Despite military press releases and public statements that the US was not indiscriminately bombing civilian populations, the fact was that the nighttime incendiary bombing of Japanese cities was a weapon of area destruction, not precision bombing of industrial targets. The incendiary raids “destroyed homes, hospitals and schools, as well as factories, and killed lots of people, mainly women, children, and old men.” The waging of war upon defenseless civilians is perhaps the most lasting legacy of Lincoln and W.T. Sherman.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circ1865.com
Fire Bombing Japanese Civilians
“General [Hap] Arnold needed results. [Gen.] Larry Norstad had made that very clear. In effect he said: “You go ahead and get [bombing] results, or you’ll be fired.”
. . . Let’s see: we could load [the bombers] with E-46 clusters. Drop them to explode at about two thousand feet, say, or twenty-five hundred. Then each of those would release thirty-eight of the M-69 incendiary bombs . . . Could use both napalm and phosphorous. Those napalm M-47’s. They say that ninety percent of the structures in Tokyo are built of wood [and all sources] say that the same. Very flimsy construction.
Bringing those [B-29’s] all the way down from thirty thousand feet to about nine or even five thousand. A lot of people will tell me that flesh and blood can’t stand it. So if we go in low – at night, singly, not in formation – I think we’ll surprise the Japs. At least for a short period of time . . . But if this first attack is successful, we’ll run another, right quick. Say, twenty-four hours afterward. Two days at the most. And then maybe another.
With at least three hundred planes we can get a good concentration. No matter how you slice it, you’re going to kill an awful lot of civilians. Thousands and thousands . . . We’re at war with Japan. We were attacked by Japan. Do you want to kill Japanese, or would you rather have Americans killed? Crank her up, let’s go.
Drafts from the Tokyo fires bounced our planes into the sky like ping-pong balls. A B-29 coming in after the flames were really on the tear would get caught in one of those searing updrafts. According to the Tokyo fire chief, the situation was out of control within thirty minutes. It was like an explosive forest fire in a dry pine woods. The racing flames engulfed ninety-five fire engines and killed on hundred and twenty-five firemen . . . [and] burning up nearly sixteen square miles of the world’s largest city.
If it hadn’t been for that big river curving through the metropolitan area, a lot more of the city would have gone. About a fourth of all the buildings in Tokyo went up in smoke that night anyway. More than two hundred and sixty seven thousand buildings. No other air attack of the war, either in Japan or in Europe, was so destructive of life and property.
Let’s go back and consult Major Boyle for the final time, and hear what he has to say in his Air Force [magazine] article: “The ten-day fire blitz of Japan was a turning point. The panic-stricken [survivors] began an exodus from the major cities . . . “
(Mission with LeMay, My Story; Gen. Curtis E. LeMay with MacKinlay Kantor, excerpts, pp. 347; 352-355)