Home Is­lands

Flight Journal - - FEATURES -

The Ja­panese main­land was im­mune to air at­tack in the two and a half years af­ter the Doolit­tle Raid of April 1942. But the U.S. 20th Air Force be­gan op­er­at­ing from In­dia and China in mid-1944, strik­ing Kyushu fac­to­ries in Novem­ber. Lo­gis­tics, how­ever, forced the B-29 com­mand to re­lo­cate in the Mar­i­anas, where Maj. Gen. Cur­tis LeMay be­gan ex­pand­ing the most ca­pa­ble bomb­ing force on earth.

Euro­pean-style high-alti­tude bomb­ing was in­ef­fec­tive over Ja­pan, where the jet stream played havoc with ac­cu­racy. Thus, in early 1945, LeMay shifted tac­tics and threw away The Book. On the night of March 9–10, he sent more than 300 Boe­ings against Tokyo at low level, drop­ping in­cen­di­aries rather than high ex­plo­sives. The re­sults were as­ton­ish­ing: Overnight, one-sixth of the cap­i­tal was razed, with at least 85,000 peo­ple killed.

Fire raids con­tin­ued, sear­ing Nagoya, Yoko­hama, and other pro­duc­tion cen­ters. Ja­pan was burn­ing to the ground al­most nightly, but the doom-laden war cab­i­net re­fused to con­sider sur­ren­der.

By then, car­ri­ers had re­turned to Em­pire wa­ters, be­gin­ning a se­ries of strikes in Fe­bru­ary and con­tin­u­ing through sum­mer. The once-mighty Im­pe­rial Navy lay largely fu­el­less in har­bor, where it was pounded into the mud of Kure and other ports.

Then came Au­gust.

On the 6th, one B-29 dropped one bomb on the port city of Hiroshima and de­stroyed it in mil­lisec­onds. The Enola Gay turned for Tinian, leav­ing a loom­ing ra­dioac­tive mush­room cloud. The atomic age had ar­rived.

Still, Ja­pan re­fused the Al­lied de­mand for sur­ren­der. Thus, on the 9th, Bockscar de­stroyed Na­gasaki. Maj. Gen. Les­lie Groves of the Man­hat­tan Project had pre­dicted that two A-bombs would be nec­es­sary, and he proved pre­scient. On the 15th, the em­peror broke tra­di­tion and per­son­ally in­ter­vened, over­rid­ing his hard-line cab­i­net.

Air­power had won its ul­ti­mate vic­tory in the last bat­tle of the world’s great­est war.

The view off the fan­tail of the Prince­ton must have de­pressed Ja­panese com­man­ders: Four car­ri­ers stretch to the hori­zon with many more in the area of the home is­lands. The end was in sight. (Photo cour­tesy of Stan Piet)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.