The Spanish Civil War: Air War

Spanish Civil War bombing
Figure 1.--This news photograph was tken in Barcelona during 1938 showing childen plating in the forgrojnd and bombed out buildings in the background. The press caption read, "Battlefield Their Playground: Boys will be boy, bombs not withstanding. The two youngsters having fun with ther scooter here are shown against abackground of ruins caused by the bombing raids. Regretabbky more than 1,000 persons were killed ...." Source: International News Photo.

The air war played an important part in the Spanish Civil War even though Spain did not have an important air force at the time of the War. The German Luftwaffe played a central role in the War. Luftwaffe transport planes helped transport General Franco's Moroccan troops to Spain, launching the rebellion. The Fascist powers (Germany and Italy) provided substantial air forces, essentially transffering whole units to Spain. The Germans introduced their new modern Heinkel bombers and Messerschmidts Fightrs. The Hartmann BF-109 and the subsequent Messerschmidt ME109 were the most advanced fighters in the world at the time. The Italian introduces their Chabolotos and Bredas. The Republic also received foreign aid, but not in the same quanity. Nor did other countries transfer whole units to Spain. The Republics obtained some American, French, and Soviet planes, although arms embargos made it difficult for the Republic to obtain aircraft. Foreign pilots desiring to fight Fascism formed an international brigade of pilots. The Republic's air force was smaller than that provided Franco by his Fascist backers. The Republic pfimrily used its limited air forces to protect Republican cities from air raids. The result was air battles over Republican cities similar to what would occur over British cities. Historians commonly describe The Spanish civil war as the proving ground for the Luftwaffe. What is meant by this is commonly what made headlines--the bombing of civilians in Republican cities. Of course the Luftwaffe bombing of the Basque city of Guernica is the best known because of Picasso's painting. The Germans and Italians bombed many other Republican cities, especially Madrid and Baercelona. This was not, however, the military tactic that the Germans perfected. The victories to come did not reslt from bombing cities. They came from Blizkrieg, highly mobile offensives sopearheaded by tanks and with the airforces used in a ground support role. Here the Germans experimented with their tactics, but it was the bombing of Republican cities that made the headlines and coutinues to dominate historical accounts of the Civil War.


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Created: 10:22 PM 10/8/2008
Last updated: 10:22 PM 10/8/2008