The Pittsburgh Press (November 24, 1944)
B-29s SET FIRES IN TOKYO
100 Superfortresses rip Jap plants
Saipan-based planes open drive to soften Japan for invasion
By Fred Scherff, United Press staff writer
B-29s from Saipan in the Marianas staged the big raid today on Tokyo.
One hundred or more B-29 Superfortresses, officially opening a two-pronged air offensive to soften Japan for invasion, bombed Tokyo by daylight today, and the enemy admitted factories and other important installations had been damaged.
Roaring out from new bases on Saipan in the Marianas, 1,550 miles to the southeast, the giant four-engined bombers swept over Tokyo at noon (11:00 p.m. Thursday ET) to give the jittery Japanese capital its first taste of American bombs since the historic April 18, 1942, raid by Lt. Gen. James H. Doolittle’s fliers.
**Four hours later, Tokyo belatedly admitted the raid and backed into admissions of what it sought to imply was slight damage to factories and other major installations. “Small fires” were caused, Tokyo broadcasts added, but only among “civilian homes and hospitals” and all were controlled “immediately.”
Tokyo said the bombers, attacking in 10 or more groups, were over the city for two hours.
The attack, the first on Tokyo by land-based aircraft, was announced here by Gen. H. H. Arnold, commander of the Army Air Forces and chief of the global 20th Air Force. He said another communiqué on damage done to the industrial targets would be issued “when further details are available.”
Gen. Arnold said in a special report to President Roosevelt:
The Battle for Japan has been joined. This operation is in no sense a hit-and-run raid. It is a calculated extension of our airpower… no part of the Japanese Empire is now out of our range, no war factory too remote to feel our bombs…
The Saipan-based B-29s, working under the newly-formed XXI Bomber Command, Gen. Arnold said, will coordinate their operations with those of the China-based XX Bomber Command, whose B-29s have already carried out 17 missions against Jap Empire targets.
Gen. Arnold told Mr. Roosevelt:
The systematic demolition of Japan’s war production, begun six months ago from China bases, henceforth will be carried out with decisive vigor, softening up the Japanese heart for the ultimate invasion by combined United Nations land, sea and air forces.
Gen. Arnold did not disclose the exact number of B-29s in the attacking force, saying only that it was “sizeable” – a term that in the past has meant 100 or more.
Neither did he identify the exact targets, although Tokyo is the site of some of the most vital Jap war industries. These include the giant Mitsubishi and Ishikawajima shipyards, the Mitsubishi heavy industries and numerous airplane and ammunition factories, oil refineries and machine tool, electrical, radio and precious instrument works.
The Tokyo radio, which gave the world the first albeit hysterical account of the Doolittle raid, was silent for several hours after today’s attack and then blossomed forth with its usual report – that the B-29s had “failed to attain any tangible results” due to “effective interceptions.”
The attack on Tokyo came just 24 hours after Japan had observed its Thanksgiving Day – the Minamati Festival – in which Emperor Hirohito had offered newly harvested grain to his gods. Even as the festival was in progress, the Japs witnessed a harbinger of things to come when a single B-29, according to Tokyo reports, flew over the Nagoya area some 275 miles west-southwest of Tokyo.
Other reconnaissance flights by B-29s over the island of Honshu, on which Tokyo is located, had steadily increased Jap fears of a coming raid on their capital and thousands of children, women and older residents had been ordered out in preparation.
Virginian is in command
Gen. Arnold said the XXI Bomber Command was commanded in its first operation by Brig. Gen. H. S. Hansell Jr., a 41-year-old native of Fort Monroe, Virginia, who first gained fame 10 years ago as a member of the aviation acrobatic team, “Three Men on a Flying Trapeze.”
Lt. Gen. Millard F. Harmon, commanding general of Army Air Forces in the Pacific and Gen. Arnold’s deputy commander of the 20th Air Force, issued his own statement promising that the two-pronged air offensive against Japan was destined to grow in other directions.
The time is not far now when Japan will be subjected to the combined efforts of units based from Alaska through the Philippines and over into China – a ring of air effort focused on the Imperial Empire.
In addition to the mounting American threat from the air, Japan is faced with ever-bolder operations by units of the mighty Pacific Fleet.
The Navy revealed last night that a task force had struck Tuesday at the Kurils at the northern tip of the Jap islands, bombarding Matsuwa and starting large fires and explosions. Jap guns did not reply and no American ship was damaged.
For the United States, the Tokyo raid brought additional retribution for Japan’s execution of an unknown number of Gen. Doolittle’s first Tokyo raiders forced down on occupied areas of the Asiatic mainland. The execution of those fliers, who staged their attack from the decks of the now-sunk carrier USS Hornet, brought from President Roosevelt a pledge that they would be avenged.
Heart of Japan rocked
Gen. Arnold accompanied his announcement with a dramatic statement, beginning with these words:
The Air Force today rocked the heart of Japan with bombs from a mighty new task force of B-29 aircraft based in Saipan.
The mission was accomplished by Brig. Gen. Haywood Hansell’s XXI Bomber Command. Its vigor should be convincing proof that these far Pacific islands, captured by our Army and Navy at great cost in men and material, have been put to the greatest possible use. Tokyo’s war industries have been badly hurt by a blow made possible by the Americans who fought and died for the Marianas.
Now, as our American factories feed the voracious appetite of our B-29s with replacements and bombs, we will pound Japan’s war machine out of existence…
Japan has sowed the wind, now let it reap the whirlwind.
‘No part of Japan safe’
Gen. Harmon said in his statement that with the basing of B-29s in the Marianas, “no part of the homeland of Japan is now safe from land-based air attacks.”
Although warning that air attacks alone cannot win victory, he said the Tokyo raid marked the start of a “new phase of the air war against Japan which, in its various aspects, will steadily unfold.”
The War Department disclosed in an accompanying statement that the XXI Bomber Command was activated last March 8. It was set up at first at Smoky Hill Army Air Base, Salina, Kansas, but headquarters were moved in June to Peterson Field, Colorado Springs, Colorado, with Brig. Gen. Roger M. Ramey as acting commander. Gen. Ramey is now chief of staff to Gen. Hansell, who took command of the XXI Command last Aug. 29.
Wide raids made
The B-29s were first sent into action against Japan’s warmaking potential early in June in a “shakedown” raid on Bangkok, Thailand. In all, counting the Tokyo raid, they have carried out 18 missions against industrial targets in the Jap homeland and in occupied regions in China, Malaya and the Dutch East Indies.
In October, while the Navy was striking at Formosa and Northern Luzon in preparation for the Philippines invasion, the B-29s joined in with three heavy raids on targets on Formosa.
Japs admit damage
The Japanese conceded that the Superfortresses raided Tokyo for two hours, damaging factories and other important installations and causing some fires.
A brief Jap communiqué claimed three Superfortresses had been shot down. The communiqué said:
Today, Nov. 24, approximately 70 enemy planes from the Marianas area penetrated into the capital area in wave formation, divided into several units, at about 12:20 p.m. and raided for about two hours.
Our damages have been slight and the war result confirmed up to now is three enemy planes shot down.
B-29 base, Saipan, Mariana Islands (UP) – (via Navy radio)
Brig. Gen. Emmett “Rosey” O’Donnell Jr., leader of the Superfortress mission over Tokyo, flashed back word today that his sizeable task force of sky giants had successfully bombed important military objectives at the Jap capital.
Boring in without benefit of fighter protection, the world’s mightiest planes packed large enough loads from their Saipan bases to pay dividends in this big American attack on Honshu Island.
It was the biggest raid by land-based bombers, in terms of both the bombload and number of planes involved, in the history of the Central Pacific war.
Maj. Robert Morgan of Asheville, North Carolina, pilot of the famed B-17 Memphis Belle of the 8th Air Force in Europe, was at the controls of the first bomber over Tokyo. Gen. O’Donnell was in the plane as command pilot and leader of the mission.
Overcoming the weather and tough navigational problems the big raiders hammered the Nakajima aircraft factory in the western outskirts of Tokyo after parading into the air from bases won on bloody Saipan by the Marines and Army troops.