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Small Wars Lecture Series. 5 Sep - The Battle of Annual , Dr. William Dean 4 Oct - Foreign Internal Defense , Lt Col Greg Metzgar 18 Oct - The Battles of Fallujah , Mr. Bing West 14 Nov - Principles of Counterinsurgency , Lt Gen David Petraeus

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small wars lecture series
Small Wars Lecture Series
  • 5 Sep - The Battle of Annual, Dr. William Dean
  • 4 Oct - Foreign Internal Defense, Lt Col Greg Metzgar
  • 18 Oct - The Battles of Fallujah, Mr. Bing West
  • 14 Nov - Principles of Counterinsurgency, Lt Gen David Petraeus
  • 10 Jan - Eating Soup with a Knife, Lt Col John Nagl
  • 28 Feb - Globalizing Insurgency, Dr. Lewis Griffith
a forgotten small war spain the battle of annual and the rif war 1921 1927

A Forgotten Small War: Spain, the Battle of Annual, and the Rif War 1921-1927

William Dean


Small Wars Lecture Series

September 5, 2006

game plan
Game Plan
  • Origins of Spain’s Colonial Conquest of Morocco
  • Spanish Colonial Army on the Eve of Annual
  • Brothers Abdel Krim
  • Disaster of Annual
  • Consequences of Annual
  • Coalition War against the Rif Republic
    • Secret History of WMD
  • Army of Africa and the Spanish Civil War
a history of colonial war
A History of Colonial War
  • 1895-98 Spanish colonial army fought insurgents in Cuba, Philippines
    • Some of the veterans would fight in Morocco
    • Very brutal campaigns with extensive use of concentration camps
  • Spanish colonial army did poorly in symmetric war against U.S.
  • Defeat of 1898 was a trauma for Spanish Army

Spanish army in Cuba

early moroccan campaigns
Early Moroccan Campaigns
  • 1908 - Spain invaded Morocco
  • At this time French advancing in southern two-thirds of Colony
  • Made possible by 1906 Great Power confer-ence in Algeciras
  • Technically, Spanish working for Moroccan sultan Abdel Aziz who could not control area

Sultan Abdel Aziz

early opponents and cultural context
Early Opponents and Cultural Context
  • Most inhabitants in Spanish zone were Berbers
  • Two early opponents were El Rogui and El Raisuni
  • Spanish believed they were spreading western civilization
  • Spanish mining interests became very important
  • Spanish disrupted local economy
  • Spanish regarded French as competitors

El Raisuni

the state of the early spanish army in morocco
The State of the Early Spanish Army in Morocco
  • Army composed of Spanish conscripts with minimal training, poor equipment
  • Top heavy with officers
  • Poor maps
  • Officers failed to learn from 1890s counter-insurgencies
  • Inappropriate tactics against Rifians

Spanish conscripts

the birth of the army of africa
The Birth of the Army of Africa
  • At Barranco del Lobo (July 1909) a Spanish column was decimated with over a thousand casualties
  • Led to campaign of revenge - birth of Army of Africa
  • Soon units of Muslim regulars were created
  • 1909-11 the Spanish expanded their holdings
  • At the same time the French expanded their control in Morocco

Barranco del Lobo aftermath

spanish military policy in morocco 1911 1921
Spanish Military Policy in Morocco 1911-1921
  • Capital established in Tetuan
  • Tried to get cooperation of local elites
    • Halfhearted war with El Raisuni
    • Many bribes were made to Moroccan elites
  • Spanish Army in charge of daily security ops, contacts with tribes, collection of taxes, law and order
  • Few civic works or improvement of local economy or infrastructure
  • Spanish military govt told soldiers to respect local culture but this was rarely obeyed

Aerodrome at Tetuan, 1913

morocco during world war i
Morocco during World War I
  • During WWI German agents try to provide money and weapons to Moroccans in French and Spanish Morocco
  • France barely held onto colony during war
  • In 1917 Spanish govt changes system of pay and promotion - angered Army of Africa

French Foreign Legion sentry,

Atlas Mountains

abdel krim family cooperates with spain
Abdel Krim Family Cooperates with Spain
  • Sidi Abdel Krim el Khattabi - influential judge from Ajdir
  • Received pension from Spanish, collaborated with them along with two sons
    • Pragmatic collaboration
  • Elder son Mohammed worked as journalist and judge while younger brother studied in Madrid
  • During war Mohammed imprisoned by Spanish, who poisoned father in 1920

Brothers Mhamed (L) and

Mohammed (R) Abdel Krim

spanish army on the eve of anual
Spanish Army on the Eve of Anual
  • Budget for campaign inadequate
  • Spanish Foreign Legion created in 1920
    • Jose Millan Astray
  • Many problems that had existed in 1909 still existed
  • Many Spanish evaded call up
  • Overall commander was General Berenguer - commander at Annual was General Silvestre

General Damaso Berenguer

major problems of the spanish army
Major Problems of the Spanish Army
  • Poor IPB - unaware that Krim brothers formed an army against them
    • As late as May 1921 Krim promised loyalty to Spain
  • Poor artillery and machine guns, shortage of ammo
  • Spanish forces spread out over eastern front in a series of block houses
    • Posts were far from water and hard to supply
  • Silvestre overconfident due to previous experience

Rif region - northern Morocco

the spanish offensive
The Spanish Offensive
  • June 1921 Spanish front in eastern Morocco stretched 80 km and was 92 km from major city of Melilla
    • Huge logistical problems
  • Regardless, Silvestre launched ambitious offensive with insufficient troops, equipment, logistics
  • No reserve near front line
  • Spanish advance consisted of 3-pronged attack near Al Hoceima (heart of Abdel Krim’s territory)

Spanish gunners firing on Moroccans

the capture of abbaran june 1
The Capture of Abbaran (June 1)
  • Silvestre warned by intel that Beni Urriaguel tribe was massing for offensive
  • Despite this Spanish set up exposed post on Mt Abbaran
  • Beni Urriaguel cut barbed wire and rushed the position
  • Native police turned on Spanish comrades and shot them
  • Defeat important in psychological terms, many chiefs were under great pressure not to collaborate

Mt Abbaran

advance to igueriben
Despite setback at Abarran Silvestre continued advance, built 4 new blockhouses

One on Mt Igueriben 6 km south of Annual

Water supply for 300 men 4.5 km away

On July 17 Abdel Krim’s forces attacked, besieged position for four days

Garrison's water ran out, men drank urine or ink

Mule carcasses exploded from heat, artillery shells ran out

Silvestre’s forces could not relieve them

Garrison given surrender order, but charged Riffians or committed suicide

Advance to Igueriben

Igueriben troops

nowhere to hide at annual
Nowhere to Hide at Annual
  • After Igueriben, Silvestre was over-extended, had to retreat back to Melilla
  • Line of retreat cut off, looked for airpower help
    • Not enough aircraft
  • Wanted to retreat to the coast but navy could not evacuate
  • Berenguer could not organize rescue force fast enough and was fighting a campaign in the west
  • Failure of Joint Ops

Spanish defenders

the disaster of annual
Silvestre could not decide whether to retreat or dig in at Annual

Quarreled with officers; no unity of command

Meanwhile columns of Rifians were advancing on the camp

Many Regulares turned on their Spanish officers

Panic seized officers and enlisted

Artillery pieces abandoned

The Disaster of Annual

Legion's makeshift defenses

collapse of leadership
Collapse of Leadership
  • Officers tore off their insignia or fled in cars filled with luggage
  • Silvestre went to his tent and committed suicide
  • Weapons, munitions, money abandoned
  • Complete breakdown of C2

General don Manuel

Fernández Silvestre

massacre at izumar pass
Massacre at Izumar Pass
  • Largest slaughter of Spanish troops took place at Izumar Pass
  • Women, children took part in the slaughter
  • Spanish bodies horribly mutilated
  • Hundreds of prisoners taken in the retreat

Mutilated Spanish corpses

retreat to melilla
Retreat to Melilla
  • Spanish soldiers from intermediate positions joined retreat
  • Cavalry regiments protected retreat
  • Largest munitions dump in the Eastern blown up
  • Rifian guerillas reached Gurugu mountains and began shelling Melilla
  • 4,000 Spanish soldiers spread out between Annual and Melilla and 1,800 in garrison

Spanish column retreats

monte arruit
Monte Arruit
  • Spanish re-enforcements sent to Melilla after campaign against El Rasuni
    • Legion forces led by Franco
  • Rifians besiege 3,000 Spanish troops under Gen Navarro's command
  • Abdel Krim shelled fort with artillery captured at Annual
  • Aircraft tried to drop supplies (ice) unsuccessfully
  • Agreeing to terms, garrison marched out of base and was massacred
  • Last Spanish position outside of Melilla

Spanish corpses

at Monte Arruit

the cost of annual
The Cost of Annual
  • Disaster lasted from July 22nd till August 9th
  • Over 10,000 Spanish troops were killed
  • Abdel Krim captured rifles, radios, trucks, aircraft, artillery
  • Worst Spanish colonial catastrophe

Annual memorial

why the disaster of annual happened
Why the Disaster of Annual Happened
  • Poor discipline caused by poor pay and training
  • Failure to link training, equipment and strategy
  • Poor intelligence led to underestimating enemy
  • Misuse of Regulares
  • Poor military leadership
  • Africanistas blamed civilian govt back home
  • Poor communications and logistics

Spanish Regulares

the significance of annual
The Significance of Annual
  • Army of Africa, and briefly civilian elites, focused on revenge
  • Media now supported military
  • Battle radicalized Africanistas
    • Consequences for Spanish Civil War
  • Middle class young men now volunteered for duty in Morocco
  • Abdel Krim now emerged as leader of Rifians

Rif state banknote - never issued

annual compared to other western military disasters
Annual Compared to other Western Military Disasters
  • Annual was one of the worst defeats for a Western power with profound consequences
    • Britain - Isandhlwana (1879), Majuba Hill (1880), Maiwand (1880)
    • U.S. - Custer’s Last Stand (1876)
    • Italy - Adowa (1895)
  • Major defeats caused by racial arrogance, poor IPB
  • None had the long lasting consequences of Anual

Custer's Crow scouts

the forging of a colonial army
The Forging of a Colonial Army
  • Defeat of Annual led to creation of an army within an army
  • Distinct elites within Army of Africa
  • Pilots, Officers of the Legion and Regulares
  • Army now committed to total war - less interested in spreading Western civilization

Alfonso XIII General

Aviation Badge (1913-1931)

the army of abdel krim
The Army of Abdel Krim
  • Abdel Krim’s army did not capture Melilla because grain harvest took priority
  • Set up sophisticated system of command and control
    • Spanish used SIGINT
  • Division between people of the mountains and flat landers
  • Two different languages: Arabic and Shelja
  • Obtained weapons from French

Moroccan soldiers

army of abdel krim cont
Army of Abdel Krim (cont)
  • At its peak - 90,000 soldiers
  • Capable of symmetric and asymmetric warfare
  • Wanted to create a Republic of the Rif
  • Wanted to modernize Rif
    • Used secular and religious motivations
  • Worked with labor unions in Spain and France
  • Received rhetorical support from Comintern

3rd International - Lenin speaking

a strategy of peseta diplomacy and aerial bombardment
A Strategy of Peseta Diplomacy and Aerial Bombardment
  • Counter-offensive was launched (reconquista)
  • 160,000 troops sent to Morocco and 700 million pesetas spent…only 35 km of territory reconquered
  • Army morale sapped by investigation commissions
  • Some tribes paid off to join Spanish and more aircraft sent to Morocco
  • More emphasis on bombing

Farman Goliath

spanish airpower
Spanish Airpower
  • First air squadron arrived in Morocco in 1913
    • Initially used for ISR
  • Defeat of Annual increased reliance of airpower
  • Spanish developed systematic air campaign ops between 1921-25
    • Learned tactics from RAF
    • Over 150 aircraft
    • De Havilland 4s, Bristol fighters, French Farman Goliaths, German Fokkers

de Havilland 4 - RCAF 1921

spanish airpower continued
Spanish Airpower (continued)
  • Spanish planes dropped mustard gas, incendiaries, HE
    • Psychological impact important
    • Targets included souks, livestock, Abdel Krim's HQ
    • Primitive bombing equipment
    • Accuracy not important
  • Planes had to swoop low
  • Effective Rifian AAA led to loss of several aircraft
  • Aircraft used in re-supply of encircled posts
  • Aircraft used for CSAR

Bristol fighter crash

spanish pilots
Spanish Pilots
  • Privileged elite
  • Anarchists of Spanish army; each flew as it suited him best
  • Air training school with tennis courts and swimming pools
  • Pilots more politically progressive than officers in Legion or Regulares

Capitan Antonio Arias

a secret history of chemical warfare
A Secret History of Chemical Warfare
  • After Annual mustard and phosgene fired by artillery, dropped by aircraft
  • Force enhancer and adoption of total war; WMD part of strategy
  • Spanish bought WMD from Germans
    • German technicians built, worked in gas factories in Spain and Morocco
    • Created future bond between Africanistas and German Army (Condor legion)
  • Operational problems using gas
    • Spanish army did not have gas masks
  • Abdel Krim tried to use WMD

Mustard gas

production facility, 1921

other nations and chemical warfare
Other Nations and Chemical Warfare
  • 1916 - France used gas in Tunisia
    • Civilian targets, use of goums and aircraft
    • France used gas in Rif war
  • Italians used gas in Libyan pacification campaigns
  • “I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas, I am strongly in favor of using poison gas against uncivilized tribes” - Winston Churchill
  • British used gas against Kurds and in Iraq in 1920s
  • After Versailles gas not allowed against Europeans but could be employed in Africa, Asia

French goums

primo de rivera and morocco
Primo de Rivera and Morocco
  • 1923 - Primo de Rivera seized control of govt; stayed in control until 1931
  • Government = constitutional monarchy, but Alphonso XIII was a figurehead
  • de Rivera initially against Moroccan campaign, but became supporter in 1924
  • Ended trials of Africanistas

Primo de Rivera, 1923

strategic background of a coalition war
Strategic Background of a Coalition War
  • Spanish consolidated position in fall of 1924 at Chauen
    • Heavy loss of life and equipment
  • By April 1925 Abdel Krim captured El Raisuni; freed him for offensive against French
  • Brother tried to buy weapons in London and met with Druze leaders


the franco spanish war
The Franco-Spanish War
  • In April 1925 Abdel Krim attacks French Morocco
    • Confident after fighting Spanish
    • French blockhouses in his territory
  • 43 out of 66 posts fall - Krim comes within 20 km of Fez
  • French bring in 120,000 troops under Petain
  • In July rivals become coalition partners
  • Abdel Krim’s strategic mistake godsend to Spanish

Fez, 1926

al hoceima amphibious landing september 1925
Al Hoceima Amphibious Landing September 1925
  • Sep - coalition fleet and force attacks Abdel Krim near HQ
  • Shelling from fleet and bombardment form the air
  • First modern air/sea amphibious landing
  • Abdel Krim prepared - good intel
  • Rifians attack other end of protectorate, force Spanish to weaken forces there
  • Rifians sink Spanish warship with artillery
  • Numerous operational problems landing Spanish troops
  • Rifians use IEDs on beach

Spanish landing at Cebadilla Beach

near al Hoceima, 10 Sep 1925

al hoceima continued
Al Hoceima (continued)
  • Rifian assaults against Spaniards on beach failed
  • Spanish able to establish bridgehead
  • In October 90,000 French and Spanish troops attacked Ajdir
  • French changed their opinion of Spanish Army
  • Army of Africa had dramatically improved since Annual
    • Capable of combined ops and air/land ops

Spanish fort Peñon de Alhuceimas

at al Hoceima

the end of abdel krim
The End of Abdel Krim
  • Nov 1925 to Apr 1926 French and Spanish forces stayed in winter quarters
    • Limited air ops
  • Krim could not find new weapons, army melted away
  • Caught between French and Spanish pincer attacks
  • May 1926 - surrendered to French
  • Minor fighting continued until 1927

Spanish FT-17 tanks

the legacy of abdel krim
The Legacy of Abdel Krim
  • Exiled to Mauritius
  • Supported Arab nationalist causes
  • Escaped to Cairo, encouraged Arab soldiers to desert French Army in Indochina 1946-54
  • Supported FLN in Algeria
  • Abdel Krim is one of the great non-Western captains

Moroccan soldiers

domestic impact of the rif war in spain and france
Domestic Impact of the Rif War in Spain and France
  • Paris labor unions marched in solidarity with Rifians
  • First time Left overtly sympathized with third-world insurgency
  • Druze fight insurgency in Syria in first coordinated insurgencies
  • CGT in Madrid leads anti-war marches
  • Many soldiers oppose war
  • Rif War leads to greater political polarization

Sultan El-Atrash starts revolution

in 1928 against the French

long term impact on spain
Long Term Impact on Spain
  • Army of Africa becomes radicalized, embraces fascism or monarchy
  • Franco becomes major figure
  • When Spain becomes republic Left antagonizes Africanistas
  • Africanistas launch campaign of reconquista in 1936 to save Spain from Communism and anarchy
  • Left becomes new Rifians
  • Germans aid Franco with aircraft
  • Spanish soldiers will fight on Russian front (Blue Division)

1938 Teruel battle, Franco with

Lt Col Medrano and Maj Barroso

the rif war and military history
The Rif War and Military History
  • Rif campaigns see change in colonial war from fighting for hearth and home to ideologically motivated insurgency
    • Dominant pattern until 1991
  • First insurgency where opponent has high tech equipment
  • 1st time counterinsurgent powers have to develop air/land operations
  • Armor used for 1st time
  • SIGINT becomes factor
  • Arms trafficking important

Small arms trafficking

relevance for today
Relevance for Today
  • There is a connection between strategy, training, and equipment
  • Airpower is a blunt instrument in COIN
  • Systematic violation of human rights by the military can have long term political consequences and radicalize a military
  • Western militaries that underestimate non-western foes flirt with disaster
  • Understanding an opponents’ culture is a necessary ingredient for victory