Lessons Learned: The Firebombing of Tokyo

March 6, 2012

Lessons Learned: The Firebombing of Tokyo
Explainer Video
from The Water's Edge

On March 9, 1945, B-29 bombers in the U.S. Air Force began dropping incendiary bombs on the city of Tokyo. This raid, known as "Operation Meetinghouse," caused incredible destruction, killing perhaps 100,000 people aand burning out fifteen square miles of the city. Incendiary bombings continued in the months to come, targeting other Japanese cities and killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians.

More From Our Experts

James M. Lindsay, CFR’s senior vice president and director of studies, says the firebombing of Tokyo should remind us of the destructive power of conventional weapons. During the war, he points out, conventional bombings accounted for far more civilian deaths in Japan than did the nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He argues that more recent conflicts, from the Rwandan genocide to fighting in Iraq, continue to illustrate the destructive power of conventional arsenals.

More on:

Japan

Wars and Conflict

Political History and Theory

This video is part of Lessons Learned, a series dedicated to exploring historical events and examining their meaning in the context of foreign relations today.

More on:

Japan

Wars and Conflict

Political History and Theory

Up
Close

Explore More on CFR

North Korea

The Singapore summit lessened the chances of conflict in the short term, but the ultimate legacy of the summit could still be a march toward war.

 

Public Health Threats and Pandemics

Endemic to the African tropics, the Ebola virus has killed thousands in recent years, putting the World Health Organization and major donor countries in the limelight as they’ve grappled with how to respond to outbreaks.