Operation Bombing of Aomori

The 'Bombing of Aomori' by US aircraft of Major General Curtis E. LeMay’s XXI Bomber Command was part of the strategic bombing campaign waged by the USA against military and civilian targets and population centres during the Japanese home islands campaign in the closing stages of World War II (27/29 July 1945).

Although Aomori lacked major targets of military significance and was a minor city in terms of its population, it was a prefectural capital and a major regional transportation hub. Aomori station was the northern terminus of the Tohoku main line and Ou main line railways, and the city’s port was the primary base for the Seikan ferry connecting Honshu and Hokkaido islands. In terms of military industry, the city had a Toyo factory manufacturing wings and landing gear for aircraft.

On the night of 27 July 1945, two Boeing B-29 Superfortress four-engined heavy bombers dropped flares and a total of 60,000 leaflets on Aomori. The leaflets, depicting a bomber dropping bombs, listed 11 cities, including Aomori, and stated that at least five or six of these cities would soon be destroyed and therefore urged the civilian populations to leave. As in other cities, the Japanese government decreed that citizens must hand all such leaflets to the police without reading the contents on pain of imprisonment for three months or a fine. Discussion of the contents could result in indefinite imprisonment, and the restrictions were to be enforced by the Kempeitai military police and local neighbourhood associations.

On the night of 28 July, 63 B-29 bombers of Brigadier General Roger M. Ramey’s 58th Bombardment Wing took off from the small island of Iwo Jima on a flight which took them over Sendai and the Oga peninsula to approach Aomori via Ajigasawa village. One aeroplane was forced to turn back, but the remaining bombers arrived over Aomori at 22.10 and began a firebombing attack with 500-lb (227-kg) E48 incendiary bombs on the central part of the city from an altitude of 5,000 ft (1525 m). The bombing lasted to 23.10, and the bombers also dropped a total of 83,000 new M74 incendiary devices on the largely wooden city. The resulting firestorm destroyed most of the city, in which the estimated civilian casualties were 1,767 killed, together with 18,045 homes destroyed. The efforts of citizens and the civil defence authorities to extinguish the napalm-filled M74 bomblets using traditional water bucket brigades and fire trucks contributed to the casualties and extent of damage.

A year after the war, the US Army Air Forces’s Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific War) reported that 88% of Aomori had been totally destroyed. However, the Toyo factory was undamaged.

After the attack, in which they had suffered neither damage nor loss, the B-29 bombers flew to Tinian in the Mariana islands group.