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Thread: Tokyo Firebombing: The Ultimate Revenge for Pearl Harbor

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    Default Tokyo Firebombing: The Ultimate Revenge for Pearl Harbor

    Tokyo WWII firebombing, the single most deadly bombing raid in history, remembered 70 years on

    By North Asia correspondent Matthew Carney


    PHOTO: View of ruined buildings and vacant areas of land in Tokyo, Japan, a target of allied bombing during World War II.



    It is considered the single most deadly bombing raid in history.

    Seventy years ago today, US forces firebombed Tokyo to force the Japanese to an early surrender in the dying months of World War II.

    The atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have dominated the retelling of WWII history, but as a single attack the bombing of Tokyo was more destructive.
    The firestorms killed about 100,000 civilians and wiped out about half of the city.

    The US military had waited for a clear and windy night to inflict maximum damage, and on March 9, 1945 the conditions were perfect.

    Three hundred B29 bombers dropped nearly 500,000 cylinders of napalm and petroleum jelly on the most densely populated areas of Tokyo.

    The raid, which came a month after the firebombing of Dresden, brought mass incineration of civilians to a new horrific level.

    Now 70 years have passed, but those scenes of bodies can't leave my mind. It was worse than hell.

    Kisako Motoki

    Kisako Motoki, then 10 years old, fled to a bridge to seek refuge after her parents and brother had just been burnt to death.
    The firestorm, hundreds of metres high and fuelled by strong winds, quickly turned 40 square kilometres of Tokyo into an inferno.
    "I saw melted burnt bodies piled up on each other as high as a house."

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-0...ars-on/6287486

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    "Saotome Katsumoto and the Firebombing of Tokyo: Introducing The Great Tokyo Air Raid

    "Translator's Introduction

    "March 10 is the 70th anniversary of the Great Tokyo Air Raid. Although Tokyo was bombed more than 100 times from November 1944 to the end of the war, the firebombing centered on the Shitamachi district in the early hours of March 10, 1945, was by far the most devastating air raid on the capital. In less than three hours from just after midnight, 279 B-29 bombers dropped a total of 1,665 tons of incendiaries. By dawn, more than 100,000 people were dead, one million were homeless, and 16 square miles of Tokyo had been burned to the ground.

    "More people were killed in the indiscriminate firebombing of March 10 than in the immediate aftermath of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. After the war, while Hiroshima and Nagasaki became symbols of Japan's suffering and the peace movement, the Great Tokyo Air Raid was virtually excluded from public discourse. Hardly anyone wrote about the air raids that reduced the capital and most of Japan's other cities to ashes, and the few articles that did appear in newspapers attracted little interest. For a quarter of a century after the war, while memorial services were held every year on August 6 and 9 for the victims of the atomic bombings and covered widely in newspapers and on television, the devastating firebombing campaign over Tokyo and much of urban Japan was quietly forgotten. While school textbooks, novels, poetry and films memorialized the atomic bombing and its victims, silence reigned with respect to the firebombing raids.

    "In the 1950s and 1960s, Japan's high-speed growth transformed the Tokyo cityscape until all the remaining signs of devastation lay buried underground, out of sight and mind. Tokyo’s hosting of the Olympic Games in 1964 served as a symbol of Japan’s post-war reconstruction. In the same year, the government awarded General Curtis LeMay -- the architect of the firebombing campaign -- one of its highest honors, the First Class Order of the Rising Sun, for his work in establishing Japan's postwar Air Self-Defense Force.

    "On occasion, however, Tokyo's rapid urban development brought back memories of the devastation of the Shitamachi district from below ground. On June 13, 1967, the shocking discovery of human skeletons in a buried air-raid shelter unearthed during construction at a subway station in the Fukagawa district was reported in the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper. Among those who read the article was Saotome Katsumoto, a writer who had experienced the March 10 air raid as a boy of twelve. Saotome's experiences during the war had imbued him with a deep pacifism that informed his life and career. He had already published six novels, the first of which had been nominated for the prestigious Naoki Prize. While he had drawn from his experience of the air raid in these novels and described it in various articles, he had never fully come to terms with it. As Saotome recounts below, the newspaper article had a galvanizing effect on him.

    "A few days after he saw this article, Saotome received a visit from the journalist and critic Matsuura Sozo, who had begun to research the question of public amnesia regarding the Tokyo air raids. Matsuura was interviewing various people for an article about the raids for the monthly magazine Bungei Shunju. Although the two discussed the possibility of collaborating on a large project, it was not until 1970 that they pursued it in earnest. Saotome would later recall that 1970 was a critical turning point in public awareness of the firebombing of Tokyo. It was not only the twenty-fifth anniversary of the end of the war but also the year when the Anpo protests once again challenged the renewal of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. In addition, many survivors of the firebombing of Japan were feeling kinship with the victims of the napalm carpet-bombing of North Vietnam. Saotome saw it as the 'last chance to denounce the Tokyo air raids.' On March 10, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper featured a letter by Saotome in its 'Voices' (readers' letters) section. After describing his harrowing experience of escaping from the inferno as the incendiary bombs rained down around him, he closed with an appeal: 'Should not those of us who experienced the raids, at least on this day, just for one day, speak of what war is really like? And shouldn’t we also think about the bombs indiscriminately falling on Vietnam?'

    "In response to Saotome's plea, personal accounts of the air raids poured into the newspaper's offices. To accommodate these responses, the Tokyo edition of the newspaper featured a special daily column Tokyo Hibaku Ki (Chronicle of Tokyo’s Bombings) featuring the recollections of victims of the bombings, particularly the March 10 raid. These victims' testimonies were featured in the newspaper every day for forty days.

    "Seizing on the momentum generated by this public discussion, Saotome and Matsuura brought together sixteen intellectuals and air raid survivors to form the Society for Recording the Tokyo Air Raids, officially established on August 5, 1970. The Society's central project was to publish the Tokyo Air Raid Damage Records (planned as five 1,000-page volumes) from the viewpoint of the main protagonists: the citizens of Tokyo. Funding was granted for this massive publishing project by the Governor of Tokyo, Minobe Ryokichi, a self-proclaimed 'utopian socialist' who had himself experienced the firebombing of Hachioji in western Tokyo just two weeks before the end of the war. It was the first time that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government had made a commitment to support an extensive recording of the history of the air raids.

    "In the meantime, Saotome started visiting victims of the March 10 Shitamachi air raid to gather material for his own book. When he visited Fukagawa Library in July, both the chief librarian and one of the library staff, Hashimoto Yoshiko, recounted how they had survived the inferno that swept through Fukagawa and Honjo wards. Saotome featured Hashimoto’s incredible story of survival in his book. She later became a member of the editorial committee of the Society for Recording the Tokyo Air Raids and was active in raising public awareness.

    "The Great Tokyo Air Raid was published by Iwanami Shoten in January 1971. On March 10 nearly all of the media broadcast programs or published articles on the Tokyo air raids, focusing on the firebombing of the Shitamachi district. By the end of March, 221 victims of that air raid had submitted accounts of their experiences for inclusion in the first volume of the Tokyo Air Raid Damage Records. Amid this surge in public interest, Saotome's book became a bestseller. In the first year following publication, about 200,000 copies were sold -- an extraordinary number for a non-fiction book about the war. From 1971 until its publication was discontinued in 2007 it went through 49 editions. The fact that a total of about 500,000 copies were sold over 36 years testifies to the extraordinary interest generated by the media during the year of its publication. In the early 1970s, successive books and articles about the Tokyo air raids were published, including the five volumes of the Tokyo Air Raid Damage Records (1973-74). By the mid-1970s, however, the fickle interest of the media and general public had faded once again. This was hardly surprising, since it had risen through a particular combination of circumstances -- the 25th anniversary of the end of the war, the controversies surrounding the renewal of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, the Vietnam War, and the influence of the first socialist Governor of Tokyo. Even so, without the determined activities of a small group of intellectuals and air raid survivors led by Saotome Katsumoto and Matsuura Sozo, it might never have happened at all.

    "The Great Tokyo Air Raid is an ambitious book. Although Saotome's main focus was on the experiences of the victims, he also attempted to weave these accounts into a linear narrative of the air raid as a whole, while explaining the low-altitude firebombing strategy adopted by the US Army Air Force. However, as the author himself observed, the fact that only a few US documents had been translated into Japanese made the task very difficult. In 1979 Saotome himself wrote another book on the March 10 air raid, Tokyo ga Moeta Hi (The Day Tokyo Burned), in which he incorporated information from the US Army Air Force Tactical Mission Report that had become available after his first book was published. Nevertheless, the victims' testimonies that form the core of The Great Tokyo Raid remain as powerful and heartrending today as they were when they were first told to the author forty-five years ago.

    "Seventy years after the Great Tokyo Air Raid, this is the first time for these survivors’ voices to be heard in the English language."

    Read the translated stories and related images at: http://japanfocus.org/site/view/4293

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