War in Aragon Part 2

In the event the Nationalist defenders turned out to resist even more tenaciously than they had at Brunete. Republican commanders became obsessed with reducing tiny pockets of resistance, when they should have left them to the reserves and focused upon the main objective. The small town of Belchite only had a few hundred men, but their bravery tied up half of Modesto's V Corps. They fought on for day after day, even though their water supply was cut and the strench of rotting corpses was so bad at times that the attackers were forced to wear gas masks. Quinto was taken on the fourth day but the village of Codo was held by three companies of Carlists against two whole brigades. This slow and ponderous way of making war captured six miles of front at heavy cost, but failed utterly in its attempt on Saragossa. The well defended strongpoints on which so many hours and lives had been lost did not hold enough men to have threatened Modesto's rear.

The most serious losses were again in armour. Lister lost nearly all the fast BT-5 tanks in the Fuentes del Ebro. Even Modesto turned against him, and a quarrel between these two important commanders would remain until the end of the war. Prieto was furious at the handling of the battle, and his bitter criticism turned the Party's anger against him. Along with a growing number of senior officers he had begun to realise that communist direction of the war effort was destroying the Popular Army with prestige operations it could ill afford. The Aragon offensive had come too late to help Santander, which actually fell on the day it opened. Nor did it delay the final stages of the war in the north. Well aware of the importance of reducing the Basques before winter, General Davila was continuing his advance west from Santander as fast as he could push his Carlist and Italian troops forward.

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