When we were presented with the opportunity to buy a copy of Ian Patterson's (no relation) book, "Guernica and Total War," we were curious about the topic and tantalized our self with the possibility that the book might spark an idea for a column. We snapped it up and started to read it in the hopes that we could finally figure out who was who in that conflict and which side was "the good guys."
A short time later, we stumbled on a copy of Caroline Moorehead's biography of Martha Gellhorn and since we were unaware of that resource for Hemingway fans, we quickly added it to our library and ripped into it as fast as we could.
We sensed that the Spanish Civil War could provide us with the basis for a comparison with the contemporary American political turmoil, but we still couldn't find the handle. Many moons ago, we read George Orwell's "Homage to Calalonia." We trundled off to the main branch of the Berkeley Public Library and from the assortment of books on the topic, selected Daniel S. Davis' "Spain's Civil War: The Last Great Cause" and commenced reading that book.
The task of comprehending the turmoil is rather complicated. A coup by rebels in the Army was resisted by the legitimate government. It was the Republicans vs. the Nationalists. That causes a bit of difficulty for readers in modern America because in the USA, the Republicans have copyrighted Patriotism thus making their Party's name synonymous with the concept of national pride. Thus the good guys can't be both Nationalists and Republicans in a comparison with the Spanish Civil War. In the Spanish Civil War, the Fascists fought the Republicans; in the USA, the fascists are the Republicans.
The rebel faction requested aid from Germany and Italy but Germany and Italy had both agreed to abide by an international agreement to remain neutral. That agreement was just another pesky scrap of paper like the Geneva Accord and so they complied with the appeals for help. Hitler sent "volunteers," including a group of aviators called the Condor Legion, supplies and weapons. Mussolini sent men, tanks and trucks.
Various countries sent groups of volunteers to the Nationalist side. The American volunteers chose the name "the Lincoln Brigade."