On March 10, 1945 the Japanese in Tokyo awoke to what would become a nightmare. It was the beginning of what was the single deadliest non-nuclear bombing campaign during World War II (between 80,000 to 100,000 civilians were killed). It was part of a larger firebombing campaign undertaken by the U.S. in which 66 Japanese cities were targeted in an effort to break the morale of Japanese civilians in the hopes that they would press their leadership to surrender unconditionally. This strategy had been largely rejected by the US leadership on the European front in contrast to their British allies. But under the leadership of Curtis LeMay the morale bombing strategy was pursued in Japan despite its failure in Germany. These firebombing campaigns never broke the morale of the Japanese people.
The firebombing of Tokyo has been overshadowed by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the enormity of the suffering that occurred during World War II across the globe. But Saotome Katsumoto, director of the Center of the Tokyo Raids and War Damages, is trying to preserve and memorialize this event: “Through the living testimonies of these ordinary people I have strived to present a clear picture of that night of indiscriminate firebombing. The recounting of these experiences was painful for both the speakers and the listener, but for the sake of those who bore this pain and for all those who lost their lives, I have attempted to faithfully record the events of March 10, 1945.” This is a worthy goal. We should all remember and reflect on this tragic event.