Air raids over Japan

22nd December 2007, 19:47
I am posting this as a new thread as it may get lost as a post on the tail of my Bill A Marine Engineer story


After posting my thread Bill – A Marine Engineer - I decided to check on the history of the American bombing raids on Japan that lead up to the dropping of the atomic bombs in 1945.and again Bill’s account of his experiences can be seen as a modest one and in line with the reluctance of most men who have suffered the real personal experiences of war to talk about, glorify or glamorise it.
The first American airborne assault on the Japanese Mainlands in April 1942 was lead by General Doolittle of the USAF when specially modified Mitchell bombers were taken as close as possible to the Japan coast without being detected before being launched from the Aircraft Carrier USS Hornet which had its flight decks strengthened to cope with the extra weight.
The aircraft could only carry enough fuel for the raid plus sufficient to over- fly to a landing on the friendly China Coast as they were too big and cumbersome to land back on the carrier. Most planes hit a target but it was almost a semi-suicide mission as some ran out of fuel and crashed into the sea and others crashed or were shot down by Japanese forces but although the effort was only a pin ***** militarily it was seen as an American propaganda victory after the devastating embarrassment of Pearl harbour.
The advent of the B29 Super fortress bomber with a fly and return range of 1500 miles with a 9 ton bomb load allowed later raids to be mounted from the coast of China but the first of these in June 1944 was not very effective as only 47 of a squadron of 68 aircraft managed to hit the target area when bombing from a safe height of 30000 feet. The next raid in November1944 with a fleet of 88 aircraft saw only 10% hit the targets from high altitude and it was not until the Allies captured bases like Guam and later Okinawa that the were able to plan and carry out lower level raids with full bomb loads.

The first significant raid on Tokyo came on the night 23rd February 1945 when 174 B29’s carried out a low level 5000 feet altitude fire bombing raid that destroyed one square mile of the city.
This fire bombing was carried out using incendiary bombs which were dropped from the aircraft in clusters that fragmented into small 6 pound packs as they fell to earth. Each pack was designed to bounce and split as they hit and spray a sticky chemical solution that burst into flame on coming into contact with any object and this virtual torrent of tiny missiles caused a fire ball that consumed everything in its path. These incendiaries were the type that Bill described raining down on the Yokahama Docks

Another raid on 9th March 1945 saw 334 B29 bombers drop 1500 tons of incendiaries in one raid creating a fire ball that roared through the many flimsy wooden dwellings in the city to destroy 16 square miles and killing an estimated 100,000 people. These raids continued and were extended to attacks on other targets in the Tokyo Bay area including the dock yards at Yokohama with similar devastating damage and loss of life. In total, over a ten day period, the B29s dropped nearly 9500 tons of incendiaries on Tokyo, Nagoya, Yokohama and Kobe
Raids of lesser magnitude continued but as there was no sign of a Japanese surrender the American Government made the decision to drop the Atomic bomb on Hiroshima having cast aside an earlier plan to drop the device into Tokyo Bay as a “non lethal” demonstration of its awful effect without the huge loss of civilian lives.
On the 6th August 1945 “Enola Gay” dropped the first Atomic bomb on Hiroshima with catastrophic effect and after three days without a response from the Japanese Authorities, mainly because they could not understand or comprehend what was happening, the Americans dropped the second bomb on Nagasaki which brought about the unconditional surrender on 15th August 1945.
We all know of the enormity of the destruction and after effects of these two bombs which has left the world in fear of any future nuclear warfare but the reality at the time was that the “conventional”
Bombing of Tokyo and surrounding cities wrought more havoc and killed more people than both the A-bombs put together and some retired US military men argue that their use was unnecessary as the Japanese were actually formulating their surrender before it happened while others argue that the nuclear bombs hastened the war end, saved American lives and demonstrated to the whole world the evils of nuclear warfare and so prevented its use at a later date, perhaps during the USA/ Soviet cold war that followed, one that would of resulted in retaliation had the bomb’s power been demonstrated in combat in these later times.

Paul Tibbets the pilot of ‘Enola Gay,’ who died on 1/11/07, always maintained that he or his crew were never told about the destructive power of this ‘special’ bomb and claimed that the crew were doing their duty.
Asked by President Truman- “What do you think?”
Tibbets replied- “Mr President, I think that I did what I was told”
Truman- “You’re damn right you did and I’m the guy who sent you. If anyone gives you a hard time about it refer them to me”

The events of the Second World War clearly demonstrated the barbarity of the Japanese at that time but after researching this information from reliable war history files on the Internet, the other side was probably not very far behind. Such is war.

Bob Jenkins

22nd December 2007, 20:46
Thank you Bob ...
there is nothing Fair or can be described as fair in War,
War itself is to be feared.
A question, please? ....
I have read and heard of those in power in the US who
had ignored warnings of the strike on Pearl Harbour, and
allowed, by neglect, the strike to happen. There was even
one warning of the possibility, from a pilot before WWI,
whose name escapes me, acted by Gary Cooper in a film.
What credance should anyone allow to these warnings?
Best Wishes, Raymond