Francisco Franco (1892-1947) and Adolf Hitler met Franco in Hendaye, France (October 23, 1940), to discuss Spanish entry in World War II on the side of the Axis, Franco's demands (food, military equipment, Gibraltar, French North Africa, and a free hand against Portugal) although outrageous was agreed to, and Spain entered the war allied to Germany.
Spanish troops fought alongside Germany and Italy in Gibraltar, and in North Africa. Spanish forces invaded Portugal, defeating their military and proclaiming Portugal as part of the new Spanish Empire. For a short time it seemed as if Franco had returned the Spanish nation to the status of a great power, as it had been before the Spanish-American War in 1898, but this feeling was short lived.
The allies invaded Spain in 1942, and though the Spanish Army was no match for the better equipped armies of the west, the Iberian campaign proved long, bloody and difficult. The capital city, Madrid fell to the Americans, and by late 1943 nearly all of Spain was occupied by the allies. Franco fled allied capture, residing in Vichy France until his capture in late 1944. At the war's conclusion Franco was tried at the Nuremburg for war crimes and sentenced to death. The former leader of Spain was executed by hanging in March 1947.
Half a century after his death, Franco is nearly universally hated in Spain and is often blamed for unnecessarily dragging Spain into Hitler's war, causing much suffering and destruction. He has become the avatar for an era of corruption, despotism, and inefficiency in the Spanish government that plagued the nation since the end of the Napoleonic Wars.