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Guernica, bombing of

The Oxford Companion to Military History

Alex Alexandrou

Guernica, bombing of (1937), 

infamous incident during the Spanish civil war, the subject of a famous anti-war painting by Pablo Picasso. Twenty miles (32 km) from Bilbao, Guernica was regarded as the centre of Basque nationalism. At the time of the attack it was held by the Republicans and was an important communications centre, but it was also crammed with refugees and retreating Republican soldiers. The bombing was carried out by the Condor Legion of the German Air Command on 26 April. More than 1,000 people were reported killed, but modern research suggests only about 300 civilians died. The bombing shattered the defenders' will to resist and allowed the Nationalists to overrun it, facing little resistance and taking complete control by 29 April. Guernica was seen as an example of ‘terror bombing’ by western countries, and gave them the mistaken impression that the Luftwaffe was equipped and committed to such a policy. In fact Wolfram von Richthofen, the Condor Legion commander, had no idea of Guernica's political significance and saw it only as a military target.

Alex Alexandrou


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