The Spanish Civil War: air-delivered terror
Airplanes had been in their infancy when first
used in World War I. The fragile cloth-covered biplanes played only a marginal
role in reconnaissance, occasional dogfights, or harassment of enemy infantry
with light machine-gun fire and hand grenades. But the 1920's and 30's saw great
advances in aeronautics, and along with improved technologies came disturbing
new military strategies.
In 1935, German General Erich Ludendorff published Die Totale Krieg (The
Total War) in which he presented the view that in war, no one is innocent;
everyone is a combatant and everyone a target, soldier and civilian alike.
Italian General Giulio Douhet further suggested an enemy's morale could be
crushed by air-delivered terror. Such theories intrigued Nazi Germany's new
Fuhrer, but they needed testing. Spain seemed to be the perfect laboratory.
The Commander of the Condor Legion was Lt. Colonel Wolfram von Richthofen,
cousin of Manfred von Richthofen, the infamous Red Baron of World War I. It was
Von Richthofen who earmarked Guernica for bombardment, on behalf of Franco. At
precisely 3:45 PM, Monday, April 26, 1937, the first German bomber took off.
Three-quarters of an hour later, the first bomb fell on Guernica - a direct hit
on the plaza at the center of town, a full quarter mile from the targeted
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