09 March, 2012

09 March 1945


438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
9 March, 1945      1900

Hello darling!

Just a shortie this evening to tell you I love you, miss you, want you and need you. Have been out all day and I’m a little tired but I’ll be O.K. in an hour or two.

About your V-Mails – I enjoy them and it’s swell of you to write so often. Up to about 2 months ago they seemed to arrive earlier than air mail – or so the fellows said. Recently – the reverse seems true – but it’s never the same from month to month.

All else is O.K. sweetheart, and I’ll write you a regular letter tomorrow. Will you excuse this one? I thought it better than no note at all – and anyway I wanted you to know I love you strongly!

All my love for now, dear

Love to the folks.


about The Firebombing of Tokyo

B-29 Firebombing Tokyo on 9 March 1945

From The History Channel's This Day in History comes this:
On 9 March 1945, U.S. warplanes launched a new bombing offensive against Japan, dropping 2,000 tons of incendiary bombs on Tokyo over the course of the subsequent 48 hours. Almost 16 square miles in and around the Japanese capital were incinerated, and between 80,000 and 130,000 Japanese civilians were killed in the worst single firestorm in recorded history. Temperatures reached 1,000° C (1,899° F). Over a million residents lost their homes.

Early on March 9, Air Force crews met on the Mariana Islands of Tinian and Saipan for a military briefing. They were planning a low-level bombing attack on Tokyo that would begin that evening, but with a twist: Their planes would be stripped of all guns except for the tail turret. The decrease in weight would increase the speed of each Superfortress bomber - and would also increase its bomb load capacity by 65 percent, making each plane able to carry more than seven tons of various incendiary explosives, including white phosphorus and napalm, a new gasoline-based, fuel-gel mixture... "You're going to deliver the biggest firecracker the Japanese have ever seen," said U.S. Gen. Curtis LeMay. In fact, the death toll from the March 9-10 bombing exceeded that of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and of Nagasaki.

B-29s Pass Mount Fuji on the way to
Tokyo for Firebombing on 9 March 1945

The cluster bombing of the downtown Tokyo suburb of Shitamachi had been approved only a few hours earlier. Shitamachi was composed of roughly 750,000 people living in cramped quarters in wooden-frame buildings. Setting ablaze this "paper city" was a kind of experiment in the effects of firebombing; it would also destroy the light industries, called "shadow factories," that produced prefabricated war materials destined for Japanese aircraft factories.

Cluster Bombing Tokyo on 9 March 1945

The denizens of Shitamachi never had a chance of defending themselves. Their fire brigades were hopelessly undermanned, poorly trained, and poorly equipped. At 5:34 pm, Superfortress B-29 bombers took off from Saipan and Tinian, reaching their target at 12:15 a.m. on March 10. Three hundred and thirty-four bombers, flying in streams 400 miles long at a mere 500 feet, dropped their loads, creating a giant bonfire fanned by 30-knot winds that helped raze Shitamachi and spread the flames throughout Tokyo. Masses of panicked and terrified Japanese civilians scrambled to escape the inferno, most unsuccessfully. The human carnage was so great that the blood-red mists and stench of burning flesh that wafted up sickened the bomber pilots, forcing them to grab oxygen masks to keep from vomiting.

Tokyo in Flames from Bombing of 9 March 1945

The raid lasted slightly longer than three hours. "In the black Sumida River, countless bodies were floating, clothed bodies, naked bodies, all black as charcoal. It was unreal," recorded one doctor at the scene. The "only" 243 American airmen were considered acceptable losses.
EyeWitness to History's web page called "The Incendiary Bombing Raids on Tokyo, 1945," quotes eyewitness Robert Guillain, a French reporter, who wrote this in his book I Saw Tokyo Burning (1985):
They set to work at once sowing the sky with fire. Bursts of light flashed everywhere in the darkness like Christmas trees lifting their decorations of flame high into the night, then fell back to earth in whistling bouquets of jagged flame. Barely a quarter of an hour after the raid started, the fire, whipped by the wind, began to scythe its way through the density of that wooden city.

The fire front advanced so rapidly that police often did not have time to evacuate threatened blocks even if a way out were open. And the wind, carrying debris from far away, planted new sprouts of fire in unexpected places. Firemen from the other half of the city tried to move into the inferno or to contain it within its own periphery, but they could not approach it except by going around it into the wind, where their efforts were useless or where everything had already been incinerated. The same thing happened that had terrorized the city during the great fire of 1923: ...under the wind and the gigantic breath of the fire, immense, incandescent vortices rose in a number of places, swirling, flattening sucking whole blocks of houses into their maelstrom of fire.

Evacuees Far Enough Away to Escape

Wherever there was a canal, people hurled themselves into the water; in shallow places, people waited, half sunk in noxious muck, mouths just above the surface of the water. Hundreds of them were later found dead; not drowned, but asphyxiated by the burning air and smoke. In other places, the water got so hot that the luckless bathers were simply boiled alive. Some of the canals ran directly into the Sumida; when the tide rose, people huddled in them drowned. In Asakusa and Honjo, people crowded onto the bridges, but the spans were made of steel that gradually heated; human clusters clinging to the white-hot railings finally let go, fell into the water and were carried off on the current. Thousands jammed the parks and gardens that lined both banks of the Sumida. As panic brought ever fresh waves of people pressing into the narrow strips of land, those in front were pushed irresistibly toward the river; whole walls of screaming humanity toppled over and disappeared in the deep water. Thousands of drowned bodies were later recovered from the Sumida estuary.

Sirens sounded the all-clear around 5 A.M. - those still working in the half of the city that had not been attacked; the other half burned for twelve hours more. I talked to someone who had inspected the scene an March 11. What was most awful, my witness told me, was having to get off his bicycle every couple of feet to pass over the countless bodies strewn through the streets. There was still a light wind blowing and some of the bodies, reduced to ashes, were simply scattering like sand. In many sectors, passage was blocked by whole incinerated crowds."
Some of the Remains of Tokyo from the Air (above)
and on the Ground (below)

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