On this day…in 1941
On this day in 1941, Adolf Hitler sends two bombers to Iraq to support Rashid Ali al-Gailani in his revolt against Britain, which is trying to enforce a previously agreed upon Anglo-Iraqi alliance.
At the start of the war, Iraqi Prime Minister General Nuri as-Said severed ties with Germany and signed a cooperation pact with Great Britain. In April 1941, the Said government was overthrown by Ali, an anti-British general, who proceeded to cut off the British oil pipeline to the Mediterranean.
Britain fought back by landing a brigade on the Persian Gulf, successfully fending off 9,000 Iraqi troops. Ali retaliated by sealing off the British airbase at Habbaniya. Hitler, elated at the grief the British enemy was enduring in the Middle East, began sending arms, via Syria, as well as military experts to aid Ali in his revolt.
On May 12, Hitler sent Major Axel von Blomberg, an air force officer who was to act as a liaison between Iraq and Germany to Iraq, along with the two bombers. Blomberg arrived in the middle of an air battle between Iraqi and British fighters and was shot dead by a stray British bullet.
By the end of the month, Iraq had surrendered, and Britain re-established the terms of the original 1930 cooperation pact. A pro-British government formed, with a cabinet led by former Prime Minister Said.
Iraq went on to become a valuable resource for British and American forces in the region and in January 1942 became the first independent Muslim state to declare war on the Axis powers.