Francisco Franco Franco was born in Ferrol, Galicia, Spain. His father Nicolás Franco Salgado-Araujo was a Navy accounting officer. His mother Pilar Bahamonde Pardo de Andrade also came from a family with naval tradition. He was sibling to Nicolás Franco Bahamonde, navy officer and diplomat; a sister, Pilar Franco Bahamonde, the latter a well-known socialite; and another brother, Ramón Franco, a pioneer aviator who was hated by many of Franco's supporters.
His hometown was officially known as El Ferrol del Caudillo from 1938 to 1982. During his youth he suffered at the hands of his aggressive, alcoholic father, and it is argued by many that these experiences in his early years are what set him on the road to the murders and other atrocities he committed in later life.
Franco was to follow his father into the navy, but entry into the Naval Academy was closed from 1906 to 1913. To his father's chagrin, he decided to join the army. In 1907, he entered the Infantry Academy in Toledo, where he graduated in 1910. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant.
Two years later, he obtained a commission to Morocco. Spanish efforts to physically occupy their new African protectorate provoked a long protracted war (from 1909 to 1927) with native Moroccans. Tactics at the time resulted in heavy losses among Spanish military officers, but also gave the chance of earning promotion through merit. This explains the saying that officers would get either la caja o la faja (a coffin or a general's sash).
Franco soon gained a reputation as a good officer. He joined the newly formed regulares colonial native troops with Spanish officials, which acted as shock troops.
In 1916, at the age of 23 and already a captain, he was badly wounded in a skirmish at El Biutz. This action marked him permanently in the eyes of the native troops as a man of baraka (good luck). He was also proposed unsuccessfully for Spain's highest honor for gallantry, the coveted Cruz Laureada de San Fernando. Instead, he was promoted to major (comandante), becoming the youngest staff officer in the Spanish Army.
From 1917 to 1920 he was posted on the Spanish mainland. That last year, Lieutenant Colonel JosÃ© Millán Astray, a histrionic but charismatic officer, founded the Legión Extranjera, along similar lines to the French Foreign Legion. Franco became the Legión's second-in-command and returned to Africa.
In summer 1921, the overextended Spanish army suffered (July 24) a crushing defeat at Annual at the hands of the Rif tribes led by the Abd el-Krim brothers. The Legión symbolically, if not materially, saved the Spanish enclave of Melilla after a gruelling three-day forced march led by Franco. In 1923, already a lieutenant colonel, he was made commander of the Legión.
The same year he married María del Carmen Polo y Martínez ValdÃ©s and they had one child, a daughter, María del Carmen, born in 1926. As a special mark of honour, his best man (padrino) at the wedding was King Alfonso XIII, a fact which would mark him, during the Republic as a monarchical officer.
Promoted to colonel, Franco led the first wave of troops ashore at Alhucemas in 1925. This landing in the heartland of Abd el-Krim's tribe, combined with the French invasion from the south, spelled the beginning of the end for the shortlived Republic of the Rif.
Becoming the youngest general in Spain in 1926, Franco was appointed in 1928 director of the newly created Joint Military Academy in Zaragoza, a common college for all Army cadets.