HIS EXPLOITS have entertained millions. And they willingly suspend belief as they enjoy the crazy escapades of Indiana Jones in the various films in which he is portrayed by Harrison Ford.
But hold on! Could Indiana Jones have ever existed in real life? Not with that name maybe. But somebody remarkably like Indiana Jones did play a dramatic role in the war against the Nazis.
His name: Carleton S. Coon and when you read of his exploits it seems quite likely that the film character was based on him. Colourful background information, lending substance to this, is detailed in David Baird’s book Between Two Fires – Guerrilla war in the Spanish sierras.
In World War Two the Allies debated the possibility of invading fascist Spain which, though officially neutral, was aiding Nazi Germany in many ways. Coon, working as an agent for the OSS (forerunner of the CIA) in North Africa, was an expert saboteur and made contact with Spanish exiles there.
Anxious to obtain information about Spanish coastal defences, the British and Americans infiltrated into Spain hand-picked exiles they had trained in the use of radio and arms. They landed on some of the southern beaches where tourists sun themselves today.
The deal was that the Communist-led guerrillas would supply information on General Franco’s defences in return for continued support from the Allies. But when the Cold War started neither the Americans nor the British were willing to help a movement largely organised by Reds and they abruptly abandoned the guerrillas.
But the guerrilla war continued for years in the sierras of Spain as rebels of various political persuasions tried to undermine the Franco regime. Almost all these rebels were imprisoned or killed for it was an unwinnable war without outside help.
Shropshire-born Baird, who has worked on publications around the world including the Daily Express and The Times, spent five years investigating this forgotten war.
Scouring archives from Madrid to Washington, he unearthed confidential reports on how the OSS trained and armed Communists. He also discloses how the Civil Guard covered up its killing of three innocent villagers.
His book, entitled Between Two Fires (Maroma Press), is particularly timely as fierce passions have recently been stirred in Spain over attempts to correct injustices of the Franco years.
The book has earned high praise from leading historian Paul Preston and Lorca biographer Ian Gibson. It is published in conjunction with the Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies at the London School of Economics.