Why did Americans firebomb japanese cities when they had managed to cut off supplies to Japan's in 1944?

According to this video, after japan becomes big in 1942, all the raw material to and fro has to go between the straits of China and the Philippines.

After America liberates Phillippines (spoilers!), Japan loses that vital strait and it’s war production begins to grind to a halt.

So why would they firebomb cities? They could have just kept up the choking in the strait and destroy Japan’s war economy.


The first strategic bombing raid against Japan occurred on July 15, 1944 against the Yawata Imperial Steel Works in Kitakyūshū, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan. This attack was done by the B-29 Superfortresses of XX Bomber Command in Calcutta India using Nationalist Chinese airfields around Chengdu China as forward bases for the bombing raid. The first bombing raids using incendiary bombs will occur on February 25, 1945 with a small raid by the B-29 Superfortresses of XXI Bomber Command flying from the Mariana Islands against Tokyo, Japan. The first massed fire-bombing raid occurred on March 9, 1945 against Tokyo, Japan. This was one of the most destructive air raids in World War 2.

As you can see from the dates, the United States did not start off with a policy of incendiary bomb raids against Japanese cities. They started off with precision strategic bombing against shipyards, refineries, mills, and factories but the strategic bombing had little effect because the Japanese operated on a push economy. The Japanese “Push Economy” forced the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff and the United States Army Air to the brutal decision to use incendiary bombing to destroy the Japanese war making capability being created by the garage workshops and small factories that existed in every Japanese city.

The Japanese never had the financial resources to industrialize their county so they adopted a push economy of placing their financial resources into a handful of industries that were provided with the most advanced production machinery possible to buy or build. They concentrated their financial resources on steel mills, electric power plants, chemical refineries, railroads, and shipyards. The remainder of their economy depended on hundred of thousands of entrepreneurs. The Japanese from the beginning of the Meiji Restoration to the beginning of World War 2 went around the world purchasing thousands of used and obsolete production machines which were distributed to entrepreneurs who set up garage workshops and tiny factories of up to half a dozen machines employing up to 20 people for the manufacture of parts for the Japanese Combines.

The classic example was the production of a Standard screw. The Japanese did not have a Standard screw factory. Instead, a steel mill will send iron rods to entrepreneur’s house in a residential neighborhood in Yokohama Japan where he had a threading machine set up in the back of his house. His family would then thread the rods for extra money. The threaded rods would be delivered by bicycle ten blocks away to a second entrepreneur’s house in a residential neighborhood with a cutting machine. The family would then cut the threaded rods to the right length for extra money. The cut rods would then be delivered to a tiny factory in a commercial district with restaurants in Yokohama with two punch machines and a taper machine. There, one end would be tapered and the other end punched to make a Standard screw. Only then would the screws be delivered to Arisaka Combine for the manufacturing of rifles.

The strategic bombing of a Arisaka factory would not shut down the manufacturing of rifles since it was only an assembly building with parts of the rifle being manufactured in garage workshops and small factories. Rifle production would only cease for a couple of days while assembly was set up in another building.

Every Japanese airplane built in World War 2 for the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy was done through the use of garage workshops and small factories that manufactured the parts for the aircraft. This was one of the primary reasons that the Japanese lost the war was because it took a considerable amount of time to convert the production machines in the garage workshops and small factories to manufacture new parts. The classic example of this was the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter. The Japanese only manufactured 837 Zeros between March 1939 to March 1942. They manufactured only 1,689 Zeros between April 1942 to March 1943 which barely replaced the losses in the field. By the summer of 1943, they have converted enough production machinery in the garage workshops and small factories to increase production of the Zeros to 3,432 planes between April 1943 to March 1944. Production of the Zero fighter would peak between April 1944 to March 1945 with the production of 3,487 planes. Even though the A6M was obsolete, it would take too long to retool the garage workshops and small factories so the plane was kept in production for use by Kamikaze pilots. Production would only cease on the Zero fighter with the annihilation of garage workshops and small factories that made the parts for the Zero fighter though the fire-bombing raids.

You can see from this post all of the errors that exist in the YouTube video. The author makes the mistaken assumption that the Japanese in World War 2 was industrialized like the Soviet Union, Italy, or Great Britain which the country was not. The cutting of the Japanese sea routes to their conquests in South East Asia impeded manufacturing but did not cripple it. The video did not take into account that the Japanese had sufficient aviation fuel for their 10,700 aircraft reserved for use Kamikaze attack against a Soviet or Western invasion of the Japanese home islands. The video also did not take into account that the overwhelming majority of raw resources from North Korea, Manchuria, and South Korea was being transported by railroad to Busan, Korea where they are being convoyed a short distance to the Japanese ports in the Inland Sea. This convoy route was only cut in the summer of 1945 through the combination of submarine attack, aerial attack by tactical bombers from Okinawa, air raids from Navy aircraft carriers, the laying of sea mines in the Inland Sea by B-29 Superfortress bombers, and the incendiary bombing of Japanese port cities. And the author of the video makes the false statement that the primary source of intelligence against the Japanese in World War 2 came from Bletchley Park. Bletchley Park only provided intelligence on the transmissions between the Japanese embassies between Europe and Japan.


Excellent in depth post, thank you!-these detailed posts are why I visit this site.


Damm! You nailed it.


Something I had no idea about- I really had no idea how Japan’s industry worked in WWII.

1 Like

Question for you- where can one look up more of this style of economy?

When I google “push economy” I can’t find anything about the distributed nature of making stuff like that. The reason I ask this is that I’ve seen some indications of South Korea being still like this. And I wanted to see if I could connect the dots between Japan in the war and S Korea now. It seems to be an obvious connection, but I just want to confirm it.