Operation Meetinghouse

Operation Meetinghouse? A little talked of act of genocide brought to life for the manga generation

Gya. Help! It’s Hot! Moma! Uwa! Daddy! It hurts! Help!

Tokyo firebombingThe following facts are not disputed. On the night of 9-10th March 1945 three hundred and thirty four US B29 Superfortress bombers took three hours to overfly Tokyo and drop 500,000 napalm and white phosphorous incendiary bombs (1665 tons), creating a firestorm generating its own gale force winds on a scale that made the entire London Blitz look like a sideshow. 100,000 people were suffocated or burned to death in 16 square miles, three times the number killed in the London Blitz over the whole of WWII.

‘Operation Meetinghouse’ was the worst bombing raid in history; it killed more people than the subsequent atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and deliberately targeted civilians. Walls of fire were created by burning tinderbox houses, causing fleeing families to spontaneously ignite. Air-raid shelters offered no protection from the 1800ᵒF heat.

A recent project, the Great Tokyo Air Raid Map has identified the final resting places of 35,000 of those victims and linked them with a red line to their homes showing their desperate flight for survival, often over many miles, but inevitably unable to outrun the inferno. Those who could made for the Azumabashi bridge only to find its superstructure white hot. They jumped into the Sumida River, many to be boiled alive. Their government had waged war on the west and committed unspeakable atrocities against the Chinese. The people had had no say in this. But they were slaughtered in retribution. Was this right? You need to decide. You cannot sit on the fence.

General Curtis LeMayAircrews reported that a red mist and the stench of burned human flesh permeated the aircraft over the target. Burning debris was sucked 8,000 feet into the air, and half of the 24 US losses were a result of heat damage from the inferno below. Survivors in the morning had to contend with exploding bombs deliberately set with delayed timers to further demoralise them.

The US Commander Major-General Curtis LeMay made no secret of the fact that he had observed the effects of the firestorm which allied bombers had created in Dresden three weeks earlier, and deliberately recreated it, by low level bombing at 2,000 feet, an altitude too low for anti-aircraft guns to mount an effective defence. He knew that Japanese paper and wood homes were particularly sensitive to fire and he used the new weapon napalm on them, to target the residential areas of the working class civilian population – their homes, schools and the cottage industries, which had supported 3% of the war effort.

His campaign was successful. The majority of the casualties were female non-combatants: the elderly, young mothers aged 18-29 and children. Many immolated corpses of young women were found with their infants strapped to their backs.

LeMay wrote:

There are no innocent civilians. It is their government, and you are fighting a people, you are not trying to fight an armed force anymore. So it doesn’t bother me so much to be killing the so-called innocent bystanders.

charred remains of mother and childThe Japanese ruling and warrior classes were undoubtedly the arbiters of their own demise. They started the bombing of civilians in the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 when they targeted Shanghai and Chongqing in their policy of aggressive modernised militarism. They deliberately targeted civilians in Pearl Harbour and in the Chinese capital, Nangking. Their troops committed multiple sexual atrocities. They murdered six million Chinese civilians – the same number as the Jews who died in the German holocaust. They were unspeakably cruel to prisoners and captured civilians, starving and torturing them, tossing infants into boiling cauldrons and making children shoot their own parents, then themselves. And yet, the majority of the population believed they were the downtrodden victims of aggression. They paid for their ignorance in the most appalling way. All this is being denied currently by elements of the Japanese government fearful young people should learn the truth.

Tokyo charred remainsIf you want your kids to learn what really happened that night give them Clive Lee’s Coral Hare: Atomic Agent which follows the thrilling adventures of Japanese American teen spy Mina Sagimoto out for revenge for her father’s death at Pearl Harbour. She’s an all American heroine who knocks Peggy Carter out of the park. Beware. It pulls no punches.