Francisco Franco y Bahamonde was a Spanish military leader who played an integral role in the Spanish Civil War, and went on to serve as the country's head of state from the end of the war in 1939 till his death in 1975.
He was born in Ferrol, Galicia, Spain, on December 4, 1892, one of five children. For centuries his family had produced naval officers; he fully expected to go into the family business, but ended up joining the army instead when the Naval Academy was closed from 1906-13.
Franco wasted no time distinguishing himself as a good infantry officer. After becoming badly wounded in a skirmish at El Biutz in 1916 he began being looked at as a man of Baraka--good luck. By 1921 he had been promoted to second in command of the Spanish Foreign Legion and stationed in Africa where he was able to distinguish himself in the field even further.
At first, he made a point to stay out of politics, but he eventually found himself getting involved when the General Military Academy that he was director of since 1928 was closed in 1932 after the fall of the monarchy. He did what he could to stay out of trouble, opting to do his job for whoever happened to be in power. The Spanish Civil War started after a failed coup in 1936 in which he had entered on the side of the rebels.
Forces led by Franco eventually won the war in April 1939; an estimated 190,000 to 500,000 had been killed in the conflict. Franco's political control had begun back in April 1938 when he managed to get the Falange, a conservative-nationalist party, with the Carlist monarchist parties. In 1939, the combination of the two became the only legal party.
Once the war was over he dissolved the Spanish parliament and positioned himself as the de facto regent of the Kingdom of Spain. Over the last couple years of his life he gave up many of his duties due to health concerns. Continued health problems, including Parkinson's disease, led to him falling into a coma on October 30, 1975. He passed away on November 20, 1975. He was 82.