This day in history, April 26, 1937, the Nazis tested their new air force – the Luftwaffe – on the town of Guernica in northern Spain during the Spanish Civil War.
Even though the Basque region opposed General Francisco Franco’s Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War, the city declared non-belligerence in the conflict. However, Franco still approved the attack on the city.
German aircraft began their unprovoked attack at 4:30 p.m., the busiest hour of the market day in Guernica. For three hours, the German planes poured down a continuous and unopposed rain of bombs and gunfire on the town and surrounding countryside. One-third of Guernica’s 5,000 inhabitants were killed or wounded, and fires engulfed the city for days.
Over 20,000 German airmen gained combat experience during the Spanish Civil War, giving the Luftwaffe an important advantage going into World War II.