100,000 Women, Children and Men Too Old to Fight Were Burned Alive in Six Hours of March 10, 1945

"You could smell...burning flesh in the airplane", "You could see flames...100 miles away"

“Can you imagine standing in front of an open bomb-bay door and smelling a city burn up? It was terrifying. At low altitude like that, I didn’t wear an oxygen mask. All I can say is that the smell was nauseating. I’ve never smelled anything like it since, and I don’t want to”

Just past midnight, hundreds of B-29 Superfortress bombers arrived over Tokyo, having launched from the Mariana Islands, which the United States had recently captured from the Imperial Japanese Army at great human cost. The aircraft had largely been stripped of their armaments so that they could carry even more clusters of small incendiary munitions. Young American officers in the sky dropped hundreds of thousands of bomblets on the working-class section of the city, with its densely packed wooden dwellings mainly inhabited at the time by women, children and men too old to fight.

Before that March 10, 1945, assault, named Operation Meetinghouse, the Army Air Forces had been conducting high-altitude, high-explosive “precision” attacks during the day on military sites and factories in Japan, with limited success. So Maj. Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, the officer in charge of strategic bombing from the Marianas, drew upon years of U.S. military research on the flammability of Japanese buildings to usher in a more aggressive tactic: dropping firebombs (also known as incendiary bombs) at night on population centers. If they couldn’t take out the factories, they could kill the people who worked in them.

Curtis LeMay receiving the after-action report for the March 10th Tokyo raid

Over several hours, U.S. Army Air Forces warplanes destroyed theshitamachi, or the low -lying section of Tokyo, and killed an estimated 100,000 Japanese citizens in a firestorm. The United States Strategic Bombing Survey later wrote that “probably more persons lost their lives by fire at Tokyo in a six-hour period than at any time in the history of man.” The devastating results motivated military leaders to continue incendiary bombing raids on Japan’s other cities — both large and small — in hopes of forcing the Japanese to surrender. Before the war’s end, firebombs dropped by B-29s killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens in more than 60 cities before nuclear bombs leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“We hated what we were doing,” said Jim Marich, one of the airmen who flew over Tokyo that night as part of the B-29 aircrews. “But we thought we had to do it. We thought that raid might cause the Japanese to surrender.” Marich’s somber account of his role in the missions is a grim reminder of the indelible scars left on both the survivors of the attack and those who conducted it.

In interviews with The Times, Marich, now 94, and three other airmen who took part in the firebombings reflected on their determination to accomplish their missions and get home as soon as possible, while grappling with the particular horror they witnessed being inflicted on those below.

First Lt. Richard Gross

Richard Gross, 95

Mercer Island, Wash.

First Lieutenant, 874th Bomb Squadron, 498th Bomb Group

On Saipan, I was in Quonset hut barracks with another crew. And that crew was chosen as the lead crew on the first firebomb mission. The crew members were brought in and asked if they objected to firebombing the cities of Japan. A number of people raised their hands. But the order came down: “Well, that’s your opinion, but the orders are you’re going to go on the mission.” I guess they could have declined, but I don’t know if any did. This was the first information people had that we were going to be bombing the cities.

Lt. Richard Gross served as a B-29 navigator on 35 missions over Japan in 1945

I was a navigator. At the time, you just didn’t think about those things. We had a job to do and we did it. We were burning houses, but we didn’t think about the people. I didn’t reflect on the war until much later. You start to think about how awful the war was. Afterward, I decided to go to medical school and do something positive for a change.

Mercer Island, Wash.

Second Lieutenant, 869th Bomb Squadron, 497th Bomb Group

Our group, the 497th, was the last one to go in. It started out like a regular mission. We had changed from fragmentary bombs to the incendiaries at Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay’s request — or demand. He brought us down from high-altitude bombing with fragmentary bombs to low-level with incendiaries. We wiped out that whole area on that one night. It was terrifying, really.

You could smell, I’m sorry to say, burning flesh in the airplane. And we were really tossed around from the updrafts. We safely went on with the mission and went on with lesser-known missions. But by then, the Japanese fighter response was practically nil. And we knew that the war was going to be over pretty doggone soon. I was home in October of that year in my own little bed, and I had not even achieved my 20th birthday.

Fredonia, N.Y

Technical Sergeant, 882nd Bomb Squadron, 500th Bomb Group

I was a gunner, looking out the right blister window, right behind the wing. All I wanted to do was go home. The Japanese laid out their cities like a big checkerboard, and so we had pathfinder crews that went in first and then the other bombers came in after. Since we were behind other planes, we ran into smoke clouds that could send you up 20,000 feet with the snap of a finger. There were at least two B-29s I knew of that collided and went down in a smoke cloud.

My job was to stand by the open bomb-bay doors and throw chaff out — these long strips of aluminum foil to confuse Japanese radar. Can you imagine standing in front of an open bomb-bay door and smelling a city burn up? It was terrifying. At low altitude like that, I didn’t wear an oxygen mask. All I can say is that the smell was nauseating. I’ve never smelled anything like it since, and I don’t want to.

The original idea of the Geneva Convention is that civilian targets were out, and it was military targets that should be used. In Europe, you had the Russians and the Germans — especially the Nazis — bombing civilians. When we did the firebombings, we were killing civilians.

Golden Eagle, Ill.

Technical Sergeant, 873rd Bomb Squadron, 498th Bomb Group

I made one firebomb mission with my second crew on March 24. We went in at about 6,800 feet. There were something like 400 planes up that night. We were about 200 in. You could see flames, they estimated, about 100 miles away. I’ve always felt bad about that. I thought, Where will the people go? If everything around you is burning, what do you do? They burned up an awful lot of Nagoya that night. I don’t remember how many square miles.

If I remember correctly, when they announced what was going to happen, there were a few pilots who refused to fly because of humanitarian reasons. But eventually there was enough pressure put on them that they changed their mind.

Clint Osborne in March 1943

I still wouldn’t approve of it today. Of course, the rules of war are pretty vague, but one of the things is that you don’t attack civilians. But they justified it by saying people were manufacturing things for the war effort in their homes. I often questioned how much they could really be doing. But one thing people agree on is that the fire raids were probably worse than the atomic bomb.

Source: The New York Times

  1. Mikel Koehler says

    … that raises the question of who were the major war criminals / mass murderers: the US military or the German fascists ???

  2. Black Swan says

    ” We’ll know our disinformatiion is complete when everything the American Public believes is false.” William Casey CIA Director 1981

  3. David McClintock says

    Would any of these DUPES do the same thing again having the chance to see what the world today has become? Would any of these men do this over again? THAT is the question I want to see asked. I want to see if any of these WWII Veterans can give an honest answer.

  4. Vera Gottlieb says

    Not even today has brutality diminished.

    1. bob says

      No, its called Syria

      Millions of little children and women being bombed out of their own country by Putin and Assad

      1. Vera Gottlieb says

        And what is the root of all this? The US attacking Iraq…The Middle East has always been a “restless” area but the West had to meddle.

        1. bob says

          The ‘ root’ of this is Syria has had a family dynasty dictatorship in charge for decades

          They’ve created the type of corrupt criminal economy so typical of all such regimes

          Which means a brittle socio economic economy,which doesn’t need much to tip it into real crisis

          Which is exactly what had happened by 2011, but its easier for people to blame the west ,or terrorist or, fill in with favourite conspiracy theories!

          Easy isn’t it, but the reality is the Assads have failed and the only thing keeping them in power is the help from a criminal oligarchy, Putins Russia, and proxy revolutionary fighters from a theocratic dictatorship,Iran!

      2. cechas vodobenikov says

        u backward child—the entire ME conflict r amerikan created and financed—u created ISIS, al Qaeda, etc —there is a reason why huge numbers of Syrian new borns r receiving Russian names today—your CIA propaganda is farcical

        1. geo says

          And Judeo-British – main starter … by creating the fraudulent state of the Khazars.

  5. Carlton Meyer says

    Here is a great, great video clip with Robert McNamara in the “Fog of War” about this slaughter.


    And the USA massed bombed Chinese cities during the war, our allies.


  6. nick1111 says


  7. David Chu says

    BTW, the best book on this gruesome topic is by Thomas Goodrich who also wrote “Hellstorm”. The book on the Yankee atrocities committed against the Japanese is called “Summer 1945: Germany, Japan And The Harvest Of Hate”.

    1. bob says

      I’d prefer the work of real scholars, such as Dr Waitman Beorn, who basically thinks your man is a white supremacist and Nazi

      are you?

  8. bob says

    Can we have some ballance please

    What about the Putin/Assad bombing campaign in Idlib deliberately intended to make the lives of over a million people unbearable, to destroy everything basic to life,to destroy hospitals,schools, emergency services,everthig, drive poor little children and women into the fields to die

    Yup, old rubber chops Putin sure is a swell kinda guy, all that peace,love and harmony he’s bringing to Idlib

    Talk about inhumanity!!!!!

    1. Vera Gottlieb says

      You want some balance? Then tell the US to stop disturbing the shit all over the world. Attacking Iraq was the fuse the Middle East did NOT need. Meddling and just making things worse. And now Russia does the same and we are all up in arms…

      1. bob says

        Russia/ Soviets of course didn’t meddle did they!

        Although they failed with their perverse sort of imperialism, based upon the totalitarian concepts of communism,which incidentally killed hundreds of millions, and destroyed any sense of freedom,it failed and yet people still make all sorts of excuses for the fundamentally perverse anti human system of communism

        And now the petulant and emotionally immature Putin wants revenge for all those past failures, all that injustice,he can’t take it can he?

        Thats why he’s not fit to be President of Russia

        He’s a menace, doing nothing but creating all the right conditions for another socio economic collapse in Russia, as his corrupt criminal oligarchy is now coming to and end, and since its such a criminal place Putin knows it’ll fail

        But he’s not satisfied with his failure in Russia,its economy isn’t going anywhere apart from down, no, he wants to screw up Europe also by supporting deeply unpleasant fascist types there, like that ghastly right wing women in France and the idiot in Italy, places with fascist past crimes, and of course,Putin, has a growing fan club of nazis in Germany

        I suppose once its gone tits up,again,people like you will no doubt blame the west,and not the real culprits

        Vera what kind of world do you think people like Putin are trying to create?

        I’ll answer for you, an intolerant, neo fascist world, a world of intolerant murderous insane dictators,

        You should mark my words dear, not go off on some sort of silly childish
        anti western/ American rant, as the alternative will be much,much worse

        1. Vera Gottlieb says

          It isn’t a matter of any “silly childish anti Western/American rant”…it is a matter of telling a truth that, generally speaking, most Americans just can’t stomach. Stop meddling in other nations’ affairs, stop pretending bringing “human rights” and “democracy”…what you bring is misery and what you take are the natural resources of a country, which is your reason for always cowardly attacking/meddling smaller nations. Concentrate on your messy back-yard…there is plenty that is in desperate need of clean-up.

        2. cechas vodobenikov says

          your fascist stupidity is expected –u r amerikan
          “amerikans have always been genocidal, enjoying killing from afar”. Philip Slater
          u despicable cowards have lost every war in your history—except against weak island nations—to weak to even produce regime change in /Cuba—LOL
          u r so despicable that u barbarians justify t murder of 250, 000 Japanese civilians w 2 atom bombs—described by Nimitz, MacArthur as unnecessary an d Admiral William Leahy as “unamerikan, barbaric unnecessary”—of course it is amerikan—“the amerikan subconscious is maichean, dualist and barbaric”. Johan Galtung

    2. David Chu says

      bob, go back to wherever it is you come from, ok?

      1. bob says


        Don’t you like it when your hero kills

  9. JustPassingThrough says

    that’s what human beings do to each other. all the time.
    today it is syria, yemen, israel, iraq, afghanistan, the congo, and ad nauseum.
    tomorrow it will be …. and ad nauseum.

    nothing will change because we do not change.
    end of sermon.

  10. CHUCKMAN says

    Maj. Gen. Curtis E. LeMay was likely a psychopath.

    After the war, his Pentagon career had the same utterly ruthless character.

    He supported the concept of a massive surprise nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, something the Pentagon planned in detail.

    President Kennedy was almost sick to his stomach after hearing a presentation on the idea.

    1. David Chu says

      He said it himself (Maj. Gen. Curtis E. LeMay): Had the All-Lies lost WW2, he would have been prosecuted as a War Criminal that he truly was.

  11. Robert Mcconnell says

    Yes…look, this is nauseating shit but knowing how the universe works I can say without fear of contradiction that the zionist entities on the good planet earth will get theirs.
    This is the karmic law, you reap what you sow. And I can wait, though many lifetimes if necessary, to see the absolute, total obliteration of the above entities and associates.

  12. Basnyat Binaj says

    War criminals Japs deserved it…I am no fan of yankees but yanks killed lot less japs

    1. Séamus Ó Néill says

      Brainless, uneducated moronic reasoning !

    2. Canosin says

      what a sick comment…….an absurd, bizarre and criminal way of thinking…..gtfo

      1. bob says

        It was good reasoning as it stopped Soviet expansionism dead

        And it finally stopped WW3

        But i forgot you lot would rather live under the boot of totalitarian regimes than the freedom you’ve had

    3. cechas vodobenikov says

      the Japanese were ruthless in nanking and in Korea and to some extent in Philippines, SE Asia—apparently u r an immoral under socialized barbarian—“deserved it”

  13. Undecider says

    A correction for the article. These were the same munitions dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The story of the Atomic Bomb was later invented as a means of psychological warfare for the coming age.

    1. JustPassingThrough says

      interesting perspective.
      any backup material?

    2. Robert Mcconnell says


    3. cechas vodobenikov says

      self humiliation

  14. David Chu says

    These individuals are WAR CRIMINALS. What was it about “I was just following orders . . .”?

    1. CHUCKMAN says

      Exactly, and the Nuremberg Trials were supposed to put an end to that pathetic excuse, but, as seventy or so years of further US history demonstrates, they did not.

      One-fifth of the entire population of North Korea exterminated in three years of carpet bombing.

      About three million Vietnamese exterminated in a hellish display of carpet bombing and napalm and early cluster munitions plus and land mines and Agent Orange to keep killing for decades.

      About a million Iraqis exterminated and the most advanced Arab country reduced to squalor with tons of depleted uranium dust left to cause cancer for a very long time to come.

      Yes, indeed, President Reagan, a shining city on a hill – that’s America.

      1. bob says

        Well go and f@#k off and live in that shinning city on the hill Pyongyang

        But please whatever you do don’t say anything bad about the regime that runs the country otherwise you’ll find out a very nasty lesson about how fantastically tolerant they are!

        1. cechas vodobenikov says

          ignorant Nazi—WHO reports DPRK medical system is “the envy of the developing world”—your fascist nation of snowflakes leads the planet in Covid deaths…DPRK enjoys 99.5% literacy—35% of your villagers can’t read above the 5th grade level and according to US dept of ed 69% of your university grads r not English proficient…LOL…u idiots can’t distinguish public/privat, an analogy from an allegory, influence from impact…..”amerika is a culture of stupidity”. Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
          u live in a military dictatorship, a police state and an oligarchy but u r too stupid to comprehend this–u love being a slave….”amerikans do not converse they entertain each other. amerikans do not exchange ideas–they exchange images. the problem with amerikans is not Orwellian, it is huxleyan. amerikans love their oppression”. Neil Postman

          1. geo says

            … taking selfie with the Capitol Guard… the way to fight for Freedom!?!?!

      2. Carlton Meyer says

        The USA dropped more bombs on Indochina than in all of World War II, killing around two million civilians.


        1. cechas vodobenikov says

          obama dropped bombs 100,000 times , illegally on 8 Muslim nations—a despicable racist, he deported more Latinos in his 1st term than Bush did in 2 –and far more than trump…apparently his self hating daughter has a rich English boyfriend

      3. David Chu says

        The Nuremberg Trials were “show trails” conducted by the Soviets with plenty of Jews on both sides sitting in on this travesty of travesties. Most, if not all, of the “confessions” were extracted by torture. I am not talking about “waterboarding”, but crushing the testicles of the German males. Not sure what they did to the German women. That is how the All-Lies got the commandant of Auschwitz to confess that 6 million Jews were exterminated there. He went insane afterwards. And he said later that he would of “confessed” to 66 million if they had asked him to do so . . .

        North Korea TODAY is subject to the worst Yankee genocidal harassment: Each harvest season for North Korea is faced with Yankee/South Korea war drills. This causes the North Koreans to mobilize en mass to defend their nation and forgo their harvests . . . hence the poor harvests each year and the starvation that results.

        More than 500,000 Iraqi children died as the direct result of Yankee sanctions between the 2 Gulf Genocides. And their Secretary of State had the balls to say the following: https://youtu.be/4iFYaeoE3n4

        So, I don’t feel sorry for the Yankees.

        They deserve ALL the SHIT that happens to them . . . EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM.

        1. bob says

          500’000 children died because Saddam Hussein let them die

          As a dictator he saw them as expendable

          You people really don’t have any idea do you

          Stalin, or Mao would have done the same,not so sure about Hitler though, Putin is a criminal so he’d probably do the same, and we don’t need to bother about Assad

          So the whole ‘ 500’000’ children thing is nothing but propaganda

          1. cechas vodobenikov says

            “amerikans r trouble with a inherent insecurity that requires them to overcompensate”. Geoffrey Gorer
            amerikan males “feminized by the tyranny of the school mar’m”…have been liars and braggarts for 3 centuries”. Daniel Boorstin
            your CIA lies demonstrate your stupidity—u embargoes all medicine and baby formula in Iraq until the Europeans and the US were disgusted enough to pressure your fascist government to abandon your barbaric infanticide

          2. David McClintock says

            Putin is not a criminal sir. That is Neocon Boomer propaganda. The man is a great King.

        2. David McClintock says

          You are wrong when you use the word ALL my friend. Some of us are quite woke to the truth, and are a despised minority living in a sea of idiots the minute we make our opinions known.

      4. cechas vodobenikov says

        historians claim the amerikans murdered at least 4 million in Korea , 3 million in SE Asia, between 1.2-1.5 million Iraqis

      5. geo says

        Nuremberg trials means the Talmudic show as a revenge after the Christian … holocaust, the German genocide paid by the Tribe.

    2. geo says

      War is about murdering.
      The entire nation works to support, … OK, most of…
      If is not to defend your land and people is a matter of collective action of assassination.
      Is either/or if not made peace.
      Occupant is not guilty – natural stronger force wins.
      To fight him is not terrorism, is the right to survive and be FREE.
      So, “war criminal” has no meaning, is a politically coined expression just to kill “best people of a nation – the leaders” after the fight is ANYWAY over.

  15. David Chu says

    I believe, maybe I wish, that the Karma of the Yankees for killing so many innocent people of other nations from the air, i.e., bombing them into hell, will sooner than later descend upon them . . . as those nuclear ICBMs and hypersonic nuclear missiles land on their heads.

    1. bob says

      But you dumb nutjob that means also the end of you

      Obviously you’re so addled with hate and rage you’d like to also die?

      What a dummy!

      1. cechas vodobenikov says

        projecting your feminine insecurity….”only in amerika is the father vestigial; the amerikan mind and conscience is feminine”. Geoffrey Gorer….u robots r cowards—losing all wars—u only pick on weak people in your own country and lose wars even to weaker nations…interesting how underdeveloped and racist u photo chimps are…nobody hates amerikans—we pity your shallowness…”the banality of amerika: the radical absence of culture”—your racism is obvious…as Durkheim wrote, “only the least developed societies punish widely and severely ” only u barbarians permit the death penalty —not 1 Eurpean not any nation in the western hemisphere does and u incarcerate more per capita than any nation in history—a 4th world nation of obese sexually repressed robots…it is no accident that by a ratio of 5 to 1 your inmates r non-white…. find some meth in your trailer park—perhaps this will sooth u

    2. David McClintock says

      Every nation has committed atrocities at some point in time…

  16. Jihadi Colin says

    Thanks, anti Empire, for posting on the firebombing of Japanese cities. Somehow the “anti war” sites that routinely mourn the criminal fire bombing of Dresden as routinely consign the fire bombing of Japanese cities into a memory hole. Far be it from me to suggest that said lapse is due to racism…..!

    1. JustPassingThrough says

      then don’t.

    2. cechas vodobenikov says

      amerikans have always been racist—more so today…recent polls find that 66% express racist attitudes about the Chinese (one of the greatest cultures in history) and Russians–69%…as Chekov wrote,”in our arrogance we r European; in our development and acts we are Asian”—quite obvious—as Gorer observed, among many collectivist peoples Russians, Chinese, etc “think dialectically and make connections”. amerikans being the most individualistic peoples (Hofstede) “only comprehend discreet disconnected facts”. or as the Marxian sociologist Richard Sennet wrote, only in the angloshephere do people “particularize and decontextualize”
      As Santayana wrote: “amerikans r ignorant and unteachable”

  17. Michael says

    This is the true Holocaust and this is one of the first detailed accounts I have read of the fire bombing of Tokyo. Thank you.

  18. Kilgore Trout says

    Fucking ameri3kans…war criminals then, war criminals now!!!

  19. April Preston says

    What memories.

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