The Tokyo firestorm of 1945

10 03 2007

“d” at Lawyers, Guns and Money has an interesting post about the Tokyo firestorm in the closing months of WWII. (Today is the anniversary of that air raid.) The U.S. military brass had an idea for a new kind of aerial bombardment that would use strategically placed bombs and take advantage of the prevailing winds to create a self-perpetuating tornado of fire.

The devastation was awful—about 100,000 mostly civilian deaths—and ranks as one of the most heinous war crimes of that era.

Placed along side the sustained Chinese raids on Chongqing, the German
assault on Guernica, and the destruction of Dresden by British and
American pilots, the March 1945 raids on Tokyo must surely rank as a
low-point in human history.

Yet not many people know about it, eclipsed as it is by the A-bomb drops that would follow in five months time.

I remember the first time I heard about this was at the start of my second year at university. I bumped into a schoolmate who was studying history (I was taking chemistry), and he was in high dudgeon about these raids. He called it a war crime, and that set me off. Weren’t the Japanese the enemy? And for that matter, wasn’t Hiroshima and Nagasaki justified?

Well, to cut a long story short, I certainly had my eyes open that day. I think that was the first inkling I had that the history you’re taught in schools is only one version, and not by any stretch of the imagination the most complete one.

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