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Once Allied ground forces had captured islands sufficiently close to Japan, airfields were built on those islands (particularly Saipan As Ian Buruma observes, “News of the terrible consequences of the atom bomb attacks on Japan was deliberately withheld from the Japanese public by US military censors during the Allied occupation—even as they sought to teach the natives the virtues of a free press. Yet for the US, victory in subsequent wars—Korea, Indochina, Afghanistan and Iraq being the most notable—would prove extraordinarily elusive. Cf. At the same time, the nature of the targets and the weapons were transformed by new technologies and confronted new forms of resistance, and US leaders then and subsequently would insist that their targets were military and strategic even as they patently zeroed in on civilian populations. Many more who died in the following weeks and months go unrecorded. Ian Buruma, “Expect to be Lied to in Japan,” New York Review of Books, November 8, 2012. It has been overshadowed by the atomic bombing and by heroic narratives of American conduct in the “Good War” that has been and remains at the center of American national consciousness.2 Arguably, however, the central breakthroughs that would characterize the American way of war subsequently occurred in area bombing of noncombatants that built on German, Japanese and British bombing of cities prior to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Legacies of Chemical Warfare in Vietnam (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2011). 420-21; Cf. What was banned under the occupation were close-up images of victims whether of the firebombing or the atomic bombing captured on film by Japanese photographers, that is, the human face of the atomic holocaust that was captured on film in iconic photographs of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Tokyo by Japanese photographers. It was a language that elided state terrorism, notably the systematic killing of civilian populations that was a hallmark of US warfare from 1944 to the present, while focusing attention on non-state actors such as al-Qaeda and ISIS. The Strategic Bombing Survey estimated that 87,793 people died in the raid, 40,918 were injured, and 1,008,005 people lost their homes. 306–28. Nature reinforced man's handiwork in the form of akakaze, the red wind that swept with hurricane force across the Tokyo plain and propelled firestorms with terrifying speed and intensity. It has, however, incorporated annihilation of noncombatants into the bombing programs that have been integral to the myriad “conventional wars” that it waged subsequently, notably in Korea and Indochina. Fiske Hanley of Fort Worth, Texas, was an engineer on a B-29 bomber in the March 10, 1945, firebombing of Tokyo that killed about 100,000 people — more than the Aug. 9 atomic bombing … “One survey noted, ‘The common portable fire extinguisher of the C2, carbon tetrachloride, foam, and water pump can types were not used by Japanese firemen.’ In one of the most urbanized nations on earth there were four aerial ladders: three in Tokyo and one in Kyoto. In drawing attention to US bombing strategies deploying “conventional weapons” while keeping nuclear weapons in reserve since 1945, the point is not to deny the critical importance of the latter in shaping the global balance of power/balance of terror. . . The official death toll was some 83,000, but historians generally agree that victims unaccounted for bring the figure to around 100,000 -- overwhelmingly civilians. Mark Selden, “String of Pearls: The Archipelago of Bases, Military Colonization, and the Making of the American Empire in the Pacific,” International Journal of Okinawan Studies, Vol 3 No 1, June 2012 (Special Issue on Islands) pp. "They set to work at once sowing the sky with fire." 90-91. . Several times that number of civilians were injured and more than a million people were left homeless. pp. Thus, in eight days, with 1,600 sorties, LeMay’s air force burned out 32 square miles of the centers of Japan four largest cities, killing at least 150,000 people, though … Concerted efforts to protect civilians from the ravages of war peaked in the late nineteenth century, with the League of Nations following World War I, in the 1929 Geneva Convention, and again in the aftermath of World War II with the founding of the United Nations, German and Japanese War Crimes Tribunals, and the 1949 Geneva Accords and its 1977 Protocol.17 The Nuremberg Indictment defined “crimes against humanity” as “murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war,” language that could be interpreted to resonate with the area bombing campaigns conducted not only by Japan and Germany but also by Britain and the US . 596-97; Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Gate, The Pacific: Matterhorn to Nagasaki June 1944 to August 1945. An insightful discussion of Japanese war crimes in the Pacific, locating the issues within a comparative context of atrocities committed by the US, Germany, and other powers, is Yuki Tanaka’s Hidden Horrors: Japanese Crimes in World War II. but at the Tokyo Trials, defense attempts to raise the issue of American firebombing and the atomic bombing were ruled out by the court. U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, Field Report Covering Air Raid Protection and Allied Subjects Tokyo (n.p. John Dower’s nuanced historical perspective on war and racism in American thought and praxis in War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (New York: Pantheon Books, 1986). While the atomic bomb has overshadowed the firebombing in most realms in the nearly seven decades since 1945, notably as a major factor in assessing US-Soviet conflict and explaining the structure of a “Cold War” in world politics, we have shown not only that the firebombing took a greater cumulative toll in human life than the atomic bombs, but importantly that it became the core of US bombing strategy from that time forward. The Tokyo firestorming, code-named “Operation Meetinghouse”, was the single deadliest air raid of World War II by quite some distance. II The Firebombing and Atomic Bombing of Japanese Cities: History, Memory, Culture, Commemoration. Sec. Given the near total inability to fight fires of the magnitude produced that night10, it is possible, given the interest of the authorities in minimizing the scale of death and injury and the total inability of the civil defense efforts to respond usefully to the firestorm, to imagine that casualties may have been several times higher, more likely in the range of 200,000 than 100,000: this is an issue that merits the attention of researchers, beginning with the unpublished records of the US Strategic Bombing Survey which are now available for researchers. This investigation reported that the death toll from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima was 260,000, but the figure was adjusted to an estimated 140,000, following a United Nations report in 1976. This article has reflected on the political dynamics that lie behind the differential treatment of the firebombing and atomic bombing of Japan in both Japan and the United States, events that brought disaster to the Japanese nation, but also contributed to ending a bitter war and paved the way for the rebirth of a Japan stripped of its empire (but not its emperor) and prepared to embark on the rebuilding of the nation under American auspices. . Fisk and Karacas draw on Overall Report of Damage Sustained by the Nation During the Pacific War, Economic Stabilization Agency, Planning Department, Office of the Secretary General, 1949, which may be viewed here. Sherry observes that “Walt Disney imagined an orgiastic destruction of Japan by air in his 1943 animated feature Victory Through Air Power (based on Alexander P. De Seversky’s 1942 book),” while Karacas notes that the best-selling Japanese writer Unna Juzo, beginning in his early 1930s “air-defense novels”, anticipated the destruction of Tokyo by bombing.4 [And see Sheldon Garon’s discussion of civil defense in this symposium.]. David Fedman and Cary Karacas. The full fury of firebombing and napalm was unleashed on the night of March 9-10, 1945 when LeMay sent 334 B-29s low over Tokyo from the Marianas.5 In contrast to earlier US tactical bombing strategies emphasizing military targets, their mission was to reduce much of the city to rubble, kill its citizens, force survivors to flee, and instill terror in the survivors. . Aerial surveys revealed at least 60% of the city’s “built-up areas” were destroyed, leading to the conclusion that perhaps “as many as 200,000 of Hiroshima’s 340,000 residents perished or were injured,” as one United Press story put it. The Tokyo Air Raid started as a high altitude level carpet bombing over the main cities of Japan. . 180-81. 1947), p. 8, observes that Japanese police estimates make no mention of the numbers of people missing. In just two days, more than 100,000 people were killed, a million were … While firebombing never emerged as a major subject of American reflection or self-criticism, the atomic bombing eventually did. The death toll of that air raid alone was higher than the total number of people killed by all the other 92 urban firebombing raids on Japan during the war. Photograph by Ishikawa Koyo. No previous or subsequent conventional bombing raid anywhere ever came close to generating the toll in death and destruction of the great Tokyo raid of March 9-10. . Grayling, Among the Dead Cities, pp. 146-50; Barrett Tillman, Whirlwind. As predicted, ~1600 tons of napalm-filled incendiary bombs released over Tokyo in the next 48 hours initiated enormous firestorms that engulfed 15 square miles of the city. Michael Sherry, “The United States and Strategic Bombing: From Prophecy to Memory,” in Yuki Tanaka and Marilyn B. 521–37. After the war, only veterans and victims of the atomic bombings received special support. The firebombing of Tokyo was designed to terrorise and bomb the Japanese into surrender. The largest number of victims were the most vulnerable: women, children and the elderly.”. Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window), Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window), Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window), Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window), Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window), Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window), Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window), Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window). Tokyo firebombing This week marks the 60th anniversary of a March 9-10, 1945, air raid that killed an estimated 100,000 people in Tokyo. An extended fire swept over 15 square miles in 6 hours . If area bombing remained controversial, indeed, fiercely debated within military circles throughout much of World War II, by the end it would become the acknowledged centerpiece of war making, emblematic above all of the American way of war. This would become a hallmark of the American way of war, notably in campaigns from Korea and Indochina in the 1950s to 1975, but with new approaches that also took a devastating toll on civilians during the Gulf and Iraq Wars and throughout the Middle East in the new millennium. On March 9, 1945, with the code name “Operation Meetinghouse,” 334 B-29 bombers under the command of Colonel Curtis LeMay, took off from USAAF bases in the Mariana Islands. Photo by Matsushige Yoshito. Throughout the six month period from the March 9 attack that destroyed Tokyo until August 15, 1945, and above all in the wake of the US victory in Okinawa in mid-June 1945, a Japanese nation that was defeated in all but name continued to spurn unconditional surrender, eventually accepting the sacrifice of more than half a million Japanese subjects in Okinawa and Japan to secure a single demand: the safety of the emperor. An aerial armada of 334 B-29 bombers took off from newly established bases in the Mariana Islands, bound for Tokyo. Tokyo being one of them, was initially activated by the new Commander, Major-General Curtis Lemay. Although many people today are more aware of the bombing of Dresden than Tokyo, the bombing of Dresden a month earlier resulted in an estimated 18- 25,000 deaths. The Tokyo raid was followed by similar bombings of Nagoya (March 11), Osaka (March 13), and Kobe (March 16). Mark Selden is a Senior Research Associate in the East Asia Program at Cornell University, a Visiting Researcher at the Asian/Pacific/American Studies Institute at NYU and Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Binghamton University. Vol. It was also, of course, a war that catapulted the United States to global supremacy, and established the institutional foundations for the projection of American power in the form of a vast array of insular territories and a network of permanent and ever growing military bases as well as unrivaled technological supremacy and military power.23 Against these factors we turn to a consideration of the US firebombing and atomic bombing of Japan in history, memory, and commemoration. .”7. The area of the fire was nearly 100 percent burned; no structure or its contents escaped damage. Estimates of the number of people killed in the bombing of Tokyo on 10 March differ. Hiroshima after the bomb. Sherry, Air Power, p. 276. American Soldiers in Asia and the Pacific During World War II (New York: NYU Press, 2002) and John Dower, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (New York: Pantheon, 1986). After the war, the United States St… It appears that in the squaring off of the two superpowers, mutual targeting with atomic weapons was the centerpiece of direct conflict, while proxy fights, as in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, were fought with bombs ranging from firebombs to cluster bombs to defoliants. After the raid, 79,466 bodies were recovered and recorded. In my view, the SBS estimates both exaggerate the killed to injured ratio and understate the numbers killed in the Tokyo raid. Viewed from another angle, it would be worth inquiring about Japanese responses to the bombing. Hiroshima, the famous account written by John Hersey for The New Yorker, had a huge impact in the US, but was banned in Japan. Bodies of people trapped and burned as they fled through a street during the attack on Tokyo on the night of March 9-10. The firebombing of Tokyo is often overshadowed by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And while the atomic bomb would leave a deep imprint on the collective consciousness of the twentieth century, in most countries memory of the area bombings and firebombing of major cities soon disappeared from the consciousness of all but the surviving victims and their families. Such a view is, I believe, negated by US participation in area bombing attacks at Dresden in 1944. According to Japanese police statistics, the 65 raids on Tokyo between December 6, 1944 and August 13, 1945 resulted in 137,582 casualties, 787,145 homes and buildings destroyed, and 2,625,279 people displaced.8 The figure of roughly 100,000 deaths, provided by Japanese and American authorities, both of whom may have had reasons of their own for minimizing the death toll, seems to me arguably low in light of population density, wind conditions, and survivors’ accounts.9 With an average of 103,000 inhabitants per square mile and peak levels as high as 135,000 per square mile, the highest density of any industrial city in the world, 15.8 square miles of Tokyo were destroyed on a night when fierce winds whipped the flames and walls of fire blocked scores of thousands who attempted to flee. The Tokyo Fire Department gave the total number of casualties as 97,000 dead and 125,000 wounded, although historians 40 years later would argue that the … It was also seen as payback for the Pearl Harbour attacks and the mistreatment of Allied prisoners of war. Film shot by Japanese cameramen in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the bombings was confiscated. Could be interpreted . The high level bombing runs proved to be ineffective in a military standpoint. This paper assesses the impact and historical significance of US firebombing and atomic bombing of Japan in World War II and its subsequent legacy. More people were killed in the Tokyo firebombing of March 9-10 than in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki five months later. Japanese ideological mobilization and control was such that there are no signs of resistance to the government’s suicidal perpetuation of the war at any time during the bombing campaign. The Air War Against Japan, 1942-1945, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010) pp. In the space of a few hours, they dropped 1,667 tons of napalm-filled incendiary bombs on the Japanese capital, killing more than 100,000 people in a single strike, and injuring several times that number. U.S. casualties were painful but small in proportion to the magnitude of the mission’s success. Although many assume Hiroshima was worse, the firebombing of Tokyo killed the most people of any air raid in history — from 80,000 to over 100,000, Powerful pictures of Tokyo after firebombing-, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2986094/Japan-s-forgotten-victims-pictures-Tokyo-recovered-70-years-firebomb-strike-killed-Nagasaki-single-attack.html, Eyewitness account:http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/tokyo.htm, Your email address will not be published. How many people died on the night of March 9-10 in what flight commander Gen. Thomas Power termed “the greatest single disaster incurred by any enemy in military history?” The Strategic Bombing Survey estimated that 87,793 people died in the raid, 40,918 were injured, and 1,008,005 people lost their homes. Overall, by Sahr Conway-Lanz’s calculation, the US firebombing campaign destroyed 180 square miles of 67 cities, killed more than 300,000 people and injured an additional 400,000, figures that exclude the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which took 140,000 lives by the end of 1945.13 Cary Karacas and Bret Fisk conclude that the firebombing raids “destroyed a significant percentage of most of Japan’s cities, wiped out a quarter of all housing in the country, made nine million people homeless, and killed at least 187,000 civilians, and injured 214,000 more,” while suggesting that the actual figures are likely higher.14. The death toll was on par with the August 6 atomic attack on Hiroshima. The most devastating bombing campaign in all of the war in the Pacific. Takashi Yoshida, The Making of the “Rape of Nanking”: History and Memory in Japan, China and the United States (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006) examines the understanding of the Nanjing Massacre in each country. The Tokyo Fire Department estimated 97,000 killed and 125,000 wounded. Capture of the Marianas, including Guam, Tinian and Saipan in summer 1944 had placed Japanese cities within effective range of the B-29 “Superfortress” bombers, while Japan’s depleted air and naval power and a blockade that cut off oil supplies left it virtually defenseless against sustained air attack. First, it suggested that there was little that Japanese authorities or any nation could have done in the face of such overwhelming technological power. The human toll that night exceeded that of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki later that year, where the initial blasts killed about 70,000 people and … The US would celebrate the power of the bomb in powerful visual statements of the birth of the nuclear era that would be directed at the entire world on August 6, on August 9 and in the decades that followed, both in officially controlled photographic images and in privileged reportage, notably that of New York Times science reporter William R. Laurence. Far from it. Cary Karacas, “Place, Public Memory, and the Tokyo Air Raids.” Geographical Review 100, no. Washington immediately announced the atomic bomb’s destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and released the iconic photographs of the mushroom cloud. The firebombing raids on Tokyo, codenamed Operation Meetinghouse, were low altitude incendiary bombing raids ordered by General Curtis LeMay. resonate if only with the first of the categories listed.18 For the most part, these efforts have done little to stay the hand of power, though they have sometimes aroused public consciousness and provided a reference point for campaigns aiming to protect civilians from destruction. The Tokyo fire department put the casualties at 97,000 killed and 125,000 wounded, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department believed that 124,711 people had been killed or wounded. Estimates for the death toll in the firebombing of Tokyo range from 70,000 to almost 200,000, with most historians settling for around 130,000. John W. Dower, “Sensational Rumors, Seditious Graffiti, and the Nightmares of the Thought Police,” in Japan in War and Peace (New York: The New Press, 1993), p. 117. Young, eds., Bombing Civilians: A twentieth century history (New York: The New Press, 2009), pp. (Studio) Death toll from March 1945 allied firebombing of Tokyo, Japan, recalled greater than that of either Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Sahr Conway-Lanz, Collateral Damage, p. 1. Robert Guillain was a French reporter assigned to Japan in 1938. These bombings were especially horrifying because no more than two bombs destroyed many homes and killed almost 120 thousand people. No previous or subsequent conventional bombing raid anywhere ever came close to generating the toll in death and destruction of the great Tokyo raid of March 9-10, 1945. Although estimates vary, between 80,000-130,000 Japanese civilians were killed in the worst single firestorm in recorded history. This did not mean suppression of all information about the atomic bombing or the firebombings. The Survey’s killed-to-injured ratio of better than two to one was far higher than most estimates for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki where killed and wounded were approximately equal. As Michael Sherry and Cary Karacas have pointed out for the US and Japan respectively, prophecy preceded practice in the destruction of Japanese cities. In Year 501: The Conquest Continues (Boston: South End Press, 1993) and many other works, Noam Chomsky emphasizes the continuities in Western ideologies that undergird practices leading to the annihilation of entire populations in the course of colonial and expansionist wars over half a millennium and more. . Curtis LeMay was appointed commander of the 21st Bomber Command in the Pacific on January 20, 1945. But in 1945 only one of Tokyo’s trucks was operational . Following the Tokyo raid of March 9-10, the firebombing was extended nationwide. This paper reflects on the meaning of the atomic age and the nature of U.S. strategic principles, in light of U.S. fire bombing in the final months of the war. The strategic and ethical implications and human consequences of German and Japanese bombing of civilians, and especially the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, have generated a vast, contentious literature. In Japan, the US air war reached peak intensity with area bombing and climaxed with the atomic bombing of Japanese cities between the night of March 9-10 and Japan’s August 15, 1945 surrender. The Japanese later called this the “Night of the Black Snow.” . Estimates of the number killed range between 80,000 and 200,000, a higher death toll than that produced by the dropping of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima or Nagasaki six months later. The firebombing, by contrast raised uncomfortable issues about the government’s decision to perpetuate the war through six months of punishing bombing with no alternative except defeat. Moral Dimensions of World War II (New York: Knopf, 2006), pp. Comments, contributions, corrections, and suggestions are always welcome: Your email address will not be published. Reporter: Bob Schieffer ( Tokyo, codenamed Operation Meetinghouse, were low altitude incendiary bombing raids ordered by Curtis... Cities: history, Memory, Culture, commemoration yet for the Pearl attacks. Firebombing feel their pain has been forgotten, by history and by the Commander! It was also seen as payback for the firebombing was extended nationwide being one of them, was initially by. Semi-Monthly Newsletter to learn and link to the bombing or the atomic bombing be worth inquiring about Japanese responses firebombing... 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