1 September 1939

Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers of Nazi Germany’s Luftwaffe.

1 September 1939: At 4:40 a.m., without provocation or warning, the German Luftwaffe attacked the town of Wieluń, Poland, in the first combat action of World War II.

Oberst Walter Sigel commanded the first wave of the attack.
Oberst Walter Sigel commanded the first wave of the attack.

Three waves of Junkers Ju 87 B Stuka dive bombers from Sturzkampfgeschwader 76 and Sturzkampfgeschwader 2 Immelman attacked the defenseless town and dropped 46,000 kilograms (101,413 pounds) of 500 and 50 kilogram bombs.

The first target was the Szpital Wszystkich Świętych (All Saints Hospital), which was marked with red crosses. 26 patients and 6 nurses were killed.

In just over one hour, 75% of the town was destroyed and more than 1,200 people were killed. The death rate was twice that of the infamous attack on the Spanish town of Guernica by the Nazi Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War.

By the time the war ended six years later, over 78,000,000 people had died.

Wieluń, Poland, after the Luftwaffe air raid of 1 September 1939. (Instytut Zachodni Poznań)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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