Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Bombing of Tokyo in World War II

Bombing of Tokyo in World War II

Overview
The bombing of Tokyo, often referred to as a "firebombing", was conducted by the United States Army Air Forces
United States Army Air Forces
The United States Army Air Forces was the military aviation arm of the United States of America during and immediately after World War II, and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force....

 during the Pacific campaigns
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

 of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The U.S. mounted a small-scale raid on Tokyo in April 1942, with large morale effects. Strategic bombing
Strategic bombing
Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in a total war with the goal of defeating an enemy nation-state by destroying its economic ability and public will to wage war rather than destroying its land or naval forces...

 and urban area bombing began in 1944 after the long-range B-29 Super Fortress bomber entered service, first employed from China and thereafter the Mariana Islands
Mariana Islands
The Mariana Islands are an arc-shaped archipelago made up by the summits of 15 volcanic mountains in the north-western Pacific Ocean between the 12th and 21st parallels north and along the 145th meridian east...

. B-29 raids from those islands commenced on November 17, 1944 and lasted until August 15, 1945, the day Japan capitulated.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Bombing of Tokyo in World War II'
Start a new discussion about 'Bombing of Tokyo in World War II'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Recent Discussions
Encyclopedia
The bombing of Tokyo, often referred to as a "firebombing", was conducted by the United States Army Air Forces
United States Army Air Forces
The United States Army Air Forces was the military aviation arm of the United States of America during and immediately after World War II, and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force....

 during the Pacific campaigns
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

 of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The U.S. mounted a small-scale raid on Tokyo in April 1942, with large morale effects. Strategic bombing
Strategic bombing
Strategic bombing is a military strategy used in a total war with the goal of defeating an enemy nation-state by destroying its economic ability and public will to wage war rather than destroying its land or naval forces...

 and urban area bombing began in 1944 after the long-range B-29 Super Fortress bomber entered service, first employed from China and thereafter the Mariana Islands
Mariana Islands
The Mariana Islands are an arc-shaped archipelago made up by the summits of 15 volcanic mountains in the north-western Pacific Ocean between the 12th and 21st parallels north and along the 145th meridian east...

. B-29 raids from those islands commenced on November 17, 1944 and lasted until August 15, 1945, the day Japan capitulated. The Operation Meetinghouse air raid of 9–10 March 1945 was later estimated to be the single most destructive bombing raid in history.

Doolittle Raid



The first raid on Tokyo
Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

 was the Doolittle Raid
Doolittle Raid
The Doolittle Raid, on 18 April 1942, was the first air raid by the United States to strike the Japanese Home Islands during World War II. By demonstrating that Japan itself was vulnerable to American air attack, it provided a vital morale boost and opportunity for U.S. retaliation after the...

 of 18 April 1942, when sixteen B-25 Mitchell
B-25 Mitchell
The North American B-25 Mitchell was an American twin-engined medium bomber manufactured by North American Aviation. It was used by many Allied air forces, in every theater of World War II, as well as many other air forces after the war ended, and saw service across four decades.The B-25 was named...

s were launched from USS Hornet
USS Hornet (CV-8)
USS Hornet CV-8, the seventh ship to carry the name Hornet, was a of the United States Navy. During World War II in the Pacific Theater, she launched the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo and participated in the Battle of Midway and the Buin-Faisi-Tonolai Raid...

 to attack targets including Yokohama
Yokohama
is the capital city of Kanagawa Prefecture and the second largest city in Japan by population after Tokyo and most populous municipality of Japan. It lies on Tokyo Bay, south of Tokyo, in the Kantō region of the main island of Honshu...

 and Tokyo and then fly on to airfields in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

. The raid was the retaliation against the Japanese attack
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 on Pearl Harbor. The raid did no damage to Japan's war capability but was a significant propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 victory for the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Launched prematurely, none of the attacking aircraft reached the designated airfields, either crashing or ditching (except for one aircraft which landed in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, where the crew was officially interned and secretly repatriated). Two crews were captured by the Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese in occupied China and killed.

B-29 raids




The key development for the bombing of Japan was the B-29 bomber plane, which had an operational range of 3,250 nautical miles (6,019 km); almost 90% of the bombs dropped on the home islands of Japan were delivered by this type of bomber. Once Allied ground forces had captured islands sufficiently close to Japan, airfields were built on those islands (particularly Saipan
Saipan
Saipan is the largest island of the United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands , a chain of 15 tropical islands belonging to the Marianas archipelago in the western Pacific Ocean with a total area of . The 2000 census population was 62,392...

 and Tinian
Tinian
Tinian is one of the three principal islands of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.-Geography:Tinian is about 5 miles southwest of its sister island, Saipan, from which it is separated by the Saipan Channel. It has a land area of 39 sq.mi....

) and B-29s could reach Japan for bombing missions.

The initial raids were carried out by the Twentieth Air Force
Twentieth Air Force
The Twentieth Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Global Strike Command . It is headquartered at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming.20 AF's primary mission is Intercontinental Ballistic Missile operations...

 operating out of mainland China in Operation Matterhorn
Operation Matterhorn
Operation Matterhorn was a military operations plan of the United States Army Air Forces in World War II for the strategic bombing of Japanese forces by B-29 Superfortresses based in India and China. Targets included Japan itself, and Japanese bases in China and South East Asia...

 under XX Bomber Command
XX Bomber Command
The XX Bomber Command is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with Far East Air Forces, based on Okinawa. It was inactivated on July 16, 1945.- History:...

, but these could not reach Tokyo. Operations from the Northern Mariana Islands
Northern Mariana Islands
The Northern Mariana Islands, officially the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands , is a commonwealth in political union with the United States, occupying a strategic region of the western Pacific Ocean. It consists of 15 islands about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines...

 commenced in November 1944 after the XXI Bomber Command
XXI Bomber Command
The XXI Bomber Command was a unit of the Twentieth Air Force in Guam for strategic bombing during World War II.- Lineage:* Constituted as XXI Bomber Command on 1 Mar 1944, and activated the same day.-Assignments:...

 was activated there. The B-29s of XX Bomber Command were transferred to XXI Bomber Command in the spring of 1945 and based on Guam
Guam
Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is one of five U.S. territories with an established civilian government. Guam is listed as one of 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories by the Special Committee on Decolonization of the United...

.

The first raid using low-flying B-29s carrying incendiary bombs
Incendiary device
Incendiary weapons, incendiary devices or incendiary bombs are bombs designed to start fires or destroy sensitive equipment using materials such as napalm, thermite, chlorine trifluoride, or white phosphorus....

 to drop on Tokyo was in February 1945 when 174 B-29s destroyed around one square mile (3 km²) of the city. Changing their tactics to expand the coverage and increase the damage, 335 B-29s took off to raid on the night of 9–10 March, with 279 of them dropping around 1,700 tons of bombs. Fourteen B-29s were lost. Approximately 16 square miles (41.4 km²) of the city were destroyed and some 100,000 people are estimated to have died in the resulting firestorm
Firestorm
A firestorm is a conflagration which attains such intensity that it creates and sustains its own wind system. It is most commonly a natural phenomenon, created during some of the largest bushfires, forest fires, and wildfires...

, more than the immediate deaths of either the Hiroshima
Hiroshima
is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, and the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu, the largest island of Japan. It became best known as the first city in history to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb on it at 8:15 A.M...

 or Nagasaki atomic bombs. The US Strategic Bombing Survey
Strategic bombing survey (Pacific War)
The "Strategic bombing survey " was a United States Army Air Forces report on the impact of strategic bombing in World War II in the Pacific Campaign.A separate report was made for the atomic attacks.- External links :* *...

 later estimated that nearly 88,000 people died in this one raid, 41,000 were injured, and over a million residents lost their homes. The Tokyo Fire Department estimated a higher toll: 97,000 killed and 125,000 wounded. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department
Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department
The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department serves as the police force for the entire Tokyo metropolis. Founded in 1874, it is headed by a superintendent general, who is appointed by the National Public Safety Commission and approved by the prime minister.The Metropolitan Police, with a staff of more...

 established a figure of 124,711 casualties including both killed and wounded and 286,358 buildings and homes destroyed. Richard Rhodes
Richard Rhodes
Richard Lee Rhodes is an American journalist, historian, and author of both fiction and non-fiction , including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Making of the Atomic Bomb , and most recently, The Twilight of the Bombs...

, historian, put deaths at over 100,000, injuries at a million and homeless residents at a million. These casualty and damage figures could be low; Mark Selden
Mark Selden
Mark Selden is a Coordinator of the open access journal The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, a Senior Research Associate in the East Asia Program at Cornell University, and Bartle Professor of History and Sociology at Binghamton University. He graduated from Amherst College with a major in...

 wrote in Japan Focus:
The destruction and damage were greatest in the parts of the city to the east of the Imperial Palace. Over 50% of Tokyo was destroyed by the end of World War II. The firebombing of Tokyo on the night of March 9/10, 1945 was the single deadliest air raid of World War II; greater than Dresden
Bombing of Dresden in World War II
The Bombing of Dresden was a military bombing by the British Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force and as part of the Allied forces between 13 February and 15 February 1945 in the Second World War...

, Hiroshima, or Nagasaki
Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
During the final stages of World War II in 1945, the United States conducted two atomic bombings against the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, the first on August 6, 1945, and the second on August 9, 1945. These two events are the only use of nuclear weapons in war to date.For six months...

 as single events.

Partial list of B-29 missions against Tokyo

  • 19 February 1945: 119 B-29s hit port and urban area
  • 25 February 1945: 174 B-29s dropping incendiaries destroy ~28,000 buildings
  • 4 March 1945: 159 B-29s hit urban area
  • 10 March 1945: 334 B-29s dropping incendiaries destroy ~267,000 buildings; ~25% of city (Operation Meetinghouse) killing some 100,000
  • 2 April 1945: >100 B-29s bomb the Nakajima aircraft factory
  • 3 April 1945: 68 B-29s bomb the Koizumi aircraft factory and urban areas in Tokyo
  • 7 April 1945: 101 B-29s bomb the Nakajima aircraft factory.
  • 13 April 1945: 327 B-29s bomb the arsenal area
  • 15 April 1945: 109 B-29s hit urban area
  • 24 May 1945: 520 B-29s bomb urban-industrial area south of the Imperial Palace
  • 26 May 1945: 464 B-29s bomb urban area immediately south of the Imperial Palace
  • 20 July 1945: 1 B-29 drops a Pumpkin bomb
    Pumpkin bomb
    Pumpkin bombs were conventional high explosive aerial bombs developed by the Manhattan Project and used by the United States Army Air Forces against Japan during World War II...

     (bomb with same ballistics as the Fat Man
    Fat Man
    "Fat Man" is the codename for the atomic bomb that was detonated over Nagasaki, Japan, by the United States on August 9, 1945. It was the second of the only two nuclear weapons to be used in warfare to date , and its detonation caused the third man-made nuclear explosion. The name also refers more...

     nuclear bomb) through overcast aiming at but missing the Imperial Palace
  • 8 August 1945: ~60 B-29s bomb the aircraft factory and arsenal
  • 10 August 1945: 70 B-29s bomb the arsenal complex

Other attacks


Additional missions against Tokyo targets were carried out by twin-engine bombers and by fighter-bombers.

Immediate effects and aftermath of the firebombings




Damage to Tokyo's heavy industry was slight until firebombing destroyed much of the light industry that was used as an integral source for small machine parts and time-intensive processes. Firebombing also killed or made homeless many workers who had been taking part in war industry. Over 50% of Tokyo's industry was spread out among residential and commercial neighborhoods; firebombing cut the whole city's output in half.

The Imperial Palace
Kokyo
is the main residence of the Emperor of Japan. It is a large park-like area located in the Chiyoda area of Tokyo close to Tokyo Station and contains several buildings including the main palace , the emperor left Kyoto Imperial Palace for Tokyo...

 was surrounded by areas destroyed by firebombing. The main Palace itself (Kyūden), home of the Imperial General Headquarters
Imperial General Headquarters
The as part of the Supreme War Council was established in 1893 to coordinate efforts between the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy during wartime...

, took heavy damage by fire, even though bombing it was specifically prohibited by USAAF order.

Emperor Hirohito
Hirohito
, posthumously in Japan officially called Emperor Shōwa or , was the 124th Emperor of Japan according to the traditional order, reigning from December 25, 1926, until his death in 1989. Although better known outside of Japan by his personal name Hirohito, in Japan he is now referred to...

's viewing of the destroyed areas of Tokyo in March, 1945, is said to have been the beginning of his personal involvement in the peace process, culminating in Japan's surrender
Surrender of Japan
The surrender of Japan in 1945 brought hostilities of World War II to a close. By the end of July 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy was incapable of conducting operations and an Allied invasion of Japan was imminent...

 five months later.

Postwar recovery


After the war, Tokyo struggled to rebuild. In 1945/1946, the city received a share of the national reconstruction budget roughly proportional to its amount of bombing damage (26.6%), but in successive years Tokyo saw its share dwindle. By 1949, Tokyo was given only 10.9% of the budget; at the same time there was runaway inflation devaluing the money as Japan was spending more than it was bringing in from taxes. Occupation authorities such as Joseph Dodge
Joseph Dodge
Joseph Morrell Dodge was a chairman of the Detroit Bank, now Comerica, and later served as an economic advisor for postwar economic stabilization programs in Germany and Japan....

 stepped in and drastically cut back on Japanese government rebuilding programs, focusing instead on simply improving roads and transportation. Tokyo did not experience fast economic growth until the 1950s.

Between 1948 and 1951 the ashes of 105,400 people killed in the attacks on Tokyo were interred in Yokoamicho Park
Yokoamicho Park
is a public park in the Yokoami district of Sumida, Tokyo, Japan.-History:Following the Great Kantō earthquake on 1 September 1923, as many as 44,000 people were killed in the park when it was swept by a firestorm...

 in Sumida Ward
Sumida, Tokyo
is one of the 23 special wards of Tokyo, Japan. It calls itself Sumida City in English.As of 2008, the ward has an estimated population of 240,296 and a density of 17,480 persons per km²...

. A memorial to the raids was opened in the park in March 2001.

Postwar debate and legal dispute


In 2007, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzō apologized in print, acknowledging Japan's bombing of Chinese cities beginning in 1938, killing civilians. He wrote that the Japanese government should have surrendered as soon as losing the war was inevitable, an action that would have prevented Tokyo from being firebombed in March 1945, as well as subsequent bombings of other cities. Thereafter, survivors banded together and unsuccessfully sued the Japanese government for compensation; however, efforts continue.

Web