Bombing of Tokyo and Other Cities
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Bombing of Tokyo
The first of the long-range bombing raids on the Japanese home islands took place as early as 28 Nov 1944, mainly from the newly constructed air fields in the Mariana Islands. In Jan 1945, American General Curtis LeMay took over the 20th and 21st Bomber Commands, merging them into the XX Air Force. The XX Air Force immediately took on the task of bombing Japanese naval and air bases from high altitude, though most of the early attacks achieved relatively little.
In the spring of 1945, the B-29 Superfortress bombers were transferred to the XXI Bomber Command based at Guam, Mariana Islands. With increased scale, intensity, and frequency, the bombing campaign began to rain considerable destruction on Japanese cities. Tokyo, being the Japanese capital, received a greater share of attention from American bombers. The XXI Bomber Command missions on Tokyo and surrounding areas in 1945 were as follows.
- 19 Feb: 119 B-29 bombers hit the port and Tokyo urban areas.
- Night of 24-25 Feb: 174 B-29 bombers dropped incendiary bombs and destroyed about 3 square kilometer of the city, or about 28,000 buildings.
- 4 Mar: 159 B-29 bombers attacked Tokyo urban areas.
- Night of 9-10 Mar, Operation Meetinghouse: 279 B-29 bombers dropped incendiary bombs and destroyed 267,000 buildings and homes or 41 square kilometers of Tokyo. Americans estimated 88,000 killed, 41,000 injured, and 1,000,000 displaced. Tokyo Fire Department estimated 97,000 killed and 125,000 wounded. Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department estimated 124,711 casualties and 286,358 destroyed buildings and homes.
- 2 Apr: More than 100 B-29 bombers attacked the Nakajima aircraft factory.
- 3 Apr: 68 B-29 bombers attacked the Koizuimi aircraft factory and Tokyo urban areas.
- 7 Apr: 101 B-29 bombers attacked the Nakajima aircraft factory.
- 13 Apr: More than 300 B-29 bombers attacked military targets in and near Tokyo.
- 15 Apr: 109 B-29 bombers attacked Tokyo urban areas.
- 26 Apr: 464 B-29 bombers attacked Tokyo urban areas south of the Imperial Palace.
- 24 May: 520 B-29 bombers attacked urban and industrial areas south of the Imperial Palace.
- 20 Jul: A B-29 bomber failed to attack the Imperial Palace with a large "Pumpkin bomb".
- 8 Aug: About 60 B-29 bombers attacked aircraft factories and arsenals near Tokyo.
- 10 Aug: 70 B-29 bombers attacked the arsenal complex near Tokyo.
Yutaka Akabane, a senior level civil servant, observed that
By the time of the Japanese surrender, 50% of Tokyo was reduced to rubble.
Bombing of Kobe
Tokyo was not the only Japanese city targeted by American bombing in 1945. The city of Kobe, Japan, also suffered from American bombing.
- 17 Mar: 331 B-29 bombers destroyed 7 square kilometers of Kobe; 8,841 were killed and 650,000 were displaced.
- 11 May: 92 B-29 bombers attacked the Kawanishi aircraft factories.
- 5 Jun: 473 B-29 bombers destroyed 11 square kilometers of Kobe urban areas.
- 18 Jun: 25 B-29 bombers laid naval mines in several areas including waters near Kobe.
- 28 Jun: 29 B-29 bombers laid naval mines in three harbors including Kobe.
- 19 Jul: 27 B-29 bombers laid naval mines in several areas including waters near Kobe.
- 30 Jul: Fighters attacked airfields, railroads, and tactical targets in the Kobe-Osaka region.
Effect of Conventional Bombing on Japanese Cities
The table below notes the effect of conventional bombing campaigns on Japanese cities.
|City Name||% Area Destroyed|
The attack on these major cities caused as many as 500,000 Japanese deaths, while displacing as many as 5,000,000.
Sources: The Pacific Campaign, Wikipedia.
Bombing of Tokyo and Other Cities Timeline
|18 Jul 1943||6 American B-24 bombers attacked Japanese shipping between Paramushiru Island and Shimushu Island in the Kurile Islands and the Kataoka Airfield on Paramushiru; this was the first heavy bomber attack against Japan.|
|29 Nov 1943||American B-29 bombers attacked the Nakajima factory outside Tokyo, Japan.|
|15 Jun 1944||American B-29 bombers based in China conducted a raid on Japan.|
|7 Aug 1944||A Japanese aircraft made the first aerial ramming attempt at an American bomber.|
|24 Nov 1944||The first B-29 bombing raid against Tokyo, Japan from Tinian in the Mariana Islands took place; 88 American aircraft participated in this mission.|
|3 Jan 1945||57 American B-29 bombers attacked Nagoya, Japan, while 21 other bombers attacked other Japanese cities.|
|27 Jan 1945||62 American B-29 bombers based in the Mariana Islands struck Tokyo, Japan. Japanese fighters shot down 5 bombers, while 4 others received damage and had to ditch or crash land. B-29 gunner claimed 60 fighters shot down.|
|4 Feb 1945||Seventy American B-29 Superfortress bombers dropped 160 tons of incendiaries on the Japanese city of Kobe. Most of its building were made of wood and they blazed instantly.|
|10 Feb 1945||The Nakajima aircraft plant at Ota, Gunma Prefecture, Japan was seriously damaged by American bombing.|
|19 Feb 1945||119 American B-29 bombers attacked the port and urban areas of Tokyo, Japan.|
|24 Feb 1945||During the night of 24-25 Feb, 174 American B-29 bombers dropped incendiary bombs on Tokyo, Japan and destroyed about 3 square kilometers of the city, or about 28,000 buildings.|
|4 Mar 1945||159 American B-29 bombers attacked the urban areas of Tokyo, Japan.|
|9 Mar 1945||Operation Meetinghouse: After sundown and into the early hours of 10 Mar, 279 American B-29 bombers dropped incendiary bombs on Tokyo, Japan and destroyed 267,000 buildings and homes or 41 square kilometers of the city. Americans estimated 88,000 killed, 41,000 injured, and 1,000,000 displaced. Tokyo Fire Department estimated 97,000 killed and 125,000 wounded. Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department estimated 124,711 casualties and 286,358 destroyed buildings and homes.|
|11 Mar 1945||285 American B-29 bombers attacked the Nagoya, Japan urban area with incendiary bombs.|
|13 Mar 1945||274 US aircraft bombed and destroyed 8.1 square miles of Osaka, Japan.|
|16 Mar 1945||307 US B-29 bombers devastated a 3-square mile area in Kobe, Japan and caused 15,000 in casualties.|
|17 Mar 1945||331 US B-29 bombers destroyed 7 square kilometers of Kobe, Japan; 8,841 were killed and 650,000 were displaced. The US attack also heavily damaged submarine I-15, which was under-construction at Kobe, nearly completed.|
|19 Mar 1945||In Japan, aircraft of US Navy TF 58 attacked targets on Kyushu and Honshu (Kure, Osaka, and Kobe), destroying submarine I-205 (still under construction) and damaging many warships.|
|2 Apr 1945||In Japan, 100 American B-29 bombers conducted a raid on the Nakajima aircraft factory near Tokyo, while 15 B-29 bombers mined waters off Kure and Hiroshima.|
|3 Apr 1945||68 American B-29 bombers attacked the Koizuimi aircraft factory and the urban areas of Tokyo, Japan.|
|7 Apr 1945||101 American B-29 bombers attacked the Nakajima aircraft factory near Tokyo, Japan; this was the first B-29 mission to be escorted by P-51 fighters from Iwo Jima.|
|26 Apr 1945||In Japan, 464 American B-29 bombers attacked the urban areas of Tokyo, Japan south of the Imperial Palace.|
|5 May 1945||The Hiro Naval Arsenal in Kure, Japan was destroyed by US B-29 Superfortress bombers.|
|11 May 1945||92 American B-29 bombers attacked the Kawanishi aircraft factories near Kobe, Japan.|
|14 May 1945||472 American B-29 bombers conducted a raid on Nagoya, Japan as part of the first of two days of saturation bombing on Japanese cities. The Americans would drop 16,000 tons of napalm and oil bombs during the campaign; vast areas were burned out but 77 B-29 bombers failed to return.|
|17 May 1945||470 American B-29 bombers conducted a raid on Nagoya, Japan.|
|19 May 1945||272 B-29 Superfortress bombers struck Hamamatsu, Japan.|
|23 May 1945||525 American B-29 bombers conducted a raid on Tokyo, Japan.|
|24 May 1945||Aircraft of US Navy Task Force 58 attacked airfields in southern Kyushu, Japan while 520 US Army B-29 bombers attacked urban and industrial areas south of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.|
|25 May 1945||464 American B-29 bombers conducted a raid on Tokyo, Japan. 26 aircraft were lost, which was the highest one-day loss.|
|29 May 1945||American B-25 bombers from Okinawa conducted a raid on Tokyo, Japan, while 454 B-29 bombers (escorted by 101 P-51 fighters) firebombed Yokohama, Japan.|
|1 Jun 1945||458 American B-29 bombers attacked Osaka harbor, Japan in poor weather. 148 P-51 Mustang fighters flew in escort, and 27 were lost, many due to collisions due to poor visibility. 6 ships were sunk by the attack while another 6 were damaged; many naval mines were also laid in the harbor.|
|5 Jun 1945||473 American B-29 bombers destroyed 11 square kilometers of urban areas at Kobe, Japan.|
|7 Jun 1945||400 American B-29 bombers attacked Osaka, Japan.|
|28 Jun 1945||The US War Department ordered 150 million incendiary bombs, amounting to some 850,000 tons, to be employed over the next twelve months against Japanese industrial targets.|
|1 Jul 1945||More than 530 American B-29 bombers attacked various cities in Japan with incendiary bombs.|
|4 Jul 1945||B-29 bombers of the US Army Far East Air Force aircraft attacked Kyushu, Japan from their bases in the Philippine Islands.|
|5 Jul 1945||American B-24 bombers based on Okinawa, Japan bombed the Omura-Nagasaki area in the Japanese home islands. On the same day, more than 100 American fighters based on Iwo Jima, Japan attacked targets in eastern Honshu in the Japanese home islands.|
|6 Jul 1945||517 American B-29 bombers from the Mariana Islands dropped incendiary bombs on Japan.|
|10 Jul 1945||The Americans launched the first of several 1,000-bomber raids against the Japanese home islands.|
|12 Jul 1945||More than 500 American B-29 bombers dropped incendiary bombs on a number of cities on Honshu, Japan.|
|16 Jul 1945||During the day, 5 American P-47 fighters attacked Yanagawa, Japan while 94 American P-51 fighters based in Iwo Jima attacked Kameyama, Kiyosu, Komaki, Okazaki, Suzuko, and Akenogahara. After sundown, four B-29 incendiary bombing missions were launched against Japanese cities, with 119 aircraft over Namazu (destroying 3.6 square kilometers of the city), 124 over Oita (1.437 square kilometers), 94 over Kuwana (1.63 square kilometers), and 129 over Hiratsuka (2.69 square kilometers); damage caused on all four cities were severe.|
|18 Jul 1945||P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang aircraft of US Far East Air Forces attacked various targets on Kyushu and the Ryukyu Islands, Japan, focusing largely on communications lines, bridges, shipping, and population centers.|
|19 Jul 1945||After sundown, US 20th Air Force launched 27 B-29 Superfortress bombers to mine waters off Japan and Korea, 127 B-29 bombers to attack Fukui, 126 B-29 bombers to attack Hitachi, 91 B-29 bombers to attack Choshi, 126 B-29 bombers to attack Okazaki, and 83 B-29 bombers to attack the Nippon oil plant at Amagasaki; only 3 B-29 bombers were lost by the US 20th Air Force during this night.|
|20 Jul 1945||US 11th Air Force launched 8 B-24 bombers against Matsuwa Airfield, Matsuwa, Hokkaido, Japan in the Kurile Islands. Meanwhile, 94 Iwo Jima-based US P-51 fighters strafed airfields at Kamezaki, Meiji, Okazaki, Nagoya, Kagamigahara, Hamamatsu, and Komaki; 3 fighters were lost.|
|23 Jul 1945||American aviators reported the presence of barrage balloons 12,000 feet above Hitachi, Japan.|
|27 Jul 1945||USAAF bombers dropped 600,000 leaflets over 11 Japanese cities, warning civilians of bombing.|
|1 Aug 1945||In the biggest air raid yet over Japan, 820 Superfortress bombers dropped 6,632 tons of high explosive bombs and incendiary bombs on four cities, bringing the total number of Japanese cities incinerated to 56.|
|3 Aug 1945||100 American fighters based in Iwo Jima, Japan attacked targets Tokyo, Japan.|
|4 Aug 1945||US Army B-25 bombers based on Okinawa, Japan attacked Takanabe, Kyushu, Japan, damaging or destroying warehouses, factories, railways, and a rail marshaling yard.|
|8 Aug 1945||About 60 American B-29 bombers attacked aircraft factories and arsenals near Tokyo, Japan.|
|10 Aug 1945||70 American B-29 bombers attacked the arsenal complex near Tokyo, Japan.|
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939