Bombing of Barcelona

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Bombing of Barcelona
Part of the Spanish Civil War
Barcelona bombing (1938).jpg
Bombing in Barcelona, 1938.
Date March 16–19, 1938
Location Barcelona, Spain
Result Barcelona severely damaged
Belligerents
 Spanish Republic  Nationalist Spain
Kingdom of Italy Aviazione Legionaria
Commanders and leaders
Second Spanish RepublicAndrés García Calle
Strength
Anti-aircraft artillery He-51 fighters
Sa-79 and Sa-81 Italian bombers
Casualties and losses
1,000–1,300 civilians dead None

The Bombing of Barcelona was a series of Nationalist airstrikes which took place from 16 to 18 March 1938, during the Spanish Civil War. Up to 1,300 people were killed and at least 2,000 wounded.[1]

Background[edit]

On March 1938, the Nationalists started an offensive in Aragon, after the Battle of Teruel, and Germany occupied Austria. On 15 March, the French government, led by Leon Blum, decided to reopen the Spanish frontier[2] and the Russian supplies began to pass to Barcelona.[3] Then, Mussolini decided to carry out massive air bombings against Barcelona in order to "weakening the moral of the reds".[4] Mussolini thought, like the general Douhet, that aircraft could win a war with terror.[5]

The bombing[edit]

Between 16 and 18 March 1938, Barcelona was bombed by bombers of the Italian, Aviazione Legionaria.[6] These bombers flew from Mallorca with Spanish markings.[7] The first raid came at ten o'clock of 16 March by German Hidro-Heinkels. After that, there were 17 air raids by the Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 and Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 bombers at three hours intervals until the three o'clock in the morning of 18 March.[8] Barcelona had little anti-aircraft artillery and no fighter cover.[9] The Spanish Republican Air Force (FARE) didn't send fighters to Barcelona until the morning of 17 March.[10]

The repeated wave of attacks carried out by the Italians would render irrelevant the air-raid alarm system since it would no longer be clear if the sirens were announcing the beginning or the end of an attack.[11] Furthermore, they used delayed-fuse bombs designed to pass through the roof and then explode inside the building and a new type of bomb which explode with a strong lateral force, so as to destroy things and persons within a few inches of the ground.[12] The bombings affected all the city and the bombers didn't attempt to destroy military targets.[13] On the night of 18 the working class districts were badly hit. The Italian bombers dropped 44 tons of bombs,[14] and there were more than 1,000 civilian dead (Beevor: 1,000 dead and 2,000 wounded;[15] Preston: around 1,000 dead;[16] and Thomas: 1,300 dead and 2,000 wounded).[17]

Aftermath[edit]

The Western democracies protested,[18] the American Secretary of State, Cordell Hull said: "No theory of war can justify such conduct. . . . I feel that I am speaking for the whole American people!".[19] And on 19 March, Franco asked for the suspension of the bombings, for fear of "complications abroad".[20] Mussolini was very pleased with the bombings. Ciano said that: "He was pleased by the fact that the Italians have managed to provoke horror, by their aggression instead of complacency with their mandolins. This will send up our stock in Germany, where they love total and ruthless war.".[21]

Later in the year, the British journalist John Langdon-Davies - who had been present in Barcelona at the time - published an account of the attacks. He reported that the bombers had glided in at high altitude to avoid being detected by the (pre-radar) acoustic aircraft detection means available, and only re-started their engines after releasing their bomb loads, which he termed the "Silent Approach" method. The effect of this was that the aircraft were not detected and the alert sounded until after their bombs had exploded on target. Along with the variance of the times between each individual attack, this had a demoralising effect on the civilian population, which suffered prolonged anxiety quite out of proportion to the number of bombs dropped over a long period of time. Coupled with the fact that there was little discernible military value in the choice of targets within the city, and the cessation of the attacks for no apparent reason, Langdon-Davies determined that the raids constituted a deliberate experiment in the use of such tactics in preparation for their application in any subsequent conflict by the Germans and Italians against the United Kingdom.[22]

References[edit]

  • Beevor, Antony. The battle for Spain. The Spanish civil war, 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. London. ISBN 978-0-14-303765-1.
  • Jackson, Gabriel. The Spanish Republic and the Civil War, 1931–1939. Princenton University Press. 1967. Princenton. ISBN 978-0-691-00757-1

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Hugh Thomas (2001). The Spanish Civil War. Modern Library. p. 787. ISBN 0-375-75515-2. 
  2. ^ Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2006. London. p.783
  3. ^ Jackson, Gabriel. The Spanish Republic and the Civil War, 1931–1939. Princeton University Press. Princeton. 1967. p.408
  4. ^ Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. London. pp. 332–333
  5. ^ Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2006. London. p.785
  6. ^ Graham, Helen. The Spanish Civil War. A very short introduction. Oxford University Press. 2005. p.163
  7. ^ Preston, Paul. The Spanish Civil War. Reaction, revolution & revenge. Harper Perennial. London. 2006. p.283
  8. ^ Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2006. London. p.785
  9. ^ Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. London. p.333
  10. ^ Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. London. p.333
  11. ^ Preston, Paul. The Spanish Civil War. Reaction, revolution & revenge. Harper Perennial. London. 2006. p.283
  12. ^ Jackson, Gabriel. The Spanish Republic and the Civil War, 1931–1939. Princeton University Press. Princeton. 1967. p.408
  13. ^ Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2006. London. p.785
  14. ^ Massacre in Barcelona
  15. ^ Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. London. p.333
  16. ^ Preston, Paul. The Spanish Civil War. Reaction, revolution & revenge. Harper Perennial. London. 2006. p.283
  17. ^ Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2006. London. p.785
  18. ^ Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2006. London. p.785
  19. ^ Foreign News: Barcelona Horrors Time Magazine, 28 March 1938
  20. ^ Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Penguin Books. 2006. London. p.785
  21. ^ Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain. The Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939. Penguin Books. 2006. London. p.333
  22. ^ Langdon-Davies. Air Raid. London: Routledge, 1938.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°23′13″N 2°10′12″E / 41.3870°N 2.1700°E / 41.3870; 2.1700