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The decline of the Rising Sun

By Sakhal

The conquest of Iwo Jima allowed the United States to intensify their attacks against the metropolitan territory of Japan. The offensive had started time ago, and had been made possible by the availability of airbases able to allow the bombers a round trip over their targets, and also by the entry into service of the largest bomber ever built until that time, the B-29 Superfortress, that had a wingspan of 43 meters, able to take off with a total weight (in overload) of 61.5 tonnes and able to fly at 570 km/h at an altitude of 9000 meters. When the Bomber Command had this bomber available, the tactic of the bombings would recrudesce over the cities of Japan, in form of a terrorist tactic known as carpet bombing.

The decline of the Rising Sun

In June 1944, the USAAF was able to organize the first carpet bombing with these very expensive bombers. The target were the steelworks at Yagata, in Kyushu island, and the bombers departed from China. With the increasing number of bombers in the hands of the Bomber Command, the offensives in Japan acquired dramatic overtones. The 25th February 1945, while the Marines were fighting at Iwo Jima, the Bomber Command effectuated a big offensive against Tokyo, sending 172 B-29 bombers, loaded with a part of napalm and magnesium bombs. As a result of the attack, two square kilometers in the center of Tokyo were literally razed to the ground. In the tactic of carpet bombing the bombers had to fly at an altitude not superior to 2000 meters; each one of the downed bombers was a notable loss in economic terms (near to one million dollars).

In 9th March 1945, while Iwo Jima was almost conquered, 333 B-29 departed from Saipan, Guam and Tinian, arriving to Tokyo shortly after the midnight the day 10. The huge bombers descended to the mandatory altitude and dropped their napalm bombs inside an area delimited by some incendiary bombs previously launched. The bombing continued during three long hours in three waves, and was the most terrible one in the Second World War. The effects were incredible: 124000 dead and destruction of values of about 200 millions yens. The 20% of the city (near 26 square kilometers) was totally devastated. The illustration below depicts Eddie Allen from the 40th Bomb Group, one of the most famous B-29 bombers, whose life came to an abrupt halt on this second Tokyo mission.

The decline of the Rising Sun

The 3rd April, 327 B-29 appeared over Tokyo again, taking as target the northeast part of the city, with an extension of 18 square kilometers. Two days later was massively attacked the already smashed industrial area of Kawasaki, south of Tokyo, and later the attacks continued in Yokohama, Kobe and Toyama. The 24th May, Tokyo was attacked again by an horde of 524 bombers and two days later the raid repeated in other districts of the metropoli. At the end of May 1945, according to Japanese sources, half of Tokyo, an area of about 90 square kilometers, had been devastated to the ground. These offensives were decisive to bow down the resistance of Japan, and contrarily to the thinking of some, the explosions of the two atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not the only events that forced the surrender of the Japanese, but most appropriately the opportunity for the supporters of the surrender to finally impose their views over those that wanted an extreme resistance. The photo below shows the apocaliptic image of the center of Hiroshima, reduced to a desert of burnt and radiactive debris and ruins.

The decline of the Rising Sun

The aerial offensives over Japan had created a climate of war psychosis. According to Japanese sources, not less that 240000 civilians were killed by the bombings, while more than 310000 were wounded and almost ten millions lost their homes, since almost two millions and half buildings were destroyed and 110000 were partially destroyed. More than half a million buildings were destroyed by the Japanese themselves, to cut the fires caused by the bombs. Apart from this, Japan suffered a severe famine due to the destruction of the areas destined to the production of aliment. Rations were insufficient and diseases such as scabies, colitis and tuberculosis increased to a large extent. Who could afford it, would appeal to black market to take the needed goods. The harshness of war turned the once altruist, generous, communitary and civic Japanese society into an egoist one.

Industries had lowered their production to levels that were hardly acceptable. Textile production was insufficient to defend the population from the coldness. Substitutes of the petroleum had to be used in the industrial machinery since the loss of the Philippines. The energies of the country were focused in military production, but here things had largely changed as well. And however, both military and civilians continued defending their country and their empire. But as well, in the summit of the power, some responsible minds were aware that it would be necessary to prepare for a honorable peace before a shameful defeat would drag to ruin the Japan, its population and the Emperor itself, which would be deemed as unforgivable.

In this way was finished the power of the Imperial Japan. Destroyed aircraft, including Zero and Raiden fighters, photographed in the airbase of Atsugi, in November 1945. When the Japanese aviation was almost extinguished, the B-29s could deliver their atrocious load over Japan with almost total impunity.

The decline of the Rising Sun
Categories: Events - World War Two - 20th Century - [General] - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2014-03-17

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