Date of Award

Winter 1-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


War and Society

First Advisor

Kyle Longley

Second Advisor

Jennifer Keene

Third Advisor

Mateo Jarquin


In July 1936, Spain descended into chaos and civil war. Fascists in the military, Catholic Church, and aristocracy rebelled against a government elected to reform centuries old power structures. The United States reacted in surprise and joined France and Britain, staunchly refusing to be involved. For six months, the Department of State impeded attempts to material assist the Spanish government, until Congress passed an updated neutrality law prohibiting trade with Spain or the rebels. Congress again renewed and updated the law a year later. Yet in spring of 1939, at the end of the war, Franklin D. Roosevelt told his ambassador to Spain he regretted not assisting the Spanish government.

The president, however, unfairly critiqued himself. The United States never debated involvement. “Foreign Relations of the United States” (FRUS), the State Department’s official edited record of diplomatic reporting, has no record of diplomatic reporting warning of imminent war, despite ample indications. Bowers provided timely reports during the first six months of the war on assisting Americans in Spain and the diplomatic community’s activities. He did not report his observations of German and Italian military activity, atrocities committed by the fascists, or the consequences of prohibiting supplies from reaching Spanish government forces.

It is impossible to know how broader reporting might have changed decisions in Washington. This thesis does not argue American intervention could or would have changed the outcome of the war. This thesis argues that Bowers had a responsibility for fuller diplomatic vi reporting to inform better policy decisions in Washington and that lessons American learned post World War II resulting in intervention, globalist international policies, and diplomats opining on policy and recommending changes rather than just reporting, could have been learned from the Spanish Civil War.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
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