Operation Bombing of Gifu

The 'Bombing of Gifu' by Major General Curtis E. LeMay’s US 20th Army Air Force 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 (9/10 July 1945).

Gifu was a prefectural capital, a regional transportation hub and the location of a factory of the Kawanishi aircraft company. With the neighbouring city of Kakamigahara serving as an aeronautical centre for Japan, Gifu was also a large industrial and manufacturing centre during World War II. Gifu was also the base for the creation of Japan’s fire balloons: these paper-covered, bomb-carrying hot air balloons were deployed in large numbers in a failed attempt to cause havoc on US soil.

On the night of 9 July, 135 Boeing B-29 Superfortress four-engined heavy bombers attacked Gifu from the south, via Lake Biwa and Sekigahara. The bombing started at 23.34, with the primary aiming point being the intersection of Japan National Route 248 with Gifu Prefectural Road 54. The combination of the city’s flat topography and ideal weather conditions led to the bombing’s creation of a firestorm which destroyed most of the city centre, including the Gifu prefectural office, Gifu dtation and many other train stations and factories before the attack ended at 00.20 on the following morning. In total, 421.4 tons of E46 and 477.4 tons of E47 incendiary bombs were dropped on the city. Efforts by citizens and the civil defence authorities to extinguish the napalm-filled bomblets using traditional water bucket brigades contributed to the casualties and the extent of the damage.

As a result of the topography and weather, the damage per bomb dropped was huge. The affected area was around 2.31 sq miles (6 km˛), and the raid killed 818 civilians and injured 1,059, and destroyed 20,363 homes, thereby rendering homeless 100,000 persons.

A year after the war, the US Army Air Forces’s Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific War) reported that 74% of the city had been destroyed.