Asahi Shimbun: The Great Tokyo Air Raid and the Bombing of Civilians in World War II

Roundup: Talking About History

The firebombing of Tokyo on the night of March 9-10, 1945 touched off the wave of firebombing that destroyed 64 Japanese cities and culminated in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. While Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been deeply engraved on the consciousness of humanity and commemorated in monuments, museums, films, novels and textbooks, the firebombing and napalming of civilians of many other Japanese and Asian cities has largely disappeared from consciousness, except for the victims. The bombing of March 9-10 took the lives of 100,000 Tokyoites and leveled sixteen square miles of the city in the most devastating raid in human history to that time . . . according to Japanese and US Strategic Bombing Survey figures, and may have taken the lives of many more. In recent years commemorative efforts have begun to remember the events and the victims, and lawsuits have been filed seeking damages for victims. - The Asia-Pacific Journal

Wednesday marked the 65th anniversary of the Great Tokyo Air Raid that obliterated neighborhoods of eastern Tokyo and killed 100,000 people, mainly civilians.

U.S. bombers staged the raid at night and dropped 300,000 incendiary bombs so as to cut off all escape routes. Updrafts from the firestorms caused one B-29 bomber weighing 60 tons to be thrust upward by 600 meters.

The March 10 raid represented a switch in U.S. strategy. Instead of bombing military targets on the Japanese mainland, U.S. forces set out to destroy entire cities. Two days after the Tokyo raid, U.S. bombers targeted Nagoya. Osaka was bombed the next day and Kobe four days later. The death toll from the raids is estimated in the range of 300,000.

With the advancement of precision-guided weapons in recent years, it has become possible to pinpoint attacks on targets in urban areas from far away.

Large nuclear arsenals still exist and there is growing danger of proliferation. The grotesque thinking that gave rise to strategic bombing has yet to become obsolete.

What happened in Tokyo 65 years ago? Who were the victims? Squarely looking at what happened should surely cause us to think about the issue of war and peace in this current age.

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