The first bombing of Kobe on 16th and 17th March was part of a strategic bombing campaign by USA.
The American B-29s raids before 1945 were less successful because of 200mph winds which prevailed at 35,000 feet over Japan. The solution was to fly the B-29s at low altitude at night.
By this time of the war the Japanese air force was almost obliterated. The B-29 raids took place at night flying at a height of 5,000 feet. With Japan’s night defences much weaker than those experienced with Germany the American raids proved successful with very few planes shot down.
Today we frequently read POW’s reports of American planes flying so low over their camps they could see the pilots in their cockpits. It is only when we read of the destruction, loss of life and statistics that we may begin to understand the terror and feelings of hopelessness the POW’s endured – initially most camps did not have shelter nor facilities for bombing raids and it was necessary to construct some protection. Numbers of POWs lost their lives in air raids.
65 Japanese cities were bombed. Of the six major cities 51% of Tokyo was destroyed, 56% of Kobe, 26% of Osaka, 31% of Nagoya, 33% of Kawasaki and 44% of Yokohama.
The reasons Kobe was chosen
- In 1945 Kobe was the 6th largest city in Japan with a population of one million people.
- The wooden houses were highly flammable.
- Kobe was Japan’s largest port with the largest concentration of shipping and marine engineering.
- It was an important transportation and business centre. Kobe contained business facilities for steel, machinery, rubber, railway equipment and ordinance. Vital for Japan’s war effort.
- There were many national highways that ran through Kobe, especially in the congested business area.
- Kobe’s water supply was minimal with only three reservoirs and the city’s fire-fighting equipment facilities poor.
- The vast number of wooden constructions combined with poor fire-fighting facilities proved disastrous for Kobe.
Kobe was bombed 25 times throughout 1945 leaving 17,000 dead and 530,850 homeless.