Operation Bombing of Fukui

The 'Bombing of Fukui' was part of the strategic bombing campaign waged by Major General Curtis E. LeMay’s US 20th Army Air Force against military and civilian targets, as well as population centres, during its Japanese home islands campaign in the later stages of World War II (19 July 1945).

While Fukui lacked major targets of military significance, it was a prefectural capital and regional commercial centre on the Hokuriku main line railway, and was also home to many small industries which supplied to the Japanese war effort.

Early in 1945, the US Army Air Forces concentrated their efforts on the bombing of targets along the Pacific coastal regions of the Japanese home islands: the cities in this area were more populous and more industrialised, and were closer to the new US strategic bomber bases in the recently captured Mariana islands group. Tsuruga became the first city on the coast of the Sea of Japan to be targeted by air raids on the night of 12 July 1945: the defences were light to non-existent, and in the bombing more than 70% of the city area was razed by incendiary bombs.

The firebombing of Fukui took place one week later. On 19 July, 133 Boeing B-29 Superfortress four-engined heavy bombers took off from from Tinian in the Mariana islands group, arriving over Fukui at 23.24 on a clear and cloudless night. More than 865 tons of incendiary bombs were dropped in a spiral pattern with a radius of 1,300 yards (1890 m) around the north-west of the Fukui Castle ruins, and the consequent firestorm destroyed most of the city. Fukui’s civil defence measures were, at best, crude: air raid shelters comprised hole in the ground next to wooden houses with a wooden roof covered with a thin layer of soil and clay. Many people were burned alive in the firestorm. The estimated civilian casualties in the raid of 19 July were 1,576 people killed (915 women and 661 men) with 6,527 injured, of whom 107 subsequently died of their wounds. Of the city itself out of 25,691 structures before the bombing, 21,992 were destroyed, rendering most of the surviving population homeless. A year after the war, the US Army Air Forces’s Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific War) reported that 84.8% of the city had been totally destroyed.