This map, titled: "New Map of Great Tokyo and Yokohama" highlights the U.S.A.A.F's (United States Army Air Force) possible aerial bombardment targets in Tokyo during World War II.
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(Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections & Archives, World War II collection, MSS 478, Box 7, Folder 6)
This image is a part of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey in Japan. This study sought to evaluate the effects and importance of air power. The white areas of this photograph are all burned areas, the smoke is still smoldering from the attack. The caption reads: "Oblique photo taken 10 March showing most of the damaged area and some of the fires still burning from the attack of 9-10 March."
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(Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections & Archives, Walter H. Gardener Collection, MSS 57, Box 4, Book 44, pg. 93)
During World War II, the United States implemented indiscriminate bombing tactics against the Japanese. American bombing tactics became more aggressive as the war continued. In the spring of 1945, the air force removed the guns of B-29s to allow room for more incendiary or “fire” bombs. When dropped, these bombs sparked firestorms that demolished Japanese cities, which were especially prone to fire damage as most of the buildings were constructed of wood. The United States Air Corps justified its use of indiscriminate bombing because they believed it would end the war faster and by the end of World War II, U.S. incendiary bombs annihilated 168 square miles of sixty-seven Japanese cities. Many cities were 50-60% destroyed, in seventeen cities 60-88% of the city was destroyed, and in Toyama, the city was 98.6% destroyed.39
This image is a part of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey in Japan. This study sought to evaluate the effects and importance of air power. This photo depicts children playing in the remains of burned section of Tokyo. The caption reads: "Wide street in the burned area where the wind was blowing at right angles at the time of the attack."
(Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections & Archives, Walter H. Gardener Collection, MSS 57, Box 4, Book 44, pg. 113)
Although U.S. incendiary bombs had an enormous impact on Japanese cities, the bombs did not always damage morale. Instead, many people, including children, simply became desensitized to the destruction. As a young child, Shirai Naruo first witnessed the destruction of incendiary bombs while riding on a train passing the city of Kobe. When he looked out the window, he saw that the city was completely demolished. Despite his shock at the sight, he muttered “‘It doesn’t seem too bad.’” Later in the account, he concluded that “war was what made a young boy say, ‘it doesn’t seem too bad’ when he saw a city turned into a scorched wasteland.”
Other youth were traumatized by the bombs. During a bombing raid in Tokyo, teenage Okubo Michiko encountered a sobbing five-year-old girl who had lost her parents in the chaos. Okubo grabbed the little girl’s hand and began to escort her out of the burning city. When Okubo saw an incendiary bomb descending from the sky towards her, she accidently dropped the child’s hand and ran into a nearby house. When she turned around, the little girl was bathed in flames. Okubo later recalled, “I have never been able to forget the feeling of her soft, little hand, like a maple leaf, in mine.” Children’s morale may have been affected by the incendiary bombs, but youth did not have any power to stop the war. Instead, the United States Air Force exposed Japanese children to man-made hellfire in hopes that the Japanese leaders would give in. But the Japanese military—Japanese adults—would not surrender, so children died for decisions they did not make.