1936 saw the start of the bloody Spanish civil war which literally saw brother pitted against brother and allowed the Nazi war machine to test its air force in particular in anticipation of the blitzkrieg (lightning war) that it would unleash on Europe just three years later.
Following the great depression of the late 1920s, the 1930s were not good years and there was a rise to power of extremists on both the right and left of the political spectrum. On one side were Hitler and Mussolini who were to be joined, albeit in spirit by Franco and Stalin on the other and various leaders of other European countries with differing views in between.
The Spanish Civil War was never a really straightforward battle between good and evil or right and left. Franco was the youngest General in Spain and was horrified by the rise of the Republicans who removed the king and took little notice of the conservative church.
Ironically, he ‘invaded’ Spain as part of a revolution to restore the monarchy and the church at the head of the ‘Army of Africa’ which included a large number of Moslems and of course, he took the title Regent to the King of Spain which he held until he appointed King Juan Carlos in 1975.
Hero or Villain, he did see an improvement in the Spanish economy and was shrewd enough to keep Spain out of the Second World War otherwise it too would have been occupied by the allies.
Francisco Franco was buried at the Valley of the Fallen, the memorial to the dead of both sides despite his wish to be buried in Madrid. He is the only person buried there who did not die in the civil war.