April 26, 1937. In their effort to help General Franco’s Nationalists win the Spanish Civil War, German and Italian bombers attack the small Basque town of Guernica. In a little over two hours, some 22 tonnes of explosive and incendiary bombs are dropped on the town and its population of around 5,000 people. Casualty figures vary between 250 and 1,654 depending on sources. Historians cite the attack as one of the first examples of ‘terror bombing’, designed to target civilians and break the will of the enemy. Many observers believe the Luftwaffe’s involvement in the Spanish conflict was a exercise in training young pilots and honing their tactics for later conflicts; carpet bombing duly became a feature of World War II several years later.
The bombing inspired Pablo Picasso’s famous anti-war work ‘Guernica’, which hangs in the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid (see picture).
Also on April 26: the first English colonists arrive in America at Cape Henry, Virginia (1607); the Chernobyl nuclear accident (1986)
Born on April 26: Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889), Jet Li (1963), Ms. Dynamite (1981)
April 26, 1937: the bombing of Guernica