On this day in 1945, 334 B-29 bombers nearly overloaded with incendiary bombs (most defensive .50 cal machine guns had been removed so the bombers could carry more bomb weight) took off from Guam, Tinian and Saipan, flew to Japan, and just after midnight on the next day swept in at 500 feet over the Shitamachi neighborhood of Tokyo and set it on fire, killing more people in the next few hours than died from either nuclear weapon used the next August; nearly 130,000 Japanese civilians were burned alive. Many airmen thought this was a proper revenge for the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor just over 3 years earlier. However, Robert Palmer sang that honest men know that revenge does not smell sweet. Indeed, the later bomb crews had to put on oxygen masks to keep from vomiting from the overwhelming smell of burned human flesh. We lost 243 airmen, which were considered acceptable losses.
I am not in the slightest criticizing our actions here; this sort of unbound violence is what it takes to win against a competent and determined modern enemy. To have panytwaisted it would have merely prolonged the Japanese people's agony at the cost of far more American lives. If you are forced to fight a war, the moral thing is to fight hard to win and end it soonest.
Labels: WWII history; Pacific Theater; Frist Tokyo Fire Storm Bombing