CHEFCHAOUEN, Morocco – It was only after the bombs fell on the picturesque northern Moroccan village of Chefchaouen that Capt. Paul Rockwell’s conscience betrayed some mild misgivings.
“The city looked lovely from the air, hugging its high mountain and surrounded with many gardens and green cultivations… I looked down upon the numerous sanctuaries, the six mosques, the medieval dungeon, the big square with its fountain playing and fervently hoped none of them had been damaged,” Rockwell is reported to have written a few years later. “I regretted having to attack a town that always had maintained its independence except for a few years of Spanish occupation.”
The bombing took place in the fall of 1925 and has the dubious distinction of being one of the first aerial bombardments of civilians in history, coming more than a decade before the infamous slaughter at Guernica during the Spanish Civil War, the pain of which was forever immortalized by Pablo Picasso. But the attack on Chefchaouen got no such high-profile a memorial, and the broader conflict that surrounded it, known as the Rif War, remains similarly low profile outside military history circles.