Joseph Grew had been the American minister to Japan for ten years before the war and felt that the conflict could have been averted. Grew had not ceased to regret what he regarded as the failure of not only Japanese but also if American diplomacy. It is recalled that he reported to Washington in late January, 1941 that the Tokyo newspapers stated that in the event of a break with the United States, there would be an all-out attack on Pearl Harbor. Fleet Admiral Joseph O. Richardson pleaded with FDR to move his fleet from Pearl Harbor as it was a tempting target for the Japanese – FDR relieved him of command and left the bait at Hawaii. The moral question of Americans firebombing Japanese civilians can be said to have its origins with an American general of the 1860’s.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
A Vast Tidal Wave of Fire Across Japan
“The real blitz against industrial Japan began in early March of 1945 with a series of low-level attacks that marked a revolutionary change in tactics and employment of B-29s in the Pacific. Perhaps most important: low-level attacks . . . would decrease fuel consumption, thus permitting greater bomb loads.
The significant aspect of [targeted Japanese] cities – as seen from the air – was a solid mass of one and two-story houses, over 90 percent flimsy wooden structures . . . by widespread fires could they effectively be destroyed.
After careful analysis, it was decided to make a low-level incendiary night strike against the most densely populated area of Tokyo. One of the most important contributing factors of this decision was its great element of surprise. If the Tokyo strike should be successful, Nagoya, Kobe and Osaka would be hit in rapid succession on alternate nights. It was a daring plan, calling for maximum effort and maximum courage.
Tokyo, one of the world’s three largest cities, had a population in 1940 of about 7,000,000. The [incendiary] flames, started in the northeast section of the target area, were fanned over the area by a twenty-knot wind.
The Japanese were given no time to rest. Two nights later Nagoya was hit by nearly 300 B-29s. The target area was a triangle three miles long on each side. Population density in this area ranged up to 75,000 per square mile. Osaka was next. The target area was about ten square miles. On March 14, nearly 300 B-29s carried 1733 tons of incendiary bombs to Osaka, delivered from 5000 to 9000 feet. Once again, enemy defenses were ineffective.
Early on the morning of the seventeenth, Kobe hears the air raid warning signals. It must have seen the fires of Osaka three nights before. It must have known what to expect. Over 300 B-29s dropped 2328 tons of incendiaries on the urban area of Kobe. Early on the morning of the nineteenth, the wave of fire struck Nagoya again, engulfing areas . . . Over 300 B-29s dropped 1858 tons of incendiaries.
It was as if a vast, fiery tidal wave were sweeping across the great cities of Japan. There was no hiding from it, no stopping it. For the Japanese there was only the hope it would burn itself out. What made it possible?
First, daring and intelligent planning based on a thorough knowledge of the B-29 as an offensive weapon, and a complete study of the defects inherent in the Japanese industrial machine. Second, well-trained combat crews with the courage and stamina to maintain the momentum of maximum effort. Not one aircraft was grounded for lack of parts. Only 1.3 percent of the total airborne aircraft were lost.”
(Air Force Diary, James H. Straubel, Simon and Schuster, 1947, pp. 231-235)