Firestorm in Tokyo

Today in History, March 9: 1945:

The Firebombing of Tokyo. General Curtis Lemay, hero of the air war in the Pacific, had been given the task of using American air power to end the war without losing untold numbers of American lives.

As part of that effort, on this date in 1945, over 300 B-29 Superfortress bombers took off from Tinian and Saipan in the Marianas en route to Tokyo. A little after midnight, they began dropping thousands of tons of incendiary bombs.

The result was a firestorm that engulfed 15 square miles of the city, which was composed mostly of wooden structures with paper walls. The numbers vary from 90,000 to 120,000, but the death toll was enormous. The citizens of Tokyo were unable to escape the flames fueled by 30 knot winds.

As much is made of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, neither matched the death toll of the firestorm in Tokyo. The only difference was that the atomic attacks took one bomber with one bomb rather than thousands of bombs with hundreds of bombers.

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