Bombing of Guernica
Overview
 
The bombing of Guernica (April 26, 1937) was an aerial attack
Aerial bombing of cities
A species of strategic bombing, the aerial bombing of cities began in 1915 during World War I, grew to a vast scale in World War II, and continues to the present day. The development of aerial bombardment marked an increased capacity of armed forces to deliver explosive weapons in populated areas...

 on the Basque town of Guernica, Spain, causing widespread destruction and civilian deaths, during the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

. The raid by planes of the German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 "Condor Legion
Condor Legion
The Condor Legion was a unit composed of volunteers from the German Air Force and from the German Army which served with the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War of July 1936 to March 1939. The Condor Legion developed methods of terror bombing which were used widely in the Second World War...

" and the Italian Fascist Aviazione Legionaria
Aviazione Legionaria
The Legionary Air Force was an expeditionary corps from the Italian Royal Air Force. It was set up in 1936 and sent to provide logistical and tactical support to Francisco Franco's Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War, alongside its German equivalent, the Condor Legion, and the Italian ground...

 was called Operation Rügen.

The number of victims of the attack is disputed; The Basque government reported 1,654 people killed, but modern speculations suggests between 200 to 400 civilians died.
Encyclopedia
The bombing of Guernica (April 26, 1937) was an aerial attack
Aerial bombing of cities
A species of strategic bombing, the aerial bombing of cities began in 1915 during World War I, grew to a vast scale in World War II, and continues to the present day. The development of aerial bombardment marked an increased capacity of armed forces to deliver explosive weapons in populated areas...

 on the Basque town of Guernica, Spain, causing widespread destruction and civilian deaths, during the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

. The raid by planes of the German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 "Condor Legion
Condor Legion
The Condor Legion was a unit composed of volunteers from the German Air Force and from the German Army which served with the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War of July 1936 to March 1939. The Condor Legion developed methods of terror bombing which were used widely in the Second World War...

" and the Italian Fascist Aviazione Legionaria
Aviazione Legionaria
The Legionary Air Force was an expeditionary corps from the Italian Royal Air Force. It was set up in 1936 and sent to provide logistical and tactical support to Francisco Franco's Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War, alongside its German equivalent, the Condor Legion, and the Italian ground...

 was called Operation Rügen.

The number of victims of the attack is disputed; The Basque government reported 1,654 people killed, but modern speculations suggests between 200 to 400 civilians died. Russian archives reveal 800 deaths on May 1, 1937, but this number may not include victims who later died of their injuries in hospitals or whose bodies were discovered buried in the rubble. The bombing has often been considered one of the first raids in the history of modern military aviation on a defenceless civilian population, and denounced as a terrorist act, although the capital (Madrid) had been bombed many times previously. The bombing was the subject of a famous anti-war painting
Guernica (painting)
Guernica is a painting by Pablo Picasso. It was created in response to the bombing of Guernica, Basque Country, by German and Italian warplanes at the behest of the Spanish Nationalist forces, on 26 April 1937, during the Spanish Civil War...

 by Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso known as Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a Spanish expatriate painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer, one of the greatest and most influential artists of the...

.

Guernica

Guernica (Gernika in Basque
Basque language
Basque is the ancestral language of the Basque people, who inhabit the Basque Country, a region spanning an area in northeastern Spain and southwestern France. It is spoken by 25.7% of Basques in all territories...

, and officially called Gernika-Lumo since 1983) had long been a centre of great significance to the Basque people. Traditionally, the important administrative body, the Biscay
Biscay
Biscay is a province of Spain and a historical territory of the Basque Country, heir of the ancient Lord of Biscay. Its capital city is Bilbao...

ne assembly, had met in the town under an oak
Oak
An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus , of which about 600 species exist. "Oak" may also appear in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus...

 tree, the Gernikako Arbola
Gernikako Arbola
Gernikako Arbola is an oak tree that symbolizes traditional freedoms for the Biscayan people, and by extension for the Basque people as a whole...

; in more recent years, the assembly has continued to meet in Guernica at the Casa de Juntas—house of the historical archive of the Basque Country.

Military situation

Advances by Nationalist troops led by Generalísimo Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco y Bahamonde was a Spanish general, dictator and head of state of Spain from October 1936 , and de facto regent of the nominally restored Kingdom of Spain from 1947 until his death in November, 1975...

 had eaten into the territory controlled by the Republican Government
Second Spanish Republic
The Second Spanish Republic was the government of Spain between April 14 1931, and its destruction by a military rebellion, led by General Francisco Franco....

. The Basque Government
Basque Government
The Basque Government is the governing body of the Basque Autonomous Community of Spain. The head of this government is the lehendakari or Basque president that is appointed by the Basque Parliament every four years...

, an autonomous regional administrative body formed by Basque nationalists
Basque nationalism
Basque nationalism is a political movement advocating for either further political autonomy or, chiefly, full independence of the Basque Country in the wider sense...

 and leftists, sought to defend Biscay
Biscay
Biscay is a province of Spain and a historical territory of the Basque Country, heir of the ancient Lord of Biscay. Its capital city is Bilbao...

 and parts of Guipuzcoa with its own light Basque Army. At the time of the raid, Guernica represented a focal strategic point for the Republican forces. It stood between the Nationalists and capture of Bilbao
Bilbao
Bilbao ) is a Spanish municipality, capital of the province of Biscay, in the autonomous community of the Basque Country. With a population of 353,187 , it is the largest city of its autonomous community and the tenth largest in Spain...

. Bilbao was seen as key to bringing the war to a conclusion in the north of Spain. Guernica also was the path of retreat for the Republicans from the northeast of Biscay.

Prior to the Condor Legion raid, the town had not been directly involved in the fighting, although Republican forces were in the area; 23 battalions of Basque army troops were at the front east of Guernica. The town also housed two Basque army battalions, although it had no static air defences, and it was thought that no air cover could be expected due to recent losses of the Republican Air Force.

Market day

Guernica had a nominal population of around five thousand and the town is thought to have housed numerous refugees who were fleeing into Republican controlled territory. The raid also took place on a Monday, ordinarily a market day
Street market
A street market is an outdoor market such as traditionally held in a market square or in a market town, and often held only on particular days of the week...

 in Guernica. Generally speaking a market day would have attracted people from the surrounding areas to Guernica to conduct business.

There is still historical debate over whether a market was being held that particular Monday: the Basque government had, prior to the bombing, ordered a general halt to markets to prevent blockage of roads, and restricted large meetings. There is common doubt, however, that the directive had been received by all areas, including Guernica, at the time of the raid. It is accepted by most historians that Monday "...would have been a market day".

Luftwaffe doctrine, 1933–42

James Corum
James Corum
Dr James Sterling Corum is an American air power historian and authority on counter-insurgency.-Academic career:...

 states that a prevalent view about the Luftwaffe and its Blitzkrieg operations was that it had a doctrine of terror bombing, in which civilians were deliberately targeted in order to break the will or aid the collapse of an enemy. After the bombing of Guernica in 1937 and of Rotterdam
Rotterdam Blitz
The Rotterdam Blitz refers to the aerial bombardment of Rotterdam by the German Air Force on 14 May 1940, during the German invasion of the Netherlands in World War II. The objective was to support the German troops fighting in the city, break Dutch resistance and force the Dutch to surrender...

 in 1940, it was commonly assumed that terror bombing was a part of Luftwaffe doctrine. During the interwar period the Luftwaffe leadership officially rejected the concept of terror bombing, and confined the air arms use to battlefield support of interdiction
Interdiction
Interdiction is a military term that refers to the act of delaying, disrupting, or destroying enemy forces or supplies en route to the battle area. A distinction is often made between strategic and tactical interdiction...

 operations. Despite that "official" position, the Luftwaffe practiced "terror bombing" over Madrid since the autumn of 1936 as well as against Malaga civilian refugees in February 1937, probably for "experimental" purposes.
It should be fairly noticed from Soviet "Telefonica" of anti-aircraft defence HQ war diaries, that not all civilian deaths were victims of terror bombing. Some victims living in the southwest of Madrid were due to "collateral damage" of the battlefront vicinity. Some Francoist aviation raids that were directed against strategic targets as railway stations and factories, invariably provoked a huge number of civilian victims since it took place in high density populated neighborhoods. Some others clearly classified as "deterrence" raids, in politically correct adviser terms, were ostentatiously "terror bombing" ones. It was particularly the case of the whole night raids over the Spanish capital, with the exception of those led against Republican airfields.

General Walther Wever
Walther Wever (general)
Walther Wever was a pre-World War II Luftwaffe Commander.-Early life:Walther Wever was born on 11 November 1887 in Wilhelmsort in the county of Bromberg . He was the son of Arnold Wever, the one-time director of a Berlin bank and the grandson of the Prussian Prosecutor-General Dr...

 compiled a doctrine known as The Conduct of the Aerial War in 1935. In this document, which the Luftwaffe adopted, the Luftwaffe rejected Giulio Douhet
Giulio Douhet
General Giulio Douhet was an Italian general and air power theorist. He was a key proponent of strategic bombing in aerial warfare...

's theory of terror bombing. Terror bombing was deemed to be "counter-productive", increasing rather than destroying the enemy's will to resist. Such bombing campaigns were regarded as diversion from the Luftwaffe's main operations, destruction of the enemy armed forces. According to Corum, the bombings of Guernica, Rotterdam and Warsaw were tactical missions in support of military operations and were not intended as strategic terror attacks.

The raid

The Condor Legion was entirely under the command of the Nationalist forces. The order to perform the raid was transmitted to the commanding officer of the Condor Legion, Oberstleutnant
Oberstleutnant
Oberstleutnant is a German Army and Air Force rank equal to Lieutenant Colonel, above Major, and below Oberst.There are two paygrade associated to the rank of Oberstleutnant...

 Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen, from the Spanish Command.

Mission planning

While questions are often raised over the intent of the raid, the diaries of the planner and commander of the mission made public in the 1970s indicate that an attack on Guernica represented part of a wider Nationalist advance in the area and was also designed to support Franco's forces already in place.

It has been said that Richthofen, understanding the strategic importance of the town in the advance on Bilbao and restricting Republican retreat, ordered an attack against the roads and bridge in the Renteria suburb. Destruction of the bridge was considered the primary objective since the raid was to operate in conjunction with Nationalist troop movements against Republicans around Marquina. Secondary objectives were restriction of Republican traffic/equipment movements and the prevention of bridge repair via the creation of rubble around the bridge.

To meet these objectives, two Heinkel He 111
Heinkel He 111
The Heinkel He 111 was a German aircraft designed by Siegfried and Walter Günter in the early 1930s in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Often described as a "Wolf in sheep's clothing", it masqueraded as a transport aircraft, but its purpose was to provide the Luftwaffe with a fast medium...

s, one Dornier Do 17
Dornier Do 17
The Dornier Do 17, sometimes referred to as the Fliegender Bleistift , was a World War II German light bomber produced by Claudius Dornier's company, Dornier Flugzeugwerke...

, eighteen Ju 52 Behelfsbomber
Junkers Ju 52
The Junkers Ju 52 was a German transport aircraft manufactured from 1932 to 1945. It saw both civilian and military service during the 1930s and 1940s. In a civilian role, it flew with over 12 air carriers including Swissair and Deutsche Luft Hansa as an airliner and freight hauler...

, and three Italian SM.79s
Savoia-Marchetti SM.79
The Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero was a three-engined Italian medium bomber with a wood and metal structure. Originally designed as a fast passenger aircraft, this low-wing monoplane, in the years 1937–39, set 26 world records that qualified it for some time as the fastest medium bomber in the...

 (Corpo Truppe Volontarie
Corpo Truppe Volontarie
The Corps of Volunteer Troops was an Italian expeditionary force which was sent to Spain to support General Francisco Franco and the Spanish Nationalist forces during the Spanish Civil War...

) were assigned for the mission. These were armed with medium high explosive bombs (250 kg), light explosive bombs (50 kg) and incendiaries
Incendiary device
Incendiary weapons, incendiary devices or incendiary bombs are bombs designed to start fires or destroy sensitive equipment using materials such as napalm, thermite, chlorine trifluoride, or white phosphorus....

 (1 kg). The ordnance
Ammunition
Ammunition is a generic term derived from the French language la munition which embraced all material used for war , but which in time came to refer specifically to gunpowder and artillery. The collective term for all types of ammunition is munitions...

 load for the twenty four bombers was twenty-two tons in total. A follow up to the bombing raid was also planned for the next day involving Messerschmitt Bf 109
Messerschmitt Bf 109
The Messerschmitt Bf 109, often called Me 109, was a German World War II fighter aircraft designed by Willy Messerschmitt and Robert Lusser during the early to mid 1930s...

 raids in the area. The order was noted on April 26 by Richthofen as:

Starting at once: A/88 and J/88
Jagdgruppe 88
Jagdgruppe 88 was a German Condor Legion fighter group serving in the Spanish Civil War. J/88 consisted of a headquarters and four squadrons , although the 4th Staffel was short lived...

 for free fighter bomber mission on the streets near Marquina-Guernica-Guerriciaz. K/88 (after Returning from Guerriciaz), VB/88 and Italians for the streets and the bridge (including suburb) east of Guernica. There we have to close the traffic, if we finally want a decision against personal and material of the enemy. Vigon agrees to move his troops for blocking all streets south of Guernica. If this succeeds, we will have trapped the enemy around Marquina.

First five waves of raid

Wave one arrived over Guernica around 1630 hrs. A Dornier Do 17, coming from the south, dropped approximately twelve 50-kilogram bombs.

The three Italian SM.79s had taken off from Soria
Soria
Soria is a city in north-central Spain, the capital of the province of Soria in the autonomous community of Castile and León. , the municipality has a population of c. 39,500 inhabitants, nearly 40% of the population of the province...

 at 1530 hrs with orders to "bomb the road and bridge to the east of Guernica, in order to block the enemy retreat" during wave two. Their orders explicitly stated not to bomb the town itself. During a single sixty second pass over the town, from north to south, the SM.79's dropped thirty-six light explosive bombs (50 kg). Vidal says that at this point, the damage to the town was "relatively limited... confined to a few buildings", including the church of San Juan and headquarters of the Izquierda Republicana ("Republican Left") political party.

Waves three through five of the first attack then occurred, ending around 1800 hrs. The third wave consisted of a Heinkel He 111 escorted by five Aviazione Legionaria Fiat fighters
Regia Aeronautica
The Italian Royal Air Force was the name of the air force of the Kingdom of Italy. It was established as a service independent of the Royal Italian Army from 1923 until 1946...

 led by Capitano Corrado Ricci. Waves four and five were carried out by German twin-engined planes. Vidal notes:

"If the aerial attacks had stopped at that moment, for a town that until then had maintained its distance from the convulsions of war, it would have been a totally disproportionate and insufferable punishment. However, the biggest operation was yet to come."

Subsequent raids

Earlier, around noon that day, the Junkers Ju 52s of the Condor Legion had carried out a mission around Guerriciaz (Gerrikaraiz). Following this they landed to rearm and then took off to complete the raid on Guernica. The attack would run from north to south, coming from the Bay of Biscay
Bay of Biscay
The Bay of Biscay is a gulf of the northeast Atlantic Ocean located south of the Celtic Sea. It lies along the western coast of France from Brest south to the Spanish border, and the northern coast of Spain west to Cape Ortegal, and is named in English after the province of Biscay, in the Spanish...

 and up the course of the Urdaibai estuary
Urdaibai
The Urdaibai estuary is a natural region and a Biosphere Reserve of Biscay, Basque Country. It is also referred as Mundaka or Gernika estuary....

.

The 1st and 2nd Squadrons of the Condor Legion took off at about 1630 hrs, with the 3rd Squadron taking off from Burgos
Burgos
Burgos is a city of northern Spain, historic capital of Castile. It is situated at the edge of the central plateau, with about 178,966 inhabitants in the city proper and another 20,000 in its suburbs. It is the capital of the province of Burgos, in the autonomous community of Castile and León...

 a few minutes later. They were escorted from Vitoria
Vitoria-Gasteiz
Vitoria-Gasteiz is the capital city of the province of Álava and of the autonomous community of the Basque Country in northern Spain with a population of 235,661 people. It is the second largest Basque city...

 by a squadron of Fiat fighters and Messerschmitt Bf 109Bs of Lutzow squadron, for a total of twenty-nine planes.

From 1830 to 1845 hrs, each of the three bomber squadrons attacked in a formation of three Ju 52s abreast—an attack front of about 150 metres. At the same time, and continuing for around fifteen minutes after the bombing wave, the Bf 109Bs and Heinkel He 51
Heinkel He 51
-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Donald, David, ed. Warplanes of the Luftwaffe. London: Aerospace, 1994. ISBN 1-874023-56-5.* Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. "The Cadre Creator...Heinkel's Last Fighting Biplane". Air Enthusiast No. 36, May-August 1988. pp. 11–24. ISSN 0143-5450.*...

 biplanes strafed the roads leading out of town, adding to civilian casualties.

Outcome

The bombing shattered the city's defenders' will to resist, allowing the Nationalists to overrun it. They faced little resistance and took complete control of the town by April 29. The attacks destroyed the majority of Guernica. Three quarters of the city's buildings were reported completely destroyed, and most others sustained damage. Among infrastructure spared were the arms factories Unceta and Company and Talleres de Guernica along with the Assembly House Casa de Juntas and the Gernikako Arbola
Gernikako Arbola
Gernikako Arbola is an oak tree that symbolizes traditional freedoms for the Biscayan people, and by extension for the Basque people as a whole...

. Richthofen recorded that the bridge was not destroyed or even hit during the raid and the mission was considered a failure as a result, although the rubble and chaos
Civil disorder
Civil disorder, also known as civil unrest or civil strife, is a broad term that is typically used by law enforcement to describe one or more forms of disturbance caused by a group of people. Civil disturbance is typically a symptom of, and a form of protest against, major socio-political problems;...

 that the raid created severely restricted the movement of Republican forces.

Since his appointment on the northern front, the Soviet aviation advisor Arjénoukhine had insistently called for air reinforcements, motivating his demands by high losses inflicted by nationalist aviation over Republican troops as well as civilian population.

On may the 8th, 9 I-15 and 6 R-Zet were sent by air from central Spain through Toulouse, in France. Planes were immediately immobilised by non-intervention committee, and later sent back unarmed to central Spain.

Casualties: a controversial track

The number of civilian casualties has been debated and is still a matter of propaganda.

A recent study by Raul Arias Ramos in his book La Legion Condor en La Guerra Civil states that there were 250 dead; and the study by Joan Villarroya and J.M. Sole i Sabate in their book España en Llamas. La Guerra Civil desde el Aire states that there were 300 dead These studies, cited by historians such as Stanley Payne and Antony Beevor
Antony Beevor
Antony James Beevor, FRSL is a British historian, educated at Winchester College and Sandhurst. He studied under the famous military historian John Keegan. Beevor is a former officer with the 11th Hussars who served in England and Germany for five years before resigning his commission...

 as well as media such as the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 and El Mundo
El Mundo (Spain)
El Mundo is the second largest printed and the largest digital daily newspaper in Spain and one of the newspapers of record in that country, with a daily circulation topping 300,000 readers for the printed edition and 24 million unique web visitors per month for the...

, provide the currently recognized death toll.

See also the Bombs to casualty ratio next subsection.

After Nationalist forces led by General Emilio Mola
Emilio Mola
Emilio Mola y Vidal, 1st Duke of Mola, Grandee of Spain was a Spanish Nationalist commander during the Spanish Civil War. He is best-known for having coined the term "fifth column".-Early life:...

's forces took the town three days later, the Nationalist side claimed that no effort to establish an accurate number have been made by the opposite side. The Basque government, in the confused aftermath of the raids, reported 1,654 dead and 889 wounded. It roughly agrees with the testimony of British journalist George Steer, correspondent at the time and place of the Times, which estimated that between 800 to 3 000 of 5000 people perished in Guernica. These figures were adopted over the years by some commentators outside of the conflict as accurate. These figures are represented in a majority of the literature from that period and up to the 1970s, although they were always disputed.

The Nationalist junta gave a patently false description of the events (claiming that the destruction had been caused by Republicans burning the town as they fled) and seem to have made no effort to establish an accurate number. At an extreme low, the Francoist newspaper Arriba
Arriba (newspaper)
Arriba was a Spanish daily newspaper. It was founded in Madrid 21 March 1935 by José Antonio Primo de Rivera as the official weekly newspaper of the Spanish Falange. On 5 March 1936 it was suspended by the government of the Second Spanish Republic. The suspension continued through the Spanish...

claimed, on January 30, 1970, that there had only been twelve deaths.

Russian archives, through the historian Sergei Abrossov, mention 800 dead as of May 1, 1937. This is an incomplete figure and does not take into account either the people later found under the rubble, nor those who died later of their injuries, but is certainly objective.
It should be recalled that the Soviets were the only ones in the world, at that time, to maintain a strategic air force consisting mainly of heavy bombers Tupolev TB-1, R-6 and TB-3 whose general condition was good but that were becoming obsolete. The whole cost them dearly, especially since their replacement by the Tupolev ANT-42 was planned: the validity of the doctrine of Douhet was therefore constantly discussed in the VVS-RKKA headquarters. Consequently, the interest of Soviet military advisers present in Spain, was the collection of reliable data for internal use and the devastating effects of the bombing "mass" scale, not for controversy. Moreover the adviser Arjenoukhine, being responsible for Northern Front air defence area, had no personal interest in inflating losses at Guernica.

Bombs to casualty ratio

Issues with the originally released figures were raised following an appraisal of large scale bombing raids during the Second World War. A comparison of the Guernica figures with the figures of dead resulting from air attacks on major European cities during the Second World War exposed an anomaly. It came to be posited that the figures for Guernica were somewhat inflated. Corum uses the figure of forty tons of bombs dropped on Guernica, and calculates that if the figure of 1654 dead is accepted as accurate then the raid caused 41 fatalities per ton of bombs. By way of comparison the Dresden air raid
Bombing of Dresden in World War II
The Bombing of Dresden was a military bombing by the British Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force and as part of the Allied forces between 13 February and 15 February 1945 in the Second World War...

 during February 1945 which saw 3,431 tons of bombs dropped on the city caused fewer deaths per ton of bombs: 7.2–10.2 fatalities per ton of bombs dropped. Corum, who ascribes the discrepancy between the high death toll reported at Guernica and in other cases such as Rotterdam to propaganda, goes on to say that for Guernica:
...a realistic estimate on the high side of bombing effectiveness (7–12 fatalities per ton of bombs) would yield a figure of perhaps 300–400 fatalities in Guernica. This is certainly a bloody enough event, but reporting that a small town was bombed with a few hundred killed would not have had the same effect as reporting that a city was bombed with almost 1,700 dead"

Views on the attack

The attack has entered the lexicon
Lexicon
In linguistics, the lexicon of a language is its vocabulary, including its words and expressions. A lexicon is also a synonym of the word thesaurus. More formally, it is a language's inventory of lexemes. Coined in English 1603, the word "lexicon" derives from the Greek "λεξικόν" , neut...

 of war as an example of terror bombing. It is also remembered by the surviving inhabitants and people of Basque as such. Due to the lingering divisions of the conflict, the event remains a source of emotion and public recrimination.

Military intentions

A commonly held viewpoint is that the involvement of the Luftwaffe in the Civil War constituted a proving ground for troops employed later during World War II. This view is supported by the comments of then Reichsmarschall
Reichsmarschall
Reichsmarschall literally in ; was the highest rank in the armed forces of Nazi Germany during World War II after the position of Supreme Commander held by Adolf Hitler....

 Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

 at the Nuremberg Trials
Nuremberg Trials
The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the victorious Allied forces of World War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany....

:
"I urged him [Adolf Hitler] to give support [to Franco] under all circumstances, firstly, in order to prevent the further spread of communism in that theater and, secondly, to test my young Luftwaffe at this opportunity in this or that technical respect."

Carpet bombing

Alongside the potential for gains in combat experience it is also thought that various strategic initiatives were first tried as part of Luftwaffe involvement in the conflict. Theories on strategic bombing
Strategic bombing
Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in a total war with the goal of defeating an enemy nation-state by destroying its economic ability and public will to wage war rather than destroying its land or naval forces...

 were first developed by the Luftwaffe with the first exhibition of "carpet bombing
Carpet bombing
Carpet bombing is a large aerial bombing done in a progressive manner to inflict damage in every part of a selected area of land. The phrase invokes the image of explosions completely covering an area, in the same way that a carpet covers a floor. Carpet bombing is usually achieved by dropping many...

" in the September 1937 Asturias campaign
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

. Comparisons between the raid on Guernica and the fate of other cities during the conflict are also telling. As the fighting progressed into March 1938 Italian pilots flying as Aviazione Legionaria under Field Marshal
Field Marshal
Field Marshal is a military rank. Traditionally, it is the highest military rank in an army.-Etymology:The origin of the rank of field marshal dates to the early Middle Ages, originally meaning the keeper of the king's horses , from the time of the early Frankish kings.-Usage and hierarchical...

 Hugo Sperrle
Hugo Sperrle
Hugo Sperrle was a German field marshal of the Luftwaffe during World War II. His forces were deployed solely on the Western Front and the Mediterranean throughout the war...

 were involved in thirteen raids against Barcelona
Barcelona
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain after Madrid, and the capital of Catalonia, with a population of 1,621,537 within its administrative limits on a land area of...

 involving fire and gas bombs.

The use of "carpet bombing" was becoming standard practice by Condor Legion personnel. To illustrate this point, military historian James S. Corum cites an excerpt from a 1938 Condor Legion report on this use of this tactic:
We have had notable results in hitting the targets near the front, especially in bombing villages which hold enemy reserves and headquarters. We have had great success because these targets are easy to find and can be thoroughly destroyed by carpet bombing."


On the Spanish side, threats made prior to the raid by General Emilio Mola to "end the war in the North of Spain quickly" and threats apparently made against Republicans in Bilbao afterward implied a blunting of strategy and that air raids were effective and set to become an increasingly favorite instrument in the Nationalist war effort.

Other theories

Vidal outlines some other commonly voiced theories on the raid:
  • The lack of reconnaissance missions before the bombing suggests to him that the Legion intended the destruction of the town rather than a specific target. Reconnaissance missions had been ordered as a prerequisite before raids around built-up areas on January 6, 1937. The intent of the order was to minimize civilian deaths
    Collateral damage
    Collateral damage is damage to people or property that is unintended or incidental to the intended outcome. The phrase is prevalently used as an euphemism for civilian casualties of a military action.-Etymology:...

     and it had been issued by Mola, then Supreme Commander of the Air Force Salamanca
    Salamanca
    Salamanca is a city in western Spain, in the community of Castile and León. Because it is known for its beautiful buildings and urban environment, the Old City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. It is the most important university city in Spain and is known for its contributions to...

    .
  • Since the raid appears to have ignored Mola's earlier plans for reconnaissance prior to the raid, Vidal concludes that Richthofen must have received direct orders from Mola or Franco.
  • According to Nicholas Rankin (Telegram from Guernica, Faber and Faber, London 2003, page 121):
It was von Richthofen himself who selected the mix of blast, splinter and fire bombs for this particular operation, agreed at a military conference in Burgos the night before. Von Richthofen wrote in his diary: As it was a complete success of our 250 kg (explosive) and ECB1 (incendiary) bombs.
  • In Vidal's view, such a mission would have typically used 10-kilogram bombs, and no incendiaries. Vidal also argues that the 22-ton load-out used in the raid represented a relatively large quantity for an attack on the stated primary objective. By way of comparison, Vidal indicates sources which give total tonnage of bombs dropped on the front during the first day of the offensive as sixty-six.
  • Vidal argues that the Italians had been trying to obtain a separate peace agreement with the Basque nationalists and were not inclined to jeopardize those efforts by deliberately inflicting civilian casualties.

Media reporting

The first English language media reports of the destruction in Guernica appeared two days later. George Steer
George Steer
George Lowther Steer was a South African-born British journalist, author and war correspondent who reported on wars preceding World War II, especially the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and the Spanish Civil War...

, a reporter for The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

, who was covering the Spanish Civil War from inside the country, authored the first full account of events. Steer's reporting set the tone for much of the subsequent reportage. Steer pointed out the clear German complicity in the action. The evidence of three small bomb cases stamped with the German Imperial Eagle
Adler
The term Adler, the German word for the bird of prey "eagle", is both the last name of many people and an emblematic bird featured on many blazons since the feudal age, including the present German Bundeswappen and at times on the flags of Austria and Germany...

 made clear that the official German position of neutrality in the Civil War and the signing of a Non-Intervention Pact was a sham
Deception
Deception, beguilement, deceit, bluff, mystification, bad faith, and subterfuge are acts to propagate beliefs that are not true, or not the whole truth . Deception can involve dissimulation, propaganda, and sleight of hand. It can employ distraction, camouflage or concealment...

. Steer's report was syndicated to the New York Times and then worldwide, generating widespread shock, outrage, and fear. There was coverage in other national and international editions also:
  • The Times ran the story every day for over a week after the attack.
  • The New York Post
    New York Post
    The New York Post is the 13th-oldest newspaper published in the United States and is generally acknowledged as the oldest to have been published continuously as a daily, although – as is the case with most other papers – its publication has been periodically interrupted by labor actions...

    ran a cartoon showing Hitler brandishing a bloody sword labelled "air raids" as he towered over heaps of civilian dead littering "the Holy City of Guernica" and
  • The US Congressional Record referred to poison gas having been dropped on Guernica. This did not actually occur.
  • During debates in the British Parliament Guernica was also inaccurately described as an "open city" which contained no military targets.


Overall, the impression generated was one which fed the widely held public fear of air attack which had been building throughout the 1930s, a fear which accurately anticipated that in the next war the aerial forces of warring nations would be able to wipe whole cities off the map.

Reaction in Spain

Spanish fascists ("Nationals") claimed that Guernica had been deliberately burned and dynamited by fleeing Republican forces, which had been using the city to store ammunition and explosives; it was also claimed that reports of the extent of the bombing had been exaggerated and were atrocity propaganda. While Republican forces had been involved in pursuing a scorched earth
Scorched earth
A scorched earth policy is a military strategy or operational method which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area...

 strategy in the past, (notably in Irun
Irun
Irun is a town of the Bidasoa-Txingudi region in the province of Gipuzkoa in the Basque Autonomous Community, Spain...

, which was dynamited), Steer's reporting was supported by the reporting of other journalists who witnessed the same levels of destruction. The view that civilian casualties had been kept to a minimum was not widely accepted. The delay in arrival of firemen from Bilbao
Bilbao
Bilbao ) is a Spanish municipality, capital of the province of Biscay, in the autonomous community of the Basque Country. With a population of 353,187 , it is the largest city of its autonomous community and the tenth largest in Spain...

 and their supposed inaction in containing the fires was also reported.

Legacy

Steer's reports on the horrors of Guernica were greatly appreciated by the Basque people. Steer had made their plight known. The Basque authorities later honored his memory by naming a street in Guernica Kale George Steer, and commissioning a bronze bust with the dedication:
"George Steer, journalist, who told the world the story about Guernica."


Despite Francoist efforts to play down the reports, they proliferated and led to widespread international outrage at the time.

Picasso's painting

Guernica quickly became a world-renowned symbol of civilian suffering resulting from conflict and inspired Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso known as Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a Spanish expatriate painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer, one of the greatest and most influential artists of the...

 to adapt one of his existing paintings into Guernica
Guernica (painting)
Guernica is a painting by Pablo Picasso. It was created in response to the bombing of Guernica, Basque Country, by German and Italian warplanes at the behest of the Spanish Nationalist forces, on 26 April 1937, during the Spanish Civil War...

. The Spanish Republican Government had commissioned a work from him for the Spanish pavilion at the Paris International Exposition. Though he accepted the invitation to display a piece, he remained uninspired until he heard of the bombing of Guernica. The display of Picasso's work at the Republican Spain Pavilion during the 1937 World's Fair reflected the impact on public consciousness. The painting went on to become a symbol indicative of Basque nationalism
Basque nationalism
Basque nationalism is a political movement advocating for either further political autonomy or, chiefly, full independence of the Basque Country in the wider sense...

 during the Spanish transition to democracy
Spanish transition to democracy
The Spanish transition to democracy was the era when Spain moved from the dictatorship of Francisco Franco to a liberal democratic state. The transition is usually said to have begun with Franco’s death on 20 November 1975, while its completion has been variously said to be marked by the Spanish...

. Today it resides in Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is the official name of Spain's national museum of 20th century art . The museum was officially inaugurated on September 10, 1992 and is named for Queen Sofia of Spain...

 in Madrid. A tapestry
Tapestry
Tapestry is a form of textile art, traditionally woven on a vertical loom, however it can also be woven on a floor loom as well. It is composed of two sets of interlaced threads, those running parallel to the length and those parallel to the width ; the warp threads are set up under tension on a...

 copy of Picasso's Guernica is displayed on the wall of the United Nations building in New York City, at the entrance to the Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

 room. It was placed there as a reminder of the horrors of war.

German apology

Recrimination for the activities of the Condor Legion and shame at the involvement of German citizens in the bombing of Guernica surfaced following German reunification in the 1990s. In 1997, the 60th anniversary of Operation Rügen, then German President Roman Herzog
Roman Herzog
Roman Herzog is a German politician as a member of the Christian Democratic Union, and served as President of Germany from 1994 to 1999...

 wrote to survivors apologizing on behalf of the German people and state for Germany's role in the Civil War in general. Herzog said he wished to extend "a hand of friendship and reconciliation" on behalf of all German citizens. This sentiment was later ratified by members of the German Parliament who went on to legislate in 1998 for the removal of all former Legion members' names from associated German military bases.

70th Anniversary

On the 70th anniversary of the bombing, the president of the Basque Parliament
Basque Parliament
The Basque Parliament is the legislative body of the Basque Autonomous Community of Spain and the elected assembly to which the Basque Government is responsible....

 met with politicians, Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel.-Background:According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who...

 winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel is an Argentine sculptor, architect and pacifist. He was the recipient of the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize.-Biography:Pérez Esquivel was born in Buenos Aires to a Spanish fisherman who emigrated to Argentina...

, and deputies from Hiroshima
Hiroshima
is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, and the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu, the largest island of Japan. It became best known as the first city in history to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb on it at 8:15 A.M...

, Volgograd
Volgograd
Volgograd , formerly called Tsaritsyn and Stalingrad is an important industrial city and the administrative center of Volgograd Oblast, Russia. It is long, north to south, situated on the western bank of the Volga River...

, Pforzheim
Pforzheim
Pforzheim is a town of nearly 119,000 inhabitants in the state of Baden-Württemberg, southwest Germany at the gate to the Black Forest. It is world-famous for its jewelry and watch-making industry. Until 1565 it was the home to the Margraves of Baden. Because of that it gained the nickname...

, Dresden
Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

, Warsaw
Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

, and Oswiecim
Oswiecim
Oświęcim is a town in the Lesser Poland province of southern Poland, situated west of Kraków, near the confluence of the rivers Vistula and Soła.- History :...

 (Auschwitz), as well as several survivors from Guernica itself. During the meeting they showed images and film clips of the bombing, took time to remember the 250 dead, and read the Guernica Manifesto for Peace, pleading that Guernica become a "World Capital for Peace".

Bombing of Dresden

On February 13, 2003, during the commemoration of the 58th anniversary of the Bombing of Dresden, inhabitants of Dresden
Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

, Germany, including survivors of the firestorm of 1945, joined together with witnesses of the bombing of Guernica to issue an appeal to the people of the world:


As our television sets show bombers preparing for war against Iraq, we survivors of Guernica and Dresden recall our own helplessness and horror when we were flung into the inferno of bombing—we saw people killed. Suffocated. Crushed. Incinerated. Mothers trying to protect their children with only their bodies. Old people with no strength left to flee from the flames. These pictures are still alive in our memory, and our accounts capture indelibly what we went through.

For decades we—and survivors from many other nations—have been scarred by the horror, loss and injuries we experienced in the wars of the 20th century. Today we see that the beginnings of the 21st century are also marked by suffering and destruction. On behalf of all the victims of war throughout the world we express our sympathy and solidarity with all those affected by the terror of September 11 in the USA and the war in Afghanistan.

But is that very suffering now also to be inflicted upon the people of Iraq? Must thousands more die in a rain of bombs, must cities and villages be destroyed and cultural treasures obliterated?


Bombing of Hiroshima

On April 26, 2007, Dr. Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor of Hiroshima and President of Mayors for Peace compared the experience of Guernica to Hiroshima:

Human beings have often sought to give concrete form to our powerful collective longing for peace. After World War I, that longing led to the League of Nations and numerous rules and taboos designed to govern warfare itself. Of these, the most important was the proscription against attacking and killing civilian non-combatants even in times of war. However, the second half of the twentieth century has seen most of those taboos broken. Guernica was the point of departure, and Hiroshima is the ultimate symbol. We must find ways to communicate to future generations the history of horror that began with Guernica....

In this sense, the leadership of those here in Guernica who seek peace and have worked hard to bring about this memorial ceremony is profoundly meaningful. The solidarity we feel today derives from our shared experience of the horror of war, and this solidarity can truly lead us toward a world beyond war.

Further reading

  • Corum, James S. – Wolfram Von Richthofen: Master of the German Air War (University Press of Kansas, 2008)
  • Corum, James. The Luftwaffe: Creating the Operational Air War, 1918–1940. Kansas University Press. 1997. ISBN 9780700608362
  • Coverdale, John F. – Italian Intervention in the Spanish Civil War. (Princeton University Press, 1975
  • Maier, Klaus A. – Guernica April 26, 1937: Die Deutsche Intervention in Spanien und der "Fall Guernica." Freiburg im Breisgau: Rombach, 1975
  • Patterson, Ian – Guernica and Total War (London: Profile; USA, Harvard University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-1-86197-764-9)
  • Moa, Pío – Los Mitos de la Guerra Civil, La Esfera de los Libros, 2003.
  • Ramírez, Juan Antonio – Guernica: la historia y el mito,Electa, Madrid, 1999
  • Arias Ramos, Raúl; El Apoyo Militar Alemán a Franco:La Legión Cóndor En La Guerra Civil, La Esfera de los Libros, 2003
  • Rankin, Nicholas – Telegram From Guernica: The Extraordinary Life of George Steer, War Correspondent (Faber & Faber, London, ISBN 0-571-20563-1)
  • Southworth, Herbert Rutledge – Guernica! Guernica!, a study of journalism, diplomacy, propaganda, and history, Berkley, 1977
  • Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts, Guernica: The Crucible of World War II, Stein and Day, 1975, ISBN 0-8128-1839-3.
  • César Vidal, Chapter 9 of La Destrucción de Guernica, translated into English by Peter Miller. A detailed account of the attack and an account of its likely motivations. The sections of the article on the timing of the attacks and the particular planes and armaments used draw heavily on this source.
  • Boling, Dave. "Guernica: A Novel" (Bloomsbury, USA, 2008 ISBN 978-0-330-46066-8)

External links

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article709301.ece

http://www.eitb.com/multimedia/infografias/gernika2/index_es.html
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK