On the night of 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
READ MORE: World War II Bombings Were So Powerful They Sent Shockwaves to Space
The Firebombing of Tokyo and Its Legacy
Bret Fisk is a translator and director of an English conversation school living in Odawara, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan. With Cary Karacas he is the co-creator of JapanAirRaids.org, a bilingual digital archive.
Cary Karacas is an assistant professor of geography at the City University of New York, College of Staten Island. His research focuses on the Japan air raids and issues of place and memory.
This article is the introduction to a series of articles on the Tokyo bombings published by JapanFocus. Links to the rest of the series can be found under Related Links at the bottom of the page.
More than sixty-five years after the Great Tokyo Air Raid of March 10, 1945, and the subsequent firebombing and destruction of Japan’s cities by the United States Army Air Forces in World War II, a cursory examination of the relevant English-language literature, both popular and academic, reveals a striking lacuna. Researchers have covered substantial ground in analyzing various historical aspects of the U.S. bombing campaign against Japan. Specifically, much has been done to situate the events within the emergence of strategic air war in the twentieth century and within the concurrent evolution of American military air power doctrine. Scholars have discussed the air raids within the context of the evolution (and subsequent violations) of principles of noncombatant immunity during war, and have also provided important analyses regarding when and why the United States chose to target Japan’s cities for destruction.
In stark contrast to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, however, historians and other professional scholars working in the English language have yet to fathom the tremendous societal impact—both immediate and long-lasting—of the destruction by firebombing of Japan’s cities. What remain particularly underdeveloped are an historical understanding and appreciation of the Japanese civilian experience, specifically an understanding of the effect of the air raids on Japanese communities, cities, and social institutions. For example, although it is easy to obtain statistics that illustrate the catastrophic nature of the Great Tokyo Air Raid, few have attempted to provide a sense—through oral histories or in-depth explanations based on survivor accounts and other available sources—of the actual experience and legacies of the firebombing.
In the future, researchers will be able to examine a multitude of topics related to the firebombing raids that 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. The wartime reorganization of neighborhoods and cities under ever-changing civil defense policies merits attention, as does the unexplored contradiction between the established expectations of city residents in relation to air defense/firefighting and the Japanese government’s knowledge of the inefficacy of such tactics in the face of incendiary weapons. Other avenues of research include: the disintegration of family structures through voluntary and forced evacuations of school children from Japan’s cities, the many children orphaned by the air raids when their parents were killed in the cities, issues related to large-scale population transfers out of cities following the initiation of the U.S. firebombing campaign, and the postwar return of residents to their devastated cities. Whole books could be written on the destruction (and reconstruction) of larger cities such as Osaka, Yokohama, Nagoya, and Kobe. Additionally, the contentious issue of the Japanese government’s postwar treatment of air raid victims, while discussed briefly in this special issue, warrants extended analysis. Last, translations and analyses of some of the oral histories, fiction, and poetry written in Japan about the air raids would greatly enrich the field of Japanese studies.
While the above mostly represents a “wish list” of topics that merit research, it is a privilege to take a small step in the direction of furthering research into air raids conducted against Japan with the following set of articles, collectively titled “The Firebombing of Tokyo: Views from the Ground.” For many readers, the most striking portion of this collection will be “That Unforgettable Day—The Great Tokyo Air Raid through Drawings.” These eleven paintings and the accompanying descriptions of various experiences of the March 10 firebombing viscerally communicate the horror of the event, whether viewed from the perspective of a young evacuee witnessing the burning of the heart of Tokyo from a neighboring prefecture, or via Miyamoto Kenzo’s haunting “My Child” illustration and description of being scarred as a young boy by the experience of witnessing a pregnant woman unable to move while her child was incinerated in front of her. These illustrations, similar to some of those found in Unforgettable Fire: Pictures Drawn by Atomic Bomb Survivors, draw our attention to the heart of the matter: the civilian experience of a holocaust that has been largely forgotten in the United States and globally. In “The Tokyo Air Raids in the Words of Those Who Survived,” Bret Fisk provides a few examples of the different forms of survivor accounts extant in Japanese, which he categorizes as “Complete Personal Narratives,” “Incomplete Episodes and Incidents,” and “Sites of Mass Suffering.” His examination emphasizes the lack in English of oral histories or other personal narratives of the people whose lives were changed forever by the firebombing of urban Japan.
Another unique aspect of this collection is that it contains the first translation into English of writing by Saotome Katsumoto, the central figure in the decades-long movement in Japan to remember the Tokyo air raids. Saotome’s story is a remarkable one. His life was forever altered by the March 10 raid (which he experienced as a twelve-year-old boy), yet with little formal education he managed to forge a career as a writer. Saotome infused his works with a heartfelt humanism and empathy for the weakest members of society, and he became an activist in the cause to memorialize the air raids in the late 1960s. As a core member of the Society to Record the Tokyo Air Raids, Saotome was instrumental in producing a five-volume work that contains over a thousand descriptions of the air raids by survivors, as well as scores of key government and media documents related to wartime air defense and strategic bombing. In “Reconciliation and Peace through Remembering History: Preserving the Memory of the Great Tokyo Air Raid,” a translation of a speech given at the University of Bradford in 2009, Saotome shares his personal experiences of the March 10 raid and provides the audience with a general introduction to key facts about the firebombing. He then situates the Tokyo air raids within the context of twentieth century terror bombing campaigns and Japan’s “Fifteen Year War” in Asia. Yamabe Masahiko’s “Thinking Now about the Great Tokyo Air Raid” may be considered a companion piece to Saotome’s speech in that it further explains and contextualizes the Tokyo air raids. Yamabe, currently a senior researcher at the Institute of Politics and Economy, which is attached to the Tokyo Air Raid and War Damages Resource Center located in Koto Ward, Tokyo, has long analyzed and promoted the establishment of peace museums in Japan. Additionally, Yamabe is part of a movement among intellectuals and activists who over the last handful of years have sought to examine the air raids on Tokyo and the rest of urban Japan from a transnational perspective. The final article in this collection, “Fire Bombings and Forgotten Civilians: The Lawsuit Seeking Compensation for Victims of the Tokyo Air Raids,” by Cary Karacas, provides the historical context for a lawsuit filed against the Japanese government in 2008. When collectively considered, one striking aspect of the pieces by Saotome, Yamabe, and Karacas is the fact that the main personalities, including but not limited to intellectuals, involved in the various aspects of the movement to remember the Tokyo air raids insist on situating these raids within the context of Japan’s own actions during the Asia-Pacific War.
In closing, it is our pleasure to announce the establishment of an online bilingual digital archive—JapanAirRaids.org—dedicated to the dissemination of information regarding the World War II air raids against Japan. In addition to a variety of primary and secondary documents, the archive features a strong visual and multimedia component, with numerous Army Air Forces photographs, videos of survivor interviews (with English subtitles), sound recordings, and more. Since the website officially opened in late November 2010, it has attracted over 50,000 unique visitors. This unexpectedly high level of interest is surely a strong indication of the need for such an archive and it is our hope that the wide range of air raid-related documents and other resources that the website showcases will act as a catalyst for additional research into this important topic.
Firebombs Over Tokyo
In 1990, when I was traveling in Japan, my friend Masayuki introduced me to his mother, Mrs. Tadokoro. One night, as the three of us sat together after dinner in her apartment in Osaka, she told me of the firebombing of Tokyo. She was nineteen when the American bombers came, just after midnight on March 10, 1945. Hearing the air-raid sirens, she ran to Kinshi Park. As she ran, she saw an electrical pole glow hot in the flames and then crash down. In the park many people, most with suitcases, waited through the night as sixteen square miles of the city burned. Nothing remained of her house the next morning but some stones. Still, she was lucky. The dead from that one night's bombing numbered 80,000 to 100,000—more than later died in Nagasaki (70,000 to 80,000), and more than half the number who died in Hiroshima (120,000 to 150,000).
August brings the fifty-seventh anniversary of the two famous atomic bombings, justification for which is still a matter of debate. The conventional wisdom that the Hiroshima bomb saved 500,000 or a million American lives is wrong according to the historian Gar Alperovitz, modern scholarship and also government estimates at the time put likely U.S. casualties from an invasion of Japan, had one been necessary, in the range of 20,000 to 50,000—which is, of course, still a lot. Nor is it the case that Hiroshima was targeted for its military installations it had some modest military value but was targeted mainly for psychological effect. Yet the bombing clearly did hasten Japan's surrender, and thus saved many American lives (and possibly, on balance, Japanese lives). The much harder question is why the United States rushed—and it did rush—to bomb Nagasaki only three days later. Neither President Harry Truman nor anyone since has provided a compelling answer. In his 1988 history of the nuclear age, McGeorge Bundy, who served as National Security Advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, wrote, "Hiroshima alone was enough to bring the Russians in these two events together brought the crucial imperial decision for surrender, just before the second bomb was dropped."
Alongside the two atomic bombings, the firebombing of Tokyo remains obscure. Few Americans have even heard of it, and few Japanese like to dwell on it. When I listened to Mrs. Tadokoro's account, I was struck by her matter-of-fact, detached manner. What happened happened, and war is always bad, and 1945 is ancient history: that was her practical, forward-looking attitude, and I admired her for it. Yet the Tokyo attack deserves the most introspection of all, even as it receives the least.
In the 1930s, as today, Americans set great store by the principle that civilian populations should not be targeted for bombing. "Inhuman barbarism," President Roosevelt called civilian bombing in 1939. Indeed, that was one reason to fight the Japanese: they targeted civilians, we didn't. By 1945, however, the precision bombing of Japan had proved frustrating. "This outfit has been getting a lot of publicity without having really accomplished a hell of a lot in bombing results," Major General Curtis LeMay groused on March 6. So he loaded more than 300 B-29 Superfortress bombers with napalm incendiaries and, on the evening of March 9, ordered them emptied over central Tokyo. LeMay made no attempt to focus on military targets, nor could he have done so with napalm, whose effect that windy night was to burn wooden Japanese dwellings with spectacular efficiency. The victims were "scorched and boiled and baked to death," LeMay later said. Over the next few months the United States dealt with more than sixty smaller Japanese cities in like fashion.
The rationale was that Japan's industrial capability needed to be destroyed and the country's will broken. In fact, however, the Japanese maintained the ability to fight, although they probably lost the capacity to mount any large offensive. In any case, even supposing that the Tokyo firebombing was a success on its own terms, did that justify the targeting of tens of thousands of civilians, with weapons designed to melt them in their homes? If so, what sort of action would not have been justified on grounds of helping to end the war (that is, winning)? In June of 1945, as the historian John W. Dower notes, a military aide to General Douglas MacArthur described the American firebombing campaign as "one of the most ruthless and barbaric killings of non-combatants in all history." It is hard to disagree.
I believe the firebombing of Tokyo should be considered a war crime, a terror bombing, if those terms are to have any meaning at all. It is true that the United States in 1945, in marked and important contrast with, say, al Qaeda in 2001, viewed the targeting of civilians as a last rather than a first resort and it is true that throughout history even the virtuous have wound up fighting dirty if fighting clean failed and it is true that sometimes the good must do terrible things to destroy a great evil. But it is also true that if the good find themselves driven to barbarism, they own up afterward and search their souls.
America is better at reforming than at repenting, which is probably just as well. Perhaps America's quiet way of paying its debt to the dead of Tokyo has been to take unprecedented pains, far beyond anything done by any other great power, to design and deploy weapons and tactics that spare civilian lives. A lot of innocent people in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan are alive today as a result. Still, the erasure of the Tokyo firebombing from Americans' collective memory is not a noble thing.
In March, on the fifty-seventh otherwise unmarked anniversary of the attack on Tokyo, a handful of survivors opened a small museum there to memorialize the firebombing. They used private contributions totaling $800,000, which is less than one percent of what Mount Vernon plans to spend on its new museum and visitors' center. Well, it was a start. The next step should be an official museum or memorial—not in Tokyo but in Washington.
Narratives of World War II in the Pacific
During the Second World War, the allied powers frequently employed strategic bombings on military installations, industrial centers and civilian centers. Many hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians perished in allied bombings in major Japanese cities such as Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Kuri and Tokyo. Of these bombings the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the most well-known allied bombings on Japan. These two bombings were very notable because they were the only two times in history where nuclear weapons were used in warfare, their devastation was enough to end the war. These bombings often overshadow the Firebombing in Tokyo that claimed the lives of over 100,000 Japanese  , an equitable number to the death toll of the Atomic bombing of Hiroshima. This Analysis will explore the firebombing of Tokyo as a wartime strategy of the United States, as well as exploring how the firebombing brought destruction to the Japanese homeland.
It Made a Lot of Sense to Kill Skilled Workers by Thomas Searle, states that the US military highlighted six critical strategic targets against the Japanese empire Steel, Aircraft plants, Electronics, merchant shipping, antifriction bearings and urban industrial areas.  No specific method of how these strategic targets would be attacked was said, but it should be noted that this report included several conclusions from the recently published &ldquoJapan, Incendiary Attack Data&rdquo. In 1944 the highest levels of US military approved the report, and authorized Japanese urban areas as targets for bombing. One of the Major reasons why Tokyo was chosen as a target was because the city of Tokyo met most, if not all, of the six critical strategic target criteria outlines. The second reason why the city was targeted was because of its high population of civilians. The mass casualties inflicted by the Firebombing of Tokyo was no incidental or a mere accident, its coincided with the US military&rsquos explicit goal of inflicting significant casualties.
On the night of March 9th 1945, allied forces launched Operation Meetinghouse. The operation had over 300 B-29 superfortresses take to the sky loaded with napalm incendiary bombs. To maximize the payload the aircraft were stripped of heavy machine guns, gunner and ammunition other, increasing the payload by 3000 pounds. Each plane carried 40 clusters, and each cluster could carry about 38 bombs, roughly totaling to 1520 bombs per plane, an outstanding number of bombs considering there were over 300 planes. Firebombs were chosen over conventional high explosives because experimental raids and a previous fire in 1923 proved that Japanese cities were particularly vulnerable to fires due to the prevalence of wooden structures. This night was chosen in particular due to the heavy winds blowing across the city which would make the fires burn hotter. The bombs were dropped on a part of the city upwind, that way the wind would blow the flames downwind and spread across Tokyo.
Lars Tillitse, a Danish diplomat living in Tokyo was another survivor of the Firebombing who recounts the hardships that followed the firebombing in When Bombs Rained On Us In Tokyo. Lars had been living in Tokyo for several years and survived numerous bombing raids before and after the Tokyo firebombing, but remembers the firebombing on March 9th as the worst. Fire brigades desperately tried to extinguish the flames to no effect as more and more waves of incendiary bombs fell. When the flames were finally put under control, 100,000 had died and 1,000,000 people were homeless  . Men, Women and children that lost their homes walked the streets carrying what little belongings they still owned with nowhere to sleep. Access to basic amenities such as gas, electricity, telecommunication and water had been almost entirely nonexistent during the first few days after the bombing. Finding adequate food to eat had been especially difficult for survivors, rations by the government were not enough to sustain and the prices of food on the black market had been substantially inflated. With no homes, food and support from the Japanese government many of the homeless evacuated the city to be with relatives in the countryside. Reviews in American History by Richard Leopond explains how evacuation was difficult as no official Japanese evacuation plan was put into place  . Trains could only accommodate a small percentage of those leaving the city so the roads were filled with a great exodus of homeless taking what remained of their possessions on bicycles and carts.
In conclusion the United States hoped that by causing significant damage to Japanese civilians, the morale of the Japanese would suffer. The Tokyo bombing in summary was aimed to both damage the means to conduct warfare as well as break the will of the Japanese people. The firebombing of Tokyo is seen to be the most destructive bombing raid in human history, those who survived were left devastated. The firebombs dropped on Tokyo brought death, suffering and altered the lives of the Japanese in ways we cannot understand. The aftermath of the firebombs left the Japanese homeland ever more ravaged and left survivors ever more desperate.
Rauch, Jonathan. 2002. &ldquoFirebombs over Tokyo.&rdquo Atlantic 290 (1): 22. https://manowar.tamucc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=6834437&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
Searle, Thomas R. 2002. &ldquo&lsquoIt Made a Lot of Sense to Kill Skilled Workers&rsquo: The Firebombing of Tokyo in March 1945.&rdquo Journal of Military History 66 (1): 103&ndash33. https://manowar.tamucc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=5835713&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
Tillitse, Lars. 1946. &ldquoWhen Bombs Rained on Us in Tokyo.&rdquo Saturday Evening Post 218 (28): 34&ndash85. https://manowar.tamucc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=19502086&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
Leopold, Richard W. "The Second World War Revisited." Reviews in American History 16, no. 1 (1988): 110-14. doi:10.2307/2702073.
 Rauch, Jonathan. 2002. &ldquoFirebombs over Tokyo.&rdquo Atlantic 290 (1): 22. https://manowar.tamucc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=6834437&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
 Searle, Thomas R. 2002. &ldquo&lsquoIt Made a Lot of Sense to Kill Skilled Workers&rsquo: The Firebombing of Tokyo in March 1945.&rdquo Journal of Military History 66 (1): 103&ndash33. https://manowar.tamucc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=5835713&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
 Tillitse, Lars. 1946. &ldquoWhen Bombs Rained on Us in Tokyo.&rdquo Saturday Evening Post 218 (28): 34&ndash85. https://manowar.tamucc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=19502086&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
 Leopold, Richard W. "The Second World War Revisited." Reviews in American History 16, no. 1 (1988): 110-14. doi:10.2307/2702073.
Funato Kazuyo &ldquoHiroko died because of me.&rdquo by Cook, Haruko Taya., and Theodore Failor. Cook. Japan at War: An Oral History . London: Phoenix, 2000.
Hiroko died because of me by Funato Kazuyo is an oral history that follows the story of Funato during the Tokyo Firebombing. Funato Kazuyo was a sixth grade school girl with three older brothers and three younger siblings living with her family in Tokyo.Funato says that the city of Tokyo was in high spirits because it had been largely spared from significant allied bombings during the war. Funato awoke in the night to a terrible uproar as the bombardment began and ran to a shelter with her mother and her baby brother. Her Father was a member of the vigilance corps and ran to his duty station while her older brothers fought to put out the flames. Before long they had to evacuate the shelter because their only escape route out of the burning town was about to be engulfed into flames. Abandoning their home, Funato and her remaining family ran from the fires in a city she described as hell on earth. Houses burned, debris fell, electric wires sparked and a deadly wind blew across the city.
Funato found another shelter with her siblings, but the shelter did little to stop the heat of the fires burning outside. Her brother caught fire and ran out, her other brother went outside after him, both were blown away out of sight. Funato notes that the night the bombs fell there was a strong northern wind that had been blowing all day, the strong wind that blew throughout the day was strengthened by the raging firestorm. Funato and her only other sibling Hiroko in the shelter had no choice other than stay and endure the burning heat inside. Hiroko&rsquos hands were badly burned and Funato tried to relieve the pain by putting Hiroko&rsquos hands in a puddle of water. After the fires subsided Funato and Hiroko walked back to their home, passing blackened and charred corpses strewn over the city. The surviving family had suffered burns especially her mother, who still carried the burnt and dead body of Funato&rsquos baby brother on her back. Two of her siblings and her grandmother were never found.
Funato&rsquos mother was badly burned and Hiroko&rsquos conditioning was worsening leaving them in desperate need of Medical treatment. The Firebombing of the City left extensive damage and there was only a small hospital left remaining to treat them. Supplies were meager so once bandages had been soaked in blood and pus they would be washed and reused. Hiroko had contracted the Tetnus virus from the puddle, the hospital lacked the medicine to treat it and Hiroko perished. For this, Funato has blamed herself for Hiroko&rsquos death.Narratives of World War II in the Pacific
This exhibit is brought to you by The Mary and Jeff Bell Library
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
The Firebombing of Tokyo and Its Legacy: Introduction 東京大空襲とその遺したもの−−序論
More than sixty-five years after the Great Tokyo Air Raid of March 10, 1945, and the subsequent firebombing and destruction of Japan&rsquos cities by the United States Army Air Forces in World War II, a cursory examination of the relevant English-language literature, both popular and academic, reveals a striking lacuna. Researchers have covered substantial ground in analyzing various historical aspects of the U.S. bombing campaign against Japan. Specifically, much has been done to situate the events within the emergence of strategic air war in the twentieth century and within the concurrent evolution of American military air power doctrine. Scholars have discussed the air raids within the context of the evolution (and subsequent violations) of principles of noncombatant immunity during war, and have also provided important analyses regarding when and why the United States chose to target Japan&rsquos cities for destruction. 1
Nihei Haruyo, eight years old during the Tokyo firebombing of March 10, 1945 shows a map of the areas destroyed by the bombing at the Tokyo Air-raid Center.
Photo by Norimatsu Satoko. See also this site.
In stark contrast to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, however, historians and other professional scholars working in the English language have yet to fathom the tremendous societal impact &ndash both immediate and long-lasting &ndash of the destruction by firebombing of Japan&rsquos cities. What remain particularly underdeveloped are an historical understanding and appreciation of the Japanese civilian experience, specifically an understanding of the effect of the air raids on Japanese communities, cities, and social institutions. For example, although it is easy to obtain statistics that illustrate the catastrophic nature of the Great Tokyo Air Raid, few have attempted to provide a sense &ndash through oral histories or in-depth explanations based on survivor accounts and other available sources &ndash of the actual experience and legacies of the firebombing.
In the future, researchers will be able to examine a multitude of topics related to the firebombing raids that destroyed a significant percentage of most of Japan&rsquos 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. 2 The wartime reorganization of neighborhoods and cities under ever-changing civil defense policies merits attention, as does the unexplored contradiction between the established expectations of city residents in relation to air defense/firefighting and the Japanese government&rsquos knowledge of the inefficacy of such tactics in the face of incendiary weapons. Other avenues of research include: the disintegration of family structures through voluntary and forced evacuations of school children from Japan&rsquos cities, the many children orphaned by the air raids when their parents were killed in the cities, issues related to large-scale population transfers out of cities following the initiation of the U.S. firebombing campaign, and the postwar return of residents to their devastated cities. Whole books could be written on the destruction (and reconstruction) of larger cities such as Osaka, Yokohama, Nagoya, and Kobe. Additionally, the contentious issue of the Japanese government&rsquos postwar treatment of air raid victims, while discussed briefly in this special issue, warrants extended analysis. Last, translations and analyses of some of the oral histories, fiction, and poetry written in Japan about the air raids would greatly enrich the field of Japanese studies.
While the above mostly represents a &ldquowish list&rdquo of topics that merit research, it is a privilege to take a small step in the direction of furthering research into air raids conducted against Japan with the following set of articles, collectively titled &ldquoThe Firebombing of Tokyo: Views from the Ground.&rdquo For many readers, the most striking portion of this collection will be &ldquoThat Unforgettable Day--The Great Tokyo Air Raid through Drawings.&rdquo These eleven paintings and the accompanying descriptions of various experiences of the March 10 firebombing viscerally communicate the horror of the event, whether viewed from the perspective of a young evacuee witnessing the burning of the heart of Tokyo from a neighboring prefecture, or via Miyamoto Kenzo&rsquos haunting &ldquoMy Child&rdquo illustration and description of being scarred as a young boy by the experience of witnessing a pregnant woman unable to move while her child was incinerated in front of her. These illustrations, similar to some of those found in Unforgettable Fire: Pictures Drawn by Atomic Bomb Survivors, draw our attention to the heart of the matter: the civilian experience of a holocaust that has been largely forgotten in the United States and globally. 3 In &ldquoThe Tokyo Air Raids in the Words of Those Who Survived,&rdquo Bret Fisk provides a few examples of the different forms of survivor accounts extant in Japanese, which he categorizes as &ldquoComplete Personal Narratives,&rdquo &ldquoIncomplete Episodes and Incidents,&rdquo and &ldquoSites of Mass Suffering.&rdquo His examination emphasizes the lack in English of oral histories or other personal narratives of the people whose lives were changed forever by the firebombing of urban Japan. 4
Another unique aspect of this collection is that it contains the first translation into English of writing by Saotome Katsumoto, the central figure in the decades-long movement in Japan to remember the Tokyo air raids. Saotome&rsquos story is a remarkable one. His life was forever altered by the March 10 raid (which he experienced as a twelve-year-old boy), yet with little formal education he managed to forge a career as a writer. Saotome infused his works with a heartfelt humanism and empathy for the weakest members of society, and he became an activist in the cause to memorialize the air raids in the late 1960s. As a core member of the Society to Record the Tokyo Air Raids, Saotome was instrumental in producing a five-volume work that contains over a thousand descriptions of the air raids by survivors as well as scores of key government and media documents related to wartime air defense and strategic bombing. In &ldquoReconciliation and Peace through Remembering History: Preserving the Memory of the Great Tokyo Air Raid,&rdquo a translation of a speech given at the University of Bradford in 2009, Saotome shares his personal experiences of the March 10 raid and provides the audience with a general introduction to key facts about the firebombing. He then situates the Tokyo air raids within the context of twentieth century terror bombing campaigns and Japan&rsquos &ldquoFifteen Year War&rdquo in Asia. Yamabe Masahiko&rsquos &ldquoThinking Now about the Great Tokyo Air Raid&rdquo may be considered a companion piece to Saotome&rsquos speech in that it further explains and contextualizes the Tokyo air raids. Yamabe, currently a senior researcher at the Institute of Politics and Economy, which is attached to the Tokyo Air Raid and War Damages Resource Center located in Koto Ward, Tokyo, has long analyzed and promoted the establishment of peace museums in Japan. Additionally, Yamabe is part of a movement among intellectuals and activists who over the last handful of years have sought to examine the air raids on Tokyo and the rest of urban Japan from a transnational perspective. The final article in this collection, &ldquoFire Bombings and Forgotten Civilians: The Lawsuit Seeking Compensation for Victims of the Tokyo Air Raids,&rdquo by Cary Karacas, provides the historical context for a lawsuit filed against the Japanese government in 2008. When collectively considered, one striking aspect of the pieces by Saotome, Yamabe, and Karacas is the fact that the main personalities, including but not limited to intellectuals, involved in the various aspects of the movement to remember the Tokyo air raids insist on situating these raids within the context of Japan&rsquos own actions during the Asia-Pacific War.
In closing, it is our pleasure to announce the establishment of an online bilingual digital archive &ndash JapanAirRaids.org &ndash dedicated to the dissemination of information regarding the World War II air raids against Japan. In addition to a variety of primary and secondary documents, the archive features a strong visual and multimedia component, with numerous Army Air Forces photographs, videos of survivor interviews (with English subtitles), sound recordings, and more. Since the website officially opened in late November 2010, it has attracted over 50,000 unique visitors. This unexpectedly high level of interest is surely a strong indication of the need for such an archive and it is our hope that the wide range of air raid-related documents and other resources that the website showcases will act as a catalyst for additional research into this important topic.
Bret Fisk is a writer and translator living in Odawara, Japan. He is co-creator of the digital archive JapanAirRaids.org. Fisk&rsquos first novel is in Japanese, Between the Tides「潮汐の間」, published by 現代思潮新社 in Tokyo. Fisk can be reached at: [email protected]
Cary Karacas is an assistant professor of geography at the City University of New York, College of Staten Island. His research focuses on the Japan air raids and issues of place and memory. He is co-creator with Bret Fisk of the digital archive JapanAirRaids.org. He is the author of &ldquoPlace, Public Memory, and the Tokyo Air Raids,&rdquo The Geographical Review 100 (4), October 2010.
Recommended citation: Bret Fisk and Cary Karacas, The Firebombing of Tokyo and Its Legacy: Introduction, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 3 No 1, January 17, 2011.
Articles on relevant subjects include:
Robert Jacobs, 24 Hours After Hiroshima: National Geographic Channel Takes Up the Bomb
Asahi Shimbun, The Great Tokyo Air Raid and the Bombing of Civilians in World War II
Yuki Tanaka and Richard Falk, The Atomic Bombing, The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal and the Shimoda Case: Lessons for Anti-Nuclear Legal Movements
Marilyn B. Young, Bombing Civilians: An American Tradition
Mark Selden, A Forgotten Holocaust: US Bombing Strategy, the Destruction of Japanese Cities and the American Way of War from World War II to Iraq
Yuki Tanaka, Indiscriminate Bombing and the Enola Gay Legacy
1 A short list of essential works includes Conrad Crane, Bombs, Cities, and Civilians: American Airpower Strategy in World War II (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1993) Gordon Daniels, &ldquoThe Great Tokyo Air Raid, 9-10 March 1945,&rdquo in W.G. Beasley, ed., Modern Japan: Aspects of History, Literature and Society (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977, pp.113-131) John Dower, Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor/Hiroshima/9-11/Iraq (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010) E. Bartlett Kerr, Flames over Tokyo: The U.S. Army Air Forces&rsquo Incendiary Campaign Against Japan 1944-1945 (New York: Donald I. Fine, 1991) Ronald Schaffer, Wings of Judgment: American Bombing in World War II (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985) Thomas Searle &ldquo&lsquoIt made a lot of sense to kill skilled workers&rsquo: The firebombing of Tokyo in March 1945,&rdquo The Journal of Military History 66 (2002), pp.103-33 Mark Selden, &ldquoA forgotten holocaust: U.S. bombing strategy, the destruction of Japanese cities, and the American way of war from the Pacific War to Iraq,&rdquo in Yuki Tanaka and Marilyn Young, eds., Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth Century History (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009, pp. 77-96) and Michael Sherry, The Rise of American Air Power: the Creation of Armageddon (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987).
2 These are conservative estimates from the 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.
3 Nihon Hoso Kyokai, Unforgettable Fire: Pictures Drawn by Atomic Bomb Survivors (New York: Pantheon Books, 1976).
WWII: Firebombing of Tokyo
[May 21, 2021] World War II was a war that no one, today, who was not part of it, can imagine in their wildest of dreams. Total war is new to humanity, and we don’t like it. WWII amassed a staggering amount of death and destruction. But it was to be the firebombing of Tokyo on the night of 9-10 March 1945 that raised the specter of destruction higher than ever thought possible.
The war in the Pacific was not going well. After Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on May 7, 1945, Imperial Japan continued to fight. Unlike Germany, whose military was weaker as the onslaught of the U.S. Britain, Russia, and other allies closed in Berlin, the Japanese fought with more incredible determination than ever.
General Curtis LeMay, U.S. Army Air Force, was plucked from the European theater, where he made a success out of strategic bombing and sent to the Pacific to “get the war back on track.” The new Boeing B-29 Superfortress was online but had severe mechanical problems, The plane was rushed into production without adequate time to work out those problems. LeMay’s job was to fix the B-29 problem and take the war to Japan’s homeland.
Gen. LeMay came up with an ingenious plan to bomb Japan with a new tactic. He would line up the planes (not in formation like in Germany) and fly over the target cities at night, at low altitude, without defensive guns, and use incendiary bombs (as opposed to high explosives). His first big test would be on the city of Tokyo.
This was to be the most critical military mission of the entire war, and LeMay was using an untested tactic. If successful, it could prevent an invasion where estimated American causalities would exceed 1 million.
The first planes took off on March 9, 1945, starting at 4:36 in the afternoon. In total, 325 B-29s took off and headed for Tokyo. 1 Over a thousand miles to the north of the Mariana Islands (where the bombers were stationed), an unprecedented event was about to occur.
The Japanese did not believe the Americans were capable of bombing from this great distance. They had never built adequate bomb shelters for the civilian population. At 12:15 am on March 10, the bombers began their attack. Citizens of Tokyo had never seen bombers so low, nor so many. There was fire falling from the sky, as witnessed by a German Catholic priest. The raid lasted three hours.
As it was known as the time, Operation Meetinghouse became the single most destructive bombing raid in human history. Of central Tokyo, 16 square miles were destroyed, leaving an estimated 100,000 civilians dead and over one million homeless.
Many will argue that the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima were what persuaded Japan to agree to unconditional surrender. But it was this raid on Tokyo that woke up the Japanese leadership to the futility of furthering the war.
Survivor says US should be held to account
The firebombing of Tokyo was designed to terrorise and bomb the Japanese into surrender.
It was also seen as payback for the Pearl Harbour attacks and the mistreatment of Allied prisoners of war.
In just two days, more than 100,000 people were killed, a million were maimed and another million were made homeless.
Ms Motoki said she could never forget.
"At the time, my mind went blank and I was stupefied in shock," she said.
"Now 70 years have passed, but those scenes of bodies can't leave my mind.
Now close allies, the US and Japan have mostly forgotten the Tokyo firebombing, but another survivor, Haruyo Nihei, said it was important the children of today remembered.
She holds regular seminars for school children at a privately funded museum dedicated to the victims.
"It's likely Japan will be involved in a future war, so I want our children to understand war destroys everything — families, buildings and culture," she said.
Ms Nihei also wanted the Japanese and US governments to acknowledge and apologise for the firebombings.
She said American claims that the bombings targeted factories were false.
"There were no big military factories in the areas they bombed on March 9. They did it as punishment," Ms Nihei said.
"I believe they should be held accountable for war crimes too."
US Air Force general Curtis LeMay, the man who ordered the raids across Japan, once said the US military "scorched and boiled and baked to death more people in Tokyo on that night . than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined".
He acknowledged that if he had been on the losing side, he would be charged with war crimes.
And the evidence lies deep in the vaults of a memorial in central Tokyo, where large urns contain the ashes of more than 100,000 civilians.
Most remain unidentified, but what is known is that the vast majority were women, children and elderly — the men were on the frontlines.
“Firebombing Japan” 67 Cities: 1945
“The Fog of War” documentary film by Errol Morris featuring Robert McNamara. Click for DVD. (see also companion book).
But the Morris film covers much more than the Vietnam period, and in particular, as explored below, a somewhat less well-known chapter of WW II when the American military firebombed more than 60 Japanese cities – all prior to the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The film is framed, in part, around McNamara’s life and times and his long career in government service and the private sector, including his post-WWII work at the Ford Motor Company as one of the “Whiz Kids” who helped turn around the then ailing automaker. McNamara’s involvement in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 is also covered.
But the principal subject of Morris’s film is the conduct and carnage of warfare, and the decision making of those who manage it. The film’s title derives from the military concept of the “fog of war,” suggesting difficulty, confusion, and uncertainty in decision making in the midst of conflict.
In addition to winning the 2003 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, the film was also selected by the Library of Congress in 2019 for preservation in the National Film Registry as being culturally/historically significant.
Morris also builds his film around some of McNamara’s “lessons,” offered earlier in a 1995 book by McNamara, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. During the film, Morris intercuts historic footage and other imagery, audio tapes and voiceovers, as McNamara speaks about his career and experiences in war.
McNamara was 85 years old when Morris interviewed him, and he comes across at times as a somewhat tortured soul on his involvement in WWII and Vietnam grappling with the morality of decisions made and owning up to his roles in those conflicts. He tries to come to terms with what he has done, personally, while imploring his audience and society in general to consider “the rules of war.” What follows here is that part of the film, and McNamara’s analysis and recollections, that deal with the U.S. firebombing of Japan.
Robert McNamara in a 1960s portrait photo when he was U.S. Secretary of Defense.
World War II
After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the U.S. was brought fully into WW II, both in Europe and the Pacific. The Pacific theater, also called the Pacific War, was a vicious and horrific part of WW II — on land, sea, and air. Fighting consisted of some of the largest naval and air battles in history, as well as incredibly fierce battles across the Pacific Islands approaching Japan, all resulting in immense loss of human life. Millions died during the Pacific War – soldiers and civilians – and millions more were injured or made homeless.
Robert McNamara, meanwhile, was a young assistant professor at Harvard in August 1940 where he taught statistical analysis in the Business School. There, he would create the Office of Statistical Control for the Army Air Corps, teaching young Army officers how to increase the efficiency of aerial bombing through applied statistics.
By 1943 he became a captain in U.S. Army Air Forces, serving most of World War II with its Office of Statistical Control. One of his major responsibilities became analysis of U.S. bombers’ efficiency and effectiveness, especially the B-29 forces commanded by Major General Curtis LeMay. By August 1944, U.S. forces had captured Guam, Saipan and Tinian in the Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean south of Japan and subsequently built six airfields on the islands to accommodate B-29 bombers. These bases were closer to Japan than previously used bases in China, as B-29s could now make bombing runs to Japan without refueling. Still, the trip to Japan, 1,500 miles away, took seven hours.
McNamara had a front-row seat during the bombing runs, as he was stationed on Guam during those raids, would participate in some debriefings of B-29 bomber pilots after their missions, and provided analysis to General LeMay on bombing efficiency.
This bombing, however, would not use conventional munitions, but rather, incendiary bombs concocted with the jellied explosive, napalm. One type of firebomb – the M69 incendiary device – became one of the preferred weapons, and was particularly effective at starting uncontrollable fires. These bombs — or more correctly, bomblets — were packaged 36 per carrier cluster bomb. The cluster bombs, in turn, when dropped from B-29s, opened up at about 2,000 feet on their way down, dispersing the 36 bomblets into the air for their fiery handiwork below. Once the M69 bomblets hit the ground, a fuse ignited a charge which first sprayed napalm up to 100 feet from its landing point, and then ignited it.
The B-29s, meanwhile, were also flying in a new way with their firebomb payloads. Normally, with conventional bombing, they flew daytime missions at high altitudes – 20,000 feet and higher – and were out of range of anti-aircraft artillery. But their target efficiency in these runs had fared poorly, as bad weather and jet stream currents were taking their bombs off course. In the firebombing missions, however, LeMay ordered the B-29s to fly at night and fly much lower, at 5,000 feet. LeMay also required the crews to strip away much of their plane’s defensive armaments so they could carry more bombs. The B-29 pilots and crews thought LeMay crazy and they worried for their survival. But while some planes and crew were lost in the five-month long campaign, the new strategy would become highly effective. The fire-bombing B-29s were sent in waves, often with hundreds of planes per target, bombing Japanese cities for hours at a time. In some of the bombings, horrific tornado-like firestorms resulted on the ground, overwhelming firefighting capabilities, superheating the air, and burning, baking, or boiling everything in sight. Some reports tell of people and animals burnt to ash.
In “The Fog of War” film, one of Robert McNamara’s “lessons” comes about midway in the film – Lesson No.5, that “proportionality should be a guideline in war.” And for this lesson, McNamara draws on the LeMay firebombing campaign, offered in the film clip below. In the clip, McNamara describes the firebombing of Tokyo and other cities, listing the percent of each Japanese city destroyed and naming similar-sized U.S. cities for comparison purposes: Tokyo, roughly the size of New York City, was 51% destroyed Toyama, the size of Chattanooga, 99% destroyed Nagoya, the size of Los Angeles, 40% destroyed Osaka, the size of Chicago, 35% destroyed Kobe, the size of Baltimore, 55% destroyed, and others. And as he concludes, McNamara emphasizes this was all before the nuclear bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Here’s the clip:
A transcription for the above clip follows below, with Robert McNamara describing the firebombing of Japan:
Robert McNamara: Fifty square miles of Tokyo were burned. Tokyo was a wooden city, and when we dropped these firebombs, it just burned it.
[Appearing on screen]: Lesson #5: Proportionality should be a guideline in war.
Errol Morris: The choice of incendiary bombs, where did that come from?
Robert McNamara: I think the issue is not so much incendiary bombs. I think the issue is: in order to win a war should you kill 100,000 people in one night, by firebombing or any other way? [General Curtis] LeMay’s answer would be clearly “Yes.”
“Killing 50% to 90% of the people of 67 Japanese cities and then bombing them with two nuclear bombs is not proportional, in the minds of some people, to the objectives we were trying to achieve.”
“McNamara, do you mean to say that instead of killing 100,000, burning to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in that one night, we should have burned to death a lesser number or none? And then had our soldiers cross the beaches in Tokyo and been slaughtered in the tens of thousands? Is that what you’re proposing? Is that moral? Is that wise?”
Why was it necessary to drop the nuclear bomb if LeMay was burning up Japan? And he went on from Tokyo to firebomb other cities. 58% of Yokohama. Yokohama is roughly the size of Cleveland. 58% of Cleveland destroyed. Tokyo is roughly the size of New York. 51% percent of New York destroyed. 99% of the equivalent of Chattanooga, which was Toyama. 40% of the equivalent of Los Angeles, which was Nagoya. This was all done before the dropping of the nuclear bomb, which by the way was dropped by LeMay’s command.
Robert McNamara during "The Fog of War" film.
Proportionality should be a guideline in war. Killing 50% to 90% of the people of 67 Japanese cities and then bombing them with two nuclear bombs is not proportional, in the minds of some people, to the objectives we were trying to achieve.
I don’t fault Truman for dropping the nuclear bomb. The U.S.—Japanese War was one of the most brutal wars in all of human history: kamikaze pilots, suicide, unbelievable.
What one can criticize is that the human race prior to that time — and today — has not really grappled with what are, I’ll call it, “the rules of war.” Was there a rule then that said you shouldn’t bomb, shouldn’t kill, shouldn’t burn to death 100,000 civilians in one night?
LeMay said, “If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.” And I think he’s right. He, and I’d say I, were behaving as war criminals. LeMay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?
Japanese Cities Firebombed
World War II: March-August 1945
(listed w/ comparable U.S. cities)
Edwin Hoyt’s book, “Inferno: The Fire Bombing of Japan, March 9 - August 15, 1945,” October 2000, Madison Books, 183pp, Illustrated. Click for copy.
Barrett Tillman’s “Whirlwind: The Air War Against Japan 1942-1945,” Simon & Schuster, 2010, 336pp. Click for copy.
Kenneth P. Werrell’s 1998 book, “Blankets of Fire: U.S. Bombers Over Japan During World War II,” 352 pp, Smithsonian, includes 58 photos. Click for copy.
Hoito Edoin’s 1987 book, “The Night Tokyo Burned: The Incendiary Campaign Against Japan, March-August 1945,” St. Martin's Press, 248 pp. Click for copy.
Daniel Schwabe’s 2014 book, “Burning Japan: Air Force Bombing Strategy Change in the Pacific,” Potomac Books, 256 pp, illustrated, Click for copy.
E. Bartlett Kerr’s 1991 book, “Flames Over Tokyo: The U.S. Army Air Forces’ Incendiary Campaign Against Japan, 1944-1945,” Dutton Press, 348pp. Click for copy.
Yokahama, Japan / 58% destroyed
U.S. equivalent: Cleveland, OH
Tokyo, Japan / 51% destroyed
U.S. equivalent: New York, NY
Toyama, Japan / 99% destroyed
U.S. equivalent: Chattanooga, TN
Hamamatsu, Japan / 60.3% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Hartford, CT
Nagoya, Japan / 40% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Los Angeles, CA
Osaka, Japan / 35.1% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Chicago, IL
Nishinomiya, Japan / 11.9% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Cambridge, MA
Siumonoseki, Japan / 37.6% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: San Diego, CA
Kure, Japan / 41.9% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Toledo, OH
Kobe, Japan / 55.7% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Baltimore, MD
Omuta, Japan / 35.8% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Miami, FL
Wakayama, Japan / 50% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Salt Lake City, UT
Kawasaki, Japan / 36.2% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Portland, OR
Okayama, Japan / 68.9% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Long Beach, CA
Yawata, Japan / 21.2% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: San Antonio, TX
Kagoshima, Japan / 63.4% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Richmond, VA
Amagasaki, Japan / 18.9% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Jacksonville, FL
Sasebo, Japan / 41.4 % destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Nashville, TN
Moh, Japan / 23.3% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Spokane, WA
Miyakonoio, Japan / 26.5% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Greensboro, NC
Nobeoka, Japan / 25.2% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Augusta, GA
Miyazaki, Japan / 26.1% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Davenport, IA
Hbe, Japan / 20.7% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Utica, NY
Saga, Japan / 44.2% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Waterloo, IA
Imabari, Japan / 63.9% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Stockton, CA
Matsuyama, Japan / 64% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Duluth, MN
Fukui, Japan / 86% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Evansville, IN
Tokushima, Japan / 85.2% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Ft. Wayne, IN
Sakai, Japan / 48.2% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Forth Worth, TX
Hachioji, Japan / 65 % destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Galveston, TX
Kumamoto, Japan / 31.2% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Grand Rapids, MI
Isezaki, Japan / 56.7% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Sioux Falls, SD
Takamatsu, Japan / 67.5% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Knoxville, TN
Akashi, Japan / 50.2 % destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Lexington, KY
Fukuyama, Japan / 80.9% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Macon, GA
Aomori, Japan / 30% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Montgomery, AL
Okazaki, Japan / 32.2% destroyed
U.S. equivalent: Lincoln, NE
Oita, Japan / 28.2% destroyed
U.S. equivalent: Saint Joseph, MO
Hiratsuka, Japan / 48.4% destroyed
U.S. equivalent: Battle Creek, MI
Tokuyama, Japan / 48.3% destroyed
U.S. equivalent: Butte, MT
Yokkichi, Japan / 33.6% destroyed
U.S. equivalent: Charlotte, NC
Uhyamada, Japan / 41.3% destroyed
U.S. equivalent: Columbus, GA
Ogaki, Japan / 39.5% destroyed
U.S. equivalent: Corpus Christi, TX
Gifu, Japan / 63.6% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Des Moines, IA
Shizuoka, Japan / 66.1% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Oklahoma City, OK
Himeji, Japan / 49.4% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Peoria, IL
Fukuoka, Japan / 24.1% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Rochester, NY
Kochi, Japan / 55.2% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Sacramento, CA
Shimizu, Japan / 42% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: San Jose, CA
Omura, Japan / 33.1% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Sante Fe, NM
Chiba, Japan / 41% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Savannah, GA
Ichinomiya, Japan / 56.3% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Springfield, OH
Nara, Japan / 69.3% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Boston, MA
Tsu, Japan / 69.3% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Topeka, KS
Kuwana, Japan / 75 % destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Tucson, AZ
Toyohashi, Japan / 61.9% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Tulsa, OK
Numazu, Japan / 42.3% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Waco, TX
Chosi, Japan / 44.2% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Wheeling, WV
Kofu, Japan / 78.6% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: South Bend, IN
Utsunomiya, Japan / 43.7% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Sioux City, IA
Mito, Japan / 68.9% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Pontiac, MI
Sendai, Japan / 21.9% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Omaha, NE
Tsuruga, Japan / 65.1% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Middleton, OH
Nagaoka, Japan / 64.9% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Madison, WI
Hitachi, Japan / 72% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Little Rock, AK
Kumagaya, Japan / 55.1% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Kenosha, WI
Hamamatsu, Japan / 60.3% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Hartford, CT
Maebashi, Japan / 64.2% destroyed.
U.S. equivalent: Wilkes Barre, PA
Hiroshima, Japan / atomic bomb
U.S. equivalent: Seattle, WA
Nagasaki, Japan / atomic bomb
U.S. equivalent: Akron, OH
Sources: Errol Morris, Documentary film,
“The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the
Life of Robert S. McNamara,” 2003, Errol
Morris.com “67 Japanese Cities Firebombed
in World War II,” diText.com and, Alex
Wellerstein, “Interactive Map Shows Impact
of WWII Firebombing of Japan, If It Had
Happened on U.S. Soil,” Slate.com, March
13, 2014. Note: Some sources say that more
than 100 Japanese cities & towns were
firebombed (see Tanaka in Sources).
Beyond the Errol Morris film, there is also a considerable literature on the firebombing of Japan, which has grown through the 2000s and 2010s. The firebombing of Tokyo, in particular, has received specific attention, as noted in books cited above, but also in periodical sources, some listed below in the reference section. American historian Mark Selden, for example, has written extensively about the Japanese firebombing episode and other wartime air campaigns, noting of the August 1945 Tokyo raid in a 2007 paper for The Asia-Pacific Journal:
…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 [islands]. Their mission was to reduce the city to rubble, kill its citizens, and instill terror in the survivors, with jellied gasoline and napalm that would create a sea of flames. …[T]he bombers…carried two kinds of incendiaries: M47s, 100-pound oil gel bombs, 182 per aircraft, each capable of starting a major fire, followed by M69s, 6-pound gelled-gasoline bombs, 1,520 per aircraft, in addition to a few high explosives to deter firefighters. …Whipped by fierce winds, flames detonated by the bombs leaped across a fifteen square mile area of Tokyo generating immense firestorms that engulfed and killed scores of thousands of residents.
One photograph of devastated Tokyo, Japan following the U.S. March 9-10, 1945 firebombing raid by B-29s, showing, in part, an industrial area along the Sumida River. Some 16 square miles of the city were razed by incendiary and other strikes. AP photo.
Mark Selden further notes a first-hand report of a police cameraman named Ishikawa Koyo, who described the streets of Tokyo as “rivers of fire” where people “blazed like ‘matchsticks’ as their wood and paper homes exploded in flames.” Koyo further reported that “under the wind and the gigantic breadth of the fire, immense incandescent vortices rose in a number of places, swirling, flattening, sucking whole blocks of houses into their maelstrom of fire.”
People died from radiant heat and direct flames, falling debris, oxygen deficiency, carbon monoxide poisoning, by trampling of stampeding crowds, and by drowning, as thousands jumped into canals and other water bodies attempting to escape the flames. Tokyo firebombing survivor Haruyo Nihei, at age 83 when interviewed by CNN, reported she was 8 years old at the time of the firebombing when she and her father were swept up into a mass panic on the streets during the bombing. They fell to the ground as others piled on top of them, and survived only by virtue of being insulated by those who burnt to death on top of them.
Photograph of Japanese on a road through Tokyo taken some time after the March 1945 U.S. firebombing of the city.
Some estimates of the dead from that one raid on Tokyo run as high as 100,000 or more men, women and children, with a million more injured and another million left homeless – though Japanese and American estimates on the toll of the raid vary, some with lower numbers. Still, the firebombing of Tokyo on the night of March 9–10, 1945 is the single deadliest air raid in history, with a greater area of fire damage and loss of life than either of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima or Nagasaki. But Tokyo would endure more firebombing — two more raids in April and two in May, adding more square miles to the city’s burnt-out destruction.
Some surviving B-29 crew members would later tell the New York Times Magazine in March 2020 that a few pilots voiced objection to the firebombing missions but were pressured to go along, while some crew members would recall the foul smell of the firebombings that would rise up and wash over their planes in updrafts from below. “We hated what we were doing,” said B-29 crewman, Jim Marich, of the civilian firebombings, “but we thought we had to do it. We thought that raid might cause the Japanese to surrender.” Marich was one of the B-29 airmen interviewed by the Times who flew on the firebombing of Tokyo in March 1945.
Others, however, had no qualms about the U.S. firebombing Japanese cities, citing Japan’s own acts of horror, from the Pearl Harbor sneak attack and American prisoner beheadings, to Japan’s own thousands of civilian bombings in China – of Shanghai, Wuhan, Chongqing, Nanjing, and Canton – between 1937 and 1943. Sparing additional American and Japanese lives in an otherwise necessary American invasion of Japan to end the war is cited as well – a defense also raised for the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yet the debate on all of this continues to this day.
CNN map of Japan showing 10 Japanese cities that were firebombed with percentage of area destroyed in each.
In addition to Tokyo, other Japanese cities were also hard hit. Osaka, the second largest city in Japan, with more than 3 million residents and a key industrial, shipping, rail, and war-materials center, was firebombed by three waves of B-29s in nighttime raids over a three-and-a-half hour period on March 13, 1945. According to a summary at Wikipedia, each wave targeted a distinct area of the city. The first wave of 43 U.S. bombers arrived from Saipan a second group of 107 B-29s came from Tinian, and a third wave of 124 bombers flew in from Saipan. In all, 274 B-29s destroyed more than 8 square miles of the city, leaving nearly 4,000 residents dead and another 678 missing. Osaka would be bombed several more times in June and July and a final time in August 1945, though not all of these raids used firebombs. A total of more than 10,000 residents of Osaka were killed in eight raids by U.S. bombers.
This photo shows damage in the Namba area of Osaka following 1945 U.S. bomber raids. The Nankai Namba rail station is visible at left.
The Japanese city of Kobe was attacked by 331 B-29s on the night of March 16/17, 1945, with a resulting firestorm that destroyed roughly half its area, killing 8,000 and leaving 650,000 homeless. On May 13, 1945, a fleet of 472 B-29s struck Nagoya by day, followed by a second raid at night on May 16 by 457 B-29s. The two raids on Nagoya killed 3,866 Japanese and rendered another 472,701 homeless. A daylight incendiary attack on Yokohama on May 29 sent 517 B-29s to that city escorted by 101 P-51s fighter planes. This force was intercepted by Japanese Zero fighters, sparking an intense air battle in which five B-29s were shot down and another 175 damaged. The 454 B-29s that reached Yokohama struck the city’s main business district and destroyed 6.9 square miles of buildings with more than 1,000 Japanese killed.
Maps showing, in red, the proportion of key Japanese cities that were burnt out by the U.S. firebombings. At left, the damage in 3 cities on Tokyo Bay is shown: Tokyo, Kawasaki and Yokohama. On the maps at right, two cities on Osaka Bay are shown at top, Kobe and Osaka, and at lower right, the burnt-out area of Nagoya. Wikipedia.org.
The firebombing of dozens more Japanese cities continued through June and July of 1945, among these were smaller Japanese cities with populations ranging from 62,280 to 323,000. On the night of 27/28 July, six B-29s dropped leaflets over 11 Japanese cities warning that they would be attacked in the future. And on July 28, six of these cities were attacked – Aomori, Ichinomiya, Tsu, Uji-Yamada Ogaki and Uwajima. During August 1945 further large-scale raids against Japanese cities began. More than 830 B-29s staged one of the largest raids of World War II on August 1st when the cities of Hachioji, Mito, Nagaoka and Toyama were targeted, suffering extensive damage. On this raid, Toyama, a large producer of aluminum, was especially hard hit, as McNamara noted in the “Fog of War,” with some 99 percent of its area destroyed after 173 B-29s dropped incendiary bombs on the city.
August 1, 1945. Nighttime aerial view of fiery scene below as much of Toyama, Japan, a city of 100,000 and a large producer of aluminum, burns to the ground after 173 American B-29 bombers dropped incendiary bombs on the city.
As the bombing campaign continued and the most important cities were destroyed, the bombers were then sent out against smaller and less significant cities. Many of these cities were not defended by anti-aircraft guns and Japan’s night-fighter force was ineffective. In this phase of the campaign, on most nights, four cities were attacked each night. According to Wikipedia, sixteen multi-city incendiary attacks of this kind were conducted by the end of the war (an average of two per week), targeting some 58 cities. Some of the incendiary raids were coordinated with precision bombing attacks during the last weeks of the war in an attempt to force a Japanese surrender. Then came the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and 9th, respectively, which finally moved Japan to surrender on August 15, 1945. Overall, by one calculation, the U.S. firebombing campaign, exclusive of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killed more than 300,000 people
Photo of Shizuoka, Japan, sometime after being firebombed on June 19, 1945 by 137 B-29 bombers which attacked in two waves from east and west, so as to trap the population within the center of the city, between the mountains and the sea, dropping 13,211 incendiary bombs. The resultant firestorm destroyed most of the city (66.1%), then with an estimated population of 212,000, comparable in size to Oklahoma City, OK. Two B-29s collided mid-air during the operation, resulting in the deaths of 23 Americans. See: “Bombing of Shizuoka in World War II,” Wikipedia.
Further research and writing on the WWII firebombing of Japanese cities – and on the American city comparisons – have been made by military historians, geographers, and others. Several of these are listed in Sources at the end of this story. One offering at Slate.com includes a series of interactive maps plotting out a “what if” scenario, mapping the locations of the comparable American cities with the bombed-out proportions of their Japanese counterparts. The Slate piece – by Alex Wellerstein – also notes, importantly, that Japan is a much smaller country than the U.S. (about the size of Montana), and so, the effects of the firebombings there were magnified all the more.
The Errol Morris film, meanwhile, also focuses on Robert McNamara during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and the Vietnam War. The film generally received positive reviews and high praise, but not from all quarters. Public opinion on McNamara over the years has been sharply divided, and he has fierce critics. Still, in his later years, as with the 22 hours of interviews and filming he did with Morris, McNamara spent years writing, probing, and public speaking trying to come to terms with his and the nation’s military involvements (some of his books and those of others about him are listed below in Sources). No doubt McNamara was trying to exorcize demons and guilt that he could never completely purge as he sought to explain his actions and policy-making, for which many would never forgive him. But at least he tried, and did so publicly.
1965. U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, giving a briefing during the Vietnam War, with map of the region behind him.
See also at this website, “The Pentagon Papers,” a freedom-of-the-press story involving Vietnam War-era secret documents and other papers, some of which then Defense Secretary Robert McNamara commissioned for an historic review of that war. A Steven Spielberg film on the topic is also part of this story, along with involvement of the Washington Post, New York Times, and famous whistle-blower, Daniel Ellsberg.
Date Posted: 29 November 2020
Last Update: 29 November 2020
Comments to: [email protected]
Jack Doyle, “Firebombing Japan: 67 Cities, 1945,”
PopHistoryDig.com, November 29, 2020.
Sources, Links & Additional Information
A.C. Grayling's 2006 book, “Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan,” 384pp, Walker Books. Click for copy.
H. R. McMaster’s 1997 book, “Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam,” 480 pp., Harper. Click for copy.
Frederick Taylor’s 2004 book, “Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945,” takes a new look at the controversial British-American bombing of the German city during WWII. 544 pp., Harper. Click for copy.
Deborah Shapley’s 1993 book, “Promise and Power: The Life and Times of Robert McNamara,” Little Brown & Co., 734 pp. Click for copy.
Errol Morris, documentary film, “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara,” 2003, ErrolMorris.com.
Transcript of Errol Morris film, “The Fog of War,” ErrolMorris.com.
U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, “Effects of Air Attack on Urban Complex Tokyo-Kawasaki -Yokohama,” 1947.
“McNamara on Bombing of Japan”(cut.mp4), YouTube.com, Posted by: profgunderson, January 18, 2010.
“67 Japanese Cities Firebombed in World War II,” diText.com.
Conrad C. Crane, American Airpower Strategy in World War II: Bombs, Cities, Civilians, and Oil, Lawrence, 2016.
R. W. Apple Jr., “McNamara Recalls, and Regrets, Vietnam,” New York Times, April 9, 1995.
Kenneth P. Werrell, Blankets of Fire: U.S. Bombers Over Japan During World War II (Smithsonian History of Aviation and Spaceflight Series), April 1996.
Alex Wellerstein, “Interactive Map Shows Impact of WWII Firebombing of Japan, If It Had Happened on U.S. Soil,” Slate.com, March 13, 2014.
“The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara,” Metacritic.com (87 metascore, based on 36 critic reviews), 2003.
User Reviews, “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara” (2003), IMDB.com.
“The Fog of War,” The Charlie Rose Show, November 11, 2003 (Guests: Director Errol Morris and former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara describe their documentary “The Fog of War” which follows the life of McNamara and his experience in modern warfare), Transcript, CharlieRose.com.
Jonathan Curiel, “In New Documentary, Old Hawk Rethinks Roles in Vietnam and WWII,” San Francisco Chronicle/SFgate.com, Janu-ary 21, 2004.
“An Appreciation of Robert McNamara,” The Charlie Rose Show, YouTube.com.
“Robert McNamara,” alchetron.com.
Joseph Coleman, Associated Press, “1945 Tokyo Firebombing Left Legacy of Terror, Pain,” CommonDreams.org, March 10, 2005.
A.C. Grayling, Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan, New York, 2006.
Mark Selden, “A Forgotten Holocaust: U.S. Bombing Strategy, The Destruction of Japanese Cities and The American Way of War From World War II to Iraq,” Asia-Pacific Journal, May 2, 2007, Volume 5 | Issue 5
Tim Weiner, “Robert S. McNamara, Architect of a Futile War, Dies at 93,” New York Times, July 6, 2009.
Laurence M. Vance, “Bombings Worse Than Nagasaki and Hiroshima,” The Future of Freedom Foundation, August 14, 2009.
Tony Long, “March 9, 1945: Burning the Heart Out of the Enemy,” Wired, March 9, 2011.
David Fedmana and Cary Karacasb, “A Cartographic Fade to Black: Mapping the Destruction of Urban Japan During World War II,” Journal of Historical Geography, Volume 38, Issue 3, July 2012.
Alison Bert, DMA, “Maps Reveal How Japan’s Cities Were Destroyed During World War II. Essay on Incendiary Bombings Awarded 2012 Best Paper Prize by the Journal of Historical Geography,” Elsevier.com, March 18, 2013.
Associated Press, “Deadly WWII Firebomb-ings of Japanese Cities Largely Ignored,” Tampa Bay Times, March 9, 2015.
Mark Selden, “American Fire Bombing and Atomic Bombing of Japan in History and Memory,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, Decem-ber 1, 2016, Volume 14 | Issue 23.
“Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nag-asaki,” Wikipedia.org.
“Hellfire on Earth: Operation Meetinghouse,” NationalWW2Museum.org, March 8, 2020.
Brad Lendon and Emiko Jozuka, “History’s Deadliest Air Raid Happened in Tokyo During World War II and You’ve Probably Never Heard of It,” CNN.com, March 8, 2020.
John Ismay, “‘We Hated What We Were Doing’: Veterans Recall Firebombing Japan. American Airmen Who Took Part in the 1945 Firebombing Missions Grapple With the Particular Horror They Witnessed Being Inflicted on Those Below,” New York Times Magazine, March 9, 2020.
Motoko Rich, “The Man Who Won’t Let the World Forget the Firebombing of Tokyo. As a Child, Katsumoto Saotome Barely Escaped the Air Raids over Tokyo That Killed as Many as 100,000 People. He Has Spent Much of His Life Fighting to Honor the Memories of Others Who Survived,” New York Times Magazine, March 9, 2020.
The firebombing of Tokyo: Haunting Photos Show the Aftermath of Deadliest Bombing During WWII
On the night of 9–10 March 1945, the U.S. Air Forces conducted the deadliest air raid on Tokyo’s civilians. It was the single most destructive bombing raid in human history. An estimated 100,000 civilians died, and millions were made homeless. This attack was codenamed Operation Meetinghouse by the USAAF and is known as the Great Tokyo Air Raid in Japan. The Japanese air forces failed to defend the city and its citizens only 14 American aircraft were destroyed.
The U.S. intelligence began assessing the firebombing campaign’s feasibility against Tokyo and other Japanese cities two years before Operation Meetinghouse. The preparations for firebombing raids began before March 1945. Several attacks were conducted to test the effectiveness of firebombing against Japanese cities. The U.S. Air Forces used Boeing B-29 Superfortress, which could fly at over 18,000 feet and drop bombs out of the range of anti-aircraft guns. The planes dropped 500,000 M-69 bombs in total. Clustered into groups of 38, each device weighed six pounds, and each deployed batch spread out during descent. The napalm within each casing spewed flaming liquid upon impact and ignited everything in range. The Tokyo bombing turned 15.8 square miles of the area into debris.
Here are some haunting photographs that show the bombing and aftermath of the attack.
Operation Meetinghouse: The 1945 firebombing of Tokyo was the single deadliest air raid in history
When we think of how World War Two came to an end, we recall the atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, before the situation escalated to the point of the Allies commissioning a nuclear weapon, some devastating air raids were green-lighted.
An air-raid conducted on the night of March 9-10, 1945, is regarded as the single deadliest air raid in the history of the war. It damaged a greater area and led to more deaths than either of the two nuclear bombings. Reportedly, over 1 million people had their homes destroyed during the Tokyo bombing that night, and the estimated number of civilian deaths is recorded as 100,000 people. Subsequently, the Japanese would dub this event the Night of the Black Snow.
The United States declared war on Japan the day after their surprise-attack bombing of Pearl Harbor–“a date which will live in infamy,” in the words of President Franklin Roosevelt. In the Pearl Harbor attack, 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed, 2,403 Americans were killed, and 1,178 others were wounded. The very first air raid on Tokyo occurred as early as April 1942, but these initial raids were small scale.
Tokyo burns under B-29 firebomb assault, This photo is dated May 26, 1945.
In the spring of 1945, Germany was clearly headed for surrender, but Japan was resisting any talk of surrender and President Harry Truman faced the prospect of further heavy American casualties in the Pacific war. Once the long-range B-29 Superfortress bombers had been introduced into service in 1944, the U.S. Army had the capacity to conduct strategic bombings and operations in urban areas.
Bombing raids on Japan had been ongoing since the B-29s were first deployed to China in April 1944, and then to the Mariana Islands seven months later. The results were unsatisfactory, because even in daytime, precision bombing raids were hampered by cloudy weather and the strong winds of the jet stream. When command of the 20th Air Force came to General Curtis LeMay in January 1945, he immediately set about planning a new tactic. His first change was to switch from general purpose to incendiary bombs and fragmentation bombs. These were used from high altitude in February on Kobe and Tokyo. The next step, boosted by the fact that Japanese anti-aircraft batteries had proved less effective at the low altitude of 5,000 feet to 9,000 feet, was to launch a low-altitude incendiary attack.
And so on March 9, 1945, a total of 334 B-29 bombers took off for Operation Meetinghouse. Pathfinder aircraft went out first to mark the targets using napalm bombs, then the horde of B-29s flew in at an altitude of between 2,000 feet and 2,500 feet and proceeded to firebomb the city.
A great portion of the loads used 500-pound E-46 cluster bombs that would release napalm-carrying M-69 incendiary “bomblets.” The M-69s would go off in the first few seconds upon impact, and they most certainly ignited great jets of blazing napalm. M-47 incendiaries were one other type of bombs that were greatly used too, and these weighed 100 pounds. Jelled with gasoline, the M-47s also had white phosphorus bombs that ignited upon impact.
Photo showing a Tokyo residential section virtually destroyed.
The fire defenses of Tokyo were eliminated in the first two hours of the raid as the attacking aircraft successfully unloaded their bomb deposits. The raid was performed strategically, having the first B-29s unloading their bombs in a vast X pattern concentrated in Tokyo’s densely populated working class districts nearby the city’s waterfronts.
The next rounds of bombings would add to the action by targeting the huge flaming X. This endless rain of bombs at first caused individual fires that shortly after would join all together in one unstoppable blaze that was further worsened by winds.
The result: an area of little less than 16 square miles of the city diminished under the fire, and 100,000 people lost their lives. A total of 282 out of the 334 B-29s at disposal for the action had made it successfully to their target. Another 27 bombers failed to survive the raid either because they were hit by air defenses or were caught in upward currents of the massive fires.
Air raids over Tokyo continued in the period afterward, and the death toll perhaps reached 200,000 civilian deaths alone. While the war in Europe was concluded with the Nazi Germany surrender May 7, 1945, the Japanese continually refused and ignored the Allies demands of unconditional surrender.
Before and after comparison of Tokyo
The Japanese finally did surrender, on August 15, 1945. It was six days after the second atomic bombing, of Nagasaki.
Japan’s “Lost Decade” is the period of time after the economy’s bubble burst. The term was coined to refer to the years from 1991-2000, but the country’s stagnant economy has continued into the 2000s and led to some renaming it “The Lost Score.”
Shinzo Abe became the Prime Minister of Japan in December of 2012 and has been re-elected twice. His economic policies have come to be known as “Abenomics.” While the country’s GDP continued to decline from 2012-2015 and was marked by several recessions, it has experienced minute growth since then and many are hopeful that the country will soon emerge from its Lost Years stronger than ever.