‘We Hated What We Were Doing’: Veterans Recall Firebombing Japan


I was a navigator. At the time, you just didn’t think about all those factors. We experienced a position to do and we did it. We were being burning homes, but we didn’t feel about the folks. I did not mirror on the war right up until much afterwards. You start to think about how awful the war was. Afterward, I resolved to go to medical faculty and do a thing positive for a improve.

Mercer Island, Clean.

Next Lieutenant, 869th Bomb Squadron, 497th Bomb Team

Our group, the 497th, was the last a person to go in. It commenced out like a regular mission. We experienced modified from fragmentary bombs to the incendiaries at Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay’s request — or demand from customers. He brought us down from higher-altitude bombing with fragmentary bombs to low-amount with incendiaries. We wiped out that entire space on that a single evening. It was terrifying, actually.

You could smell, I’m sorry to say, burning flesh in the plane. And we had been truly tossed around from the updrafts. We securely went on with the mission and went on with lesser-regarded missions. But by then, the Japanese fighter response was basically nil. And we realized that the war was going to be in excess of quite doggone shortly. I was home in October of that 12 months in my own very little mattress, and I had not even achieved my 20th birthday.

Fredonia, N.Y

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

I was a gunner, searching out the appropriate blister window, right behind the wing. All I wanted to do was go household. The Japanese laid out their metropolitan areas like a significant checkerboard, and so we had pathfinder crews that went in initially and then the other bombers came in just after. Given that we were being guiding other planes, we ran into smoke clouds that could send out you up 20,000 toes with the snap of a finger. There ended up at least two B-29s I knew of that collided and went down in a smoke cloud.

My career was to stand by the open bomb-bay doors and throw chaff out — these extensive strips of aluminum foil to confuse Japanese radar. Can you visualize standing in entrance of an open bomb-bay door and smelling a town burn up? It was terrifying. At low altitude like that, I didn’t put on an oxygen mask. All I can say is that the odor was nauseating. I have by no means smelled something like it given that, and I never want to.


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