【 Chapter 7 – Spanish Civil War – Collateral Damage (2) 】
April 25, 1937
Vitoria, Basque Region, Northern Spain
The Nationalists’ northern offensive went smoothly. The first offensive was targeted at Basque, which belongs to the East in North-central Spain.
From the beginning, the Basques were conservative, and they differed from the Republican government of the progressive left, especially the anarchists who made up the majority of them.
However, the Basque people hated the Nationalists who put forward a strong Spain due to their strong tendency to regional separatism, so they were promised to expand autonomy by the Republican government and stuck there.
The Nationalist government, including Franco, took note of this point and launched an offensive promising peaceful treatment in case of surrender, and it worked.
From the beginning, the Basque army, which was different from the Republican government and almost neglected, began to be pushed out continuously due to a series of people falling for the promises of the Nationalist government.
Meanwhile, the Condor Legion supported the advance of ground forces, while steadily making ‘collateral damage’ at Franco’s request.
From the point of view that Franco himself asked for it, he would not have thought of keeping his promise of peaceful treatment from the beginning.
In this offensive, Lieutenant Colonel Richthofen, who leads Luftwaffe, rained incendiary bombs on Basque and Durango, which have no anti-aircraft defense, and of course, civilian casualties continued.
If he meets Arthur Harris, who bombed Dresden, or Curtis LeMay, who carried out the Tokyo air raid, they will love each other. All of them will never meet those who cry out for their burned families on the other side of the earth.
Aside from that, I learned quite a bit about Luftwaffe operations by following him, and submitting several reports to upper management.
I deliberately tried to write while killing the sensibility of modern people, so I hope the Upper Echelon of command likes it.
But the bomber, Richthofen, and I were surprisingly quite matched. To the extent that I wonder if it is okay to do this with the memories of modern people.
Since I already had a rough idea of World War II Air Force doctrine, I had no shortage of topics to discuss with Richthofen.
In particular, Richthofen’s idea of establishing military coordination by using dive bombing and radio to establish geo-space wireless communications was a core tenet of the Luftwaffe in World War II.
He was very satisfied when I added necessary parts or expected problems for doctrines that had not yet been verified in practice, and while staying together for about a month, I became quite friendly with him, teaching him Spanish as well.
“Lieutenant, do you have any intention to join the Luftwaffe?”
“I’m sorry, but not going, Colonel.”
“Don’t do that, think again. There are quite a few army veterans in the Luftwaffe, so adapting won’t be difficult. You don’t have to be a pilot. There is an air investigation team, and if you deeply understand the Air Force doctrine, I would highly recommend it. The promotion will be faster compared to the large army.”
How many times have you refused the invitation of the entire army in half-serious and half-joking ways? It seemed that he liked me quite a bit, but unfortunately, I had to go to Berlin no matter what, so I was doing my best to enter War College.
In addition, the Luftwaffe was the closest to the Nazis among the three armies that formed the National Defense Force under the influence of its leader, Hermann Göring. It is an unacceptable proposition for me, who is thinking of driving out the Nazis.
Göring was uniformly loyal to Hitler even after he fell into Bohrman’s conspiracy at the end of the war and was deprived of all his authority, even after Hitler died and was treated for drug addiction by the Allies at the war crimes trial, he remained absolutely loyal to Hitler.
Hitler’s official successor and second-in-command of the Nazi Party. This means that it is not a conciliatory greeting in the first place.
While the two were talking nonsense, a messenger came and sent a telegram. Anyone who sees it will think that I am Lieutenant Colonel Richthofen’s adjutant.
No, since I’m an interpreter anyway, it was being used so frugally.
“Lieutenant Colonel, this is General Mola’s request. The Republicans are trying to get past Guernica to retreat, but refugees are flocking to the area, making it difficult to withdraw. They want us to stop the retreat by cutting off the bridge.”
“Oh, it’s time to go.”
Richthofen grinned and said. Guernica, Guernica. I heard it a lot somewhere.
I was able to think of it after a moment of contemplation. Guernica, the city where the carnage was caused by Luftwaffe. Picasso was famous for painting the tragedy.
“Are you going out yourself this time too, Lieutenant Colonel?”
“Of course! An air force that doesn’t fly is a dead air force. Haha!”
“…I heard you can come to the Air Force even if you’re not a pilot?”
“Hmm. That’s what it says, Lieutenant.”
We became close enough to exchange jokes. Honestly, I’m very nervous, but…
Adolf Gallant, one of the most powerful figures in the Luftwaffe at the end of World War II, openly chewed up the Army’s ‘emphasis order’ (order to participate in the genocide), saying that he was an Air Force and did not follow the Army’s order.
And it is said that Adolf Gallant, who was so gentle that he refused to shoot down the enemy as well as war crimes, missed Richthofen, who retired due to his health condition in the late war, conflicted with Göring, who had become addicted to drugs and had no answer.1
So, although this person is a problematic person who likes to burn civilians, it was highly likely that he was not at least a person who interfered with his/her subordinates’ beliefs and snitched on his superiors.
“The goal is to blow up the bridge, so you don’t need a firebomb or a man-to-man bomb this time, Colonel.”
Richthofen paused for a moment and then replied with a smile.
“Oh. What’s the matter, Lieutenant? Can I say that you have begun to consider the entire army seriously?”
“It’s not like that, but…”
“We are planning to use various air bombs this time as usual. Lieutenant, our mission is not just to be in combat, but to figure out how useful our weapons are on the battlefield and deliver the information back to the Fatherland.”
Does this person think that the ‘utility’ includes how effectively they kill civilians or did the Luftwaffe’s superiors ask for such data?
“But Lieutenant Colonel, as you have been informed, there are a lot of civilians with refugees flocking to the point where the enemy forces are hindering the retreat. If you use anti-personnel ordnance on such a battlefield, it could cause serious harm not only for the retreating enemy troops but also for civilians….”
“There will be collateral damage. But does it matter, Lieutenant? Guernica is a war zone when the enemy enters that city. It hasn’t bombed yet, so I don’t know, but precision bombing isn’t easy yet due to technical difficulties.”
Prior to the development of heavy bombers during World War II, the issue of precision bombing was well known. It is also the reason why a sudden drop bombing, which is difficult and dangerous but guarantees precision, has become a trend.
“There is no guarantee that you can accurately destroy the bridge, so it is important to spread the bombs as wide as possible. Even if you can’t destroy the bridge, it’s good because the enemy will be damaged, and did you say refugee? Then they must be the Reds ones who escaped from the Nationalists. Señor Franco would love it.”
As expected, his remarks were relentless, but I had nothing more to say when he refuted them as technical issues, regardless of moral issues.
“I see what you mean. Prussian chivalric attitude is good. But if you are truly loyal to your country, consider the best way to win.”
Fortunately, Richthofen seemed to understand it as a classic soldier’s attitude, patted me on the shoulder without any sign of displeasure, and ordered his departure.
He knows the massacre will happen, but he can’t stop it. Knowing the future, I couldn’t do anything at this point.
I have to climb to a higher position. As quickly as possible.
The horrors of Guernica were widely published in the newspapers.
「Peaceful City of Pyrenees, Now the Ruins of Death!」
「German Fascists Burn Freedom and Justice.」
In the end, Richthofen and the Luftwaffe destroyed Guernica heavily.
The level of ‘collateral damage’ previously caused, at best, ‘mistaken as a republican army’, bombing religious events, resulting in 250 civilian casualties, could have been accidentally passed during military operations.
However, Guernica was bombarded for four hours at the formal request of General Emilio Mola, Commander-in-chief of the Northern Offensive, making the city full of refugees and residents the official military target.
Germany’s latest aerial doctrine, calls for airfields to be built closer to the front lines, turns rotations and bombs, proved its power by completely devastating a small town and killing at least a thousand people.
And it proved so well that it was impossible to hide the participation of the Condor Legion in the Spanish Civil War, which had been hushed. Everyone knew it was the Luftwaffe that burned Guernica.
France’s public opinion, which is already friendly to the Republicans, has become a mess, but Britain, which has been hampered by the lobbying of Spanish capitalists, will not be able to do anything right now anyway.
France repeatedly tried to wage war with Germany during the war period, but will eventually be dragged by Britain until the Munich Agreement and the invasion of Poland began.
Franco’s Nationalist government and Nazi superiors interpreted the bombing of Guernica as fascist, saying it was known to the world as an atrocity of the German army.
Italy lost face with a crushing defeat even after deploying a large force in Guadalajara, and Germany proved Luftwaffe’s superiority with only a few volunteer troops.
Lieutenant Colonel Richthofen was summoned to Burgos, the temporary capital of the Nationalists, to receive a medal from Franco, and thanks to that, I, who was acting as an interpreter (army adviser), was off duty.
“It’s a mess….”
While I was reading the newspaper while eating at a restaurant in the village while off duty, there was a person who responded to the German I spoke to myself.
“What’s a mess?”
Is he the same age as me? He appeared to be in his early to mid-20s.
“Who are you?”
“Oh, excuse me. I’m Willy Brandt, a correspondent from Norway.”
The man put on a friendly smile, showed his passport, and said something, but the moment I heard his name, something immediately came to my mind.
“Yes, it’s a name like that for now. Any problems….?”
Brandt glanced at me and didn’t seem to think I would know who he was.
It is not well known that Billy Brandt is now an alias, and himself. But I know!
He was a leader of German Social Democrats who fled the country during World War II.
And more famously, as Chancellor of the post-war Federal Republic of Germany, he kneels in front of a monument to the Polish ghetto.
He was the first person to start liquidating the Nazis in a social atmosphere in Germany that was not much different from Japan in the 21st century even after the war, and he is the one who should be seen as the one who started the status of modern Germany, the leader of the European Union.
“Oh, no. This is Dietrich Schacht, who is here as a volunteer.”
“Schacht, that’s Mr….”
It was an interesting situation. Although pretending to be a Norwegian journalist, this person is one of the key members of the German Social Democratic Party.
Of course, there is no way he will like Hjalmar Schacht, my father, who is a fierce free-market economy supporter and representative of the wealthy.
Just by hearing his last name, this person seemed to have noticed who my father was.
And I know he’s not just a Norwegian journalist, he’s obviously a German and at the heart of the social-democratic anti-Nazi movement.
I can’t believe such a person is wandering around in the occupied territory of the Nationalists. Well, he once infiltrated Berlin under the guise of a Norwegian student, right?
“I think you’re a volunteer from Germany, can I have a brief interview?”
“Haha, I’m just a volunteer. I’m not in a position to do an interview.”
As someone who is somewhat sympathetic to Social Democracy and knows that he remains a great man in modern Germany, meeting Willy Brandt was quite heart-throbbing…
Still, the work ethic of reporters is not very trustworthy to speak carelessly. Even in the 21st century, do we need to talk about it now?
“The interview is not grandiose, so you can take it lightly. I’d like to ask you what do you think of this Guernica raid as a German?”
He said it wasn’t grandiose. Look at him throwing a stone fastball?
What I said without thinking is what the son of Nazi German finance minister said, and there is no guarantee that there will be no big news.
“Hmm. Before I answer, may I ask you a question, Mr. Brandt?”
“Oh, of course. What are you curious about?”
Funny, if you think about it, he’s a great German chancellor, and his personal life isn’t very good. There’s no guarantee that a person with a bad personal life will have a good personality, right?
“As a socialist, do you really think the Republicans are the spokesmen of the Spanish people at the moment? Are you a puppet of the Soviet Union? Herr Frahm?”
I had a bad heart attack, so I committed it. Willy Brandt was about to jump up with a pale face, and I grabbed his arm and sat him down again.
“Ho-how do you do that?”
“Shh. You’re not naive enough to think there’s no Gestapo here, are you?”
Frahm is Willy Brandt’s real name. I don’t remember his full name, but the family name is remembered by political opponents who used to ridicule Willy Brandt for being an illegitimate child in the German election using slogans like ‘No Frahm’.
That Willy Brandt was also completely agitated by the Gestapo, either because he was still young, or because he faced an improbable situation.
I’m not just a German sergeant, I’m the son of a Nazi high official, which would cloud his judgment even more.
“I-I’m not, what the…”
“Haha, calm down. You are Mr. Willy Brandt, a Norwegian journalist. I’m the only one who knows, so don’t worry too much.”
I said the kindest smile I could – copying what Brandt had just said, but his face grew more drawn.
Well, it’s counterproductive.
Actually, I’m kind of a socialist, and I had my own preference for Willy Brandt, except that his private life was a mess…
Eventually, I sighed and opened my mouth.
“It’s a mess. It’s a mess. At this rate, Germany and the world will burn, Mr. Brandt. Spain is over anyway. The so-called ‘free world’ has no intention of contributing to the diplomatic victory that the Republicans hope for.”
Willy Brandt didn’t say anything with a puzzled look on his face, whether he was already sure I was a member of the Gestapo.
The good impression is gone anyway, so I’ll put a wedge in it.
“Politicians in democratic countries are interested in lobbying Spanish conglomerates, not how many people will die. Even more so if you are a Republican with increasingly strong Soviet influence. And next year, your German citizenship will be revoked. Try to get Norwegian citizenship in advance.”
Billy Brandt’s expression is becoming more and more spectacular, but this is something that cannot be thrown at the media anyway. Furthermore, the exiles fled Nazi Germany.
“Soon Austria will be annexed by Germany and problems will arise in the German region of Czechoslovakia, Sudetenland. So, don’t waste your time here, abandoned in the world, go and gather the socialists.”
Now you’re gonna wonder what crazy this is all about. In fact, Willy Brandt’s face looked like a crazy human being.
I started to finish my meal, whether I did it or not, and in a moment of silence where I could only hear my chewing, Willy Brandt got up and left as if he had been possessed by a ghost.
Will he do as I tell him? I don’t know, but Spain will get away with it.
He can’t stay here at a time when a man who doesn’t know what else is Gestapo or what is, identifies himself as a Nazi purge target in Spain.
Still, he will be in a position to lead the social democrats who fled Germany, and I, who recited a history that I would never have known now, may look like a madman now, but when those events actually happen, they will be imprinted on him.
It was half of what I did impulsively, but with this, my thoughts were clearly organized.
Not just because I’m a Lieutenant, but if I’m under Nazi Germany, World War II will eventually happen.
It will happen in the most tragic form and in the most brutal way, and it will end with the most devastating results for those who caused it.
With so many Marshals of the Wehrmacht simply out of sight of Hitler, sacked, and purged for rebelling against the Führer and Germany, rank does not matter.
So if I want to prevent Germany from being destroyed as a war criminal and change the future, I have to act now if I want to survive as a human being in this age of madness.
【 Spanish Civil War – Collateral Damage (2) 】- End
1Hermann Göring, was addicted to morphine after receiving treatment for his injuries from the beer hall putsch in 1923.
Thank you for reading!