On this day in 1944, over a hundred U.S. B-29 Superfortress bombers attacked Tokyo for the first time since Capt. Jimmy Doolittle's raid in 1942. The 29 was a superior airplane, designed to bomb from high altitude, but the jet stream and usual cloud cover played havoc with the bomb sights' accuracy and, from height, the bombs came close to the intended targets only 1 out of 20 times. Hard to believe, but true. We were also suffering horrendous losses of planes as the Japanese day defenses--high altitude fighters and large caliber anti-aircraft cannon--were very effective. Within 9 months, however, we had destroyed most of the Japanese cities, causing a million plus civilian casualties, and indeed had nearly run out of targets of significant military value. The turning point was when Gen. Curtis LeMay had the bombers drop Model E-46 incendiary clusters (containing long thin tubes of fuel), magnesium bombs, white phosphorus bombs and napalm from 5,000 feet. That was devastating to cities made primarily of wood and paper.
Labels: WWII history; Pacific theater