German pilots rained destruction on the Basque town of Guernica, as its residents experienced the most harrowing moments of their lives.
Meanwhile, for the Luftwaffe, it was an opportunity to refine their techniques, making them unstoppable.
Created just a year before, in 1935, the German Luftwaffe was already shaping itself up to become one if not the most powerful, modern air fighting force in the world.
During this time, Hitler saw nationalist leader Generalissimo Francisco Franco as a potential ally, he began supporting his war efforts. Franco’s war started as an overwhelming triumph, taking over vast territories in Spain in just weeks.
But when war came to a deadlock, they couldn’t subdue the rebels even after numerous attacks. Thus, Franco decided to change his strategy by attacking the Basque country in the north of Spain, because it was seen as a more vulnerable zone.
The perfect target was the small town of Guernica, sitting at the crossroads of all major roads supplying the front lines while also being on Franco’s path to Bilbao.
If the city was razed, frontlines would have nowhere to withdraw making the Basque capital open for attack.
The Luftwaffe’s Playground
For three grueling hours, Guernica endured merciless bombardment of the Condor Legion.
The Luftwaffe first obliterated the roads, bridges, and escape routes before focusing on civilian structures.
Estimates of casualties range from 150 to as high as 1,650 with recent revisions leaning toward a more significant figure.
The bombing became the most infamous incident of the Spanish Civil War, leading to international condemnation against the fascist powers that were responsible for the carnage.