On the 70th anniversary of Tokyo’s fire-bombing we remember the 100,000 people in the single night of 10 March. Most of the victims were women, the elderly and children. A US survey later concluded that probably more people lost their lives during the raid by 300 bombers than at any single moment in history. Tonnes of incendiary bombs on the city's crowded wooden and paper neighbourhoods which started a fire storm that burned at over 1,000 degrees. Approximately 9,700 acres, or 15 square miles of the city was reduced to ashes.
The Tokyo bombing opened the curtain on an orgy of destruction in the final months of the Second World War that included dozens of similar raids on Japanese cities, and culminated in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August. When the droning of bombers stopped on 15 August, almost 70 cities had been reduced to rubble and perhaps half a million people were dead. If the bombing of Dresden a month earlier than Tokyo had produced a ripple of public debate in Europe, “no discernible wave of revulsion took place in the US or Europe in the wake of the far greater destruction of Japanese cities”, wrote Mark Selden, a historian at Cornell University.
A spokesman for the Fifth Air Force at the time categorized “the entire population of Japan as a proper military target.” Colonel Harry F. Cunningham explained the U.S. policy in no uncertain terms: “For us, THERE ARE NO CIVILIANS IN JAPAN.”
This was clearly a war crime that produced virtually no military benefit. When asked about his role in the 1945 Tokyo firebombing, General Curtis LeMay, head of the Twenty-first U.S. Bomber Command remarked: “I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal. Fortunately, we were on the winning side.”
By any rational definition, these men are terrorists. This was pure revenge by the US and it did not hasten the end of the war. We may rightly condemn the burning of the Jordanian pilot by ISIS but we should not forget those tens upon tens of thousands of innocents burned alive in Tokyo.
Katsumoto Saotome, 82, a survivor of Great Tokyo Air Raids in 1945 fears Japan may be marching toward war again.
"I think we're turning backwards, down that road," said Saotome, citing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's plans to change Japan's war-renouncing constitution, his more muscular security stance and a state secrets act passed last year.