Operation Bombing of Hiratsuka

The 'Bombing of Hiratsuka' 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 states of World War II (16/17 July 1945).

Although Hiratsuka was not a major population centre, it possessed two major targets of military significance, in the form of the Hiratsuka navy ammunition arsenal and Japan International Aircraft Industries, the latter a Nissan group military aircraft production factory, both located to the north of the city centre. The Tokaido main line railway connecting Tokyo and Osaka also ran through the city, which was designated as one of the primary landing beaches in the projected 'Coronet' invasion of the Japanese home islands by Allied amphibious forces.

Despite its obvious military significance, Hiratsuka was not bombed until the very last stages of World War II. The first major air raid occurred on the night of 16/17 July 1945 when 138 Boeing B-29 Superfortress four-engined heavy bombers of Brigadier General Thomas S. Power’s 314th Bombardment Wing dropped 1,163 tons incendiary bombs, destroying most of the city centre. However, only 5% of the capacity of the Imperial Japanese navy ammunition arsenal was affected, and only 10% of the capacity of the Nissan aircraft factory, as the bombing was concentrated on Hiratsuka’s civilian population area rather than the military industries located on the outskirts of town. The estimated civilian casualties were 228 people killed.

A year after the war, the US Army Air Forces’s Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific War) reported that 44.8% of the city had been totally destroyed.

Following the 16/17 July raid, the US Navy launched another attack with 16 Curtiss SB2C Helldiver single-engined dive-bombers and 24 Vought F4U Corsair single-engined fighter-bombers launched from the fleet carriers Wasp, Shangri-La and Yorktown on 30 July. This attack was directed specifically at the production facilities of Nissan aircraft:18 500-lb (227-kg) bombs were dropped on the plant’s nos 2, 6 and 7 buildings, killing 25 workers, mostly school children who had been conscripted as labour.

This raid was followed on 13 August by another attack involving 61 aircraft launched from the carriers Hancock, Belleau Wood, Bennington, Lexington and San Jacinto. The primary target was again the Nissan aircraft production facilities, by this time virtually abandoned due to lack of materials and damage in the previous air raid.