Tokyo Firebombing Simply a War Crime


" of the most ruthless and barbaric killings of noncombatants in all history."


On Dec. 7, 1964, the Japanese government conferred the First Order of Merit with the Grand Cordon of the Rising Sun upon Gen. Curtis LeMay -- yes, the same general who, less than 20 years earlier, had incinerated "well over half a million Japanese civilians, perhaps nearly a million."


In May 1964, the general, now the chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, had declaimed: "Tell the Vietnamese they've got to draw in their horns or we're going to bomb them back into the Stone Age."


I was reminded of the Japanese government's bizarre act when I read the responses of several readers of The Atlantic Monthly to the news that a museum had finally been created in Tokyo to memorialize the Great Tokyo Air Raid. In the wee hours of March 10, 1945, 300 B-29s dropped 2,000 tons of incendiaries on one section of Tokyo -- a space seven-tenths the size of Manhattan -- and in 2 1/2 hours "scorched and boiled and baked to death" 100,000 people. The quoted words are LeMay's.

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