In the early hours of March 10, 1945, some 300 B-29 heavy bombers of the U.S. Army Air Force dropped roughly 1,700 tons of incendiary bombs on the eastern half of Tokyo, killing an estimated 100,000 Tokyoites. The raging fires caused by the bombs, including napalm bombs, made about 1 million people homeless.
The Great Tokyo Air Raid should not be blotted out of people's memory as it was a cruel wartime act that testifies to the great suffering the Pacific War brought to Japanese civilians, along with the Battle of Okinawa and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The air raid, code-named the Operation Meetinghouse, represented a turning point in the United States' approach to air raids on Japanese cities. Until then, the U.S. employed high-altitude precision bombing, mainly targeting munitions factories with the aim of avoiding civilian casualties as much as possible. But convinced that high-altitude bombings were ineffective, Curtis LeMay, who became commander of the XXI Bomber Command in the Marianas in January 1945, adopted a policy of indiscriminate "low-altitude" bombings against Japan's urban areas. He thought that since Japan didn't have many anti-aircraft guns, flying at low altitude would not result in great losses of U.S. bombers. In addition, low-altitude flights consumed less fuel than high-altitude flights, thereby allowing bombers to carry more bombs. LeMay thought that since most buildings in Japan, even in urban areas, were made of "wood and paper," using incendiary bombs would be effective. To increase the air raid's effectiveness, the March 10 air raid was carried out at night. He justified the indiscriminate bombing by noting that many households in Japan's cities were producing small parts that were used in armaments and should therefore be regarded as weapons factories.