Operation Bombing of Fukuoka

The 'Bombing of Fukuoka' was the attack on Fukuoka by Boeing B-29 Superfortress four-engined heavy bombers of Major General Curtis E. LeMay’s US 20th Army Air Force within the context of the US strategic bombing of Japan (19 June 1945).

The single raid on Fukuoka formed part of a campaign by LeMay’s own XXI Bomber Command targeting medium-sized Japanese cities and prosecuted in the middle of June 1945 and continued to the end of the war in the middle of August 1945. These attacks used firebombing tactics to destroy the cities, and were conducted as a follow-on from raids which had devastated most of Japan’s major cities. With a population of 323,200, Fukuoka was the largest city targeted in this campaign. Most of the campaign’s raids were conducted by a single wing of B-29 bombers, which allowed the XXI Bomber Command to attack four cities per night, but Fukuoka and Omuta, the latter attacked on 26 July, were targeted by two wings as a result of their size.

Brigadier General Emmett O’Donnell’s 73rd Bombardment Wing and Brigadier General John H. Davies’s 313rd Bombardment Wings were assigned to the attack on Fukuoka, and despatched a total of 239 B-29 bombers, of which 223 bombed the primary target. Another four bombed targets of opportunity in Tomitaka, Chichi-jima, Miyazaki and Fukuoka. All of the B-29s returned to base.

On 20 June, four B-29 crewmen being held as prisoners of war at Fukuoka were murdered by Japanese soldiers: these killings were motivated by the casualties and damage caused by the raid and a belief among the personnel involved that Japan would soon be invaded. Another 29 captured US airmen were murdered at Fukuoka in August 1945.

Fukuoka harbour was also targeted as part of the concurrent large-scale aerial minelaying campaign. The first such undertaking against the harbour took place on 25 May 1945, when 15 B-29 bombers of Colonel Henry C. Huglin’s 9th Bombardment Group were despatched, and 14 of the bombers laid mines. All the bombers returned to base. The same group dropped more mines off Fukuoka harbour on 27 May. Fukuoka harbour was targeted once again in June. On 7 June, 10 B-29 bombers of Colonel Robert A. Ping’s 505th Bombardment Group were despatched, and six of the bombers laid mines. Eight aircraft of the 505th Bombardment Group dropped more mines off the city on 15 June. The 505th Bombardment Group struck again on 23 June, with nine B-29 bombers laying mines. One of the aircraft was lost during the operation. Additional operations were undertaken in July. On 13 July, three B-29 bombers of Colonel Kenneth H. Gibson’s 6th Bombardment Group were sent to lay mines near Fukuoka harbour, but it is not known how many of the aircraft actually laid their mines. Another minelaying operation was undertaken by six B-29 bombers of Colonel Glen W. Martin’s 504th Bombardment Group on 29 July, but again the number of aircraft which dropped their payloads is not known.

Fukuoka was also attacked twice by US fighter aircraft. On 23 June, Republic P-47 Thunderbolt single-engined fighter-bombers of Major General Thomas D. White’s 7th Army Air Force attacked an airfield at Hakata in the Fukuoka area, and North American P-51 Mustang single-engined fighter-bombers of Major General Ennis C. Whitehead’s 5th Army Air Force attacked Fukuoka harbour on 3 July, destroying several floatplanes.

On 17 July a B-29 aeroplane of Colonel George W. Mundy’s 39th Bombardment Group flew a radar reconnaissance mission to Fukuoka.

The raid of 19 June destroyed 1.37 sq miles (3.55 km˛) of Fukuoka’s urban area, representing 21.5% of the city, and Japanese wartime reports stated that 953 people were killed in all the attacks on Fukuoka.