The 26th of April 1937 AD
The bombing of the Basque town of Guernica in April 1937 is an event that resonates still. There is much debate as to the details, the number of casualties, and even regarding the motivation for the attack. But not about the horror that was caused by wave after wave of German and Italian planes dropping high explosives and incendiaries on the ill-defended settlement while others strafed the roads and fields around it.
Guernica was and is of great importance to the Basque people, holding archives and a tree of symbolic significance to them. In the Spanish Civil War the Basque autonomous region sided with the Republicans. In 1937 as the Nationalists pushed northwards Guernica was a refugee centre, a stop on the road to Bilbao, and manufactured some munitions. Some writers contend the attack on Guernica was for strategic reasons rather than to terrorise those resisting Franco; the question is academic: most of the town was flattened, a firestorm raged through it, and at least 250 people were killed – the Republicans claimed more than 1600; Franco at first denied any attack had been made.
Hitler had sent elements of the Luftwaffe to Spain in part to gain combat experience and test new tactics. They learned much that was put to use in the Blitzkrieg phase of WWII . The bombing, graphically reported by Noel Monks of the Daily Express, first foreign journalist on the scene, and George Steer of The Times, had another long-term effect perhaps not considered by the Fascists: even Chamberlain now recognized that urgent preparations were needed to counter potential attacks by the Luftwaffe.
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