Technology in the War
Even though he was not a trained medical professional, Kenneth Graeber, Don Henry’s comrade in the Spanish Civil War, worked as an ambulance driver for those on the front line, as you can visualize in the picture to the left (Wikimedia 2019). In fact, most of the medical workers in the war were untrained volunteers, like the ones from the American Medical Bureau, because of how little support the Spanish received from other countries. This was a detriment to the Left and the Right, as this was the first war in which civilian loss exceeded combatant loss (Coni, 2002).
However, there were many advancements that came out of this inexperience, like the advancement of blood transfusion. A Canadian physician and known communist, Dr. Norman Bethune, spearheaded the implementation of the first practical mobile blood collection and distribution system during the Spanish Civil War, and he did so by devising a specialized vehicle for the field with a refrigerator, sterilization equipment, and other needed transfusion materials ("Who Is Dr. Norman Bethune?, Centre For Blood Research").
The inexperience also led to unsafe medical practices on the battlefield, which is highlighted by the surgery methods, unsafe cleaning of wounds, and the use of unclean plaster casts. For surgeries on the battlefield, medical workers had to be extremely prompt. Luckily, Josep Trueta Raspall had been recently appointed as head of surgery at the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau in Barcelona at the beginning of the war, so he, a trained professional, was associated with war surgeries. Unfortunately, because of all of the injuries and the nature of the work, many of the open wounds after surgeries were often left un-sutured and opened so that the medical workers could move on to the other patients. Treuta also had a habit of cleaning wounds with just soap, water, and a nailbrush, even though he had access to sulfanilamide- a chemical with more effective antibacterial properties (Coni, 2002). These harsh hospital conditions were for those lucky enough to make it to a major city. Those on the front lines, however, had to rely on air ambulances developed during the 1920s, subsequently used by both sides during the Civil War, to relocate them to the hospitals, or were just treated on-site (Coni, 2002).
The Great Depression led to lighter tanks as they were cheaper to make, since the global economy was so weak. These tanks were intended for close infantry support; however, there was no cooperation between infantry and tanks. The tanks outpaced infantry. The violence of the Spanish Civil War led to the realization that these lighter tanks produced by the Great Depression weren't working, and that there was a need for heavier tanks. Pictured below are the Italian L3/35 Tankettes, which bolted instead of riveted, which proved to be dangerous, as when they were hit by enemy shells, the rivets flew off like bullets and attacked the soldiers inside the tank. They were only armed with machine guns, which made them weaker than Soviet tanks, as they had more heavily armed designs.
Militaristic technological advancements in the Spanish Civil War included the development of monoplanes, electrical cockpit lighting, gyroscopic instruments, and Molotov cocktails, among other ideas during the time period. This war was also the beginning of strategic bombing. The Nationalists experimented with new bombing tactics that devastated the enemy and became infamous for a certain cruelty in the Asturias Offensive and in Guernica. These were a trial run for what are today known as the Blitzkreig bombings. Guernica was the first known civilian bombing.
Pictured above is the Soviet T-26 Light Tanks, which were more heavily armed but lightly armored and still very inefficient. They required factory overhaul after 600 hours of use, but the Republicans lacked enough trained mechanics to repair the tanks. There was no communication between the infantry and the Soviets manning the tanks, as there was a lack of radios. Only 1 in 3 tanks even had a radio, so the Republicans had to come up with a different method of communication, which ended up being different colored flags. This method was ineffective, as the flags were often mistaken for other colors, even in decent lighting. Pictured to the left are Molotov Cocktails. These are flaming bottles of gasoline acted as makeshift bombs. Cloths were used as a wick to light the fuse. Republicans used these makeshift bombs against Nationalist tanks.