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Operation Meetinghouse- The Bombing of Tokyo

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“If war with the Japanese does come, we’ll fight mercilessly,” General George C. Marshall told news reporters in an off-the-record briefing on November 15, 1941, three weeks before Pearl Harbor. “Flying Fortresses will be dispatched immediately to set the paper cities of Japan on fire. There won’t be any hesitation about bombing civilians—it will be all-out.”  More than three years of brutal global warfare would pass before Marshall’s prediction came true, but come true it did on the night of March 9-10, 1945.

 An aerial armada of 334 B-29 bombers took off from newly established bases in the Mariana Islands, bound for Tokyo. In the space of a few hours, they dropped 1,667 tons of napalm-filled incendiary bombs on the Japanese capital, killing more than 100,000 people in a single strike, and injuring several times that number. It was the highest death toll of any air raid during the war, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By comparison, the bombing of Dresden a month earlier had resulted in around 25,000 deaths.
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The charred body of a woman who was carrying a child on her back

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The March 9 raid, code-named “Operation Meetinghouse,” marked a shift in American bombing strategy. It wasn’t B-17 Flying Fortresses that did the job, as Marshall had predicted, but the new long-distance B-29s based in Saipan and Tinian.

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General Curtis LeMay, newly appointed as the head of B-29 operations, called for a change in tactics.

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The high-flying bombers had shown themselves on their first missions to be horribly inaccurate in hitting their targets. At a time when the jet stream was still poorly understood, B-29 crews watched as the high winds at 30,000 feet scattered their bombs as soon as they dropped. That, and the frequent cloud cover over Japan, had led to B-29s hitting their targets, on average, less than 10 percent of the time.wczt1gd

 

For the March 9 raid on Tokyo, LeMay made some key changes. The B-29s would overfly the city’s most densely populated areas at 7,000 feet instead of 30,000 feet, in single file rather than in formation. To reduce the risk from Japanese fighters, they would raid at night (in fact the American bombers met with little resistance). And the B-29s would be stripped of nonessentials, including guns and gunners, to make room for more bombs. “By changing tactics and doubling the bombload per plane,” wrote historian Thomas Searle, LeMay created “a force capable of starting enormous firestorms.
U.S. planners knew the wooden Japanese buildings would burn hot. Army engineers had prepared maps of Tokyo’s most flammable sectors, and had observed Japanese-style houses put to the torch in a mock “Japanese village” constructed at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utahtokyo_inflammable_areas

On the night of the Tokyo raid, 15 square miles of one of the world’s most densely populated urban centers—equivalent to half the area of Manhattan—burned to the ground. More than a million people were left homeless. As historian John Dower described in his 1986 book War Without Mercy, “The heat from the conflagration was so intense that in some places canals boiled, metal melted, and buildings and human beings burst spontaneously into flames.”

Watching Tokyo on March 10 from our Evacuation Home in Ibaraki PrefectureArtist: Hashimoto KimisukeLocation: Yoshinuma (Tsukubane City), Ibaraki PrefectureAge at time of raid: 7

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The Umaya Bridge on the Night of March 10Artist: Fukushima YasusukeLocation: Umaya BridgeAge at time of raid: 6

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For Japan, it was a grisly beginning to the war’s end. According to a postwar U.S. estimate, total civilian casualties in Japan as a result of nine months of air attack were about 806,000, including 330,000 deaths—more than the 780,000 combat casualties suffered by Japanese soldiers

 

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The bombing of Café de Paris -London

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Café de Paris is a London nightclub, located in the West End, beside Leicester Square on Coventry Street, Piccadilly.

It opened in 1924 and subsequently featured such performers as Dorothy Dandridge, Marlene Dietrich, Harry Gold, Harry Roy, Ken Snakehips Johnson and Maxine Cooper Gomberg.Louise Brooks made history when she worked there in December 1924, introducing the Charleston (dance) to London.

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Much of the early success of the Café de Paris was due to the visit of the then Prince of Wales who became a regular guest, often dining with notables from high society across Europe. Cole Porter was a regular, as was the Aga Khan

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During World War II, on 8 March 1941, the café was bombed soon after the start of a performance[and at least 34 people were killed and around 80 injured.

 

Two bombs fell into the basement ballroom down a ventilation shaft and exploded in front of the stage.The victims included 26-year-old bandleader Ken “Snakehips” Johnson, his saxophonist Dave “Baba” Williams, other band members, staff and diners.Snakehips’ head was blown from his shoulders.

Bandleader Snake-Hips Johnson on BBC Television

Dancers’ legs were sheered off. The blast, magnified in the confined space, burst the lungs of diners as they sat at their tables and killed them instantly.A rescue worker who arrived in the devastated nightclub tripped over a girl’s head on the floor, looked up and saw her torso still sitting in a chair. The dead and dying were heaped everywhere.Champagne was cracked open to clean wounds.

But there were some narrow escapes too. The high-kicking cabaret dancers, a troupe of ten girls, were due on stage when the bomb struck, but were saved because they were waiting in the wings and therefore protected from the devastation.

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The worst of human nature was in evidence that night too – amid the rubble and the chaos, unscrupulous looters were seen cutting off the fingers of the dead to steal their rings.

But, even among the death and destruction, one man retained his sense of humour – as he was carried out on a stretcher, he got a cheer from the watching crowd when he called out, ‘At least I didn’t have to pay for dinner.’

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On the same night that the Café de Paris was hit, so too was another even more famous landmark of London society – Buckingham Palace. And not for the first time.

The Luftwaffe Bombing of Sandhurst Road School

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The bombing of Sandhurst Road School occurred during an air raid on Wednesday, 20 January 1943 when the school on Minard Road, Catford, south east London was seriously damaged. A German fighter-bomber dropped a single 500 kg (1,100 lb) bomb on the school at 12.30 pm, killing 38 children (32 killed at the school and 6 more died in hospital) and 6 staff and injuring another 60 people. Many were buried for hours under the rubble.

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The German attack was part of a raid by 28 Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-4U3 fighter-bombers escorted by Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters, which took off at noon from an airfield in German-occupied France.

The planes were to attack any targets of opportunity in what the Germans called a Terrorangriff (“terror raid”).The German pilot who attacked the school was Hauptmann Heinz Schumann from Jagdgeschwader 2. He was flying a Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-4 carrying a single 500 kg SC 500 bomb.

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It is debated whether Schumann deliberately targeted the school, or simply attacked what looked like a large factory (the school was several stories high).

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Due to inefficiencies of the warning system, the air raid siren had not sounded by the time the German planes arrived. Many children were having their lunch and the attack destroyed the area of the school where they were eating. Witness reports suggest the attacking planes first flew past the school and then bombed it on a second run.Another plane is alleged to have also strafed the playground and local streets. In the same raid four barrage balloon sites were destroyed in Lewisham, a large gas holder in Sydenham was set alight, a Deptford power station suffered three direct hits, and the President’s House at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich.

The bomb killed (either immediately or later in hospital) 24 pupils and 2 teachers in the dining room. Five more children were killed on a staircase and nine in second floor classrooms. The blast also destroyed the staff room killing three teachers and another was killed in a science room. Roughly 60 others were injured. The teachers who died were: Mrs Connie Taylor, Mrs Ethel Betts, Mrs Virginia Carr, Miss Mary Jukes, Miss Gladys Knowelden and Miss Harriet Langdon.

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Of the 38 children and 6 teachers killed by the bombing, 31 children and 1 teacher were buried together at Hither Green Cemetery in a civilian war dead plot. The mass grave has a rectangular stone surround that contains a raised tablet with inscription. The burial was conducted by the Bishop of Southwark Bertram Simpson, and over 7,000 mourners attended The school now has both a stained glass window and a memorial garden commemorating the event.

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The Bombing of the Vatican

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Today marks the 73rd anniversary of the first bombing of the Vatican.

Bombing of Vatican City occurred twice during World War II. The first occasion was on the evening of 5 November 1943, when a plane dropped bombs on the area south-west of Saint Peter’s Basilica, causing considerable damage but no casualties. The second bombing, which affected only the outer margin of the city, was  on the 1st of  March 1944, and caused the death of one person and the injury of another.

An undated eyewitness account written by Monsignor Domenico Tardini in 1944 states:

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“The (first) bombing of the Vatican occurred on 5 November 1943 at 20:10. It was a very clear and cloudless evening. The moon made visibility excellent. For over half an hour an aeroplane was heard circling insistently over Rome and especially the Vatican. At about 8:10, while an Allied squadron passed over the Vatican, the aeroplane that until then had been circling over Rome dropped four bombs and flew away. The bombs fell in the Vatican Gardens: the first near the receiving Radio, another near the Government building, a third on the mosaics workshop, the fourth near the building of the Cardinal Archpriest. If they had fallen a very few metres off, they would have hit the Radio, the Government building, that of the Tribunals (where the diplomats were housed), and that of the Archpriest.

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They caused considerable damage, for all the windows were blown to pieces. There were no human casualties.”

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The future cardinal Tardini continued: “General opinion, and general indignation, blamed the Germans and, perhaps more, the Republican Fascists. The latter view was reinforced by notes about a telephone conversation of Barracu (Undersecretary for Home Affairs) that a telephone operator gave to the Holy Father. However, some months later, Monsignor Montini received from Monsignor Carroll, an American of the Secretariat of State, who was in Algiers to organize an information service for soldiers and civilians,in which it was stated clearly that the bombs had been dropped by an American. 5 November is for England, Father Hughes told me, an anti-Pope day.When Monsignor Carroll came to Rome in June 1944, he answered a question of mine by telling me that the American airman was supposed to have acted either to make a name for himself or out of wickedness. Monsignor Carroll did not know whether the delinquent had been punished.

The message from Monsignor Walter S. Carroll that Monsignor Tardini spoke of as addressed to Monsignor Montini was in reality addressed to Cardinal Secretary of State Luigi Maglione. It read: “In a conversation with the American Chief of Staff during the past week I was informed very confidentially that they feel that the bombing of the Vatican is probably attributable to an American pilot who lost his way; in fact, another American pilot reported seeing an Allied plane dropping its load on the Vatican. The General expressed his sincere regret and gave assurances that strict precaution would be taken to avoid a repetition of this incident ”

Official assurance that no American plane had in fact dropped bombs on Vatican City was given by the United States authorities.

The German and British authorities gave similar assurances regarding aircraft of their countries.

However in 2007 new evidence found by Augusto Ferrara, suggested that the bombing was ordered by the Italian Fascist politician Roberto Farinacci.

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The main target had been the Vatican radio because the Fascists believed that the Vatican was sending coded messages to the allies.

The plane which bombed the Vatican reportedly took off from the airport of Viterbo, a town 70 miles north of Rome.Ferrara discovered that “the pilot was a sergeant Parmeggiani, who was ordered to drop the bombs by the prominent fascist Roberto Farinacci.

That the attack was carried out by the Italian fascists, and not the Allies, is also suggested by a conversation between a priest of Rome, Fr. Giuseppe, and the Jesuit Pietro Tacchi Venturi, who was continuously in touch with Cardinal Luigi Maglione, Vatican Secretary of State.The conversation is reported in the book “Skyways lead to Rome” by the historian Antonio Castellani.

According to Castellani, Fr. Tacchi Venturi lamented “the attack of the Americans” to Fr. Giuseppe, but Fr. Giuseppe replied, “they were not Americans, they were Italians.”

Fr. Giuseppe then underscored that “it was a Savoia Marchetti plane, with five bombs aboard to be thrown to the Vatican Radio station, since Farinacci was convinced that Vatican Radio transmitted military information to the Allied Forces.”

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Forgotten History-The Bombing of Chongqing

Bombing of Chongqing.

Very little is know in the west about WWII in China except for the fact that it really started before anywhere else.One could argue that the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War at July 1937 was really the start of WWII in Asia.

One could also argue that the first mass atrocities of WWII started at the Nanking Massacre or Nanjing Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking or Rape of Nanjing, was an episode during the Second Sino-Japanese War of mass murder and mass rape by Japanese troops against the residents of Nanjing (then spelled Nanking), then capital of the Republic of China. The massacre occurred over six weeks starting December 13, 1937, the day that the Japanese captured Nanjing. During this period, soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army murdered Chinese civilians and disarmed combatants numbering an estimated 40,000 to over 300,000, and perpetrated widespread rape and looting.

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One of the worst affected cities in China was Chongqing ( formerlyChungking )a major city in Southwest China and one of the five national central cities in China. Administratively, it is one of China’s four direct-controlled municipalities (the other three are Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin), and the only such municipality in inland China.

The Chinese Air Force was unprepared at the outbreak of the war. The Japanese air attacks went essentially unopposed.

Between February 18, 1938 – August 23, 1943 a total of 268 air raids were conducted against Chongqing, with more than 11,500, mainly incendiary, bombs dropped. The targets were usually residential areas, business areas, schools, hospitals and other non-military targets. These bombings were probably aimed at cowing the Chinese government, or as part of the planned Sichuan invasion.

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The worst one was probably the bombing which happened today 75 years ago.

On June 5, 1941, bombing in China’s former capital sent thousands of residents fleeing to a bomb shelter, where they suffocated. The Chongqing massacre and other Japanese attacks would sour Sino-Japanese relations for decades.

At the start of the second Sino-Japanese War in 1938, the Japanese began bombing China’s new capital city of Chongqing (Chungking). During the five-year campaign, the Japanese killed an estimated 11,889 people, wounded 14,100 and destroyed 17,608 buildings, according to the Chongqing Municipal Government.

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Chongqing had grown four times its pre-war size after becoming the new capital of China in 1938, but when the bombing began, many of the nearly 1 million citizens, unable to defend themselves, were forced into hiding as the only refuge from constant Japanese bombardment.

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One of the worst bombings came on June 5, 1941, and lasted more than three hours. More than 2,500 Chongqing residents fled to shelter in one of the town center’s tunnels, the Jiaochangkou Tunnel. There they suffocated as they waited for the end of the assault.Others died during the mass panic that ensued.

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Many people died, both in the bombings and also in the air-raid shelters, especially babies, from heat and exhaustion and diarrhea.

.The Japanese attack on Chongqing came three years after the massacre at Nanjing. Events like the “Rape of Nanjing” and the bombing of Chongqing set the stage for Japanese brutality and dominance over China, and caused decades of Sino-Japanese hostility.

It is not very clear how many people died on the 5th of June 1941, some records say 2,500 others say 4,000.The only thing that is certain is that these were all civilians and civilians had been the specific target of the Japanese air force.

Three-thousand tons of bombs were dropped on the city between 1939 and 1943.According to photographer Carl Mydans, the spring 1941 bombings were “the most destructive shelling ever made on a city”, although by comparison 2,300 tons of bombs were dropped by Allied bombers on Berlin in a single night during the Battle of Berlin. A total of 268 air raids were conducted against Chongqing.

In March 2006, 40 Chinese who were wounded or lost family members during the bombings sued the Japanese government demanding 10,000,000 yen (628,973 yuan) each and asked for apologies. “By filing a lawsuit, we want the Japanese people to know about Chongqing bombings,” said a victim.

 

Unfortunately they lost the law suit.

 

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