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Kindling

“The 9 March 1945 American bomber attack on Tokyo killed around 100,000 people, and rendered a million homeless. Over 10,000 acres of buildings were destroyed—16 square miles, a quarter of the city. A hundred of the capital’s 287 fire stations and a similar number of its 250 medical facilities were wiped out. Over the weeks that followed, the XXth Bomber Command launched a succession of further raids, designed to achieve the same result elsewhere. On 11 March, B-29s went to Nagoya, Japan’s third-largest city. Here, damage was much reduced by lack of a wind such as fanned the fires of Tokyo. Only two square miles of the city burned. On the thirteenth, Osaka was much more successfully attacked. Three thousand died, eight square miles of buildings were destroyed, half a million people were made homeless, for the loss of two American aircraft and thirteen damaged. On 16 March it was the turn of Kobe, population one million. Three square miles were destroyed, 8,000 people killed, 650,000 made homeless. Three bombers were lost and eleven damaged, all as a result of operational problems rather than enemy action. After five such missions in a fortnight, a temporary halt to ‘burn jobs’ became necessary. Air and ground crews were exhausted, supplies of incendiaries were running low. . . . In just five operations they had inflicted upon Japan eight times the damage done to San Francisco by the great 1906 earthquake. The enemy’s cities had suffered in a few short days a scale of destruction which it had taken years to achieve in Germany, because Japan’s buildings burned so much more readily.” – Max Hastings, Retribution

Published inMax HastingsThe Second World War

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