Wednesday, 26 August 2009

STUKAS OVER GUERNICA? The Ministry of Truth: D.J. Taylor - Orwell - The Life

Part Two of a series of five posts. SEE previous post. SEE next post.

On page 149 of Orwell - The Life D.J. Taylor refers to: ….Stukas sweeping down over fleeing civilians at Guernica;

I'm aware that Piers Brendon picked up on this in his Guardian review, referring to it as a “significant mistake”:

"This is a more significant mistake than it seems since the fact that these planes, the most accurate bombers in the Condor Legion, did not take part indicates that the attack was directed against civilian not military targets, which the fascists always denied."

I can sense why D.J. Taylor referred to Stukas. With an unmistakeable gull-wing profile, a terrifying siren and whistling bombs, the Stuka gained a notoreity and a synonimity with the Blitzkreig. The Stuka was the Nazis most accurate dive-bomber, and was deployed very successfully during the invasions of Poland, France, Norway and the Soviet Union.

For many, including veterans of Dunkirk, the Stuka would have been their first, and unforgettable, contact with the enemy. (It was also equipped with state of the art bomb aiming and release technology supplied by the U.S. – who, incidentally, refused to share the same technology with the Brits and French.)

The aircraft used on the raid included Dornier 17, Junkers 52 (transports converted for bombing) Heinkel 111 bombers and Heinkel 51fighters. In addition, at various times during that dreadful day, Italian escorts played a role.

If the Condor Legion’s real target, as their pilots later insisted, was a bridge just 300 yards from the town, it would have made military sense to have deployed machines capable of delivering an accurate strike, i.e. Stukas (Junkers Ju87). Early versions of the Stuka were available to be deployed that day, but the Germans chose not to use them. Furthermore, if the bridge had been the true target then why were incendiary bombs used? You can't destroy a stone bridge with 1Kg incendiary devices, even if were possible to deliver them all on the target.

Reliable detailed accounts of the raid are still hard to come by, and, as Orwell said about the Barcelona May Days in 1937, “It will never be possible to get a completely accurate and unbiased account….” Most survivors of the terrible raid were not trained aircraft observers.

According to many records at the time of the Guernica raid, the Condor Legion had three type A Stukas in Spain. According to the following extract from Experimentation: Reality and the Lie by Robert Helms four Stukas could have been available that day:

"The Renteria Bridge was presented by the German pilots in later decades as the principal military target in Guernica. Supposedly it survived because the wind had blown their bombs off target. It's a small stone structure, held up by two small pillars. The question as to why anti-personnel and incendiary bombs would be used to destroy such a target remains outstanding. In fact, the mission's commander knew that the town was just 300 yards from the bridge. The small incendiaries were certain to scatter like leaves and land all over the area when dropped from the height of 6,000 feet. All this clearly establishes that the bridge was never the real target, and that the town was marked for total annihilation. There were four Stuka dive-bombers available to Von Richthofen that day, capable of carrying single 1,000-pound bombs. These could have been deployed to very precisely and easily destroy the bridge. Furthermore the Junkers came in flying abreast, and not single-file, as they would if they'd been targeting a single, small target."

The point is that the Stukas were not deployed in the Guernica raid. So, why state they were?

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