Saturday, April 26, 2014

The bombing of Guernica: April 26 1937.

Guernica by Pablo Picasso

Seventy seven years ago today  on April 26 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, the Basque town of Guernica was carpet bombed and destroyed by aircraft from the Nazi Luftwaffe and Condor Brigades, and Mussolini's Italian fascist forces, in support of the Spanish fascist nationalist army led by General Francisco Franco.

The attack took place on market day when the greatest number of people were present in Guernica. 

Nazi and Italian planes attacked for over 3 hours, dropping bombs and strafing people trying to escape. An estimated 1600 people were killed. The bombing destroyed 80% of the town's buildings.  
The attack was ordered by General Franco to break the spirit and resistance of the Basque people, who opposed Franco's forces and supported the Republican cause. 

The bombing and destruction was an experiment by the Nazis to determine just what it would take to destroy a city by air. The Nazis used the bombing as a test of their air force capability and as training for bombing of cities from the air.

The British journalist George Steer was the first correspondent to break the news of the bombing of Guernica with eye witness reports that appeared in the London Times and the New York Times. 

Paul Preston's excellent article on George Steer and the bombing of Guernica is here

George Steer's eyewitness accounts  were the inspiration for Pablo Picasso's famous paining Guernica, which he created in Paris in 1937.

An earlier blog piece of mine on the Spanish Civil War titled the Spanish Civil War and the significance of April 14 1931 is here

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