Bombing of Tokyo

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The bombing of Tokyo by the United States Army Air Forces took place during the Pacific campaigns of World War II. The U.S. mounted a small-scale raid on Tokyo in April 1942, with larger morale effects. Strategic bombing and urban area bombing began in 1944 after the long-range B-29 Super Fortress bomber entered service, first employed from China and thereafter the Mariana Islands. B-29 raids from those islands commenced on November 17, 1944 and lasted until August 15, 1945, the day Japan capitulated.[1] The air raid of 9-10 March 1945 was one of the most destructive bombing raids in history.

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Doolittle Raid

The first raid on Tokyo was the Doolittle Raid of 18 April 1942, when sixteen B-25 Mitchells were launched from USS Hornet to attack targets including Yokohama and Tokyo and then fly on to airfields in China. The raid was the retaliation against the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The raid did no damage to Japan's war capability but was a significant propaganda victory for the United States.[2] Launched prematurely, none of the attacking aircraft reached the designated airfields, either crashing or ditching (except for one aircraft which landed in the Soviet Union, where the crew was officially interned and secretly repatriated). Two crews were captured by the Japanese in occupied China.

B-29 raids

The key development for the bombing of Japan was the B-29 bomber plane, which had an operational range of 3,250 nautical miles (6,019 km); almost 90% of the bombs dropped on the home islands of Japan were delivered by this type of bomber. Once Allied ground forces had captured islands sufficiently close to Japan, airfields were built on those islands (particularly Saipan and Tinian) and B-29s could reach Japan for bombing missions.

The initial raids were carried out by the Twentieth Air Force operating out of mainland China in Operation Matterhorn under XX Bomber Command, but these could not reach Tokyo. Operations from the Northern Mariana Islands commenced in November 1944 after the XXI Bomber Command was activated there. The B-29s of XX Bomber Command were transferred to XXI Bomber Command in the spring of 1945 and based on Guam.[citation needed]

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