Apr 24, 2017
On April 27, 1937, a squadron of German bombers flew low over a small Spanish village called Guernica, dropping wave after wave of fire bombs. Burning as hot as 2500 degrees, the bombs incinerated the buildings of this ancient market town in northern Spain, along with much of its population and farm animals.
The German commander of the bomber squadron, Wolfram von Richtofen, noted a few days after dropping the payload on Guernica, “town of 5000 inhabitants, literally razed to the ground ... complete technical success....”
This hideous destruction of a Spanish farm village was not directed at a clear military target; rather, it hit its intended civilian target. Richtofen wrote, “Continuously repeated air attacks have the most effect on the morale of the enemy.”
The foreign journalists who made their way there the next day saw hundreds of corpses. The usual population of 5,000 had been swollen with refugees, for the year before Spain had divided into civil war.
The Nazi German government had sent its military to support the side of General Francisco Franco, who was trying to impose a military dictatorship over Spain and crush the Spanish population in revolt. Everyone understood that this intervention was also a dress rehearsal for the coming of World War II, during which the German military tested new weapons and new military strategies.
The German military’s bombing of Guernica was condemned in the U.S. as barbaric and inhumane. But the bombing of Guernica was a harbinger of atrocities carried out on a much more vast scale during World War II, by all the other big powers, the U.S. included. The U.S. military carried out horrific firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo, and dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. All of these bombings were barbaric acts of terrorism against civilian populations.