the son of La Pasinaria, commanded a machine gun company of 35th Guards Rifle Division (Beevor, 1999). He was killed south of Kotluban; I think this was in Sep 1942.
Most people don’t realise that although officially neutral Spain had an active part in WW2 in the form of the Blue Division, otherwise known as the Spanish Volunteer Division, Division Azul, or by its official German title of the 250th Infantry Division of the Wehrmacht. Individual Spaniards were also involved on both sides during WWII, often in quite large numbers. In a few cases these individuals were collected into units.
This is a rough outline of the life and times of the Spanish fighting on the Eastern Front during WW2 – the Blue Division. I’ve included some detail about higher level operations to provide context and ditto for nearby operations. The 250th (Blue) Division’s finale was at Krasny Bor. If you’re looking for maps then try here.
Thanks to my mate Ian Galley who sent me some photos to liven up my pages. Ian likes Russians so you’ll see a lot of Human Wave shots. By the way, Ian’s figures are based for Flames of War – the dominant WWII rule set in NZ at the moment.