No previous or subsequent conventional bombing raid ever came close to generating the toll in death and destruction of the great Tokyo raid of March 9-10. The airborne assault on Tokyo and other Japanese cities ground on relentlessly. 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. Following the Tokyo raid of March 9-10, the firebombing was extended nationwide. In the ten-day period beginning on March 9, 9,373 tons of bombs destroyed 31 square miles of Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe. Overall, bombing strikes destroyed 40 percent of the 66 Japanese cities targeted, with total tonnage dropped on Japan increasing from 13,800 tons in March to 42,700 tons in July. If the bombing of Dresden produced a ripple of public debate in Europe, no discernible wave of revulsion, not to speak of protest, took place in the US or Europe in the wake of the far greater destruction of Japanese cities and the slaughter of civilian populations on a scale that had no parallel in the history of bombing.
In July, US planes blanketed the few remaining Japanese cities that had been spared firebombing with an “Appeal to the People.” “As you know,” it read, “America which stands for humanity, does not wish to injure the innocent people, so you had better evacuate these cities.” Half the leafleted cities were firebombed within days of the warning. US planes ruled the skies. Overall, by one 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.
Between January and July 1945, the US firebombed and destroyed all but five Japanese cities, deliberately sparing Kyoto, the ancient imperial capital, and four others. The extent of the destruction was impressive ranging from 50 to 60% of the urban area destroyed in cities including Kobe, Yokohama and Tokyo, to 60 to 88% in seventeen cities, to 98.6% in the case of Toyama. In the end, the Atomic Bomb Selection Committee chose Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, and Nagasaki as the pristine targets to display the awesome power of the atomic bomb to Japan and the world in the event that would both bring to a spectacular end the costliest war in human history and send a powerful message to the Soviet Union.
Lew Rockwell blogged a couple years ago:
Writes Eli Cryderman:Knowing my hobby for history, a relative gave me a “This Day in History” desk calendar from the History channel. The historical accounts of the events recognized are dubious at best and offer a unique perspective on the State’s propaganda machine, though the basic facts of each day are somewhat accurate; today’s entry doesn’t disappoint.March 9, 1945: Firebombing of Tokyo
The United States instigated the worst firestorm on record against Tokyo on this day in 1945. The attack, which involved over two thousand tons of incendiary bombs and raged for two days, killed as many as 130,000 Japanese civilians. The United States Air Force, which had convened earlier that day to plot the attack, lightened the war planes and increased storage space for the incendiary bombs by unloading virtually all of the guns onboard. Thanks to this strategy, the planes not only were able to carry more bombs, but the lighter vessels could maneuver more quickly and precisely. A total of 243 Americans died during the firestorm.” [emphasis mine]
Incendiary bombs do not kill like traditional bombs that destroy with massive concussions; they burn buildings and people. Let me rephrase that: THEY BURN PEOPLE TO DEATH! It wasn’t until August that we decided those dirty Japs didn’t burn fast enough with white phosphorous and came up with the brilliant plan of vaporizing them in a matter of seconds with a couple of well placed new-ku-ler bombs over known civilian cities with little to do with Japan’s pitiful end-of-war-time production industry.
March Madness indeed: Go, State, Go! Go, State, Go!
UPDATE from Carl SchmahlDefensive armaments (and camouflage paint) could be removed from those B-29s because they encountered no significant resistance from the Japanese air force, which had been effectively destroyed by then. In other words, American flyers dropped incendiaries at will over a population center full of, mostly, old men, women and children, who had no way to resist.
By this period of the war, the area bombing of civilian population centers had sufficiently hardened the strategic planners to the death and mayhem that they caused that dropping the atomic bomb was only the next logical step – more bang for the buck so to speak: instead of a thousand plane raid, one plane would suffice.
My hope is that as the “Greatest Generation” and its rationalizations fade away, people will begin to understand the horrors which we perpetrated in WW2. But I wouldn’t take any bets on that.