Thursday, March 10, 2005

Tokyo, March 1945

Exactly sixty years ago, on the night of March 9-10, 1945, the United States conducted a bombing raid that reduced Tokyo to a smoldering ruin. Using incendiary bombs in a deliberate attempt to generate a firestorm in a city filled with wooden buildings, the raid by 334 B-29 bombers resulted in the deaths of 100,000 people and left 500,000 homeless. One of the American pilots reported being able to smell burning flesh while flying over the city at an altitude of 5,000 feet.

Over the next five months--culminating in the use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945--the U.S. killed half a million Japanese--mostly civilians--in bombing raids on seventy cities. General Curtis LeMay, the architect of the campaign, later said, "If we had lost the war, we would have been tried as war criminals."