<p type = "text" content = "While the Japanese delegation stood on the bridge of the battleship USS Missouri On 2 September 1945, preparing to sign documents ending the Second World War, a large formation of heavy bombers Boeing B-29 Superfortress descended on the Bay of Tokyo to recall the terrible destruction suffered by their country and transform the Japanese cities in cities ruins. It was a reminder that the Japanese really did not need: the bombed rubble and the crematoriums smoking regularly throughout the country were sufficient proof of the violent storm that had hit the land of the rising sun. "Data-reactid =" 22 "> As the Japanese delegation stood on the bridge of the battleship USS Missouri On 2 September 1945, preparing to sign documents ending the Second World War, a large formation of heavy bombers Boeing B-29 Superfortress descended on the Bay of Tokyo to recall the terrible destruction suffered by their country and transform the Japanese cities in cities ruins. It was a reminder that the Japanese really did not need: the bombed rubble and the crematoriums smoking regularly throughout the country bore ample witness to the fierce firestorm that had fallen on the country's land. rising Sun.
<p type = "text" content = "In Japan, morale was so low that nearly 70% of those questioned by US military personnel after the surrender reported reaching the point where they were unable to stand a day longer. Most Americans, especially young soldiers and marines who were to invade the Japanese islands of Kyushu and Honshu, believed that Japan surrendered because of the atomic bomb. They were wrong. In fact, the country had already been kneeling before the first atomic test at the Trinidad site in the New Mexico desert two months earlier. Japan had been destroyed by fire from above, mainly in the bomb bay of a Boeing B-29 armada. "Data-reactid =" 23 "> Japanese national morale was so low that nearly 70% of those interviewed by the US military after the surrender said they reached such a point that they could not stand a day anymore Most Americans, especially young soldiers and marines who were to invade the Japanese islands of Kyushu and Honshu, believed that Japan surrendered because of the atomic bomb. They were wrong. In fact, the country had already been kneeling before the first atomic test at the Trinidad site in the New Mexico desert two months earlier. Japan had been destroyed by fire from above, mainly firing bomb bays from an Boeing B-29 armada.
The B-29 had become the symbol of US air power as early as September 1945 because of its role in Japan's final defeat, but the big four-engine bomber had originally been designed as a weapon to use against 39, Nazi Germany. The initial offer call was launched in the fall of 1940, as the War Department began to prepare for an apparently inevitable entry into the war in Europe. Design problems and production delays prevented the very long-range bomber from remaining operational until it became apparent that such scope was no longer necessary against the # 39; Germany. The first production B-29s began to come off the assembly line in mid-1943, prompting commanders of all theaters to call for new bombers.
Lieutenant-General George C. Kenney, Air Force Commander of the Southwest Pacific Operations Area of General Douglas MacArthur, was particularly insistent in his statements regarding the bombers. Not only was Kenney replaced by airplanes and crews because of the high priority given to the European theater, but he was also heavily involved in the development of the B-29 when he was responsible for the airframe research and development at Wright Field, near Dayton, Ohio, in 1941. Although General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, Air Force Commander, is sensitive to Kenney's recommendations on the use of B-29 – the commander of the Southwest Pacific Air Force wanted to use them in Australia, then in the Philippines – had his own ideas as to where and how they should be deployed.
Arnold was also motivated by his own ambitions. Despite his high rank and responsibilities, he had never witnessed combat or commanded men in combat. He was now seeing an opportunity for his own combat command. Instead of assigning the B-29s to the Overseas Air Force, he decided to create a new air force under his personal command, a strategic bombing unit based in Washington, DC. The new Twentieth Air Force would be controlled by Arnold's own staff, who select targets for huge bombers and command the war thousands of miles away.
The final decision on the deployment of the B-29s was largely based on political considerations, including the appeasement of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's near obsession with launching an air bombing campaign against Japan as soon as possible. The Liberal president was to be re-elected for an unprecedented third term in 1944 and faced stiff opposition from the Conservatives. The start of the B-29 raids on Japan would strengthen its political stockpile.
Despite their long reach, the B-29s could only operate in four regions of the world close enough to Japan, and one of them, Soviet Siberia, was banned because of Soviet neutrality in the war with Japan. The bases in the Aleutian Islands were within reach of Japan, but the terrible subarctic weather conditions were problematic for the inexperienced bombers. The Chiefs of Staff felt that it was possible to establish B-29 bases in the Mariana Islands, a concept that pleased Admiral Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval Operations. because such an initiative has increased the importance of the area of operations of the Pacific Ocean, the only area under the command of the US Navy. King also supported Arnold's command plan to establish an independent command, as he would remove the B-29s from Douglas MacArthur.
The third option was to establish B-29 forward bases in China, an option that would allow attacks on Japan to begin several months before bases could be established on the island of Saipan in the Mariana Islands, and that would 39 was the option chosen by Arnold. Operations from China were also seen as a means of improving the morale of the Chinese people, who had been fighting the Japanese since 1931.
<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "To order the first B-29, Arnold selected The brigadier Kenneth B. Wolfe, ideal choice since he was project manager for the entire program and knew the plane very well.Wolfe established the 58th bombing squadron (H) in Marietta, Georgia , where the B-29s were made, and then began training crews in Salina, Kansas, where he developed plans for China, called "Japan's anticipated advance bombardment". Matterhorn. The Matterhorn plan provided for the B-29s to be based near Calcutta, India, with advanced operations bases around Chengtu, China. The plan was ambitious, especially logistically, because all military operations in China depended solely on air transport for supplies. "Data-reactid =" 34 "> To command the first B-29s, Arnold chose Brigadier Kenneth B. Wolfe, an ideal choice since he was project manager for the entire program and knew the exact details of the project. Wolfe established the 58th Bombardment Wing (H) in Marietta, Georgia, where the B-29s were produced, then began training crews in Salina, Kansas, and developed plans for operations. from China entitled "Japan's protracted bombing" and gave it the code name Matterhorn. The Matterhorn plan provided for the B-29s to be based near Calcutta, India, with advanced operations bases around Chengtu, China. It was an ambitious plan, especially in terms of logistics, since all military operations in China depended solely on air transport for their supply.
Although there was an airlift operation established between India and China conducted by the Air Transport Command, Wolfe proposed that the XX Bomber Command, the organization that it would bring to India, be entirely autonomous. XX Bomber Command would include its own air transport group equipped with former Liberer B-24 Liberators converted to C-87 transport vehicles and C-109 tankers. The B-29s would also be used as a means of transport. After arriving in India, several of them were turned into tankers to transport gasoline.
In an effort to keep some secret, the War Department took advantage of the B-29's development programs to report that the planes had failed as bombers and were converted into armed transport on behalf of China-Burma. Indian theater. It is unlikely that the Japanese bought the story.
<h3 class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Stormy start of the Matterhorn operation"data-reactid =" 37 ">Stormy start of the Matterhorn operation
The first B-29 to leave for India went through England, where he was exposed for advertising purposes to indicate that the bombers would be used against Germany. The B-29s started leaving for India in March 1944. In April, they were carrying out transport missions from Calcutta to Chengtu. The Matterhorn requested that the first missions be carried out in June and that thorough preparations have been made. Air transport projects for their own supplies have been optimistic, and Air Transport Command has been asked to provide additional air transport. Supply problems worsened in May when the Japanese went on the offensive in China and theater commanders suddenly needed more supplies. They naturally took those originally intended for the Matterhorn, which had not yet made the first combat mission.
The first mission of B-29, scheduled for mid-May, was an attack on Makashan railway stations in Bangkok, Thailand. Wolfe wanted to fly it at night because his crews were engaged in transport operations and needed training flying skills and other combat tactics, but he was rejected by Arnold and Twentieth Air Force personnel, mostly European theater. where the focus was on the bombing of the day. Arnold insisted that the first B-29 mission be a precision attack in broad daylight.
Wolfe postponed the mission and set up a training program. On June 5, 1944, Wolfe had 112 super strongholds ready for the mission, but only 98 were able to take off. One crashed immediately after takeoff. The weather was so bad that the B-24s supposed to participate in the attack were canceled. Their commanders were not under pressure from the White House, while reduced visibility and low clouds posed assembly problems for the B-29s. Fourteen B-29s aborted and many crews failed to find the target. The remaining bombers flew over Bangkok for an hour and a half, with each crew making their own decisions as to the height of the bombing. A browser has described the confusion as "Saturday night in Harlem".
There was little enemy opposition, but the monsoon storms made the flight back dangerous. Three B-29s did not return because of fuel problems, while more than 40 landed on airfields all over China. One of them crashed at the landing, bringing the total losses to five new B-29s and 17 crew members killed or missing. The photographs taken after the attack revealed minimal damage to the target. The Twentieth Air Force nevertheless felt that the first mission had been a success.
<h3 class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Hit the Japanese steel industry"data-reactid =" 42 ">Hit the Japanese steel industry
As early as June 20, Wolfe ordered Wolfe to launch an attack on a target in Japan. Wolfe was facing a dilemma. His supplies to the Chinese advanced fields had to be restored. He had set the date of June 23 for a mission of 100 planes and needed three more days. General Joseph Stilwell, the senior US officer in China, had diverted from China the supplies for Matterhorn operations at the Fourteenth Air Force. Wolfe told Arnold that he could ride 50 planes on June 15 or 55 five days later. Arnold responded by ordering an attack with 70 planes on June 15; the order also required an increase in Hump airlift operations.
The Twentieth Air Force decided to launch a campaign against the Japanese steel industry, and the target of the first attack was the Yamata Imperial Steel Factory on Kyushu Island. June 15 was the date of the imminent invasion of Saipan, and Washington wanted to send a message to Tokyo to announce that the end was approaching. Wolfe managed to send 92 B-29s to China, but nine arrived with mechanical problems. Each bomber was armed and ready for battle and would only need fuel and rest for the crews of the Chinese bases.
The mission order provided for 75 planes, but only 68 took off. One crashed and four aborted, leaving 63 to continue to the target. The first plane arrived in Yamata just before midnight. The crew indicated that the target was "Betty", which means that the weather was below 50% and that he had bombed. Despite good visibility, the steel mill was blackened while smoke and haze obscured the ground. Only 15 crews were able to visually bomb and 32 dropped their bombs with the aid of a radar, technique considered at the time as inferior. There was strong opposition between fighters and planes, but not one B-29 was damaged over Japan, although only one was lost over China during the flight back. Six B-29s were lost for various reasons and 55 airmen were missing. The damage to the target was insignificant.
Despite the lack of damage to the target, the mission yielded results, making the Japanese realize for the first time since the start of the war that they were in imminent danger. The next day, the war department announced the existence of the twentieth air force and the news of an attack against Japan was competing with the news of Normandy. Arnold told Wolfe that it was imperative to increase pressure against Japan despite logistical problems.
The immediate objectives were: attacks on Japanese steel mills in Manchuria, harassment of raids on Japan itself, and attack on oil refineries from Palambang to Sumatra. Wolfe presented a plan for a 50-aircraft mission against the Anshan mill in Manchuria instead of the 100 desired by Arnold and received a message telling him that he was to return immediately to the United States for "an important mission". upstairs ", with a promotion to the rank of major general and command of the Material Command, an Arnold maneuver to make way for a more aggressive commander.
Once Wolfe left, responsibility for the operations of XX Bomber Command fell to Brig. General Laverne "Blondie" Saunders, commander of 58th Bombing Wing. On July 7, a group of 18 B-29s conducted a harassment mission against Japan. One of them aborted, but the other 17 managed to bomb "something". Two were forced to turn back because of fuel transfer problems, but their teams dropped the bombs on the Japanese depot in Hankow, China.
Saunders decided to attack Manchuria by postponing Palembang's mission. It received a major boost when it turned out to be a record month for Air Command's Hump operation, but it still faces a shortage of operational B-29s, a condition that results in part from the conversion of several ships into tankers. He proposed to suspend the transport operations 10 days before the raid and to bring back the bombers five days earlier, a decision opposed by the commander of the 14th Army Air Major-General Claire Chennault, lest the presence of the bombers cause Japanese attacks. attacks. Washington has approved the plan and the dreaded attacks have failed.
<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Of the 111 bombers shipped from India, 107 reached China The weather led to a one-day attack until July 29. The rain kept a group on the ground, but 72 dropped out, an abortion and a crash reduced the number of bombers to 60. Although the weather conditions were ideal, the first bombs fell to the wind of the target and the smoke from the fires drifted onto the mill. The fighters met the formation, and the B-29 gunners claimed three probabilities and four damaged.The 444th group managed to move away when the rains bombarded Tak and Chenghsien: a B-29 was lost after being damaged by a flak, then five hunters jumped, including a seemingly captured Curtiss P-40 bearing the inscriptions of the US-Chinese compound squadron. "data-reactid =" 50 "> Of the 111 bombers shipped from India, 107 arrived in China.The weather conditions allowed the attack to be advanced from one day to the next. July 29 Rain has held back a group Abortions and a crash have reduced the number of bombers to 60. Although the weather conditions are ideal, the first bombs fell to the wind of the target and the smoke from the fires drifted on the The formation and the B-29 machine gunners claimed three probabilities and four crashes.The 444th group managed to stop when the rains bombarded targets on Tak and Chenghsien.A B-29 was lost after being damaged by a flak, then jumped by five fighters, one of whom was apparently captured Curtiss P-40 bearing the marks of the Sino-American composite wing.
Matches five and six of the Matterhorn took place jointly on the night of August 10, 1944, hitting Palembang oil refineries and Nagasaki docks. Double-barrel attacks were made possible by reducing the number of planes needed for the Palembang mission. Washington originally wanted a day strike with a minimum of 112 planes, but the fear of heavy losses led to a strike at dawn or dusk with half that number. Subsequent negotiations have resulted in a night attack.
Part of the new plan included the operation of the Moesi River, through which all exports of the complex were shipped. Eight miners from the 462nd Bomb Group passed under a 1,000-foot ceiling to drop 16 mines "with excellent results." A crew was dropped by a victim. The Palembang raid proved to be the only mission leaving Ceylon despite careful preparation. Nagasaki's mission was considerably reduced, with only 24 bombers reaching the target. The mission was memorable in this shooter, the technical sergeant H.C. Edwards was credited with the first official B-29 confirmed the air destruction of the war against a Japanese aircraft. The mission went surprisingly well, even though the bombing results were indistinct because of the poor quality of photo intelligence. Despite heavy criticism and 37 Japanese fighters, no B-29s have been scratched.
Saunders met opposition from Chennault, who felt that the attacks on the steel industry were futile. As a senior aviation officer in China, Chennault issued an ultimatum that Matterhorn should focus on the Japanese aviation industry or retire to India. He viewed the B-29s more as a liability than an asset in his theater because they used a valuable airlift space and their forward bases were to be defended. Saunders chose to ignore Chennault and continued to plan attacks on steel targets.
On August 20, a total of 75 B-29s took off for Kyushu. One group was able to descend only later in the day after a crash blocked the runway. Sixty-one B-29 hit the target despite strong opposition from four bombers. Three were lost in what could be a suicide attack when a fighter hit the tail of a B-29 and the falling wreck shot down two others. The 462nd group managed to get their planes off the wreckage after lightening their charges for a night attack. Ten have exceeded the target with little resistance. Nevertheless, the day was expensive, with 14 bombers lost for various causes and 95 airmen killed or missing. Although XX Bomber Command thought that the target had been damaged, Japanese records indicated the opposite.
<h3 class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = ""Synchronous" bombing"data-reactid =" 55 ">"Synchronous" bombing
Saunders planned another attack against Manchuria, but before his flight Major-General Curtis LeMay arrived to take command of XX Bomber Command. The mission went as planned, with LeMay to observe his crews in action. The attack caused considerable damage to Showa's steel company, but LeMay decided to institute new policies, including changing the basic training of four planes to twelve to expand the bombing scheme and consolidating the force. in fewer groups made up of larger squadrons. reduce support staff and improve maintenance. He also introduced a new "synchronous" bombardment policy, with one bomber remaining on the radar while the others attempted to acquire the target visually.
Despite the new policy of LeMay, Matterhorn days have been numbered. XX Bomber Command did only one additional mission against a steel target, an attack on the Showa factories that caused no damage. Future missions were directed against targets of the Japanese aviation industry and aerodromes on Formosa. The exploitation of rivers and harbors has become a responsibility of the B-29. In December, XX Bomber Command carried out a mission that Chennault then described as a turning point. Since June, he was demanding a B-29 attack on the Japanese supply depot of Hankow with incendiary bombs, but had been ignored by the leaders of XX Bomber Command.
After Japanese forces in China embarked on the offensive and threatened the Allied bases, Chennault resumed his efforts. He was supported by the new commander in China, Lieutenant General Albert C. Wedemeyer. LeMay questioned Wedemeyer's authority since he only commanded in China and that the B-29s were in India, but Arnold accepted the mission because he had not other choice considering the military situation in the area.
<h3 class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Firebombs on Hankow"data-reactid =" 59 ">Firebombs on Hankow
The Hankow attack was not the first inflammatory attack of the war against the B-29s. Arnold had ordered experimental incendiary attacks in Saipan in November 1944 and a mission on the night of November 29 against Tokyo had had little success. The Hankow attack was successful. Eighty-four B-29s were part of a mission of more than 200 aircraft on December 18th. Despite initial training dropping its bombs to the wind, the docks and warehouses suffered considerable damage. The intelligence services estimated that 38% of the bombs had destroyed 40 to 50% of the target. Chennault reported that Hankow had been rendered useless as a military base.
On October 20, 1944, Brig. General Emmett "Rosie" O'Donnell arrived in Saipan to open the headquarters of the 73rd Bombing Squadron, originally intended to be part of the Matterhorn, but was transferred to the Marianas when Saipan fell into the hands of the Allies. O'Donnell had been preceded by Brig. General Haywood "Possum" Hansell, who arrived in Saipan on October 12 in the first B-29 to reach the islands. Hansell, a staunch defender of precision bombing, has been involved in the B-29 program since its inception and previously held the position of Chief of Staff of the Twentieth Air Force.
Hansell and O'Donnell faced a shortage of bombers. The planes of 73 Wing flew over the Pacific to Kansas, and the originally scheduled arrival of five planes per day had been reduced to two or three. The first aircraft-driven mission of the new XXI Bomber Command was directed against the former Japanese supply base in Truk, Caroline Islands. Truk was originally chosen as the first target of the atomic bomb, but it was reduced to near-worthlessness after being attacked by navy planes and B-24s of the Air's Thirteenth Army. .
This initial mission was an exit of 18 B-29s in October. Four abortions, including Hansell's command ship, lost their chances of carrying out a combat mission aboard a B-29. A few days later, his successor, Brig. General Lauris Norstad invoked a rule prohibiting the commanding general of a very heavy bombing command from flying over enemy territory.
<h3 class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "B-29 Success Increases"data-reactid =" 64 ">B-29 Success Increases
After the start of combat operations against Japan, Hansell and O'Donnell lost their authority in the planning of the Twentieth Air Force mission in Washington. The first target directive was aimed at destroying the Japanese aviation industry. XX Bomber Command continued the campaign started while XXI hit targets out of range of B-29s operating from China. The city of Tokyo itself was not on the list of major targets, as opposed to aircraft factories in outlying areas. Twentieth Air Force has chosen to perform its first mission against the Nakajima Hikoki factory in Mushasino, a suburb of Tokyo, as the number two target on the priority list. The plant would produce more than 30% of all Japanese fighter jet engines, but the main reason for choosing it was that the headlines read "TOKYO BOMBED !!!". The attack was to be conducted by day using precision bombing methods.
Although Hansell presented his plans for an attack in October, the aircraft delivery problem caused a postponement to November. The first B-29 over Tokyo was actually a reconnaissance version, an F-13 piloted by Captain Ralph D. Steakly. Seventeen reconnaissance missions – including eight climate observation flights – were flown over from Japan before the first raid. An F-13 was lost as a result of a hunters attack during a mission to Nagoya.
Hansell's plan, dubbed San Antonio I, relied on intelligence estimates of the strength of Japanese fighter jets in the Tokyo area, which proved highly exaggerated. Les estimations allaient de 600 à 1 100 combattants autour de Tokyo uniquement, alors qu'en réalité, le Japon ne disposait que de 375 combattants opérationnels pour défendre l'ensemble du pays à l'époque. L'attaque était initialement prévue pour le début du mois de novembre. Les frappes des porte-avions de la Marine précédaient les B-29 de cinq jours. Mais la marine était préoccupée par des problèmes opérationnels dans la mer des Philippines et reporta complètement ses opérations autour du Japon.
Hansell a décidé de faire cavalier seul. Le raid était prévu pour le 17 novembre, mais de fortes pluies et un changement de vent ont entraîné un report. Les pluies ont duré une semaine, mais le matin du 24 novembre s'est levé, avec des vents favorables à la piste de descente.
<p class = "toile-atome toile-texte Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Le général O'Donnell a dirigé la formation hors de la piste avec le major Robert K. Morgan, célèbre pilote du B-17 Memphis Belle, dans le siège du copilote. Un total de 111 B-29 ont décollé de Saipan, mais 17 ont avorté et six autres ont été incapables de larguer leurs bombes. Le mauvais temps au-dessus de Tokyo et les forts vents du jet-stream ont rendu les bombardements difficiles. Seuls 24 avions ont effectivement bombardé la cible. Les résultats ont été meilleurs que prévu. Les archives japonaises ont révélé que 48 bombes avaient touché l'usine. Les dommages aux installations ont été mineurs et moins de 150 victimes ont été signalées. Néanmoins, le raid avait une énorme valeur psychologique, de nombreux dirigeants civils japonais ayant compris que la guerre était perdue. Ils ont commencé à déplacer les installations de production dans le sous-sol, bien qu'aucune des installations souterraines n'ait commencé à produire à la fin de la guerre. "Data-reactid =" 69 "> Le général O'Donnell a dirigé la formation en dehors de la piste avec le major Robert K. Morgan, célèbre journaliste en tant que pilote du B-17 Memphis Belle, dans le siège du copilote. Un total de 111 B-29 ont décollé de Saipan, mais 17 ont avorté et six autres ont été incapables de larguer leurs bombes. Le mauvais temps au-dessus de Tokyo et les forts vents du jet-stream ont rendu les bombardements difficiles. Seuls 24 avions ont effectivement bombardé la cible. Les résultats ont été meilleurs que prévu. Les archives japonaises ont révélé que 48 bombes avaient touché l'usine. Les dommages aux installations ont été mineurs et moins de 150 victimes ont été signalées. Néanmoins, le raid avait une énorme valeur psychologique, de nombreux dirigeants civils japonais ayant compris que la guerre était perdue. Ils ont commencé à déplacer des installations de production sous terre, bien qu'aucune des installations souterraines n'ait commencé à produire à la fin de la guerre.
Les missions contre les objectifs de l'industrie aéronautique se sont poursuivies jusqu'en janvier, mais les résultats ont été médiocres. Les conditions météorologiques entre Saipan et le Japon ont posé des problèmes majeurs, car l’air froid de l’Arctique est entré en collision avec l’air chaud du Pacifique, ce qui a provoqué des orages, un mur virtuel que les bombardiers ont dû franchir pour entrer et sortir de la zone cible. Les dégâts réels causés aux installations japonaises sont minimes, bien qu'un raid sur Nagoya le 13 décembre ait considérablement endommagé la cible de l'usine de moteurs.
La vingtième Armée de l’air faisait pression pour des attaques expérimentales incendiaires, une manœuvre à laquelle Hansell résista au détriment de son avenir. Le succès de la mission de Hankow le 18 décembre a conduit Norstad à ordonner une attaque incendiaire à grande échelle contre Nagoya. Hansell a protesté contre le changement d'orientation et n'a effectué la mission de test que le 2 janvier. Trois jours plus tard, Norstad est arrivé des États-Unis pour informer Hansell qu'il était soulagé. Le général Curtis LeMay a été amené du théâtre Chine-Birmanie-Inde pour le remplacer.
Ironiquement, la dernière mission placée sous le commandement de Hansell était l’une des meilleures missions de bombardement de précision de toute la guerre. Le 17 janvier, une formation de 73 B-29 a attaqué l'usine Kawasaki à Aksahi avec 115 tonnes de bombes explosives. Les services de renseignements américains ont estimé que 38% des bâtiments avaient été endommagés, mais les résultats réels étaient bien supérieurs. Les archives japonaises ont révélé que l'usine avait été détruite à 90% et Kawasaki a décidé de la fermer. L’attaque réussie a prouvé les théories de Hansell sur les bombardements de précision en plein jour, mais la connaissance des véritables résultats est arrivée trop tard pour le sauver du saccage.
<h3 class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Victimes lourdes, résultats non concluants"data-reactid =" 73 ">Victimes lourdes, résultats non concluants
L’arrivée de LeMay a initialement apporté peu de changements. Le 23 janvier, il demanda la permission d'attaquer des cibles plus légèrement défensives, mais Norstad l'informa que, s'il disposait de toute la latitude voulue pour sélectionner les cibles, une attaque incendiaire sur Kobe serait plus fructueuse. LeMay réalisa où son pain était beurré et projeta de bombarder Kobe le 4 février avec 157 avions prévus. La mission était la plus importante de la guerre à ce jour, avec des bombardiers de deux ailes participant pour la première fois. Au moment où la formation atteignait la cible, elle avait été réduite à seulement 69 avions. Seulement 129 avaient décollé; puis les avortements et autres problèmes ont eu un lourd tribut. La formation a largué 159,2 tonnes d’incendiaires et 13,6 tonnes de bombes à fragmentation de haute altitude. Quelque 200 attaques de chasseurs ont été signalées, un B-29 a été perdu et 35 autres ont été endommagés. Les photos postérieures à la frappe indiquaient des dégâts importants, et les estimations ont été corroborées par des documents japonais qui ont révélé que 1 039 bâtiments avaient été détruits ou gravement endommagés. Les pertes ont été modérées, mais plus de 4 000 personnes se sont retrouvées sans abri.
Following the Kobe mission, the Nakajima plant at Ota, where the company was turning out its new Ki-84 “Frank” fighter, was hit. The Ki-84, a design with high-altitude capabilities, was a threat to the B-29s, which were still flying unescorted. In spite of poor bombing accuracy—only seven incendiaries and 93 high explosive bombs hit the factory—damage was substantial. The handful of incendiaries set fires that destroyed 37 buildings and 74 of the new Ki-84 fighters. Losses had been heavy, with 12 bombers shot down and 29 damaged.
Washington was still interested in a firebombing campaign, and Norstad reminded LeMay that results were still inconclusive. LeMay scheduled a massive firebombing attack on Tokyo for February 25, 1945, with more than 200 bombers participating. Out of 231 B-29s that took off from Saipan, 172 dropped 453.7 tons of incendiaries. Clouds obscured the city, and bombardiers had to release their bombs using radar, but the fires destroyed about one square mile of urban area. Japanese records reported that more than 28,000 buildings were destroyed and thousands died in the flames and from smoke inhalation.
<h3 class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Firestorm in Tokyo: Civilians Become Targets"data-reactid =" 77 ">Firestorm in Tokyo: Civilians Become Targets
In early March, LeMay commented to his public information officer, “This outfit is getting a lot of publicity without having accomplished much in bombing results.” That was about to change. Twentieth Air Force had decided that precision bombing was ineffective and that the construction of Japanese cities made them ideal targets for fire-bombing attacks. The change was the result of a major moral shift in the United States. Deliberate attacks on noncombatant civilians had previously been considered immoral. Justification for urban attack was seen in recent Japanese announcements that all men up to age 60 and women to age 45 were part of a civilian mobilization to defend the country against Allied invaders.
LeMay also decided to make a major change in tactics, scheduling future missions at night, at comparatively lower altitudes, reasoning that Japanese antiaircraft defenses were not well organized and that Japanese guns were less accurate than German weapons. In a move to increase payload, he ordered many of the bombers stripped of their machine guns, which had been installed to defend against Japanese fighters.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="LeMay developed tactics calling for lead squadrons to mark the target with napalm-filled bombs designed to cause fires to attract the attention of Japanese firefighters. The lead formation would drop its bombs at 100-foot intervals, but the main force, delivering M-69 incendiaries, would drop at half the distance for better concentration with each crew bombing individually. The mission plan called for 334 B-29s, the largest formation to date, with a target date of March 9, 1945. The force was so large that it took three hours for all the airplanes to become airborne." data-reactid="80">LeMay developed tactics calling for lead squadrons to mark the target with napalm-filled bombs designed to cause fires to attract the attention of Japanese firefighters. The lead formation would drop its bombs at 100-foot intervals, but the main force, delivering M-69 incendiaries, would drop at half the distance for better concentration with each crew bombing individually. The mission plan called for 334 B-29s, the largest formation to date, with a target date of March 9, 1945. The force was so large that it took three hours for all the airplanes to become airborne.
The bombers encountered the familiar heavy clouds and turbulence on the way to the target, but navigators managed to find their checkpoints using radar. Weather conditions over Tokyo were good, and the pathfinders marked their targets without difficulty. The rest of the formation came in at staggered altitudes between 4,900 and 9,200 feet. An increasing wind fanned the flames of the fires caused by the napalm and incendiaries, producing an expanding firestorm. As the fires spread, bombardiers dropped their bombs on the edge of the fire, thus increasing the size of the conflagration. The target area bordered Tokyo’s main industrial area and included a number of factories, but the main targets were the thousands of homes and feeder plant buildings. Construction in the area was so congested that the fires spread like they were in dry brush, causing flames so high and heat so intense that nothing could escape.
The disaster that befell the citizens of Tokyo that night was one of the worst in human history. The fires spread throughout the city and were only hampered by wide firebreaks, particularly along rivers and canals. Although thousands of people managed to find solace in the waters, the heat was so intense that water in some of the shallower canals literally boiled. Widespread panic increased the death toll as people attempted to run through the flames to escape, only to fall in the intense heat and perish. Radio Tokyo called the attack “slaughter bombing” and compared it to the destruction to Nero’s Rome. The comparison was in error. The damage to Tokyo was far worse. Japanese morale plummeted, and the already rising peace movement in the government gained considerable strength. Resolve among those Japanese who had been willing to fight to the death against invasion began to crumble.
Losses among the B-29s had been high, but the rate was still less than that of previous missions. LeMay’s decision to go in low had been justified. He did, however, decide to arm the bombers once again for future missions in the event Japanese night fighter defenses became more effective. Nicknamed “Old Iron Ass,” LeMay did not give the Japanese any breaks.
<h3 class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "By Bombing Alone"data-reactid =" 84 ">By Bombing Alone
On the afternoon of March 11, a force of 313 bombers took off for Nagoya. Some 285 actually got over the target, but the damage was not as great as inflicted on the Tokyo mission. Bombardiers spread their loads over a wider area, and the light winds over the city failed to produce the conflagration that destroyed Tokyo. Smoke was still rising from the Nagoya attack as the first of 301 bombers took off for a mission against Osaka, which had yet to be hit by American bombs. Aborts left 274 B-29s to find a target obscured by 80 percent cloud cover. The necessity of using radar actually led to a closer concentration of bombs and a resulting conflagration that wiped out eight square miles of the heart of the city, including the main commercial and industrial areas. The Nagoya raid proved that the Tokyo mission had been no fluke.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="LeMay flew five fire-bombing missions before the kamikaze crisis during the invasion of Okinawa led to a diversion of the B-29s to attacks against the airfields on Kyushu from which they originated. The success of incendiary missions led him to conclude that while the official Twentieth Air Force mission was to prepare the Home Islands for an invasion, it was possible to force Japan to surrender by bombing alone." data-reactid="86">LeMay flew five fire-bombing missions before the kamikaze crisis during the invasion of Okinawa led to a diversion of the B-29s to attacks against the airfields on Kyushu from which they originated. The success of incendiary missions led him to conclude that while the official Twentieth Air Force mission was to prepare the Home Islands for an invasion, it was possible to force Japan to surrender by bombing alone.
On April 25, LeMay wrote a letter to Norstad informing him of his belief. LeMay was not alone in his conclusion. Two weeks before LeMay wrote his letter, Twentieth Air Force Director of Plans Colonel Cecil Combs recommended that fire-bombing missions be stepped up immediately after the surrender of Germany to force Japan to do likewise. Former ambassador to Japan Joseph C. Grew believed that Japan was on the verge of surrender and advised President Harry Truman of his belief. Numerous other high-ranking officers, including MacArthur and his subordinate, General Kenney, shared the belief.
The strategic bombing campaign was placed on hold for almost a month as 75 percent of XXI Bomber Command missions were directed in tactical attacks. Most of the strategic missions during the period were high-altitude precision missions with high explosives, but LeMay managed to get in a few fire-bombing raids, including two against targets around Tokyo Bay. By the end of May, LeMay had sufficient resources to mount raids of more than 500 planes, and by mid-June the cities ringing Tokyo Bay had been burned to the ground. June 15 concluded Phase I of LeMay’s Urban Bombing Campaign, and the results were spectacular. Japan’s six largest cities had been bombed to ruins, and the country’s industrial base was in shambles. Casualties among the Japanese population were well over a million, with the dead numbered in the hundreds of thousands.
<h3 class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Bombed into Submission"data-reactid =" 89 ">Bombed into Submission
The capture of Okinawa brought Fifth and Seventh Air Force B-24s within range of targets in Japan, and the Liberators joined the Superfortresses in the fire raids against Japanese cities while North American B-25 Mitchell bombers struck targets on Kyushu in preparation for the upcoming invasion scheduled for November 1. Navy aircraft carriers joined the attack on Japan along with Army fighter-bombers operating from Iwo Jima and the Ryukus. The Japanese people were being subjected to the most intense aerial bombardment in history, and their resolve was beginning to wear down.
President Harry Truman issued the Potsdam Declaration on July 26, 1945, calling for the unconditional surrender of Japan, and many in the Japanese government wanted to accept it. Three members of the cabinet objected on the basis that the Declaration placed the fate of the emperor in question and branded members of the country’s former government as war criminals (the Japanese government had gone through two reorganizations since the invasion of Saipan).
American bombers began dropping leaflets warning the Japanese that their entire population was in danger of starvation, and it was hardly an empty threat for a country that was largely dependent on food imports. The fact that the Japanese were losing their resolve became apparent on August 4, when Fifth Air Force pilots operating over Kyushu came back to report that white flags were being waved throughout the island. Two days later, the first atomic bomb exploded in the sky over Hiroshima.
Although popular myth relates that Japan surrendered because of the detonation of the atomic bombs, in reality the new weapons had little effect on an already demoralized population. This was partially due to the distances from the target cities to Tokyo. Most Japanese were only aware that a terrible new weapon had been detonated—few realized its importance. When President Truman promised a rain of destruction from the skies on Japan, he was addressing a country that had already been bombed into near oblivion. On August 14, the emperor addressed the Japanese people for the first time in history, telling them that the country was surrendering.
<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Originally Published June 23, 2016"data-reactid =" 94 ">Originally Published June 23, 2016
<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "This article by Sam McGowan originally appeared on the Warfare History Network." data-reactid="95">This article by Sam McGowan originally appeared on the Warfare History Network.