From the Stars and Stripes archives

1.5 million cheer Nixon in Madrid

President Nixon and Generalissimo Francisco Franco stand for the playing of the national anthems after Nixon's arrival at the Madrid airport in October, 1970.


By HERB SCOTT | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 3, 1970

MADRID — Americans have much for which to thank Spain, President Nixon said Friday as an estimated 1.5 million Spaniards turned out to greet him here.

"We in the United States feel grateful to Spain and Spanish culture, which contributed so much to American life," Nixon said in brief remarks interrupted by screaming jetliners moving into position at Madrid's Barajas Airport.

"Particularly in the past 10 years," he continued, "we have seen increased cooperation between the United States and Spain."

He pledged to continue working with Spain's leader, Generalissimo Francisco Franco, and the Spanish cabinet for peace and for the economic improvement of the two nations.

The Spanish foreign minister and Madrid police estimated the crowd along the 12-mile motorcade route at 1.5 million.

Nixon's press secretary Ronald Ziegler said it was the biggest reception Nixon has had since taking office. Franco's aides called it the biggest outpouring in Spanish history.

The welcome easily surpassed the welcomes shown Nixon thus far in a trip that has taken him to Italy and Yugoslavia and will take him to Britain and Ireland.

In a statement later Nixon said, "I was very pleased by the warmth of the reception of the people of Madrid."

"It was very exciting and a very exciting reception. It was the largest crowd I've seen."

In Madrid's Plaza del Marques del Duero, the Nixon-Franco motorcade paused for Madrid's Mayor Carlos Arias Navarro to present Nixon the golden key to the city. Nixon swooped the key up, holding it above his head with both hands.

"This is not an ordinary key," he said. "An ordinary key opens a door to a house or a room, but this key opens the hearts of the people of Madrid and Spain and the people of the United States. We are grateful for this wonderful welcome."

The old campaigner's happy grin on his face, Nixon lunged past his bodyguards and into the crowd. He touched people's hands and put his hands on the shoulders of admirers, a campaigner's version of the Latin embrace.

Early Friday morning Spanish security police and troops were everywhere along the President's route into the city. Guardia Civil officers were stationed every 50 to 100 yards on the highway and on overpasses into the city as well as on the flag-decked airport rooftops.

Air Force One glided in from a sunny, cloudless sky on time, a few minutes after noon. Franco and his wife arrived promptly at noon.

Franco wore sun glasses, a Spanish army uniform and a wide, red sash at his waist. Mrs. Franco was dressed in a brown suit and a white hat.

A Spanish air force drum and bugle corps and band with platoons of rifle-armed airmen formed the honor guard for the elaborate airport welcome.

Youngsters carrying small American flags were among several thousand spectators who managed to get a ringside position on the airport observation deck.

The President waved to the clapping crowd as he stepped from the door of his plane with Mrs. Nixon, who was wearing a bright green suit and was hatless.

Nixon, looking fresh and relaxed, had on a blue-gray suit and light blue tie.

After shaking hands with each of the Spanish government ministers, Nixon joined Franco and the two first ladies on the platform.

A jet landed just as Franco started to speak, forcing him to hesitate a moment before extending a "friendly welcome" and thanking Nixon for coming to Spain at his invitation.

"You will see our city and will be able to appreciate the admiration- our people have for Americans and the cooperation between our two nations," Franco said. "I hope your stay will be a happy one."

As the presidential procession entered the city, Nixon stood with Franco in the President's black, open-roofed Continental — flown to Madrid for the visit — and tirelessly waved both arms above his head to the friendly crowds lining the curb along the five-mile route from the outskirts of Madrid to Moncloa Palace, his overnight residence.

There were few signs carried by the spectators, who frequently yelled, "Franco, Franco, Franco," or "Viva Nixon," but there was one four-line sign that read: "Hi, Dick and Pat World War II widow and son salute you. The sign pictured a small American flag in the lower corner.

Later Friday, afternoon Nixon, accompanied by Spanish Foreign Minister Gregorio Lopez Bravo, called at El Pardo Palace for a private talk with Franco.

Nixon met Franco previously in Barcelona during his 1963 visit.

El Pardo, which is about miles outside Madrid, Franco's official residence.

At 6 p.m. the President and Mrs. Nixon gave a tea in Moncloa Palace for Spain's Prince Juan Carlos de Borbon and Princess Sophie.

Nixon met also at the palace with Spanish Vice President Luis Carrero. Later the Nixons attended a state dinner given by Franco and his wife in the national Palace, the Palacio de Oriente.

The President was to leave Madrid for London a 9 a.m. Saturday.

President Nixon and Generalissimo Franco shake hands.

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