10 Air Attacks That Shook The World

10 Air Attacks That Shook The World

elizabeth - August 28, 2016

In order to maintain security in a conflicted world, air superiority has been essential for global-leading countries. Since the invention of the airplane, all major wars have been influenced and sometimes won or lost because of air attacks. In some instances, the attacks from the sky have been so devastating that even the countries who arranged them could not celebrate their victories due to the shock, fear and destruction caused.

The following guide covers ten air attacks that shook the world, either because of the level of destruction caused, the influence that the attack had on the course of war or because of their innovative approach.

1. Germany’s Blitzkrieg over Poland

10 Air Attacks That Shook The World

Germany’s Blitzkrieg, otherwise referred to as the lightning war began over Poland during the Second World War on September 1, 1939. The air attacks suffered in the Blitzkrieg were a thoroughly new type of warfare and shocked the world. The tactics used depended completely on speed and surprise and resulted in economical, infrastructural and psychological damage. The use of German Luftwaffe in conjunction with ground forces proved too strong for Poland to cope with and even Poland’s most capable aircraft, the P.Z.L P.11 was undermined by the power and speed of German forces.

The Poles attempted to defend their country but stood little chance against the devastating attacks from the skies and soon enough, the Soviet Union, who were acting in line with the Germans, crossed the border into Poland. Germany’s Blitzkrieg over Poland was the first of a horrific terror that ravished countries throughout Europe, including Belgium, France, and the Netherlands.

2. The Battle of Britain

10 Air Attacks That Shook The World

The German Blitzkrieg has devastated a number of European nations by the middle of 1940 and Hitler’s attentions turned to Great Britain. It was the dictator’s hope that he would be able to use his air power to destroy London and effectively take over the country. His plans laid out the course of air battles of World War Two and led to worldwide recognition for British capabilities in the form of the Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane. To overcome the obstacle of the English Channel, Hitler decided to take full control of the skies before inching his way into the United Kingdom.

The German Luftwaffe deployed a significantly large strike force, including 1300 bombers, 1200 single and twin-engine fighters and dive fighters. They were met by a much smaller British RAF force which comprised just 600 front-line fighters. However, the Germans were not organized well and were shocked by the superiority of British radar systems. Britain was successful in defending the country and destroyed almost 600 Messerschmitts and Heinkels from the German force. Following a British retaliation surprise attack on Berlin, Hitler became enraged and initiated further attacks on the UK. Attacks on London led to hoards of casualties but had allowed enough time for the British forces to regroup and prepare their defense. Despite boasting a much larger force, the lack of organization shown by German forces led to their inability to match the disciplined and superior British Spitfires and Hurricanes, who subsequently shot down German attempts.

3. The Pearl Harbor Attack

10 Air Attacks That Shook The World

On December 7, 1941, scores of Japanese Bomber planes flew across Hawaii to the harbor that held several American warships and servicemen, known as Pearl Harbor. The attack involved 353 Japanese bombers, fighters and torpedo planes, which caused utter destruction in the otherwise peaceful and resting area, on an unsuspecting and unprepared US Navy.

The Japanese attack had been planned as a preventive act, with the ambition of destroying vital American resources and allowing Japan more time to prepare themselves and strengthen their forces for the war. The Japanese were successful in causing massive levels of damage to the US Navy, including the destitution of four major battleships and the sinking of three cruisers, a minelayer, and three destroyers. Through their attempts to defend and because they had no expectation of the attack, the Americans also lost 200 aircraft, and approximately 2,500 men were killed, with scores more injured. The attack on Pearl Harbor shook the world because it was the first instance of a significant military air attack that began on land and instead used aircraft carriers.

The attack on Pearl Harbor led to President Roosevelt immediately declaring war on Japan, and this began a cycle of events and diplomatic allegiances. The Germans and Fascist Italians swiftly declared war on America and the US evolved their clandestine support for the UK into that of an active ally, cementing the United States’ entry into World War Two.

4. The Bombing of Guernica

10 Air Attacks That Shook The World

In April 1937, Guernica became the first city to be deliberately bombed during the Spanish Civil War. Because the city had withstood previous attacks since the outbreak of the war, it became a focal point for Franco, and he punished their resilience by allowing Hitler’s air force to attack the unprotected area. Franco’s Nationalists did not have a great deal of airpower, but Germany was keen to test and evaluate the development of the Luftwaffe. Hitler deployed his Condor Legion to Spain, led by Lieutenant Colonel Wolfram von Richthofen who was the cousin of the Red Baron of the First World War.

The Condor Legion began their attack brutally and in daylight. They flew as low as 600 feet because they had no fear of counterattack or fence from the city. The center of the city was bustling as it was market day. The bombers initially aimed for the main bridge that led into the city. Once this was destroyed, further waves of planes continued their attack, dropping further bombs on an already burning city.

By the time the Condor Legion ceased their attack and left, Guernica was ruined. The devastation was appalling, with 1,654 people dead and a further 889 wounded. The world was horrified by the attack but Franco declared that no such event had even occurred. Instead, he declared that the devastation of the city was caused by the inhabitants who defended it.

5. The Dambusters Raid

10 Air Attacks That Shook The World

Also known as Operation Chastise, the Dam Busters was a supreme Lancaster bomber unit who was led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC. Their mission was to drop the innovative creation of the bouncing bomb that had been invented by Dr. Barnes Wallis. During the night of 16th May 1943, Wing Commander Guy Gibson directed 617 Squadron of the RAF on a dramatic bombing campaign, with the mission of destroying three major dams in the Ruhr valley which was of huge industrial significance to the Germans.

From 9.28 pm on 16 May, 133 aircrew in 19 Lancasters deployed in three waves to begin the bombing of the dams. Gibson was in the first wave of flights and their goal was to attack the Möhne at 12.28 am. Unfortunately, five planes were forced to drop their bombs early, though the remaining aircraft were still able to deploy their attack and moved on to the Eder, which eventually collapsed at 1.52 am. During the same time, planes from the subsequent two waves dropped their bombs on the Sorpe, but the dam was not destroyed. 53 men were killed in the attack and three were captured as prisoners of war. The bombing raid resulted in the deaths of nearly 1,300 people on the ground because of the flooding caused by the burst dams.

6. The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

10 Air Attacks That Shook The World

On the morning of 6 August 1945, an American B-29 aircraft named the ‘Enola Gay’ dropped the main nuclear bomb that was used as a part of the war on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The bomb was dropped by parachute and blasted 580 m (1,900ft) over the ground. The bomb resulted in the immediate deaths of some 60,000 to 80,000 individuals. The extreme heat from the bomb was so intense that scores of people just vanished in the blast. The impact devastated more than ten square kilometers (six square miles) of the city.

Hiroshima was chosen because it had not been focused amid the US Air Force’s standard bombarding attacks on Japan. It was therefore deemed to be a reasonable location to test the impacts of a nuclear bomb. The bomb served to demonstrate America’s powers to the rest of the world and caused substantial shock, fear and turmoil across the globe.

On the morning of 9 August, the Americans dropped a second, greater nuclear bomb. The first target was Kokura, but because of cloud coverage, the bomb was dropped on adjacent Nagasaki, a major Japanese port. Around 40,000 individuals were killed immediately, and 33% of the city was obliterated. On 14 August, Japan consented to the Allies’ expressions of surrender. In the early afternoon on the next day, Emperor Hirohito communicated the news to the nation and it was the first time that his voice had been heard on the radio. After the war, Hiroshima was rebuilt as a peace remembrance city and the nearest surviving working to the epicenter was assigned the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. Nagasaki remains a vital piece of military history, demonstrating the power and devastation of previous wars and the potential destruction of future battles.

Surprise Fact: The Man Who Survived Two Atomic Bomb Blasts.

7. The Entebbe Raid

10 Air Attacks That Shook The World

The Entebbe attack occurred on the 3rd and 4th July 1976 and was conducted by an Israeli commando squad. The squad took to action to reduce 103 hostages from a hijacked French airliner which was traveling from Israel to France. The plane had stopped in Athens on 27th June 1976 and was hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine along with the Red Army Faction. The airliner was then flown to Entebbe, Uganda. Whilst here, the hijackers picked up further accomplices and let go of the hostages who did not seem to be Israeli or Jewish. The remaining hostages were kept and used as a bargaining tool for the desired release of 53 militants who were imprisoned in Israel, Kenya, West Germany, and other places. Israel responded to the hijacking on the 3rd of July by deploying four Hercules C-130H cargo planes carrying up to 200 soldiers. The force flew to Uganda and rescued the hostages within one hour of reaching their destination. The soldiers were also able to kill all seven of the militants, and 11 of the fighter planes that the Soviet Union had given to Uganda were also destroyed.

8. Operation Black Buck

10 Air Attacks That Shook The World

Operation Black Buck was a progression of RAF air assaults on Port Stanley during the 1982 Falklands War between Britain and Argentina. The assaults were carried out with the use of Vulcan aircraft which bolstered by Victor tankers which were all based out of Ascension Island.

Out of the seven attacks that were planned, a total of five Black Buck missions were effectively completed throughout the war. The air attacks were successful in forcing Argentina to pull back their forces from the Falkland Islands and back to the territory. Operation Black Buck caused the destruction of various Argentine radar systems, and several Argentine offices were besieged in the fifth and last mission.

The Black Buck missions were the main time that the Vulcan saw battle, in spite of forming a significant part of the RAF fleet for around 30 years.

9. Operation El Dorado Canyon

10 Air Attacks That Shook The World

On the night of 14th April 1986, the American Air Force embraced its first battle since Vietnam. During radio silence, the El Dorado Canyon strike power got off the ground. F-111Fs that normally flew a battle mission enduring three hours would instead be visible all around for 14 hours. There was great uncertainty as to whether the plane could endure such a mission, particularly as the bulk of the men in the cockpits had never seen the battle. Re-fueling frequently, the F-111Fs swarmed down on Tripoli not long after 12 pm. Flying inbound off the Libyan coast at a low level, the F-111F slammed in the Mediterranean.

Nobody knows whether Karma 52 had a mechanical breakdown, whether pilot Maj. Fernando L. Ribas-Dominicci flew into the water, or whether Gaddafi’s air protections scored a hit. The remains of the strike power went “downtown,” touching base over Tripoli at 2:00 a.m. neighborhood time. It was reported that Remit 31’s four bombs landed close to Gaddafi’s home, the Aziziyah Barracks, and supposedly resulted in the death of his baby daughter, Hanna. However, subsequent research and investigations have been unable to find confirmation that Gaddafi had a daughter named Hanna. The numbers of those killed amounted to around 60 on the ground, though Libyans declared that thousands had been killed.

10. The Korean War

10 Air Attacks That Shook The World

The Korean War which was a product of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States marked a milestone in aerial warfare. Apart from being the first military action of the Cold War, it’s also remembered as the first invasion that saw jet fighters actively participating in air battles. Initially, Germany had used jets in the closing days of the Second World War. However, they didn’t play a significant role at that time, and the Korean War was the first war to pitch jet plane against jet plane, like never before.

On 25th June 1950, North Korean forces invaded the south in an attempt to unite the country after the emergence of civil war following the two separate governments that had been formed after the liberation of Korea from the Japanese by the Soviet Union, who acted as a result of an agreement with the United States. Both governments claimed to be the legitimate government of Korea, and neither side accepted the border as permanent. The Soviet Union and China supported the North Korean forces while the US. (who recognized the North Korean act as an invasion) supported the South.

The early days of the battle saw aerial battles between US straight-winged Mustang fighter jets and Soviet Lavochkin La-7’s. The aerial battle became fiercer when the United Nations intervened in support of South Korea. More modern fighters including the American F-80 Shooting Star and F-86 Sabre, and the Soviet MiG 15 were brought in. As the war progressed, the Australian Air Force and British Hawker Sea Fury (responsible for shooting down more Communist aircraft than any other non-US power) were also introduced.

The Korean war ended on 27th July 1953, when an armistice was signed. The agreement created the Korean Demilitarized Zone to separate North and South Korea and allowed the return of prisoners. On the other hand, the USAF achieved more than 753 victories and suffered only 103 losses. In the aerial arena, the effectiveness of jet fighters was also demonstrated.

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