Consequences of Propaganda

Today in History, July 9, 1944:

Victory at the Battle of Saipan. The US Marines defeat the Japanese military on Saipan, the first island with Japanese civilians to be taken by the US.

It was a difficult battle, made all the more so by the existence of a civilian population. The Marines set up well lit camps for the civilians to be safe from battle.

Fearing that his citizens would find out that the Americans were not the vicious, heartless enemy projected by propaganda, the Emperor issued a communique to the civilian population of Saipan, telling them that if they committed suicide they would receive the same treatment in the afterlife as Japanese soldiers that died in battle.

American servicemen were horrified as Japanese civilians threw their children from cliffs, then followed them to the rocks below. The newly won island would be used as an air base for B-29 Superfortress bombers that would bomb the Japanese mainland.

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.