Adolf Hitler saw the division as a means to bind Spain more closely to the Axis cause. He therefore ordered that it be issued German equipment and transport and even pension payments. The division reached the Eastern Front by early October 1941 and soon proved itself in the difficult fighting before Leningrad, especially in the winter of 1942. Of the 47,000 men who fought as part of the division in its two years at the front, 22,000 became casualties, but forces opposite the Blue Division lost more than 49,000 men, according to Red Army estimates. Hitler called the Spanish soldiers "extraordinarily brave, tough against privations, but wildly undisciplined." Spanish improvisation was a constant irritant to the Germans.
With the Allied invasion of North Africa and the German reversals at Tunis and Stalingrad, Franco recalled the division in October 1943, replacing it with a legion of only 1,500 men. The division failed to achieve its goals of defeating communism, but it had another purpose as well: to demonstrate to Hitler that the Spanish would fight and take casualties in order to forestall any German plans to occupy Spain and seize Gibraltar. Undoubtedly, the Blue Division did impress Hitler on this point and helped to keep Iberia free of fighting in World War II.
Andrew W. Lander
Kleinfield, Gerald R., and Lewis A. Tambs. Hitler's Spanish Legion: The Blue Division in Russia. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1979.; Payne, Stanley G. Fascism in Spain, 1923–1977. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1999.