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APRIL 26, 1937: Guernica in Spain was bombed during the Spanish Civil War by the German Luftwaffe. image: Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H25224, Guernica, Ruinen.jpg

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Mural in Guernica based on the Picasso painting. Basque nationalists advocate that the painting be brought to the town, as can be seen in the slogan underneath

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The German bombers appeared in the skies over Guernica in the late afternoon of April 26, 1937 and immediately transformed the sleepy Spanish market town into an everlasting symbol of the atrocity of war. Unbeknownst to the residents of Guernica, they had been slated by their attackers to become guinea pigs in an experiment designed to determine just what it would take to bomb a city into oblivion.

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David Seymour, Spanish painter Pablo Picasso in front of his painting "Guernica", at its unveiling at the Spanish Pavilion of the International World Fair held six weeks after the aerial bombing of the Basque village of Guernica.

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The number of victims of the attack is still disputed; the Basque government reported 1,654 people killed, although modern figures suggest between 126 (later revised by the authors of the study to 153 and 400 civilians died. Russian archives reveal 800 deaths on 1 May 1937, but this number may not include victims who later died of their injuries in hospitals or whose bodies were discovered buried in the rubble. The bombing was the subject of a famous anti-war painting by Pablo Picasso.

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Luftwaffe 1 kg incendiary bomb dated 1936/ To meet these objectives, two Heinkel He 111s, one Dornier Do 17, eighteen Ju 52 Behelfsbomber, and three Italian SM.79s (Corpo Truppe Volontarie) were assigned for the mission. These were armed with medium high explosive bombs (250 kg), light explosive bombs (50 kg) and incendiaries (1 kg). The ordnance load for the twenty four bombers was twenty-two tons in total.