jueves, 14 de agosto de 2008


Text and Indicated Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza
Leica Historical Society of America

Published in Film und Foto Magazine, Number 2, 2007

September 5th 1936 in Cerro Muriano (Córdoba). The Spanish Civil War has begun a month ago. An elite Moroccan sniper from Tabor of Regulares belonging to Coronel Saenz of Buruaga´s column under the command of General Varela (Franco´s Army) aims with his Mauser rifle at a Republican militiaman who is running down the slope of a hill, while a photographer located very near, only a few meters on his left (as the hidden enemy sniper is looking at him), is taking him a photograph from bottom to top from inside a trench. The Tabor of Regulares soldier presses the trigger and a 7 x 57 mm Mauser caliber bullet ruthlessly moves forward with an ascending trajectory and at a speed of 730 meters per second, piercing the heart of Federico Borrell García, an anarchist Republican militiaman from Alcoy (Alicante) and killing him instantly. The most important moment in the whole history of photography has just taken place, and it has been captured from a very near distance, with his 35 mm Leica III (Model F) by Robert Capa, the best war photographer of all time and Everlasting Bullfighter of the Silver Halide.

Cerro Muriano (Córdoba). 71 years later. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza
The most famous war photography of all time. Cerro Muriano (Córdoba). September 5th 1936. Photo: ROBERT CAPA © By Cornell Capa/Magnum Photos

In August of 1936, few weeks after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War following the rebellion by General Franco and other Generals distributed on different areas of the Iberian Peninsula against the government democratically constituted after the general elections, Robert Capa arrives in Spain with Gerda Taro (his workmate and girlfriend) to photographically cover the fight of the Republican forces against the rebelled military troops.

Robert Capa, whose authentic name was Endre Enrö Friedmann, a Hungarian photographer from Jewish origin, born in Budapest, was since his years as a teenager a convinced idealist regarding the need of social and political reforms which fulfilled a greater welfare for citizens, something that was enhanced through his friendship with Lajos Kassak, a poet and painter directing a socialist group devoted to avant-garde art. It was then when Endre Friedmann began to feel his passion and vocation for photography, on knowing the works by Jacob Iris and Lewis W. Hine linked to immigration, children exploitation and poverty.

A great enthusiast about politics and literature, firstly he wanted to be a journalist, but the anti-Semitic regulations by the Hungarian dictatorship were a hindrance for his entrance to Budapest University, and besides, shortly after, he was about to be arrested because of having participated in the demonstrations against the Magyar regime at the moment and he was bound to flee Hungary, becoming an exile in Berlin, a cosmopolitan city where he started his photojournalism studies at the Deutsche Hochschule für Politik. And it was in the German capital where the young Endre Friedmann attended to the lectures by Karl Korsch, a high leader of the German communist party, who subsequently would be thrown out due to his opposition to Stalin´s policy.

Shortly after, he got a job as an assistant in the famous photography agency Dephot, his mythical
lifetime as a photoreporter being started this way, and his first employment was the photographic coverage of a meeting by Leon Trotsky in Copenhaguen at the end of 1932.
But after the arrival of Hitler to power in Germany in 1933, Endre Friedmann, because of his Jewish ancestry and his political ideas, had to run to Paris, where he spent two very hard years until he managed to find a job. And it was on the Senna capital where he fell in love with a young German refugee from Polish Jewish origin called Gerda Pohorylle, to whom he taught the basic concepts about photography.

The choice of the name of Robert Capa instead of the authentic of Endre Friedmann was a Gerda Taro´s idea to better sell the pictures, and the ruse paid off, so in 1935 the director of Dephot agency ordered him to travel to Spain so as to make some photographic reportages intended for several German magazines: one in San Sebastián on the boxer Paulino Uzcúdun, another one on the memorial parade of the fourth anniversary of the Spanish Republic, and the last one in Seville, where he photographed both the April Fair and Holy Week.

Quickly, an idyl arose which would have to last all of his life: Robert Capa´s great love for Spain and the Spaniards, a very deep feeling of vital affinity as to a lot of aspects that would hugely mark his existence. Robert Capa got to love everything related to Spain: its landscapes, its typical cuisine, the peculiarities and habits of its people from different provinces, the Spanish sun, its ethnical varieties and so forth.

A man committed to the cause of the left political ideology and the antifascism (a feeling never concealed by him), Robert Capa photographed in 1936 the manifold parades and meetings which took place after the victory of the French Popular Front (with its coalition of liberals, socialists and communists presided over by Leon Blum).

But when the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, a great photographic chance sprang up for Robert Capa and Gerda Taro when Lucien Vogel, the owner of the high quality French photographic magazine Vu ordered them to make photographs of the Spanish conflict, getting them an airplane passage with a group of journalists who would travel to Barcelona.

On arriving in this city on August 5th 1936, Capa discovered that the military uprising had failed in this large metropolis, in which the power had been seized by workers and anarchist armed militiamen who had captured the main production facilities, factories, hotels, all kind of shops and so on.

Fast, Capa and Gerda Taro began taking pictures depicting the thousands of militiamen catching trains bound for the Aragón Front, while they said farewell to their relatives, specially wives and girlfriends.

After an eight days stay in the Catalonian capital, Capa and Taro went to an area next to the Huesca front, making photographs of encamped militiamen drilling with all types of machine guns and cannons, and then they went to the village of Tardienta, where they made a reportage on the communist Thälmann Century and another one of a column of the POUM which had its base in Leciñena, 18 km from Zaragoza.

But both in Leciñena and on the fronts of Guadarrama, Madrid and Toledo, the situation had become somewhat stagnant, so Robert Capa and Gerda Taro decided to go to Córdoba, where the Republican government had launched a major offensive to retrieve the capital of the High Guadalquivir. Furthermore, Capa was reported that in the surroundings of Córdoba there were different CNT anarchist militiamen units, infused with idealist concepts which fascinated Robert Capa from a photographic standpoint.

Though the exact dates aren´t known, there are clues to believe that Robert Capa and Gerda Taro arrived at the area of Cerro Muriano, a village 16 km from the north of the Cordoban capital, during the last week of August of 1936 or even more probably between September 1st and 4th, 1936.

On August 20th 1936, the republican troops under the command of General Miaja, who had 5,000 men for the attack, were upon the verge of conquering Córdoba, defended by rebel forces. The strife was hard- fought, but after fierce combats and the personal participation of General Varela (Franco´s Army), arrived to help the besieged Francoist troops, these managed to avoid the fall of the city through strenuous efforts, thanks above all to the action of nationalist aircraft, the stubborn resistance of the non loyalist artillery in Mocho Bridge Area and the Moroccan professional soldiers of Regulares of the rebel army, featuring a huge previous actual combat experience in Africa, who with their very accurate Mauser rifle shots from long distance provoked a high figure of casualties among the Republican militiamen.

However, the situation both for the upheaved military forces in Córdoba and the just arrived legionaries and Tábors of Regulares troops from the Army of Africa, the elite unit of the Spanish Army, under the command of General Varela, was very jeopardous, since a very high percentage of the Republican forces under the command of General Miaja (about 10,000 armed men, both militiamen and Spanish Army officers together with Guardias Civiles loyal to the Republican Government) were sparsed on the main villages of Córdoba province, albeit due to the circumstances, the biggest danger for General Varela was undoubtedly the village of Cerro Muriano and its nearby hills (Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas), where the plentiful presence of Republican troops who were already there before the onslaught on Córdoba (covering the back of the Republican units which tried to capture the city) had just been reinforced with some thousand soldiers of General Miaja who had been on the brink of taking hold of Córdoba.

Aware of the context, the officers of the Republican Army ordered to dig trenches inside and around Cerro Muriano village (16 km on the north of the city of Córdoba), to turn it into a defensive stronghold, but likewise and very specially on two very important elevations located approximately three kilometres before arriving at the village of Cerro Muriano: Torreárboles, the highest hill of the whole North Range of Mounts of Córdoba, with a height of 695 m and the hill of Las Malagueñas, on whose summit the Republican command post (Majors Bernal, Armentia, Balibrea and Aviraneta) in the area was located at an elegant country house resembling a little palace called Mansion de Las Malagueñas.

Therefore, after two weeks, both hills and the village of Cerro Muriano were transformed into very stout defensive positions, sporting lavish artillery sites of different calibre, mortars and a lot of Republican soldiers wisely placed on their trenches and awaiting for the enemy.

And so is confirmed by a page of the Madrid newspaper Ahora dated September 6, 1936 (though this information is very delayed and corresponds to the last week of August 1936 or the three first days of September 1936, because on September 6, 1936 Varela´s forces had already captured Cerro Muriano) there´s a photograph depicting Republican soldiers before the attack of General Varela´s troops, defending a strong position with machine guns on a high location on top of Torre Árboles and the field in the horizon separating them from the city of Córdoba can be clearly seen.

Inside this Madrid newspaper also appears a photograph showing the Republican Majors Jesús García del Amo, Castañeda and Aviraneta in a street of Cerro Muriano village talking one another while they check an army cartographic map.

The Republican High Command knew that General Varela had been given orders to try to advance northwards through Andalucía as soon as possible, while General Yagüe (another one of Franco´s generals) pushed forward in an ascending route through Extremadura, for the military insurrection hadn´t been successful in a good percentage of Spain, above all in the most inhabited and industrial cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao and Valencia, in such a way that Franco´s Army was split into three different fronts, unlinked inside the country, so it was clear that the aim of the high command of Franco´s Army in revolt was to try to connect the fronts as soon as possible, so avoiding the scattering of forces which significantly dwindled its effectiveness. Besides, the context was specially hard for the rebel troops belonging to the Army of Africa, with difference the best prepared and armed in the Spanish Army, but that after their transport by sea and by plane above all to Seville, had few men to keep the south front: some 20,000 soldiers.

This fact was perfectly known by the Republican forces that were waiting for them, so a fairly stressful and impasse situation arised, till General Varela (who hadn´t been able to capture Castro del Río a month before, on August 7th, because of the very strong defense by the Confederate Militias) gave the attacking order on September 5th, 1936, designing a scheme with three different columns that would converge on Cerro Muriano area, trying to destroy the Republican forces located on this zone between 12 and 16 km on the north of the city of Córdoba, which could attempt to attack them again.

Thus, shortly before the dawn of September 5th 1936, three columns left Córdoba: one on the left under the command of Major Baturone (army, requetés and falangists) following the way of the ermites towards Los Villares, Lagar de La Cruz, Conejera and the Old Way to Obejo to attack the right side of Republican defenses; another one in the center under the command of General Varela (constituted by legionaries and falangists from Córdoba and Seville) which advanced across Los Pedroches road marching straightaway following Almaden way; and a third one on the right under the command of Colonel Sáenz of Buruaga (constituted by The Tabor of Regulares from Melilla, with troops both on foot and on horseback) which made its way to Alcolea, and whose mission was to attack the Republican left flank, trying to fulfill the encircling manoeuvre falling on the back of the abundant militiamen and loyalist officers defending Torre Arboles and Las Malagueñas hills, so complementing the frontal attacks by General Varela´s and Baturone´s columns.

This way, in the middle of the night, the Tabor of Regulares advanced from Alcolea, going northbound towards Clavellinas area, and from this spot they went on their march taking left direction in a diagonal upward movement. Then, they passed by the right of the Loma del Algarrobillo o del Higuerón, by Suerte del Lentisco - which was on their right-, went across the zone of Las Huertezuelas and Fuente El Ventero, and then they followed their march towards the Cortijo de Las Suertes Altas, and some minutes later they reached the Cerro de La Coja, a very important and strategic access to Cerro Muriano, located on the east of the village, which was full of militiamen and loyalist officers occupying trenches on their top and strongly armed.

At this point, a group of very selected snipers of Tabor of Regulares was left hidden and camouflaged very near the low part of the Cerro de La Coja to prevent any Republican troops from going downwards - by means of their very accurate 7 x 57 mm caliber Mauser rifle shots-, while the bulk of the Tabor of Regulares of Coronel Sáenz de Buruaga resumed its march going downwards with southwest direction towards Las Malagueñas hill to try the encircling manoeuvre falling on the back of the plentiful Republican forces defending it, and so complementing the frontal attack made by General Varela and Baturone´s columns.

Therefore, the mission of this very selected group of elite snipers from Tabor of Regulares is to watch and fix the Republican forces occupying trenches on the summit of Cerro de La Coja and to avoid the transfer of any militiamen or loyalist officers to Las Malagueñas and Torre Arboles Hills, avoiding so the chance that the bulk of Buruaga´s Tabor of Regulares column can be surprised by an attack of militiamen on its rearguard, a task of paramount importance, since great quantities of Republican forces are defending Torre Arboles and Las Malagueñas, whose capture is absolutely indispensable for Varela´s forces if they want to have possibilities to subsequently assault Cerro Muriano village.

That´s to say, the Republican forces placed on the hill of Torre Árboles, the hill of Las Malagueñas and the village of Cerro Muriano, are going to come to grips with the cream of the Army of Africa, the elite unit of the Spanish Army, with its legionaries and Regulares that are at that moment, in 1936, from a military standpoint, the best infantry in the world, featuring a huge combat experience through a lot of years in countless battles in the Protectorate of Morocco, since the 1922 Annual Disaster, boasting a great discipline, a very deft handling of weapons and conducted by high commanders and officers sporting very deep knowledge on tactics and strategy. Very toughened men who are not afraid of death and for whom the combat in first firing line risking their lives has been something daily for years.

First photograph of the series preceding the death of Federico Borrell García. There are eleven Republican militiamen and an officer. Federico Borrell is the first appearing on the left. Photo: ROBERT CAPA © By Cornell Capa/Magnum Photos

Second photograph of the series of frames preceding the death of Federico Borrell García. There are three Republican militiamen jumping over the trench
and other three about to do it. Photo: ROBERT CAPA © By Cornell Capa/Magnum Photos

Therefore, it´s an uneven combat, with massive quantities of drama, in which there´s going to be a no quarter struggle between very professional troops and militiamen coming from the most various working and social sectors of the common people, the vast majority of whom have grasped a rifle for the first time one month and a half ago, but who are willing to die if it is necessary in defense of their ideas.

This is something terrible and and not easy to undertand, but it happened that way: with enormous courage and resolve, the republican officers and great numbers of militiamen take the decision of trying to stop dead on the two quoted hills of the north of the Córdoba Mountain Range of Mounts and in Cerro Muriano village itself to the Regulars and legionaries soldiers of the Army of Africa, already then very famous and dreaded because of the tremendous quelling of the miners from Asturias which had been taken out two years before.

All of this is perfectly known by the main Republican high officers on this area (majors Balibrea, Aviraneta and Armentia), who in spite of it, set up every defensive line throughout several consecutive days and give the Republican troops the accurate instructions for a fierce defense.

The Republican troops consist of military forces loyal to the Republic and popular militias from eclectic origin: Machine Guns from Manresa, militias from the Jaen Battalion, militias from the Garcés Battalion, military officers and non-commissioned officers from Cartagena, artillery from Murcia and the anarchists from Alcoy (Alicante), famous because of their grit in combat (though there are also militiamen from Alcoy in the Cerro de la Coja, Federico Borrell García being among them).

Franco´s army troops, after a night march of 14 km, arrive at the outskirts of Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas (targets whose capture is imperative for the effective later conquest of Cerro Muriano, since if they don´t do it this way and even capturing the village, they´d have great quantities of well armed and equipped Republican soldiers two km at their back) around eight o´clock in the morning and begin to set up their ordnance and mortars, while Baturone and Varela´s legionaries and rest of forces start taking positions for the battle, that after some initial skirmishes with rifle volleys from both sides, develops with all of its din.

A shambles takes place: both sides fire each other with all the available weapons, including light and medium calibre cannons and machine guns: in an ascending trajectory the shots by Varela´s troops firing from below against the Republican forces located on the trenches of the high areas of the hills of Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas and with a descending one the cannon (artillery directed by Major Armentia) and machine gun fire made by the Republican forces from top of both hills against Franco´s Army troops trying to go up.

Both mounts become into a chaos of explosions and fire. Casualties start being numerous and after the ordnance duel, the first attempts of assault by legionaries occur. Combats are ferocious, everybody fights with great rage in both sides and nobody steps back. Even, on some spots the first hand to hand combats with fixed bayonets take place.

But it´s a difficult attack, because Varela´s troops have to try to capture two defensive positions placed on a high point, very well defended and for which according to military manuals you need an important numeric superiority to have good chances of success, which is not the case. And it reveals very clearly the impressive physical condition of the troops from the Army of Africa, together with its huge discipline and a very high combat morale: after a hard 14 km night march, with frequent steep stretches of ground through mount, they directly attack the Republican forces after the artillery bombardment with the support of four aircraft.

However, the militiamen fight to the death during the whole day, approximately from 9 o´clock in the morning and hold on their defensive positions, also causing casualties amongst the attackers, while the Republican officers constantly encourage them, giving orders everywhere to reinforce the lines.

The Republican high officers have a good level of military expertise, perhaps not so high as Modesto or Coronel Tagüeña (two of the most brilliant Republican military heads who would later highlight above all in the Battle of the Ebro in 1938) but it makes the fight balanced to some extent during the first hours of combat, though meter by meter and in an inexorable way, Ganeral Varela´s troops push forward by means of the fierce attacks by legionaries, protected by a very accurate covering rifle fire as well.

Incredibly and plucking up great courage and heroism, Republican militiamen manage to curb the assaults by General Varela and Major Baturone´s columns, which in their turn fight with similar mettle and heroism.

It´s an utterly ruthless struggle, whose end happens shortly before midnight; Varela´s troops break the Republican defensive lines both in Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas and seize both hills, completely overwhelming the militiamen who die almost entirely fighting to the last man.

Around 22:00 hours of the night of September 5th 1936, shots stop being heard in Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas and the Republican forces protecting Cerro Muriano get ready for the defense of the village while Varela, Baturone and Sáenz de Buruaga start to make preparations for the final attack on the village of Cerro Muriano, also difficult to conquer, because it is on a high zone and strongly defended by a lot of militiamen and officers loyal to the Republic, who have dug trenches everywhere.

Third photograph of the series preceding the death of Federico Borrell García. There are three militiamen: two already leaned on the south rim of the trench, ready to open fire, and another one who is about to lean on the same position. Photo: ROBERT CAPA © By Cornell Capa/Magnum Photos

Fourth photograph of the series preceding the death of Federico Borrell García. There are three militiamen leaned on the south border of the trench and about to shoot. Photo: ROBERT CAPA © By Cornell Capa/Magnum Photos

The militiaman from Alcoy (Alicante) Federico Borrell García was born on January 3rd 1912 in Benilloba (Alicante), 15 km from Alcoy, at San Miguel Street, nº 1, though in 1917 he moved to Alcoy, where he was employed as a textile worker.

Since his early youth, he was linked to the anarchist libertarian ideal, and on breaking out the Spanish Civil War, he enrolled into the Alcoy CNT anarchist militias, which subsequently would gain celebrity due to its great courage and involvement in combat, dying to the last man firstly in Córdoba and then in Teruel.

The morning of September 5th 1936, Federico Borrell García was defending the hill of the Cerro de la Coja from a very early hour, and about 9:30 h in the morning of that day (current 10:30 h due to the nowadays delay of the time compared to then), suddenly and in an utterly unexpected way, he was shot on his chest while he was running down the slope of the Cerro de La Coja, just in the instant in which Robert Capa was taking him a photograph, at a moment in which combats were taking place in the area of the hills of Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas, some two kilometres ahead of his position, southwards looking at the city of Córdoba, so although they could hear perfectly the artillery and rifle shots from that area, they couldn´t imagine that some elite snipers from Tábor of Regulares belonging to Sáenz of Buruaga´s column (Franco´s Army) were very near them, already camouflaged (into the vegetation and trees a few meters from the low part of the Cerro de la Coja (this way, the Tábor of Regulares snipers were aiming upwards at the summit of the Cerro de la Coja with their Mauser rifles) approximately from 9:00 h in the morning, with the intention of guarding them closely and thwart any attempt of movement of Republican militiamen from the Cerro de La Coja in the south direction, while they waited for the outcome of the combat in Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas.

Very dramatic image of the second Republican militiaman shot in the Cerro de La Coja and photographed by Capa. The identity of this man has remained unknown till nowadays. Photo: ROBERT CAPA © By Cornell Capa/Magnum Photos

Leica III (Model F 1933-1939) with a collapsible chrome Summar 50 mm f/2 attached.

The discovery of the actual identity of the militiaman who appears on Robert Capa´s photograph falling backwards on the ground because of a Mauser rifle shot, happened in 1996 and was something wholly by chance, when as a result of the publication of the book ´The Civil War in Córdoba´, written by Francisco Moreno Gómez (the biggest authority on the history of the Spanish Civil War in Córdoba province), Mario Brotons García (a man who in 1936 had fought as a militiaman against General Varela´s troops in Cerro Muriano, after travelling from Alcoy to Córdoba) wrote him a letter in which he told him his experiencies as a Republican combatant on that area, also reporting him that he met Federico Borrell García.

Brotons had the suspicion that the Republican militiaman who is falling backwards in Robert Capa´s photograph was Federico Borrell, with whom he had breakfast very early in the morning that September 5th 1936, due to (among other factors) the specially designed rawhide belting and cartridge boxes ordered to the Alcoy craftsmen by the colonel of the regiment of this town, that had been taken on August 2nd and 3rd by the anarchist militiamen during the capture of the barracks.

This way, a little time elapsed until Mario Brotons visited Evaristo (Federico Borrell García´s brother) and showed him the famous photograph by Capa, the suspicions being confirmed: the man appearing in the famous picture was Federico Borrell García, an anarchist militiaman from Alcoy, who died in Cerro Muriano being 24 years old because of a bullet shot.

Leitz Summar 50 mm f/2 Rigid uncoated, featuring 6 elements in 4 groups. A classical Gauss design and very probably the lens used by Capa to take the most famous war photography of all time.

In the midst of this terrible warfare mess, the question arises: Where is Robert Capa at these moments in which the battle for Torre Arboles and Las Malagueñas hills is taking place?

During the whole day of September 5th, 1936, Robert Capa hasn´t been either in Torreárboles or Las Malagueñas hills. Very probably, he has previously studied the situation and during the prior days he has been asking both Republican officers and militiamen about the real situation before the combats.

That´s to say, Robert Capa was very aware about the fact that going to make photographs to Torreárboles or Las Malagueñas the day of the attack of Franco´s Army troops, implied a fairly high risk for his life, due to the high volume of artillery fire, machine gunning and rifle shots which General Varela´s forces would throw on both hills, and besides, in such a context, the possibilities of making good pictures were minimal, because of the steady exploding of shells everywhere, apart from the fact that the probable encircling manoeuvre by General Varela´s troops would render escape very difficult if necessary.

Therefore, Robert Capa decided to stay with the militiamen from Alcoy and some Republican officers not in Torreárboles or Las Malagueñas, but in the village of Cerro Muriano, around three kilometres more northwards, in the area of the so called Cerro de la Coja, located in the east of the village, as you advance towards it following north direction. And everything suggests that he painstakingly examined the ground, looking for the suitable spots to make the best and most spectacular photographs feasible.

As a matter of fact, there are testimonies both by very old men from the village and descendants of other already demised that assure categorically that the militiamen from Alcoy were seen drilling on the Cerro de la Coja during the previous hours to the battle, together with several army officers loyal to the Republic and wearing military uniform (something that is confirmed by the first of the four 35 mm contacts preceding the one with the famous photograph by Capa, and in which a Republican officer appears between the third and fourth militiamen starting from the left).

And this is a very important datum, because for many years different sources stated that Robert Capa made the photograph either in Torreárboles or Las Malagueñas.

Leitz Elmar 50 mm f/3.5, a Tessar four elements type optical design by Max Berek and the second highest probable lens used by Capa to take his famous picture.

Robert Capa made his mythical photograph on the so called Cerro de La Coja, on a spot in its most eastward slope near the beginning of a little ravine, from which you can see the mountains appearing in the background of the photograph, on the right of the militiaman who is instantly killed by a bullet piercing his heart.

After having visiting a lot of times this Cerro de La Coja hill (as well as Torreárboles, Las Malagueñas and the village of Cerro Muriano itself with its current streets), it must be concluded almost without any margin for error in this respect that Capa made his most renowned photograph on the Cerro de la Coja, located in the outskirts of the village of Cerro Muriano, in its east zone, as you look at it arriving from Córdoba in south-north direction.

The existing vegetation both in Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas is utterly different, with lavishness of green colour, instead of the buff colour featured by the wheat covering the whole Cerro de la Coja and which is exactly the same (though higher nowadays) as the one appearing covering the ground in the famous photograph by Capa, so the picture couldn´t be made in either of those two big hills of the Córdoban Range, where the gradient is much more steep than the one you can see in Capa´s photograph, and besides, the ground is very abrupt, overcrowded with stones everywhere and sporting a very plentiful and thick vegetation (different to the one depicted in the famous photograph), which renders reaching their summits something really wearisome.

On the other hand, both the slopes of Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas are much more steep and pronounced than the one of the Cerro de la Coja, whose similarity with the ground seen in Capa´s most important photograph is huge, with the only difference that vegetation is more copious currently, since at that time the quantity of ovine and caprine livestock was much bigger than nowadays.

Leitz Elmar 35 mm f/3.5 uncoated, featuring 4 elements in 3 groups. Another great Tessar design by the legendary Max Berek.

In August 1936, a few weeks before his arrival at Cerro Muriano (Córdoba), Robert Capa took a photograph in Santa Eulalia (Aragón Front) running at the same time as some militiamen wearing rifles during a counterattack, though he could only take the picture diagonally from behind. And also in Santa Eulalia, Capa made some photographs of real combat (or perhaps emulating combat, it´s difficult to know) of some militiamen armed with rifles, shooting with their knees on the ground from top of a hill and also opening fire being lying on the soil.

But such photographs taken in Santa Eulalia (Aragón) were all made from behind. Everything hints that Capa wasn´t satisfied with these photographs and went to Cerro Muriano with the clear intention of making similar pictures but even from a shorter distance and above all from a frontal viewpoint with the face or faces of the subject/s towards him, faithful to his famous sentence: ´If the photograph is not good it is because you haven´t approached enough´, that on the Cerro de La Coja is going to reach its maximum conceivable dimension.

From 1936 to nowadays, and independently of the battle that took place on this area in the north of the city of Córdoba, the most important and fascinating aspect and undoubtedly the one which most interest and amazement has brought about for 71 years (something that hasn´t dwindled at all, but even has incredibly increased a great deal through these so many years) is the answer to the great question: How did Capa make this picture being at the same time so extremely gruesome and sublime? What camera, lens, black and white film and ISO did he use? Did he really take the photograph protected inside a trench aiming the camera from bottom to top or perhaps things happened other way? And what time and where was the photograph taken?

To begin with, judging from the shadow of the militiaman who falls dead because of a shot on his heart and the orientation of the Leica III (Model F) -made between 1933 and 1939- used by Robert Capa, who on aiming at the Republican militiaman is also doing it exactly in the direction of the north of a compass, with the sun beams coming from the east, everything suggests that the picture was taken in the morning, approximately between the current 10:30 h and the 11:30 h. Bearing in mind that on September 5th 1936, the day in which Capa takes the photograph, the time was one hour set ahead compared to nowadays, we reach the conclusion that the picture was made between 9:30 and 10:30 h in the morning (1936 time) on the Cerro de La Coja, located in the east of Cerro Muriano and from which you can see in the horizon the mountains appearing in Capa´s photograph.

For a long time and almost till currently, the wrong conviction was assumed that the photograph had been taken either in Torreárboles or Las Malagueñas, because between 9:30 and 10:30 in the morning of September 5th 1936, the combats were happening not on the village of Cerro Muriano or the Cerro de La Coja, but in Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas, two important hills of the range of mountains in the north of the city of Córdoba, located two kilometres in the south of Cerro Muriano (looking from the village), whose conquest and destruction of the strongly armed Republican forces defending it, were an indispensable previous requirement for Varela´s forces to be able to attack the village of Cerro Muriano (likewise vigorously defended by Republican troops) with chances, without leaving a lot of of Republican militiamen on their backs.

Nevertheless, after leaving the city of Córdoba shortly before the dawn of September 5th 1936, Coronel Sáenz of Buruaga´s column (whose task was the encircling maneuver which would complement the frontal attack by Varela and Baturone on the hills of Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas) advanced in a very silent way, following a trajectory very on the right of Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas (the spots from which from very early in the morning of September 5th 1936 till around 22:00 in the night, the dreadful battle for both hills occurred) until reaching the village of Alcolea and from here the troops of Tábor of Regulares went up northwards through the stretch of land currently occupied by the residential neighbourhood El Sol - which didn´t exist in 1936- and follow their advance upwards, always with the Arroyo de Los Yegüeros on their right - and the Arroyo del Guadalbarbo a bit further on their left -, until they crossed it and arrived at the Clavellina area.

From this location, the whole Sáenz of Buruaga´s Tábor of Regulares moved forward silently to the left in an ascending transversal direction across the area on the Loma del Algarrobillo o del Higuerón, they passed by Suerte del Lentisco -which is on their right- , went across the zone of Las Huertezuelas and Fuente El Ventero, and then followed their march towards the Cortijo de Las Suertes Altas and from here they intentionally slowed the pace of their walking trying to move as silently as possible, because they knew that they were reaching the Cerro de La Coja, located on the east of the village.

The Tábor of Regulares men knew that the Cerro de La Coja was strongly defended by a lot of Republican militiamen and loyalist officers and Sáenz of Buruaga´s men didn´t want to be detected.

This way, once the Tábor of Regulares of Sáenz of Buruaga´s arrived at the surroundings of the Cerro de La Coja, the bulk of these very professional troops featuring a lot of years of combat experience in Marruecos, began a downward march with southwest direction, crossing on the right of the current residential neighbourhood of Villa Rosita -which didn´t exist then- towards Las Malagueñas hill, to try the encircling manoeuvre falling on the back of the abundant Republican forces defending it, and so complementing the frontal attack of General Varela´s and Baturone´s columns.

But previously, Coronel Saenz of Buruaga had taken a very important decision: a group of very selected snipers of Tábor of Regulares, sporting great accuracy in their long distance Máuser 7x 57 mm caliber rifles shots and tremendously quick speed of action -together with a lot of years of experience- had been left very near the low part of the Cerro de La Coja. They were not a lot of men, but their mission was of top paramount significance for the security of the bulk of the Tábor of Regulares which would attack Las Malagueñas hill: to cover their back, because while trying the encircling manoeuvre, Sáenz of Buruaga´s men would have their backs towards Cerro Muriano village and the Cerro de La Coja, and there would always be the risk of being surrounded by Republican forces arriving from either of these points, which could mean the wiping out of the Tábor of Regulares.

So, the mission of this very selected group of veteran Moroccan snipers located very near the low part of the Cerro de La Coja and already camuflaged, was to shoot against any Republican militiamen or loyalist officers trying to go down from the Cerro de La Coja in the direction of Las Malagueñas.

This is very important to understand the hour in which Capa takes his most famous picture, which is without any doubt between 9:00 and 10:00 o´clock in the morning -in my opinion most probably between 9:00 and 9:30 h- of September 5th 1936, and not at five o´clock in the afternoon.

Actually, the Mauser 7 x 57 mm rifle shots who killed Federico Borrell García and probably the second militiaman fallen after him -in my opinion impacted on his stomach- were a great surprise both for Robert Capa and all the militiamen and loyalist officers who were on the Cerro de La Coja, because at that moment combats were taking place in Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas Hills, about two kilometers away.

But evidence and deep study of the context clearly proves that the decision of putting the very experienced Moroccan snipers - popularly known as ´Pacos´- in the immediate surroundings of the Cerro de La Coja had its reason, because the Tábor of Regulares was fighting hardly Las Malagueñas for the whole September 5th 1936 from approximately 12:45 h in the morning, and the very fierce and brave defense made by the Republican forces distributed on Las Malagueñas hill and its surroundings made that the Tábor didn´t manage to make the encircling manoeuvre until the first hours of the night of that day.

It´s very important to take into account that the fascist effectives were very reduced at this stage of the Spanish Civil War, the military rebellion had failed in approximately the 60% of the country, including the biggest cities - Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao and Valencia- , the fronts were sparsed and there were only 20,000 Franco´s soldiers in Andalucía at this moment and General Varela had to make this attack to take Cerro Muriano with fewer soldiers than the theoretically
necessary to tackle with good guarantees this risky operation against well defended high positions.

And the quoted little number of soldiers made that the fascist troops were usually under constant risk of being encircled, so the role of Moroccan elite snipers to thwart any possible enemy´s attempt to encircling them was vital.

They knew that there were also abundant Republican forces protecting the east access to the village of Cerro Muriano, and on this spot these elite snipers took positions suitably camouflaged near the low part of the Cerro de La Coja, having the numerous militiamen occupying trenches and defensive positions on top of this hill at lethal shooting distance with their 7 x 57 mm Mauser rifles.

Thus, the essential mission of this group of elite very accurate snipers belonging to Tabor of Regulares which separated from the main bulk of Sáenz of Buruaga´s column (attacking Las Malagueñas hill in north-south direction, complementing Varela and Baturone´s attack in south-north direction) was to immobilize and closely guard the great numbers of Republican troops placed on the summit of the Cerro de La Coja and defending the east access to the village of Cerro Muriano, and at the same time to prevent the Republican high command in the area from sending militiamen reinforcements to Las Malagueñas and Torrearboles, the two hills on which during the whole day of September 5th 1936 the battle between Varela and Baturone´s columns and the Republican forces raged on.

These very experienced Moroccan Tabor of Regulares snipers had received very specific orders to avoid at all cost the transfer from Cerro Muriano of any type of contingents of militiamen ordered by Republican officers to help their comrade militiamen fighting in Las Malagueñas and Torrearboles and to kill with their very accurate shots of 7 x 57 mm long barrel model Mauser rifle any Republican combatant trying to go down from the Republican trenches on top of the Cerro de La Coja in the direction of those hills considered of paramount importance for the high command of both sides in regard to the outcome of the battle.

From some days before September 5th, 1936, Robert Capa was with Gerda Taro in Cerro Muriano area, and he had been fraternizing both with the Republican troops and the high officers, so as to win their confidence, something in which the great photojournalist excelled.

Little by little, he had gathered information about the Republican units deployed on the four probable zones of combat: Torreárboles, Las Malagueñas, the Cerro de La Coja and the village of Cerro Muriano and he had decided to stay in the area of trenches of the Cerro de La Coja, where the militiamen from Alcoy were deployed.

And Robert Capa was very interested in their photographic coverage, because of his political and idealist affinity, since Andre Friedmann was fascinated by the fact that men coming from the most various professional and social spheres of the common people had arrived by trucks from many different areas of Spain to fight against very professional enemy troops featuring a lot of previous experience in actual combat, greatly risking their lives.

Therefore, during some days, Capa lived as one more soldier with the Republican militiamen and officers in the area of trenches of El Cerro de La Coja and likewise, at some moment he very probably visited the village of Cerro Muriano with Gerda Taro. Capa knew that the battle was approaching and General Varela´s troops would attack soon. And so happened on September 5th 1936, with the circumstances and consequencies explained before.

From approximately 9:00 h in the morning, from the trenches located on top of the Cerro de La Coja (where Robert Capa was present, together with many militiamen and some Republican officers) everybody could hear the roar of the battle that had already began in Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas (though the attempt of encircling manoeuver of the latter by the Tabor of Regulares wouldn´t begin until around 12:45 h), about two kilometres in the south looking from the summit of the Cerro de La Coja.

At this moment of parallel great stress and enthusiasm for the Republican troops, Robert Capa decided to start taking pictures (from a low position, tilting his camera upwards) of militiamen posing standing on a trench of the Cerro de La Coja and raising their rifles, encouraging themselves for the battle.

This is the first photograph of the series of six contacts of 35 mm, whose fifth one is the very famous photograph by Capa depicting the death of Federico Borrell García and the sixth one is the photograph of a second soldier shot immediately after Federico Borrell (something about which Capa never wanted to speak because he felt guilty on remembering it), the sheet of 35 mm contacts finishing with some photographs of civil population fleeing Cerro Muriano to save their lives approximately at half past three in the afternoon of this day as we´d see later.

This way, in this first photograph we can see 11 militiamen and a Republican officer with standard Spanish army cap, while the militiamen are wearing different uniforms.

Probably, after taking them these photos while they all are posing standing brandishing their rifles, Capa talks to the militiamen and tells them that he wants to get into the trench and that he needs to make them some pictures from bottom to top, while they jump over it and asks them that after it they make some shots with their rifles lying on its most southwards border.

Thus, there are four pictures in which everything suggest that there isn´t real combat.

During the instants in which Capa take these pictures (the first one with 11 militiamen posing standing on the trench raising their rifles; the second one with three militiamen leaping over the trench and other three who are about to do it; the third one with two militiamen already leaned against the south brim of the trench and about to shoot while another one is still with his feet on the bottom of the trench and upon the verge of resting on its edge also to open fire; and the fourth one with three militiamen lying and making some shots with their rifles from the south brim of the trench, aiming at the city of Córdoba) there isn´t any mutual shots interchange between the militiamen who are being photographed by Capa in the trenches and any Franco´s Army troops.

Federico Borrell García appears in the four photographs: he is the militiaman wearing a white uniform most on the left in photo 1; the man with white uniform more nearby to Capa´s rangefinder screw mount Leica III (Model F 1933-1939) who is jumping on the trench in the photo 2; the militiaman wearing a white uniform of the two lying on the south edge of the trench in photo 3; and the man wearing a white uniform, lying and already firing together with two other militiamen in the photo 4.

These Republican militiamen, aroused by the presence of two foreign photographers (Capa and Taro), are captured with his rangefinder Leica by Robert Capa, who is inside the trench.

Id est, Capa is there and takes the pictures, striving after photographing this special overjoying revolutionary context in which the anachist militiamen are the main characters and the atmosphere surrounding it by means of his pictures, including the previous frames of the militiamen posing standing on the trench, jumping over it and leaning their rifles while they aim their guns downwards, thinking that nobody is seeing them).

And this is something that has been done to more or less extent through history in every war with the purpose of conveying all kinds of messages and also, why not to say it, with propagandist aims. In fact, many of the excellent photographs made by Agustí Centelles (Spanish National Prize of Photography in 1985) taken during the Spanish Civil War, are often militiamen posing (though many other splendid ones also depict the most cruel reality), trying to emulate actual combat action, both with isolated militiamen and in group and from different angles.

There are four basical hypotheses:
a) Capa asks two Republican militiamen (maybe more) to run down the slope of the Cerro de La Coja (i.e, quickly advancing with a descending trajectory from the trench located on top of this hill in the direction of the city of Córdoba, towards the south) grabbing their rifles and that he (Robert Capa) will be placed on a lower point waiting for them to take them the picture from a very near distance and from bottom to top when they are near him running. That´s to say, Capa asks them to run down the slope of the Cerro de La Coja with their rifles grasped as if it was an attack on the enemy lines and also tells them that he will be waiting for them with his camera ready to make them pictures from bottom to top, aiming at them with his rangefinder Leica III (Model F 1933-1939).
b) Identical dynamics, but with Robert Capa going down running with the militiamen, though advancing something ahead of them and stopping from time to time on some concrete spots, putting one knee on the ground and making the pictures from bottom to top.
c) That it is a real attack or counterattack from the beginning, with the militiamen running slope down and Capa running with them too, but something ahead of them and stopping now and again to take the photographs, previously putting one knee on the ground each time.
d) Capa takes the picture lying on the north brim of the trench, taking the picture of Federico Borrell García who while running down the slope, suddenly stops in front of Capa, standing with both feet on the ground and grabbing his rifle, raising it, moment in which capa makes the picture, coinciding exactly with the moment in which an enemy bullet pierces the militiaman´s heart. This is the hypothesis held by Richard Whelan, the best biographer of Richard Whelan of all time.

In any case, both 7 x 57 mm Mauser shots are made by the same Tabor of Regulares elite sniper and probably in an interval of time between approximately 1,5 seconds and 2,5 seconds and from a medium or long distance with the sniper very well camouflaged and highly probably with his Mauser 1893 Model 7 x 57 mm rifle resting on a firm base.

There are some spots near the Cerro de La Coja from which the two consecutive shots could be made, though bearing in mind the ground orography, the shots had to be made at a distance between 100 and 400 meters.

They´re not machine gun shots, since for the Moroccan elite sniper belonging to Tabor of Regulares unit who is near the low part of the Cerro de La Coja or in its surroundings (between 100 and 400 meters) with other Tabor of Regulares snipers and who makes the two shots, it is of paramount importance not to reveal his position, and if any sniper of Tabor of Regulares had opened fire with a machine gun, shooting from bottom to top, they would have shown its location to the militiamen on the trenches of the summit of the Cerro de La Coja who in their turn would have immediately opened fire against them with their own machine guns from an advantageous high position.

The intention of the shots on the two Republican militiamen who are photographed by Capa is to instil fear amongst the militiamen defending the Cerro de La Coja and fix them on their position. The message of the Tabor of Regulares elite snipers is clear : they will open fire again to every militiaman who tries to go down the slope in the direction of both Torreárboles, Las Malagueñas or the city of Córdoba, but at this moment these reduced group of elite Tabor of Regulares snipers don´t want to attack, because they have got orders to wait for the outcome of the battle in Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas and furthermore, they haven´t enough forces, automatic weapons or ordnance to attempt the conquest of the Cerro de La Coja attacking from the low part of it upwards.

On the other hand, if the shots had been machine gun fire, the Republican officers and militiamen on the trenches on top of the Cerro de la Coja would have quickly pinpointed the location of the foe shots (because of the rattling of machine gun fire, longer in time than a bullet, however short may be the burst) and would have had the advantage of their elevated position to wipe out the focus of Tabor of Regulares firing with their own machine guns bullet spraying (they probably had Czech Hotchkiss ZB 7´92 mm Mod. 1914, French Saint Etienne 8 x 57R Lebel Mod.1907 or the widespread Soviet Maxim 7´62 mm) or even adjusting the little calibre mortars featuring great degree azimuth and fast rate of fire that they probably had too (specially Valero 50 mm Model 1932 and 81 mm Model 1933 mortars). They were individual very accurate shots made with a 1893 long barrel model 7 x 57 mm caliber Mauser rifle by the same sniper, in a consecutive way and in a very short interval of time between each other.

´Piedra Horá´, one of the accesses to the village of Cerro Muriano. Through the gullies on the right of this spot (out of image) took place the tremendous attack in full darkness of the Tabor of Regulares some hours before the dawn of September 6th 1936. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza.

The beginning of the end for the Republican militiamen and loyalists officers defending Cerro Muriano. ´Cerro de La Arenilla´ and ´Arroyo de La Morea´, the two gullies through which the Tabor of Regulares men went up silently in the night to encircle the Republican soldiers guarding ´Piedra Horá´ , also known as ´Piedra Horadada´, one of the accesses to the village of Cerro Muriano. During the night hours before dawn of September 6th 1936, the Moroccan troops belonging to the Tabor of Regulares of Colonel Sáenz of Buruaga´s column, started the final attack on the village of Cerro Muriano, going up crawling on the ground very silently through the two aforementioned gulchies, surprising the Republican militiamen guarding ´Piedra Horá´ area (a famous and huge quartz rock with remnants of copper), killing them all together along with the militiamen inside some outer trenches and opening the ´Camino de Los Pañeros´ (an old way crossing by ´Piedra Horá´) through which the bulk of Saenz of Buruaga´s Moroccan Tabor of Regulares forces went into the village by fire and sword, unleashing hell with many hand to hand combats on the bayonet occurring in the quoted trenches, allowing the rest of columns of General
Varela´s forces to attack the village from other angles and finally capture Cerro Muriano.
Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza.

Whatever may be the correct hypothesis, an utterly unexpected event takes place: the first militiaman who arrives very near the spot where Robert Capa is waiting to take him a picture, suddenly receives a lethal shot piercing his heart just the instant in which Capa is pressing the shutter of his Leica III (model F 1936-1939).
This is absolutely astounding, incredible and awesome. The coincidence in time between the shutter release of Robert Capa´s Leica III (Model F 1933-1939) and the bullet impacting on the militiaman chest is unbelievably accurate.
Everything happens very quickly. Capa sees the first militiaman falling through the viewfinder of his rangefinder Leica III (Model F 1933-1939) just after pressing the shutter release button, and instinctively and at full speed, he decides to turn as fast as possible the knurled wheel located on the right of the camera which makes the film advance up to the next frame, cocking the horizontal running focal-plane shutter made of rubberised cloth at the same time. Which is the reason for it? Federico Borrell García, a very vivacious man sporting great energy, has run down the slope in the first place, ahead of his militiamen mates and has just been shot by a lethal bullet that has instantly killed him, a split second that has been captured by Capa, but some meters behind is certainly coming at least another militiaman running down (perhaps more, albeit it´s very difficult to know it).
Capa hardly has time to react, but with huge cold blood acts through pure instinct, and after managing to advance the film up to the next frame and cock the shutter again, raises the camera to look through the viewfinder to take the second photograph, but he hasn´t enough time to capture the action with the same timing accuracy (by chance and wholly unforeseen) than in the first picture and when he looks through the viewfinder again and presses the shutter, he arrives late and the second militiaman has already been shot by the second Mauser 7 x 57 mm calibre bullet and has fallen to the ground, lying on it in a very forced position (which clearly indicates that this picture isn´t a trick either and the militiaman is not faking any way but he´s really seriously injured, with his right arm bent backwards in a very uncommon way and grabbing the rifle with its barrel tip touching the ground ) and this is the moment captured by Robert Capa in this second photograph of a militiaman who has just been pierced by a bullet.
For a long time, some people who called into question the authenticity of the world famous photograph by Capa, stated that the two photographs belonged to the same man, but it is not true: the first man falling instantly killed is Federico Borrell García , a militiaman from Alcoy (Alicante), who is wearing a white shirt, probably khaki colour trousers and attached to his waist are the black leather boxes for ammunition typical from Alcoy (captured during the taking of the infantry barracks of such village of Alicante province between Ausgust 2nd and 3rd 1936) and from each shoulder falls a leather strap, while the second Republican militiaman pierced by the second bullet and lying badly injured on the floor in a very stressful position is undoubtedly another man: the third militiaman beginning from the left of the frame who appears in the first photograph of these series taken by Capa, i.e, that one in which you can see 11 militiamen and a Republican officer with standard Spanish Army cap. And this second militiaman knocked down by a 7 x 57 mm Mauser bullet (very shortly after Federico Borrell García is instantly killed) appears wearing different clothes, with two leather straps falling from his shoulders, crossing each other on his chest and attached to the light brown colour leather boxes of ammo located on his waist, apart from the fact that his shirt is not white but features a darker tone.
On comparing both photographs, you can realize that in Federico Borrell Garcia´s one, Robert Capa chooses the moment in which the militiaman from Alcoy has his feet occupying the lower border of the frame (a rather usual trait in Capa´s style, with images taken from bottom to top from a low position, something that appears often in many of the pictures he made in different countries during his professional career) in accordance with the context that he previously had agreed upon with both militiamen in order that they ran down the slope of the Cerro de La Coja to take them the photographs at the moment in which they arrived very near him (probably Robert Capa had prefocused and preframed in advance on this spot, because the Leica III (Model F 1933-1939) is a camera in which both the framing and the focusing must be done separately, so it has a window to frame and another one on its left to focus. That´s to say, firstly you must focus superimposing the two images of the rangefinder in one (the rangefinder magnification in Leica III Model F 1933-1939 was increased to 1.5X compared to the built-in rangefinder of the Leica II Model D 1932-1948, which implied an advantage to get the correct focusing) and then you are to frame looking through the viewfinder) and it just happens that precisely when Robert Capa presses the shutter release button of his Leica III (Model F 1933-1939), the first knocked down militiaman, Federico Borrell García is shot by a bullet on his chest which kills him on the spot.
From now on everything is absolutely unexpected and surprising. Robert Capa is bound to turn very quickly with his thumb and index fingers the knurled wheel on the right top area of his Leica III Model F 1933-1939 (located on the slow shutter speeds dial) to advance the black and white film up to the next frame and cock the shutter again ( he had to do it in a time between 1 and 2 seconds ). Evidently, during these moments the sniper is seeing Capa (in fact, there is a very high probability that he has taken him as a reference to make the very accurate first shot) and the best war photographer of all time chooses to risk his life, because he wants the picture, that picture.
Therefore, acting with his pure instinct of war photographer, sporting a huge cold blood and courage and jeoparding losing his own life, perfectly aware that he can also be shot, Robert Capa decides to take the photo of the second Republican militiaman who is running down the slope of the Cerro de La Coja, in spite of the fact that the hidden sniper can shoot him at any moment too.
In the twinkling of an eye, Robert Capa realizes that the immediate previous framing of the picture taken to the first militiaman has been very tight, with Federico Borrell García´s both feet on the border of the lower area of the frame (the way he liked) and doesn´t want that the head or feet of the second militiaman running down the slope be rendered out of the frame (on not being sure about his reaction and the trajectory he is going to follow running down after hearing the first shot that has just killed the first militiaman, though there´s a high probability that this second Republican militiaman hasn´t heard the noise of the first bullet because of the cannon, rifle and mortar fire roar coming from Las Malagueñas and Torrearboles battle that is taking place at these moments), because everything that happens from the first shot on Federico Borrell García is utterly unforeseeable and alters all that Capa had arranged.
This way, Capa, who sees the second militiaman coming towards him and perceives his running down trajectory (very similar to Federico Borrell García´s one, albeit not identical 100%) and watching that he is going to pass on a spot very near Federico Borrell García´s place of death because of the first bullet, that´s to say, very next to him, he turns full-blast the knurled wheel on top right of his Leica III Model 1932-1939 (located on the slow shutter speeds dial) with his thumb and index finger to advance the black and white film up to the next frame and cock again the shutter (in a time between around 1 and 2 seconds) and stays static on his position, without moving, but turns the Leica III (Model F 1933-1939) slightly downwards and a bit on the right to include more ground inside the frame, so doing his best to assure that the body of the second militiaman appears complete in the frame, which he attains, being besides favoured because the second militiaman has also been knocked down by a bullet (instant that Robert Capa doesn´t manage to capture, because at that instant he is turning as fast as possible the knurled wheel for advance of the film and cocking of the shutter of his Leica or because at that moment he was still lifting the camera to look through the viewfinder) and he arrives late, when this second militiaman is already lying on the ground, so he fills much less space in vertical in the horizontal photograph than if he had photographed him being standing.
If both photographs are compared, you can observe that in the one depicting the second militiaman hit by the second bullet, the patch of ground with buff colour grass occupies an area of the frame around double size than the previous picture showing Federico Borrell García´s instant kill, and the space occupied by the sky is also smaller.
That´s to say, after the first shot, there aren´t things under control or possibility of choice of framing any more, the important thing for Robert Capa is to take the photo, the uncertainty factor rises tremendously regarding all the conceivable parameters and Capa, as quick as possible, strives after capturing at all costs inside the frame the second militiaman who is running down, which he achieves helped by the fact that due to the time he has needed to turn the knurled wheel of film advance and shutter cocking and to raise the camera up to his eyes, when he´s going to take the picture of the second knocked down militiaman, this is already fallen on the ground because of the impact of the bullet on his body, so Capa turns his camera a bit downward and very slightly on the right (so as to cover more stretch of ground with grass near him) and makes him appear inside the frame and more or less centered on the left.
After some tests made with a 1,70 m tall man on the spot of the Cerro de La Coja on which Robert Capa made his famous photograph, it can be said with a good margin of accuracy that at the moment of taking both photographs with his Leica III (model F 1933-1939) and a Summar 50 mm f/2 (the lens very probably attached to the camera), Capa was at a distance between 4,40 m and 4,80 m from both Federico Borrel García and the second militiaman who also falls on the ground shot by a bullet.
The image of this second militiaman falling shot by a second bullet is very dramatic, for he´s on the ground badly injured, apparently live and featuring a very stressful and agonizing position, with his right arm backwards and his hand strongly grabbing the rifle, whose barrel tip is perhaps nailed on the floor (unlike Federico Borrell García, whose hand taking the rifle is utterly flaccid after being instantly killed). The action has happened so fast that probably this second militiaman , euphoric , who at that moment was raising his arm with the rifle, hasn´t had time to react after Federico Borrell García´s previous fall as a consequence of the first bullet (which perhaps hasn´t been heard by any of the three actors of this drama, because of the roaring of the battle taking place in Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas three kilometres in the southwest) and has gone on running wholly confident (in the same way as Federico Borrell till being shot) with certain doses of euphoria typical in this type of previously planned photographs. But the unexpected actual shots have transformed everything into the most crude
imaginable reality.
Unavoidably a question rises: How is it possible that the two militiamen have been shot
and have fallen to the ground on two points so nearby each other? (it´s not true that they fall exactly on the same spot as has been said by some sources, they fall on two very near spots) and in both cases in front of Robert Capa and something in diagonal? Both shots are made by the same man, very probably an elite Moroccan sniper belonging to Colonel Sáenz of Buruaga´s Tabor of Regulares column, armed with a long barrel 7 x 57 mm Mauser rifle, who is hidden with other snipers of the Tabor of Regulares in the surroundings of the low part of the Cerro de La Coja, and due to the great accuracy and range sported by this rifle (lethal up to 2,000 meters) he has got all the militiamen under his shooting distance, both the ones running down the slope and those ones located on top of the Cerro de La Coja.
Regarding how the Tabor of Regulares elite sniper makes his shots, there would be three main hypotheses:
a) First shot from middle or long distance and with the rifle firmly leaned on a stable base, which assures a bigger stability. He is very accurate, taking as a reference the figure of Robert Capa who is still, waiting for the militiaman running down, and when the latter arrives by Capa, the Tabor of Regulares elite sniper deviates the barrel of his Mauser rifle something to the right, opens fire and hits the target on Federico Borrell García´s heart, who is instantly killed. In this first shot the surprise factor is key for the accuracy, because the Tabor of Regulares elite sniper has got a lot of time to aim and even bear in mind the dispersion factor of 30 cm at 300 m of the 7 x 57 mm high velocity bullet. Then, and probably in a time between 1.5 and 2 seconds, the elite sniper reloads his rifle and makes a second shot, with the bullet hitting the second militiaman who is running down behind Federico Borrell García and who hasn´t had enough time to react, falling on the ground badly injured because of the second bullet (probably impacting on his stomach area) fired by the hidden sniper.
This second shot is less accurate than the first one, since the stress increases hugely for
the concealed sniper, because he has just killed a man, has had to make the second shot with great quickness after the first one to be able to take advantage of Robert Capa´s figure as a reference when the militiaman arrives by his side running down and besides, he is afraid of being pinpointed by the Republican machine guns located on top of the Cerro de La Coja (it´s important to bear in mind that under normal circumstances if a sniper makes more than one shot, the chances for the enemy to discover his position rise considerably).
b) The same circumstances than in the first shot, but with the difference that the Tabor of
Regulares elite sniper shoots directly both on Federico Borrell García and on the second militiaman while they are running down the slope, without taking the figure of Capa as a
reference to aim.
c) Federico Borrell García is shot on his heart while he´s standing grabbing his rifle on the north border of a trench (looking from the sniper position) with his feet on the ground, while Robert Capa takes him the picture being inside it.
Almost certainly the hypothesis c) is not feasible, because it doesn´t explain the presence of the second militiaman falling badly injured at a very short distance from the spot on which Federico Borrell García is instantly killed by the first bullet piercing his heart between 1 second and 2´5 seconds before as a consequence of the first shot. And besides, the picture reveals clearly that the ground span on which the action takes place is on the slope and both militiamen were running down it one after the other, till they are consecutively shot.
It doesn´t make sense a trench in the middle of the slope of the Cerro de la Coja hill. The logical thing is on top. In fact, on the slope going down from top from top of the Cerro de La Coja to its low part, there isn´t any trace of trenches, while on the summit of the Cerro de La Coja there are areas on which it seems that perhaps there could be trenches that were subsequently covered after the Spanish Civil War to prevent anybody from falling inside, above all children.
For a long time, one of the reasons for some people stating that the photograph was false and that actually nobody dies was that ´ if the soldier was running down the slope, then he should have fallen forward and not backwards´.
But the truth is that both militiamen fall backwards due to the very high velocity of the fine pointed bullets of the Mauser 7 x 57 mm long barrel Mauser rifle, propelled by cordite-based smokeless powder: 730 meters/second, with impressive accuracy and range, which began to be feared during the 1998 War for Cuba between Spain and United States and the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa also in similar dates, being its used widespread in Spain above all from 1920 on, when it started being made at Oviedo weaponry factory.
To properly get the hang of its lethal capacity, the 7 x 57 mm calibre Mauser rifle (.275 Rigby) was used for a lot of years by the famous hunter W.D.M Bell to kill big African pachyderms, for though there are many rifles featuring more powerful calibres, the huge accuracy and very long range of a 7 x 57 mm calibre rifle in the hands of an experienced shooter become this weapon into something tremendously deadly, apart from the fact that it is a rifle with very little recoil, with which its reloading is very fast.
On the other hand, this 7 x 57 mm long barrel Mauser rifle also used in massive quantities by Republican forces after the capture of a lot of ammo depots specially in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, wasn´t comfortable to use and required a long learning curve, so many combatants of both sides preferred to use the also famous ´Mosquetón´ Mauser 1916 sporting identical calibre but a shorter barrel.
However, after its first publication in the September 23rd 1936 number of the French magazine Vu, the famous photograph by Capa of the first militiaman shot and instantly killed, appeared inside the July 12nd 1937 Life magazine, with a text under it in which it was said that the militiaman had died because of a bullet piercing his head.
This is an error, since the protuberance which can be seen on Federico Borrell García´s head is not encephalic mass but the tassel of the Isabelline cap typical in the Spanish Army.
Likewise, some sources commented that the shot had to be on the head, because you can´t see any dark stain of blood on the chest area of the white colour garment of the militiaman.
It´s another error, since the photograph has been taken just at the precise instant of the impact of the fine point 7 x 57 mm Mauser calibre, featuring a very high velocity (730 m/sec) and it has just pierced the militiaman´s heart, so this historical graphic document of paramount importance is captured in a split second in which there hasn´t been enough time for the blood to flow. Moreover, the entrance hole diameter caused by this fine pointed bullet is very small.

Escaping from Cerro Muriano, September 5th 1936. First photograph of refugees taken by Robert Capa in Cerro Muriano, in the south outskirts of the village. Photo: ROBERT CAPA © By Cornell Capa/Magnum Photos

Escaping from Cerro Muriano, September 5th 1936. Second picture of refugees made by Capa in a very narrow street inside Cerro Muriano village, approximately 1´5 km from the Cerro de La Coja. Thanks to a reportage made in Cerro Muriano in 2006 by Patricia Fonseca and Bruno Rascao and published by the Portuguese magazine Visâo in September of 2006, we have been knowing for two years that the woman appearing in this picture mounted on a donkey is María Josefa Ruiz, and the child she is wrapping between her arms with a white blanket is his son Juan Romero. Photo: ROBERT CAPA © By Cornell Capa/Magnum Photos

This is undoubtedly another of the most enigmatic mysteries surrounding the most famous war photography of all time and where it´s not easy to establish a 100% conclusive truth on the topic, though in my opinion it is absolutely clear that both pictures are utterly authentic and there wasn´t any trick or stage of any kind: the first man is instantly killed and the second one is badly injured, because of two consecutive 7 x 57 mm Mauser bullets fired by a very experienced Moroccan Tabor of Regulares sniper belonging to Colonel Sáenz of Buruaga´s column.
There would be two hypotheses:
a) After being instantly killed by an enemy bullet on his heart, Federico Borrell García
falls on the ground, and due to the slope of this area of the Cerro de La Coja, the body
rolls downward or at least a few meters, so the body stays outside Capa´s framing when this
one makes the picture of the second militiaman running down behind Federico Borrell,
but the slope of the Cerro de La Coja at this point doesn´t seem to be steep enough to support this.
b) Due to the impact and great penetration power of the high velocity 7 x 57 mm Mauser bullet, Federico Borrell García´s body is thrown backwards approximately between 1,5 m and 2 meters, so just after being photographed by Capa, the first shot militiaman lies on the ground outside the frame.
That´s to say, in the photograph of Federico Borrell García, Capa has captured just
the decisive instant of the impact of the bullet, but immediately afterwards Federico Borrell García´s body goes on being strongly driven backwards by the impact, kinetic energy and huge shock that the high velocity bullet exerts on his body.
Almost with a 100% percentage probability things happened on the basis of the b) hypothesis, bearing in mind the stories reported by direct witnesses of the actions by snipers (from Second World War to nowadays, specially those with regard to Vasili Záitsev, an elite Russian sniper who fought against the Germans in Stalingrad Battle in 1942 with his Mosin-Nagant M1891-30 7,62 x 54 mm R calibre and more modern actions made by guerrilla fighters in different wars, who have used the 7,62 x 54R SVD Dragunov sniper rifle featuring a high velocity of 830 m/sec and a great accuracy up to 600 meters) who have stated having seen how the body of the shot soldier who was standing is thrown backwards on being pierced by the high velocity bullet used by these sniper rifles. And there are also some MPEG videos of various conflicts featuring snipers from all over the world that can be watched confirming this fact.
On the other hand, there are some pictures taken by Jahangir Razmi, a photojournalist for Ettela´at Iranian newspaper (winner of the 1980 Pulitzer Spot News Photography Prize and whose identity was unknown until 2006) in which he captures the moment of shooting execution of some Kurd prisoners at Sanandaj (Iran) airport on August 27th 1979.
The point is that in one of these photographs (which we´ve preferred not to reproduce because it´s rather hard) you can see very clearly how the body of one of the executed men is thrown backwards at the moment in which he is impacted by the high velocity assault rifle bullet on his chest.
With regard to what could happen with Federico Borrell García´s body, the hypothesis are multiple, because September 5th and 6th 1936 were two terribly convulsed days in Cerro Muriano area, and perhaps the body was hastily buried in some nearby place, since in those moments the priority for everybody was to save their lives in the middle of the battle maelstrom, though it is also known that some of the Republican militiamen and officers of the Spanish Army loyal to the Republic dead in combat or executed by shooting were buried in the cemetery of Villaharta.

Escaping from Cerro Muriano, September 5th 1936. Third picture taken by Robert Capa of refugees fleeing from Cerro Muriano to save their lives. A little girl and a baby are taken in her arms by their mothers. The young woman in the center, as well as carrying her very young girl, helps an old woman (probably her mother) to walk grabbing her with her left arm. Photo: ROBERT CAPA © By Cornell Capa/Magnum Photos

On September 5th 1936, after the tremendous attack of General Varela´s three columns on Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas (with heavy artillery support and even three aircraft that have already thrown some bombs over the village), which is takin place from first hour in the morning, the Republican officers defending Cerro Muriano, aware of the danger and reported through radio about the relentless meter by meter advance of the enemy, decide to order the evacuation of the civil population of the village, specially old men, women and children, to protect their lives.
So is done and approximately at half past three in the afternoon the first groups of old men, women and children begin to be evacuated and they all start an arduous march on foot, on donkeys and on carts following north direction towards the Obejo Train Station (five kilometres from the village of Cerro Muriano), El Vacar (14 km from Cerro Muriano) and many of them even to Pozo Blanco (70 km from Cerro Muriano Village) after three days of strenuous walking under a suffocating sun , on arriving exhausted they would be distributed in two different places: some of them would be lodged inside the church of Pozo Blanco and other ones would be taken to a cortijo (typical countryside home in Andalusia) by the Añora highway.
Robert Capa reads the context accurately and also abandons the village, not only because of security reasons (Robert Capa wasn´t afraid of anything) but above all because he´s very interested in taking pictures of the old men, women and children as refugees and victims of war. And when he arrives at them, around 15:30 in the afternoon, the sight is distressful, with most of these people running away with their belongings and a lot of the children walking barefooted under a sultry sun and very high temperature. But once more, Capa plucks up courage and takes as many photographs as he can.
From now on the drama is going to develop: the village of Cerro Muriano saturates with unbearable stress that can be smelt in the air. The militiamen defending Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas go on fighting heroically, but radio reports indicate constantly that they´re losing ground. Approximately from 17:30 hours in the afternoon, the Republican militiamen and officers defending the village are already aware about the fact that the fall of Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas hills is only a question of some more hours. This information spreads and some cases of desertion and escapes by trucks happen ( understandable from a human viewpoint, since they all know that stay inside the village means practically a sure death and not everybody reacts in the same way before a situation like this, in which armed civil militiamen but almost without any military drill or experience have to fight against very professional soldiers featuring a lot of years of combat experience, which makes the struggle uneven in advance).
Beginning the night of September 5th 1936, the Republican forces in both Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas are overrun by Varela´s forces and a sepulchral silence takes hold of the range of hills in the north of the city of Córdoba.
During the night hours before dawn of September 6th 1936, the Moroccan troops belonging to Tabor of Regulares of Coronel Sáenz of Buruaga´s column, started the final attack on the village of Cerro Muriano, going up crawling on the ground and very silently across two gulches called Cerro de la Arenilla and Arroyo de La Morea surprising the Republican militiamen guarding ´Piedra Horá´ area (a famous and huge quartz rock with remnants of copper), killing them all together with the militiamen inside some outer trenches and opening the ´Camino de Los Pañeros´ (an old way crossing by ´Piedra Horá´) through which the bulk of Moroccan Tabor of Regulares forces of Sáenz de Buruaga went into the village by fire and sword, unleashing hell with many hand to hand combats occurring on the trenches, and when the rest of General Varela´s forces attacked the village from other angles, complementing the initial attack by Tabor of Regulares troops, the defense of the village was impossible, and a lot of militiamen (after standing firm all that they were able) escaped towards Obejo Railway Station and El Vacar village, both on foot and by different vehicles, while many others decided to stay at their posts fighting to the death, specially in the many trenches dug around the Cerro Muriano Railway Station, a very important target for Varelas´s forces and at the same time great stronghold of the Republican forces inside Cerro Muriano Village.
The morning of September 6th 1936, Varela´s forces had already occupied the entire village of Cerro Muriano, after a no quarter fighting with hair-raising episodes as the shooting on the spot of 50 Republican militiamen captured in a trench. The total casualties inside Cerro Muriano village during the fighting were about ten dead soldiers for General Varela´s forces and about 150 dead militiamen and loyal officers in the Republican side. A supply train and a lot of armament was captured.
After it, General Varela opted for leaving Major Baturone at the command of Cerro Muriano village with a contingent of troops, coming back to the city of Córdoba with the bulk of his soldiers.

Escaping from Cerro Muriano, September 5th 1936. Fourth picture of refugees taken by Robert Capa of civil population fleeing from Cerro Muriano to save their lives.
A woman advances hastily taking all of her belongings inside a large bundle. Photo: ROBERT CAPA © By Cornell Capa/Magnum Photos

There must be absolutely no doubt: the photograph is authentic, there wasn´t any trick, Robert Capa was utterly honest, risked his life to take the picture and had the luck of the champions. Everything was true and the gruesome reality of war and what it really means was captured for ever in this both magic and horrifying moment.
And in this respect, the research made by Richard Whelan, Robert Capa´s official biographer attests it. As a matter of fact, both Richard Whelan ( died on May 2007) and Cornell Capa (recently died on May 23th 2008) were, are and will always be the two most authorized sources regarding the famous photograph of Federico Borrell García made by Robert Capa, because for many years, specially between 1990 and 1992, both of them examined thoroughly all Robert Capa´s contacts sheets, summing up nothing less than 70,000 negatives. And the analysis of these contacts sheets (linked to a glorious historical period of photography in which most professionals worked mainly looking at these little ´negatives on paper´) is a very weighty factor for the clearing up of Capa´s famous picture and the death of the militiaman, which have wholly been proved for a long time (but not the place where Capa´s photograph was taken, a topic on which there has been a lot of confusion and different opinions) and furthermore, they allow to evaluate the professional integrity of one of the greatest photographers of all time that during his whole lifetime made a lot of top-notch pictures, not only in Spain but in other countries as France, China, Italy, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Vietnam, etc).
During forties decade, many of the original negatives of the photographs made by Capa were lost, but the contacts of a high percentage of his pictures were preserved and make up an utterly valuable evidence to investigate his style, the lenses he used, his favourite framings, chemical black and white films that he preferred, characters chosen by him to convey messages that he wanted to contribute with his pictures, etc.
And it all must be completed with the revealing report made by Robert L. Francks, Chief of the Section of Homicides of the Police Depatment of Memphis and an accredited sculptor and photographer, who was asked by Richard Whelan to study Robert Capa´s picture of the Republican militiaman Federico Borrell García.
And his conclusions are definitive: ´The Republican militiaman´s left hand appearing under his left thigh has its fingers somewhat bent towards the palm, which clearly indicates that the muscles of the man who has just been shot have become flaccid after having been instantly killed. It´s practically impossible in that epoch and in those moments that somebody wanting to fake his own death pays attention to that detail and knows previously that such a position of the hand was necessary to make the photograph more realistic. Moreover, it´s almost impossible for any conscious person to withstand the reflex impulse to try reducing the risks of the fall stretching the fingers as much as possible before the bump on the ground ´.
The accuracy of Mr Robert L. Francks´s statement is evident and besides it must be
said that Federico Borrell García is not posing standstill for Capa at any moment. The Republican militiaman is running down the slope of the Cerro de La Coja and in the middle of the run, Robert Capa, who is waiting for him on a specific lower spot (or perhaps has also run down the slope some meters ahead of him and has stopped at the suitable moment) takes the picture from bottom to top, when the militiaman arrives next to him.
Id est, the first militiaman falling instantly killed is not posing for Robert Capa and the same applies to the second militiaman. Both Republican men were running down one behind the other with a separation of some meters between them.
On the other hand, there have been some people through years holding the theory that the two photographs by Capa with both shot militiamen ´are a tricky montage, because the photo depicting Federico Borrell García is a bit out of focus and the one showing the second militiaman is perfectly focused and is impossible that Capa had time to focus so accurately the man fallen just after Federico Borrell if everything happened so fast´.
But this thesis is evidently incorrect because Capa takes the first photograph (the most famous one) at an split second in which Federico Borrell´s body is in violent movement backwards
due to the impact of the bullet, so though everything happened on a very sunny day, Capa had previously chosen a diaphragm not very open in his retractable Summar 50 mm f/2 (probably between f/5.6 and f/11) because he wanted good depth of field and everything in focus. But in this period, very probably the 35 mm black and white film used by Capa was equivalent to around ISO 32 nowadays, so the shutter speed couldn´t be high enough to freeze the movement 100% (pay attention to Federico Borrell´s blurred sole of his right foot), apart from the fact that Capa liked to contribute motion feeling to his pictures, often choosing slow or intermediate shutter speeds to attain it.
Besides, it´s not easy to manually focus a man moving. And if Capa takes the photograph of the second militiaman perfectly focused, the reason for it is basically that Capa has arrived something late, the second Republican combatant is already fallen on the ground and so he isn´t moving, so Capa only has to manage to do his best framing and focusing the man already fallen badly injured and almost static on the ground and probably, being also helped by the depth of field achieved by the previously chosen diaphragm (probably 5.6, 8 or 11) on the barrel of the Summar 50 mm f/2 connected to his Leica III (Model F 1933-1939).

Escaping from Cerro Muriano, September 5th 1936. Sixth picture taken by Robert Capa of refugees fleeing from Cerro Muriano to save their lives. The woman is very anxious and fearful and is walking very quickly taking a very little baby (whose right arm is hanging loosely) on her arms. Photo: ROBERT CAPA © By Cornell Capa/Magnum Photos

As previously stated, there´s a very high probability that the camera used by Robert Capa to take his most famous photograph was a screw mount LTM39 rangefinder Leica III (Model F 1933-1936) with a collapsible not rotating mount and not coated Summar 50 mm f/2 lens, though the hypothesis of a Leica II (Model D 1932-1948) -the first to incorporate a built-in rangefinder- with an Elmar 50 mm f/3.5 mustn´t be utterly excluded.
At the same time, there´s a photograph of Gerda Taro taken during the Battle of Guadalajara in 1937 (and probably made by Capa) in which she appears looking through the viewfinder of a Leica III (Model F 1933-1936) connected to a collapsible Summar 50 mm f/2 lens. And besides, there´s an important clue: the camera features the two strap eyelets who were incorporated in this model and not featured by the Leica II (Model D 1932-1948), and the strap is very visible hanging.
Taking into account that at this time both Robert Capa and Gerda Taro were beginning their careers and were not precisely wealthy, there´s a very high probability that the Leica III (Model F 1933-1936) in Gerda Taro´s hands in this picture is the same that Robert Capa used to take the most famous war photography of all time. If this is true and Capa has lent his Leica III (Model F 1933-1936) to Gerda Taro for her to pose (she generally used a square medium format Rolleiflex camera), the already boundless amounts of incredible things, coincidences and one in a lifetime events surrounding this legendary story would increase even more, because Gerda Taro would die a few days after, on being accidentally crushed by a Republican tank during a retreat in the Battle of Brunete, a village of Madrid province.
Regarding the lens used by Capa to take the photograph of Federico Borrell García, taking into account that this militiaman was 1,64 m tall and his chest perimeter was 84 cm, and in spite of the fact that it´s not easy to analyze the image, there would be four basic hypothesis:
a) Hektor 28 mm f/6.3 (1935-1955), uncoated and featuring 5 elements in 3 groups (greatly following the Hektor scheme of the highly modified triplet with the quoted five elements in three groups, with outer and inner groups constituted by two elements each one and a simple element in the middle of the lens and with the curious detail that the innermost optical element is bigger than the frontal one), with an angle of vision of 76º and a minimal focusing distance of 1 meter, a wideangle lens featuring high doses of vignetting and whose optical quality was not very high and could be defined as simply acceptable in this respect, though it was the only 28 mm Leica lens available in 1936 (it had appeared the year before), sporting very small and compact dimensions (once coupled to the Leica III Model F 1933-1939, this wideangle lens only protrudes 1, 27 cm) with a rather light weight of 100 grams and boasting a diaphragms scale of f/6.3, f/9, f/12.5, f/18 and f/25. In fact, the great compactness of the Leitz Hektor 28 mm f/6.3 inspired to a certain degree the creation of the wonderful lens Kodak Wide Field Ektar 80 mm f/6.3 for large format 4 x 5´ featuring a Supermatic or Copal shutter (though evidently this lens rendered very superior quality, reaching 60 lines/mm at f/11 and obviously taking advantage of the much bigger surface of negative).
The not very good quality of the famous photograph in terms of sharpness, contrast, tonal range and so forth, together with the strong vignetting and light loss on the corners of the frame and the type of image would induce to think that the picture could have been taken by Capa with this lens from a very near distance. Furthermore, this lens often features a vignetting of around two stops, that´s to say, a light fall on the corners of the frame slightly greater than the Russian wideangle Orion-15 28 mm f/6, a 4 elements in four groups Topogon design (boasting both optical quality and distortion correction far superior to the Hektor 28 mm f/6.3, but sporting high levels of vignetting ).
However, although evidently the picture is taken from below and from a very near distance, there isn´t almost any distorsion in the figure of Federico Borrell García and the relationship between foreground and background ( i.e, the scale of images in front and back ) strongly enhance the hypothesis that Capa used a 50 mm lens to make the picture, because a 28 mm lens would have rendered the Republican militiaman´s head and feet in different shape relationship and featuring more distortion, above all if we bear in mind that the photograph is taken by Capa from a low position pointing the camera upwards.
On the other hand, only 690 and 2,114 Hektors 28 mm f/6.3 were produced in 1935 and 1936 respectively. It was a very expensive lens then and Capa made the vast majority of his photographs on the Spanish Civil War with a 50 mm and 35 mm as the shortest focal length.
For a long time, it was thought that a 28 mm was used by Capa, who is really very near Federico Borrell García when he takes the photograph, loyal to his famous statement ´ If your photograph is not good it´s because you haven´t approached enough´.
Even, from the viewpoint of aesthetics of image, the very pronounced vignetting and the global appearance of the picture resembles photographs made with Hector 28 mm f/6.3 and black and white film as for instance the one titled ´ Paraguas de Playa en Tenacatica (México)´ by Jorge M Treviño at f/11, which even at this diaphragm shows high levels of vignetting.
But because of the reasons previously commented, the hypothesis of a 28 mm perhaps should be excluded.

b) Elmar 35 mm f/3.5 (1930-1950) uncoated, featuring four elements in three groups, a weight of 112 g and a minimal focusing distance of 1 meter. An authentic Tessar design, also very compact (only protrudes 14 mm outside the body once attached) in which the iris is on the conventional place, unlike the Elmar 50 mm f/3.5, in which the iris is more backwards.
This lens, in the same way as the Hektor 28 mm f/6.3, required an independent viewfinder to use it.
The Elmar 35 mm f/3.5, a design made by the great Leica optician Max Berek, is a lens created to give a very good quality in the center of the frame, though sharpness on the corners, above all at full aperture decreases in a perceptible way, since applying the Tessar design to produce a wideangle lens is to some extent to take to the limit the great capacities of the optical formula.
But once more, and because of similar reasons to the ones excluding the Hektor 28 mm f/6.3 (though not with the same strength) this hypothesis is not very probable, cause a 35 mm lens would have also shown the militiaman´s head and feet in different shape relationship and scale of images between foreground and background).
Notwithstanding, this hypothesis shouldn´t be completely excluded.

c) Chrome Collapsible Summar 50 mm f/2 (1933-1940), uncoated, featuring 6 elements in 4 groups. A classical Gauss design, with a weight of 205 g and a minimal focusing distance of 1 meter.
The center performance was good, but contrast and definition dropped off very quickly with any distance from the axis.
This lens is very prone to fog and hazing and the very soft front element brought about frequently a pretty good amount of surface scratches on the glass, even when the photographer used the suitable tissue.
At the same time, on being a not coated lens, contrast suffers.
On the other hand, it´s a lens featuring a good amount of vignetting.
However, the very special vintage type of image rendered by this very classical
lens on photographic paper is very beautiful and special. It´s very important to take into account that these lenses were designed and optimised for use with black and white film featuring high quantities of silver. This way, the aesthetic beauty of the b & w images they render is incomparable.
The important thing here is the absolutely decisive moment captured. Obviously, Capa hadn´t got a Summicron 50 mm f/2 screw model 1953-1963 regarding pairs of lines/mm,
crispness, contrast, etc, but it doesn´t matter at all.
He used what he had and he did it superbly, opening in great extent a new stage in the history of photojournalism with 35 mm cameras, which complemented the one already started by the great Erich Salomon, the founder of the modern photographic reportage, a consummate master capturing political and social events together with portraits of politicians, famous people, etc, in which he used the great luminosity of his Ermanox 4,5 x 6 and 6,5 x 9 cameras with sensitive glass plates (specially during twenties and beginning of thirties), avoiding the use of flash and capturing everything with ambient light, preserving the original, atmosphere of the moment and also taking advantage of superb high speed lenses as Ernemann Ermanox 4,5 x 6 Ernostar 8, 5 cm f/1.8 lens, Ernemann Ermanox 6,5 x 9 Ernostar Anastigmat 10, 5 cm f/1.8 featuring 6 elements in four groups, Ernostar 140 mm f/2, Ernostar 125 mm f/1.8, etc.
On the other hand, this hypothesis of the chrome collapsible Summar 50 mm f/2 used by Robert Capa to make his most famous picture is with great difference the most probable one, because the printed image on paper shows apart from the pronounced vignetting some imperfections that could be due to lens scratches because of lens cleaning and certain doses of fogging and hazing.
However, there can be other added factors to the not very good quality of the image
(apart from its famous slightly out of focus nature), because until getting the final image on photographic paper, some stages have to be taken out in darkroom: state of the chemical products, kind of developer and quality of the development, fixing, washing, drying, type of lens of the enlarger and lines/mm it is able to render, exposure, printing and type of paper on which it is made, etc.
But the image features of the famous photograph of Federico Borrell García taken by Robert Capa match a great deal the ones rendered by a used chrome collapsible Summar 50 mm f/2 1932-1940, and very probably this was the lens actually used by Capa that September 5th 1936 in Cerro Muriano (Córdoba).
One of Capa´s obsessions was always to get the most spectacular pictures possible, with his famous life epicentre: to approach as near as feasible, often liking to take the photograph from a low position pointing the camera a bit upwards to get drama and impact, and frequently liking to contribute motion feeling by choosing slow or intermediate shutter speeds. That´s why in a number of Capa´s photographs made through his lifetime you can see blurred feet, even sometimes a bit cut by the very tight frame made from a fairly short distance.
Clear examples of this are his photographs ´Francesco Coltiletti indica la strada ad un militare americano´ from his series Landing in Sicily, Superlinga, vicino Troina, August 4th and 5th 1943, published in his book Slightly out of Focus and also ´ Street scene two days after the liberation of Cefalú, July 26th 1943´, published in the book Robert Capa Fotografie, Ed. Fratelli Alinari pág. 99; the extraordinary picture taken on a street of Bilbao during an air raid in which a mother looks at the sky while she is taking her daughter by her hand and being in a hurry the little girl has badly fastened her coat (a detail which is captured by Capa); the photograph taken by R. Capa on January 15th 1939 between Tarragona and Barcelona depicting two men and two women shoving a car; the picture taken in 1936 November or December of some German members of the International Brigades reading newspapers in front of the door of a house by a civil inhabitant and his son; the photograph taken by Capa on July 7th 1940 in México D.F showing bearers of coffins during the burial of killed supporters of the politician Almazán; the picture of Ernest Hemingway hunting, crouching and grabbing a shotgun in his hands, and a dog on his left; the picture ´ Street artist with a tamed bear ´ taken in Madrid in in 1936 August or September; the picture taken by Capa in Tai´erzuang, China, in April of 1938 depicting a Chinese woman walking with her hands very loaded, while other woman standing on his left holds a child (in this photograph, both the slightly out of focus image of the Chinese woman on the right and the cut feet on the lowest part of the frame are similar to the ones featured in the mythical photograph of Federico Borrell García made by Robert Capa in Cerro Muriano area), etc.

d) Elmar 50 mm f/3.5 (1924-1961), a very good Tessar scheme design by Max Berek, featuring four elements and probably the most famous Leica lens in history (nothing less than 38 years in production with a total figure of 365852 units made for screw mount and 13198 for M bayonet).
It´s a higher performance lens than the Summar 50 mm f/2, but the old pre II World War units were prone to dust, scratches and haze and it would be the second highest probability after Summar 50 mm f/2 if perhaps Capa used an uncoated 1934 nickel Elmar 50 mm f/3.5 in B/C condition with its front element ( very small and not cemented to another element) featuring scratches or cleaning marks, apart from being a bit foggy.

Escaping from death, September 5th 1936. Fifth picture taken by Robert Capa of refugees fleeing from Cerro Muriano to save their lives. A young mother takes her very little girl in her arms, while her elder girl and her husband follow her. The brutal fear and uncertainty in the woman are so great that she is clearly the one able to quick faster, in spite of bearing the weight of the little girl she holds with both of her hands. Such is the way she´s worried about the life of her children. Photo: ROBERT CAPA © By Cornell Capa/Magnum Photos

Capa used black and white 35 mm b & w film Eastman Kodak Panchromatic nitrate film with a sensitiveness approximately equivalent to current iso 32, the monochrome emulsion used by him since he made his photographic reportage of Leon Trostsky´s lecture at Copenhaguen´s University in 1932, which was subsequently published in the German magazine Der Weltspiegel.
We must bear in mind that in 1936 there wasn´t any ASA or ISO denomination and film sensitiveness was linked to Weston and Ge speeds, together with the German standard DIN. Furthermore, in this period the black and white films were rather slow and their speeds were related to the exposure recommendations ´for sunny days´ which brought the large format plates at that time. And besides, they used to be very grainy films featuring RMS factors much higher than modern emulsions.

The end: Cerro Muriano Train Station, top priority target for the attacking forces and last stronghold of the Republican militiamen inside the village. After wiping out all the militiamen inside the village, literally meter by meter and very often with fixed bayonets attacks, General Varela´s forces conquered this important communication junction. Republican men, perfectly aware about the vital significance of this spot to avoid the conveyance of all kind of military supplies and cannon from the city of Córdoba to Cerro Muriano by General Varela´s forces, fought to the last man on some different trenches located around this railway station. Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza.

After the publication of his photograph of Federico Borrell García, firstly in the French magazine Vu of September 23th 1936 and subsequently inside the American magazine Life of July 12nd 1937, Robert Capa gained worldly fame and his picture would appear in thousands and thousands of graphic publications all over the world.
Nevertheless, between September 5th 1936, the day in which Robert Capa takes his mythical photograph in Cerro Muriano area till May 25th 1954, date of his death in Thai Binh (Vietnam), there was an uncommon constant behaviour regarding Capa: the best war photographer of all time never or almost never wanted to speak about what happened in Cerro Muriano and the circumstances in which he took the picture that became him into a worldwide celebrity, he never gave any lecture or press conference on the photograph or wrote any chronicle on the topic.
And neither inside the quoted Vu or Life magazines numbers nor in the many subsequent
publications in whose pages appeared the famous picture, Robert Capa gave an explanation on the circumstances surrounding the making of his most remarkable photograph.
Only in very few times he spoke about it with his most intimate relatives and friends: his brother Cornell, the Life Magazine photographer Hansel Mieth, the photojournalist John Hersey, probably his beloved Gerda Taro until her death in 1937 and hardly anybody more.
The point is that everything indicates that Robert Capa, a tremendously lively and active man, who loved life like nobody, suffered hugely till his death because of the two events which most deeply marked his existence: his experience in Cerro Muriano area on September 5th 1936 and the death of his beloved Gerda Taro, accidentally smashed by a Republican tank during the Battle of Brunete ( a village of Madrid Province) in 1937.
There are a lot of traces suggesting with very little margin for error that Robert Capa had terrible remorses and a great inner anguish every time he remembered the moment when he took the photograph of the Republican militiaman in Cerro Muriano area, undoubtedly the best war photograph of all time ( many experts think that probably it won´t ever be beaten) but that had needed an essential requirement: the death of a man, utterly unexpected both for him and for the rest of militiamen being there at those moments, who thought that there weren´t enemy troops near them, because in those instants combats were taking place in Torreárboles and Las Malagueñas.
Capa remembered the moment in which because of a dreadful coincidence of destiny, he pressed the shutter release button of his Leica III (Model F 1933-1939) just at the split second in which the bullet pierced Federico Borrell García´s heart. A bullet and a death completely unforeseeable. And it´s from now on when everything changes: the first militiaman falls on the ground and Robert Capa acts with his pure professional instinct of war photographer, and in the twinkling of an eye and with huge cold blood he decides to stay still on the ground and risk his life to take the picture of the second militiaman that is running down and approaching. He has no other choice but to act very quickly. From the war photographer´s viewpoint, this is a unique once in a lifetime chance, which has arisen in a wholly unexpected way, and he tries to seize the opportunity. Capa knows that the hidden sniper can kill him, but in spite of it, he decides to try taking the photo of the second militiaman who runs down very fast towards him (and who has just been chosen as target by the sniper in the same way as Federico Borrell García), because he wants the second picture too, so full-blast he makes the film advance to the next frame while at the same time cocking the shutter of his camera and he gets it, though the photograph is much more gruesome than the first, because he has arrived late and he has captured this second Republican militiaman on the ground, badly injured and in a very stressful position, after having being impacted by the second bullet.
All of this is terrible, incredible and perhaps goes beyond imagination, but it happened like that. And if this is what we perceive 71 years after the deed, we can understand what it had to be for Robert Capa to live it directly on the spot, forced to take decisions in fractions of seconds, among them to risk his own life to take the best photographs possible.
Very probably, Capa experienced the typical moral dilemma of the war photographer who has to cover hideous facts, but increased to its maximum degree, and he felt somewhat guilty during all of his life regarding his behaviour on taking this picture of the second militiaman after having taken the unexpected one of the first militiaman running down (Federico Borrell García). And this added to the death of Gerda Taro made that very probably he had a double personality for the rest of his lifetime: tremendously lively and optimistic and at the same time in his innermost mind a deep anguish, uneasiness and frequent phases of strong remorses that haunted him (by the way, the comments made in the past by some misinformed persons stating that Capa became an alcoholic are false), despite not being actually guilty of anything.
And in this respect, there ´s a very significant evidence: the fairly revealing letter dated on March 19th 1982 that Hansel Mieth, a photographer for Life Magazine during thirties, sent to Richard Whelan, in which she reported him that on one occasion many years before Robert Capa had commented her that the day he took the famous photograph, September 5th 1936 in Cerro Muriano area, both the militiamen and he were running down the slope and he stopped from time to time to make them pictures. Hansel Mieth also states in this letter that Capa reported her that he was running ahead of them and a bit in diagonal, which utterly coincides with the way in which Robert Capa took the two photographs of the militiamen shot by bullet (though it´s also possible that Capa waited for them still on a lower point and his camera prepared to take them the pictures from a very near distance when they were running down next to him).
But besides, Hansel Mieth also reported Richard Whelan that Robert Capa had confessed her that the recollection of that instant haunted him constantly.

Robert Capa and Gerda Taro in Paris (1936). Photo: Fred Stein.

Almost three generations have elapsed since the day in which the best war photographer of all time managed to get in Cerro Muriano a graphic document become into a top paramount importance icon not only in the history of photography but also in the human evolution through XX century and the current XXI, which very clearly depicts what actually war is.
71 years are a lot of years. Little by little, Robert Capa´s exploit in Cerro Muriano is approaching the century and however, the interest not only in this impressive picture but also with regard to Robert Capa increases more and more through years.
Died after stepping on a mine in Thai Binh (Vietnam) on May 25th 1954, Robert Capa´s everlasting memory and impressive photographic work (a visual, cultural and humanistic treasure and mankind heritage to be preserved by all means) was and goes on being the reference for many international level war photographers as Bert Hardy, James Nachtwey,
Thomas Dworzak, Kryn Taconis, Paolo Pellegrin, Javier Bauluz, Gilles Peress, Larry Burrows, Julio Fuentes, Raymond Depardon, Juantxu Rodríguez, Erich Lessing, Alex Majoli, Luis Valtueña, Susan Meiselas, Eddie Addams, Julio Parrado, Philip Jones Griffiths, Miguel Gil
Moreno, Don McCullin, Nick Ut, Mark Riboud, etc. Both for the war photographers who are still alive, the ones already passed away and those who will be born in future, Robert Capa shall always be the quantic photon illuminating their existence.

The flame of both goes on alive.

Dezsö Friedmann
Julia Friedmann
Robert Capa
Gerda Taro
David Seymour ´Chim´
Henri Cartier-Bresson
George Rodger
Richard Whelan
Cornell Capa

In Memoriam
Text and Indicated Photographs:
Copyright José Manuel Serrano Esparza
Leica Historical Society of America

P.S: This article doesn´t want at all to establish absolute 100% truths on any aspect related to
Robert Capa´s activity in Cerro Muriano (Córdoba) in September of 1936 and it merely describes the author´s opinion. And of course, we don´t exclude the possibility of having committed errors, taking into account the huge difficulties and the very hard research conditions in a lot of various sides.
It´s only the synthesis of an utterly private investigation made by the author, a great admirer of Robert Capa, under conditions very often rather hard and very few means, which took place for 11 years and 14 different trips to Cerro Muriano from 1996 until 2007.
The author wants to express his gratitude to Mark Ostrowski, editor of Film und Foto Magazine, Valentín Sama who had the kindness of firstly report about the starting Spanish
version of this research in Europe in www.dslrmagazine.com, to the professional photographer
Javier Izquierdo Vidal for his wise advice, to James L Lager and Benedict J. Fernández for the
interest shown and the encouragement I received from them in the George Eastman House Museum to translate this research into English, to Tuulikki Abrahamsson for her very interesting observations made at the Rochester Crowne Plaza Hotel during the 39th Annual LHSA Meeting 2007 regarding her certainty about the authenticity of Capa´s most famous photograph along with his flamboyant demeanour as a human being, to Siiri Fernandez and David Vestal, who very kindly had the patience to read the text in English, without forgetting the very valuable observations of LHSA Nominating Chairman Richard Gladden regarding knowing the exact lens (above all the focal length ) used by Robert Capa to take the famous photograph in Cerro Muriano that incredible September 5th 1936, which was not a 28 or 35 mm lens as I wrongly thought, but almost certainly a 50 mm lens, to Madge Brown (Secretary of the LHSA), a driving force of efficiency organizing all kind of LHSA events with great hard work and thoroughness, and also to William Caldwell, VicePresident of the LHSA, for his kind suggestion regarding the superb Viewfinder magazine consideration, which evidently I don´t deserve, cause in my opinion space must be reserved for a myriad of contributors knowing infinitely more than me both on Leica topics in particular and photography in general. This is the pure truth.
For all of them I do want to express my deepest testimony of gratitude for their interest and support.

The top goal with my research would be to have been able to contribute a personal effort for the preservation of the historical figure of Robert Capa, the best war photographer of all time, together with his huge professionalism and talent and to prove the utter authenticity of his mythical picture and the real death of the man depicted on it.
Evidently, it´s a task for others more expert than me to delve deeply into this fascinating topic of Robert Capa in Cerro Muriano and find its definitive keys, though in my opinion the best references for the knowledge of this subject are:
- Cornell Capa (Robert Capa´s brother, recently demised).
- Richard Whelan (deceased in 2006 and the best biographer on Robert Capa).
- Francisco Moreno Gómez (the most important expert on history of the Spanish Civil War in Córdoba, as confirm his books ´ The Spanish Civil War in Córdoba (1936-1939)´ published by Editorial Alpuerto and ´ Córdoba in the PostWar (1939-1950)´. His opinions should be taken into account when trying to establish conclusions on this alluring topic of Robert Capa in Cerro Muriano.
- Fernando Penco Valenzuela, currently in my opinion the most important expert in the world regarding the knowlege of the archaeological Calcolithic and Roman vestiges found in Cerro Muriano and Cerro de La Coja, specially those related to extraction and metallurgic works.
- Patricio Hidalgo Luque, a great investigator on the Spanish Civil War in Córdoba province -a topic on which he is an expert-, who during 8 years has elaborated a very comprehensive and accurate census of victims of the conflict in both sides: data from the Córdoba Prison Archives, Books of Deceases of the Civil Registry, Necrological Books of the Cemeteries, etc.
On the other hand, in my opinion, this remarkable researcher features deep knowledge on the military operations taken out both by Republican and Franco´s troops in Córdoba during the Spanish Civil War, apart from having visited many of the places, villages, etc, where events took place during the Spanish Civil War in Córdoba province, including Cerro Muriano. In my viewpoint, Patricio Hidalgo Luque is currently the greatest authority on the Spanish Civil War in Córdoba, together with Francisco Moreno Gómez.
- The oldest people living on the area, specially the survivors of both sides, direct witnesses of the events, etc. But this is extremely difficult because 71 years have elapsed and the vast majority of them have already died.
- The shepherds of the area, because of their accurate knowledge of the orography and their ability to identify places.

On the other hand, it´s impossible to reach definitive conclusions on Robert Capa´s feat in
Cerro Muriano only through the analysis of the famous photograph and without visiting the
place, since the subject has got photographic, ballistic, military, topographic, orographic, etc,
keys, which can´t be passed over and require a comprehensive and deep research trying not to
commit errors, and the only way to do it is going on foot from the city of Córdoba to Torreárboles, Las Malagueñas (ascending to top of both hills), the Cerro de La Coja, the village
of Cerro Muriano, etc, i.e, generally speaking the area on which deeds took place, a periplus
requiring a total of approximately 25 km through often abrupt and steep ground overcrowded
with vegetation, with temperatures between 40º and 44º C in July or August, the most suitable
months in which you can attempt to reproduce as faithfully as possible the actual context in
which Robert Capa had to do his best that September 5th 1936, a date written with golden letters in the history of photography.
But in any case, this very strenuous research made in Cerro Muriano area and its surroundings, almost meter by meter for eleven years, clearly proves that Richard Whelan and Cornell Capa were right: the photograph is true, a man really dies, Capa was a honest photographer and there wasn´t any trick to make it but pure chance when the utterly unexpected first bullet pierces Federico Borrell García´s heart.
There must be no doubt regarding the authenticity of this extraordinary photograph, which is also an Everlasting Icon of World History and Patrimony of Mankind.

Copyright Text, all discovered data during research and indicated photos:

José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Leica Historical Society of America

P.S: Because of the logical limited space inside Film und Foto Magazine, the article covers only approximately a 20% of the whole research that encompass approximately 500 DIN A 4 typed pages with many more photographs and data of all kind, from which I did my best to make this article, though inevitably a lot of important data and photographs could not be included and I had to make this little introduction.

Text and Colour Photographs inscribed in the Registry of the Intellectual Property of Madrid. Copyright Jose Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSA
Texto y Fotografias en color inscritos en el Registro Territorial de la Propiedad Intelectual de Madrid. Copyright Jose Manuel Serrano Esparza. LHSA