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.
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.
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.