Bombing of Toyko

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Negative Creep, Nov 15, 2009.

  1. Negative Creep

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Messages:
    895
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Location:
    New Zealand
    Bought a book on this recently and something occurred to me. In the firebombing raids of 1945, why was the Imperial Palace not targeted? It had a map of the affected areas with the palace grounds just outside and the aiming points well off. Wouldn't destroying this have a massive effect on civilian morale and will to fight? Since the book doesn't say either way, was not bombing it a concious decision for US High Command?
     
  2. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2009
    Messages:
    3,541
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Occupation:
    Engineer and overgrown schoolboy
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    One could hypothesise
    by 1945 Hirohito wanted the war over and an end to civilian casualties, his military chiefs wanted to fight to the last man. Even with the second bomb on Nagasaki his military council were tied in a vote over whether or not to surrender. Hirohito intervened and broke the tie in favour of surrender.

    Hirohito was regarded as divine in the eyes of the Japanese people, surrender would be taken in various degrees of consternation ranging from relief, to grief to suicide; whichever view was taken however, they would cease hostilities if told to do so by the Emperor.

    One could surmise that Allied intelligence were aware of this and that killing him and leaving his hard-line military council to prosecute the remainder of the war could have proved very costly indeed wrt to an invasion of the Japanese mainland.
     
  3. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2004
    Messages:
    7,905
    Likes Received:
    189
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Occupation:
    IT Nerd
    Location:
    Dallas, Tx Jubail, Saudi Arabia
    I agree with what Colin says.......

    Allied leaders knew the emperor could control the hard line military leaders.
     
  4. Shinpachi

    Shinpachi Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2008
    Messages:
    6,802
    Likes Received:
    1,004
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    CGI Creator
    Location:
    Osaka
    Yes, I think Colin1's opinion gets to the point too.
    No emperor, no rules. Only going into chaos and finally to the communism.
     
  5. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2006
    Messages:
    7,359
    Likes Received:
    561
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Executive, Consulting
    Location:
    Scurry, Texas
    In "Mission With LeMay" there is no comment by LeMay regarding avoiding the Palace per se.

    I know thousands of Japanese were estimated to have boiled alive in the moat because the temperatures were high around the Palace and the damage extended to the moat. IMHO there is no way the mission planners could have purposefully avoided the Imperial Palace given the nature of the strikes and the varied approaches and altitudes by individual flights at night.

    As a 3-5 yr old kid in Japan I have a lot of memories of the destruction even three years after the war ended.

    I do know that the primary targets were the cottage manufacturing plants distributed throughout Tokyo
     
  6. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2006
    Messages:
    4,441
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    MGR
    Location:
    Phila, Pa
    They didn't go after Hirohito in 1945 for the same reason they didn't go after him in 1942, he was considered a living God and to attack (or kill) him would just make the chances of ending the war that much less likely.

    As a figurehead, he was useful to a conquering force.
    As a dead figurehead, he would become a rallypoint for ultanationalist.
     
  7. ToughOmbre

    ToughOmbre Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2007
    Messages:
    4,182
    Likes Received:
    7
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    Retired from Verizon Communications - Now Working for Point Lobster Company, Pt. Pleasant Beach, NJ
    Location:
    Jersey Shore, USA
    I also agree with Colin. Whether or not we were aware of it at the time, Hirohito was the voice of reason. When the people heard his voice on the radio on August 15, the war was over.

    TO
     
  8. Marshall_Stack

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2005
    Messages:
    393
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Occupation:
    Engineer
    Location:
    Missouri
    When Doolittle raided Tokyo in 1942, he instructed his pilots not to target the palace. I can't remember the reason, but he was adamant about leaving it alone.
     
  9. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2006
    Messages:
    7,359
    Likes Received:
    561
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Executive, Consulting
    Location:
    Scurry, Texas
    does anyone have hard evidence that LeMay ordered the strike force to 'avoid' the Palace? And, if so, anyone have a clue how the force could assume that the firestorm would not run over it?
     
  10. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2009
    Messages:
    3,541
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Occupation:
    Engineer and overgrown schoolboy
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    They were indeed after the machine-shops in Shitamachi, the two wards of Honjo and Fukagawa on the east side of the Sumida were teeming with small merchant enterprises or 'shadow factories'.

    The thing with the night of the raid in question is that it was clear skies with scattered clouds, visibility was initially 'better than ten miles'. The two pathfinder B-29s put their 'flaming X' smack in the heart of the target area. A further ten B-29s followed up and the aerial armada that was the main force (-2 and -10 would leave 322 B-29s) followed that.

    XXI Bomber Command HQ received the message "Bombing the target visually. Large fires observed. Flak moderate. Fighter opposition nil." It was as close to a precision strike as you were going to get with carpet-bombing technology.

    The B-29s weren't flying within normal formation constraints, that is true (they were also bereft of gunner stations bar the tail gunner) but given the flying conditions and the superb job done by the pathfinders as a result, they couldn't miss.

    I would agree with you that there were strong, technical reasons why the Imperial Palace avoided the firestorm but one does get the impression that there were political constraints at work. Tokyo wasn't even in the top 5 on Groves' list for a nuclear strike.
     
  11. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2006
    Messages:
    7,359
    Likes Received:
    561
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Executive, Consulting
    Location:
    Scurry, Texas
    Colin - I agree your summary and also conjecture about political fall out possibilities.

    The thing is that LeMay had such latitude as 21th AF CO, reporting directly to Joint Chiefs, that an order to avoid the Emporer's Palace likely would have prohibited fire bombing Tokyo with 300 maxed out B-29s on a target that had mostly wood frame buidlings and a lousy fire department..who would have the conviction that only 13 sq miles would be burned to the ground?

    He says nothing about it in his autobiography. Not saying the order was not in place - just wondering what the succeeding logic could be that would assure the survival of the Palace?
     
  12. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2006
    Messages:
    4,441
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    MGR
    Location:
    Phila, Pa
    I think the aiming point for the March attacks were further into the city. The Palace, IIRC, is somewhat south and east of the main city, almost on the fringe.

    There is a very good book on this that I read some time back. I may still have it. It covers the attacks in detail. I'll poke around and see if I still have it and see what it says about the Palace Complex. I am almost positive the B29s were told not to attack it. However some of the buildings did burn on the Palace Grounds in later attacks.

    Same with Navy Fighters and Bombers when they attacked later in the year.
     
  13. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2005
    Messages:
    12,631
    Likes Received:
    309
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    #13 syscom3, Nov 16, 2009
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2009
    The JCS had strict prohibitions about attacking the Imperial palace for reasons stated below. And I believe the president (FDR) had ordered the prohibition himself.

    Theres a small museum right in the middle of the target area, called the "Great Kanto 1923 Earthquake Museum" that has a small exhibit about the fire raids in 1945. This area is near the aiming point for the mission, and was chosen because of its easy to recognize geographical display when seen on a radar scope.

    On a side note, near by is the "Edo Tokyo Museum". They have a big map of the Tokyo Bay area, and you can push a button (each button corresponding to a B29 raid) to illuminate what urban areas burned. By light #6, there wasnt much left to bomb in the whole Tokyo/Yokohama metro area.

    And yes, people were boiled alive in the Sumida River.

    According to the veterans at the B29 website, although the AC commanders were told to go on the mission only with the tail gun position manned, more than a few B29's went off on the mission that night with full crews. It seems the Generals who planned the mission forgot about the gunners also doing duty as engine fire lookouts, and the pilots needed them.

    The command staff in the Mariana's never pushed the issue about it though. Turned a blind eye and covered their ears about full crews going out.
     
  14. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2009
    Messages:
    3,541
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Occupation:
    Engineer and overgrown schoolboy
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    Some interesting points Syscom
    but yes, the B-29s only removed the gun stations, not the crews. The crews were needed to look out for other B-29s, the principal hazard in the loose-leaf 'formation' that they were flying. I believe they got rid of even the tail-gun station not many missions after that.
     
  15. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2005
    Messages:
    12,631
    Likes Received:
    309
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    No. If anything, that was always manned.
     
  16. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2006
    Messages:
    4,441
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    MGR
    Location:
    Phila, Pa
    I think the Tail Gunner in the B29 was physically isolated from the crew. Due to the presurization system, he climbed in there early and pretty much stayed there for the whole trip. Not like the B17, he couldn't come back to the main part of the bomber. Not positive, but I'm pretty sure.

    As his view was limited forward, it would be important to have other gunners keeping an eye out forward and 90 degrees off.
     
  17. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2006
    Messages:
    4,441
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    MGR
    Location:
    Phila, Pa
    Sys has it. The Palace was offlimits for the duration of the war (although the odd buildings were burned during raids).
     
  18. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2006
    Messages:
    7,359
    Likes Received:
    561
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Executive, Consulting
    Location:
    Scurry, Texas
    LeMay was not fired for this 'oops' in May 1945 - so the prohibition must not have been very strict..

    "In the late Taisho and early Showa eras, more buildings were added that were constructed with concrete, such as the headquarters of the Imperial Household Ministry and the Privy Council. These structures were more modern in appearance with only some token Japanese elements.

    From 1888 to 1948, it was called Palace Castle (宮城, Kyūjō?). On the night of 25 May 1945 most of the structures of the Imperial Palace were destroyed in the Allied fire-bombing raid. It was from the basement of the concrete library that Emperor Showa declared the capitulation of Japan in August 1945. Due to the large-scale destruction of the Meiji-era palace, the new main palace hall (Kyūden (宮殿?)) and residences were constructed on the western part of the site in the 1960s. The whole area was renamed literally Imperial Residence (皇居, Kōkyo?) in 1948. The east part was renamed East Garden (東御苑, Higashi-Gyoen?) and has been a public park since 1968."
     
  19. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2005
    Messages:
    12,631
    Likes Received:
    309
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    the prohibition was very strict. The Imperial palace was not on approved target lists and the crews were bluntly told not to aim at it.

    In war of this size, rogue bombings was inevitable, especially when done at night in loose formations. Not to mention it was only a mile or so from approved targets. Who would ever know who did it.

    And the JCS sure wasnt going to get rid of LeMay when he was delivering the results they wanted.
     
  20. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2006
    Messages:
    7,359
    Likes Received:
    561
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Executive, Consulting
    Location:
    Scurry, Texas
    I think that was my point - and incindieries are not precision weapons.. wouldn't matter if a prohibition 'existed' - the answer from the targe planners would be "So, we avoid bombing Tokyo to avoid risk of burning Palace down?"

    The answer would be 'no, sorry I brought the 'prohibition' up - just try to not kill the Emperial Palace if possible'
     
Loading...
Similar Threads
  1. Elmas
    Replies:
    7
    Views:
    1,825
  2. Lucky13
    Replies:
    13
    Views:
    958
  3. sunny91
    Replies:
    0
    Views:
    925
  4. FlexiBull
    Replies:
    0
    Views:
    1,406
  5. Micdrow
    Replies:
    10
    Views:
    3,152

Share This Page