Spanish Civil War


Nationalist Veteran

Julian Laplaza Perez was a 15-year-old soldier for the Nationalist side in the Spanish Civil War. More than 70 years later, Laplaza tells his reason and experience fighting against the Republic in the war. The conflicts Laplaza lived through tell a story of a boy's first hand experience with the war.

By Rebecca De Leon

Julian Laplaza Perez

With all the certainty of a 15-year-old, Julian Laplaza Perez made the bold decision to fight in the Spanish Civil war against the Republic—joining the Requetés, the ultra-conservative Catholic force.

“We fought for God, the fatherland, and for the king,” said Laplaza. “There have always been two Spains fighting against each other.”

Laplaza along with the other Nationalists who rebelled, believed that the democratic Republic was a disaster. The Republic was attempting land reform, ways of weakening the political power of the Catholic church, and of giving workers greater rights – in direct conflict with those who supported a status quo that weighed power largely on the side of the landowners, the military and the Church.

It was the conflicts between the two sides of Spain that caused things to explode, Laplaza said.

Spain’s conflict affected Laplaza’s family first-hand when the Nationalists—on whose side he fought -- killed a maternal uncle, Estevan. His uncle was a veterinarian who had worked with the Republic and who had been arrested and jailed. At one point, one of Laplaza’s friends, who had also joined the military, was killed in war. A mob, seeking revenge for the boy’s death, emptied the jail and killed the men, including Laplaza’s uncle. Later, Laplaza’s family would learn that there was a priest at the shooting, taking confessions. They would hear, later, that the father of the boy-soldier wore a mask, but that Estevan told him to take it off, that he knew the man’s identity.

Julian Laplaza Perez
Julian Laplaza

Asked if he was able to resolve the conflict of fighting on the side that was responsible for his uncle’s death, Laplaza, now 88 years old, dismisses the notion of an inner conflict.

“At that age I was a little crazy,” said Laplaza. “Since I was so young and just a kid, in that sense, it didn’t matter to me.”

Julian Laplaza’s family lived in Tafalla, in the northwestern province of Navarra, during the war. He said that the conditions in Navarra during the war were not as violent as most of Spain, like Madrid, where war raged in places like Madrid.

With 11 children, Laplaza’s mother didn’t have time to worry about her teenage son being in the frontlines of this violence. One of his older brothers, Jesús, who was born with a short left arm, joined and served for only four days. He was sent back home when it was determined that his short arm might present too much of a handicap.

Laplaza said that boys his age came from all over Spain, besides the south, to fight. Though it was a lot of young men fighting in the war, training was minimal.

The Nationalist group, the Requetés, which Laplaza was a part of during the war, was a well-known group of Carlist’s who wanted the power to remain within the monarchy and to the Catholic Church.

“They would give you a gun, show you how to hold it and then how to shoot it and that was it,” said Laplaza.

The men that were around 25 to 30 years weren’t mobilized after a while. And older men also fought.

“Up to three generations came out to fight: the grandfather, the dad and the grandson,” said Laplaza. “Then, once things stabilized, the grandfathers were sent back.”

Though Laplaza was in the infantry during the war, when he was 17 he went to Africa to train to be a pilot.

“It was what I wanted to do since I was little,” Laplaza said. “Where were the pilots? In the grand five-star hotels.”

The infantry during the war was not as luxurious. Julian Laplaza said. The food supply was spotty: sometimes there was nothing, other times, people would come from Pamplona and bring condensed milk, chocolate, and breads.

“Sometimes when we were advancing, they would give us what gave us energy-- two cans of sardines and a roll of bread,” Laplaza said.

During his almost three-year dedication to the war, Julian Laplaza went all over Spain.

“I started out in Pamplona and then I went to Zaragoza on train,” said Laplaza. “I was on the frontlines from when I went out on July 1, 1936 until April 1, 1939 when the war ended.”

In his time in the frontlines, Laplaza spent some time in a clinic in San Sebastian with a kidney infection.

He wrote often to his parents. He said that the letters would arrive fast because they were sent by train.

Fighting for the Nationalist side meant that Julian Laplaza was a part of the victory over the Republic and Spain.

“The day of victory was a national parade,” he said.

After the win the military walked through many towns to end up in Valencia. Laplaza describes Valencia as a beautiful place with rich vegetation that lacked nothing.

“In Madrid there was nothing,” he said, referring to the bombing of Madrid, by Spanish and German planes. “But there, there was everything.”

He said he believed it is important to capture and preserve historical memory.

“In historical curriculum, we present politics and everything because if not, it will fail to exist,” Laplaza said. “So it is important – all of it -- to remember.”

(Mr. Laplaza was interviewed by Rebecca De Leon at the Universidad de Cádiz, in the summer 2008.)


Interview Excerpts from Julian Laplaza Perez, on Nationalist Veteran

Transcript of Interview in Spanish, Quote 1

Yo creo que en plan de... en plan histórico presintamos de política y de todo mas por que si no ya es tallada, pero en plan histórico es conveniente…todo y cada uno el que sepa recoja lo restos de su familia y la tenga enterada en su panteón… en su patria…en donde sea.

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English Translation of Quote 1

I think in historic curriculum we present politics and everything else because if not, it will be cut out, but in the historic curriculum its important, everything, and everyone who knows should gather their family members and have them buried in their own grave, on their own land, or wherever.


Transcript of Interview in Spanish, Quote 2

Bueno. El entrenamiento cuando salimos, fue la misma practica. Nada. Te dieron un fusil, así se carga,  y así se dispara…ya…ya estas. Estaba dando clases un sargento a los soldaditos y le dice, “Tu! Haber! De cuantas partes se compone el fusil?” Y dice, “De dos mi sargento.” “Y cuales son?”  “Fu-sil” Y se y le dice “Usted es un genio, usted es un genio” y dice “Si señor, un Genio Fernández para servirle.”

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English Translation of Quote 2

Well, the training, we went went out, it was our practice. Nothing. They gave us our gun, this is how you carry it, and this is how you fire and there you go. A sargent was giving classes to a soldier and says “You, lets see, how many parts make up a gun?” And he says, “Two, sargent.”

“And which ones are they?”

“Fu-síl.” [Spanish for gun]

And the sargent tells him, “You are a genius, you are un genio!”

And the soldier replies: “Yes, sir, Genius Fernández to serve you.”


Transcript of Interview in Spanish, Quote 3

Ha ese edad tan poco…poco como loco, no te importaba nada, ni lo dabas mucho importancia. Tuvias que bombardeaban los aviones o que la artillería o que hacían por ejemplo la cadena varios aviones ametrallaban eso si, eso si me gustaba ver lo pero… pero me gustaba vero lo como, como diría yo, como curiosidad y veía en los combates cuando íbamos avanzando pues venia la cadena de aviones y ametrallaban  a los que estaban adelante y vamos nosotros avanzando y nos preparaban digamos el camino para tomar las cotes, los montes, todo verdad en los ciudades pero lo veía, como te digo casi como un documento.

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English Translation of Quote 3

At that age I was a little…a little crazy, nothing mattered, and nothing was that important. You had to bomb planes or the artillery, or for example, a group of planes would line up and were shot with machine guns. That, yes, that I did like to see. But I liked to see it like, like how would I say, with curiousity, and I would see combat when we were advancing. Then the group of planes would come and would shoot them with machina guns, the people in front. And we would advance and we would prepare the road for the mountains, everything really in the city, but I saw it, like I said, almost like a documentary.