Saragossa Offensive Operation
Modern Military Review Magazine, November 2012 issue

PROLOGUE TO MADRID
(On the 50th anniversary of the Saragossa Offensive Operation)


The South-West Front, including the 4th Guard Tank Army, 18th Army and a number of separate detachments and formations was separated from the South Front, which held military operations in a wide area between Limoges and Montpellier. At the same time the troops of the North and Central Fronts on November 11, 1962 launched an offensive on Paris. The 3rd Air Army was assigned to support actions of the South-West Front.

The newly-formed front was ordered to receive one division from the Southern Alps and resolutely started the pursuit of the defeated NATO forces in the area between Toulouse and the Mediterranean coast and reached the Spanish border. After that, they created two strike groups in the areas of Tarbes and Perpignan, moved the warfare to the territory of Spain and freed the Spanish people from the double issue of Franco's fascist and the US-British occupation by developing the offensive through Saragossa in the general direction to Madrid.

By 18:00 on November 16 a reconnaissance battalion of the 4th Guards Tank Army, almost without any resistance, took possession of Tarbes and by midnight came to the Spanish border. The 18th Army detachments moved slower. On its left flank towards the seaside the forces met fierce resistance from two battle groups which consisted of the 101st U.S. Airborne Division, supported by multiple combat-ready ships of the 6th (Mediterranean) U.S. Navy fleet and French warships: the Cruiser Colbert and the aircraft carrier Arromanches.

As a result, the 18th Army detachments took over Perpignan by midnight on November 17 after a tactical nuclear missile strike, and the forces approached the Spanish border by the afternoon on November 19. The official date of the launch of the Saragossa Offensive Operation is accepted to be November 21, when at 05:00 troops of the Southwestern Front crossed the Spanish border after an intensive rocket and artillery barrage, and bombing attacks of the 3d Air Army.

The Soviet troops faced only some weak resistance from border guards and individual Franco fanatics. The main forces of the enemy (up to 4 United States and its NATO allies divisions, and 9 Spanish divisions), which had managed to break away from persecution in the South of France, were concentrated in the area of Saragossa. The enemy feared nuclear missile strikes, and as a result, it was decided to leave the frontier without a fight.

During November 22-24 forces of South-west Front were moving in marching columns and freed Huesca, Lleida, Girona, Barcelona, and Tarragona. They were greeted with flowers and music, thousands of political prisoners were released from prisons and they marched through the streets of their hometowns together with Soviet soldiers-liberators.

The first shots on the Saragosa defense line were fired on the morning of November 25. The Soviet forces were unable to break through the enemy defenses during the first attack. The 3rd Air Army had only 50 battle-worthy bombers and attack planes at this point, while enemy air forces, bolstered by squadrons from Arromanches and Independence aircraft carriers, had over 200 planes in total. Artillery support was also inadequate: part of the towed artillery lagged behind because of the bad state of the road network and sabotage efforts of the enemy commando units. In addition, it was decided not to use nuclear weapons on Spanish soil because of humanitarian reasons, which weakened the attack power on the front and army levels considerably.

The Supreme High Command General Headquarters, having anticipated this outcome as early as the middle of November, decided to strengthen the South-West Front using reserves and units from Central and South fronts: 2 tank divisions, 2 engineer brigades, 3 artillery brigades and 2 rocket artillery brigades from HQ’s own reserves. Additional Marine air forces were transferred from the Baltic Front.

All these additional forces had arrived and were ready on November 27.

At this time, existing forces were already regrouped to shift the main attack vector from Saragossa to Alcañiz, with mobile units encircling the entire enemy Saragossa group in the general direction to Maranchón.

After heavy fighting, which lasted for 3 hours, the enemy defenses near Bujaraloz were broken and fresh forces (2 tank and 1 motorized division), lunged into the breach. Advancing rapidly for 120 km during the first day, they encircled the enemy Saragossa group by gaining control of Saragossa-Madrid highway.

This major success led to a swift collapse of Saragossa defenses, morale for most part of the enemy forces was broken. Three Spanish divisions deserted while the Guyana regiment of the French Foreign Legion surrendered in full strength. Only the 25rd US infantry division and one regiment of 101st Airborne managed to escape the half-encirclement in relative order, moving to the north-west. The fall of Saragossa on November 29th, according to a plan of Soviet propaganda officers and Spanish communists, should have been the start of the Spanish national liberation uprising against the terror regime of general Franco. However, Supreme Commander N.S. Khrushchev at the last moment asked the Spanish comrades to have patience.

Futher events confirmed that Khrushchev’s decision was a sound one. In spite of a major success near Saragossa, forces of the South-Western front were decimated in Southern France and in the battle of the Ebro river valley earlier. Due tio this defeat there was a serious lack of fuel.

The remains of NATO forces and their Francist accomplices managed to hold the positions near Madrid, on the Guadalajara defense line.

The separate Madrid Offensive, which began on December 15th 1962, was required to capture the city and finish the war in Europe for good. It was accompanied by the nation-wide liberation uprising and ended on January 19th 1963 with a fall of Gibraltar – the last stronghold of Anglo-Saxon imperialism in Europe.