Murderers Row US Aircraft Carriers of Task Force 58THIS WEEK IN WORLD WAR II

FIREBOMBING OF TOKYO

Do you know about the annual blogging event, Blogging from A to Z April Challenge.  I participated for the first time last year and plan on joining in again this year.  This year my theme will be World War II so I hope you visit my blog in April when I bring you World War II from A to Z.  You will be able to access the posts from a page dedicated to the challenge and also revisit my posts from the 2014 challenge.

firebombing-of-tokyoThe aftermath of the single deadliest air raid of World War II, the firebombing of Tokyo

I think there will always be a great debate over what was necessary during the war and do certain actions lay the ground work to bring the war to an end.  I can’t pretend to be knowledgeable enough to get into that debate, but I think it is necessary to be informed.  Some of the photographs I saw in my research for this weeks post were too gruesome so I chose not to use them.

On March 9, 1945, U.S. warplanes launch a new bombing offensive against Japan, dropping 2,000 tons of incendiary bombs on Tokyo over the course of the next 48 hours. Almost 16 square miles in and around the Japanese capital were incinerated, and between 80,000 and 130,000 Japanese civilians were killed in the worst single firestorm in recorded history.

Ruthless-american-tokyo-bombing-1945-001Tokyo residents who lost their homes as a result of the U.S. bombing of the city. March 10, 1945.

Early on March 9, Air Force crews met on the Mariana Islands of Tinian and Saipan for a military briefing. They were planning a low-level bombing attack on Tokyo that would begin that evening, but with a twist: Their planes would be stripped of all guns except for the tail turret.

b_29_bomber_630xB-29 Superfortresses wing by snow-covered Mount Fuji. Photo: Bettmann/Corbis

The decrease in weight would increase the speed of each Superfortress bomber-and would also increase its bomb load capacity by 65 percent, making each plane able to carry more than seven tons. Speed would be crucial, and the crews were warned that if they were shot down, all haste was to be made for the water, which would increase their chances of being picked up by American rescue crews. Should they land within Japanese territory, they could only expect the very worst treatment by civilians, as the mission that night was going to entail the deaths of tens of thousands of those very same civilians.

Curtis_LeMay_(USAF)General Curtis E. LeMay USAF

“You’re going to deliver the biggest firecracker the Japanese have ever seen,” said U.S. Gen. Curtis LeMay.

The cluster bombing of the downtown Tokyo suburb of Shitamachi had been approved only a few hours earlier. Shitamachi was composed of roughly 750,000 people living in cramped quarters in wooden-frame buildings. Setting ablaze this “paper city” was a kind of experiment in the effects of firebombing; it would also destroy the light industries, called “shadow factories,” that produced prefabricated war materials destined for Japanese aircraft factories.

0

The denizens of Shitamachi never had a chance of defending themselves. Their fire brigades were hopelessly undermanned, poorly trained, and poorly equipped. At 5:34 p.m., Superfortress B-29 bombers took off from Saipan and Tinian, reaching their target at 12:15 a.m. on March 10. Three hundred and thirty-four bombers, flying at a mere 500 feet, dropped their loads, creating a giant bonfire fanned by 30-knot winds that helped raze Shitamachi and spread the flames throughout Tokyo. Masses of panicked and terrified Japanese civilians scrambled to escape the inferno, most unsuccessfully. The human carnage was so great that the blood-red mists and stench of burning flesh that wafted up sickened the bomber pilots, forcing them to grab oxygen masks to keep from vomiting.

Tokyo_1945-3-10-1Industrial section of Tokyo along the Sumida River

The raid lasted slightly longer than three hours. “In the black Sumida River, countless bodies were floating, clothed bodies, naked bodies, all black as charcoal. It was unreal,” recorded one doctor at the scene. Only 243 American airmen were lost and considered acceptable losses.

This video tells the entire story.  After researching this subject and watching this video, I still can’t get my mind around Japan refusing to surrender.

Advertisements

4 responses

  1. Arlee Bird says:

    Your A to Z topic sounds very interesting. War causes us to have to make horrible decisions.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    A Faraway View

    Like

  2. Birgit says:

    The civilian life that suffered is beyond comprehension. I am certain the men who let the bombs go had to deal with PTSD. My mom survived Hamburg and Dresden. She also saw bodies go up in flames. She also escaped Hamburg by wading in with all the dead bodies into the river, and slowly made her away out of the city. I just can’t fathom having to go through this. You are right…how could the Japanese not surrender? It is their culture and way of life that creates the answer that we still shake our heads at

    Like

    • It is so hard to understand a culture that doesn’t include any self-preservation. I think also that the propaganda fed to the Japanese people had them believing things were better. I am sure we had our share of propaganda fed to our people too.

      Like