March 9th 1945: Bombing of Tokyo begins

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American B-29s flying to Tokyo

 

On this day in 1945, the bombing of Tokyo by the United States Air Forces began; the raid is one of the most destructive in history. There had been raids by B-29 bombers since November 1944. The raid on the night of March 9th saw 334 B-29s take off in Operation Meetinghouse, with 279 of them dropping around 1,700 tons of bombs. 16 square miles of the Japanese capital were destroyed, around a million were left homeless and around 100,000 people died as a result of the firestorm. Tokyo saw many raids such as this, with over 50% of Tokyo being destroyed by the end of the Second World War. However the firebombing on the night of March 9/10th was the single deadliest air raid of the war; the immediate deaths were higher than seen at Dresden, Hiroshima or Nagasaki as single events.

 

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Buildings razed to the ground in Tokyo

“Killing Japanese didn’t bother me very much at that time… I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal…. Every soldier thinks something of the moral aspects of what he is doing. But all war is immoral and if you let that bother you, you’re not a good soldier.
– Curtis LeMay, the American general behind the firebombing campaign

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