Operation Bombing of Kofu

The 'Bombing of Kofu' was the air raid undertaken within the context of the US bombing campaign waged by Major General Curtis E. LeMay’s US 20th Army Air Force against Japanese military and civilian targets and population centres during the Japan home islands campaign in the closing states of World War II (6 July 1945).

Kofu is a city of medium size and the capital of the rural Yamanashi prefecture. Many of the city’s residents had the impression that its surrounding mountains would provide some protection against air attack, and that without any targets of significant military importance their city would be overlooked by the Americans. Many people had left Tokyo and relocated to Kofu in the belief of its safety. However, as Kofu was located near Mount Fuji, which was a prominent landmark, once air raids on Japan became more frequent during the final stages of the Pacific War, Kofu residents had become accustomed to the sight of US aircraft passing over the city at high altitude en route to Tokyo and to targets in Nagano prefecture, and Kofu occasionally became a secondary target for aircraft which missed their primary targets. Such bombings caused little damage, and civil defence efforts did not begin until March 1945 or thereabouts. However, the construction of air raid shelters was largely impossible as a result of the high groundwater level, and efforts were therefore limited largely to the training of civilian neighbourhood associations on the use of bucket brigades for firefighting.

The main air raid on Kofu was a firebombing attack on the night of 6 July 1945. The attack began when a single Boeing B-29 Superfortress four-engined heavy bomber dropped 13 incendiary bombs directly on the Kofu city hospital, and this was followed by the carpet bombing of the city by 230 B-29 bombers of Colonel George W. Mundy’s 39th Bombardment Group and Colonel Douglas C. Polhamus’s 330th Bombardment Group. As a result of the cloud cover, most of the bombers released their payloads of M47 napalm bomb and E46 incendiary cluster bombs from an altitude of between 13,400 and 14,600 ft (4085 and 4,450 m) using radar.

A year after the war, the US Army Air Forces’s Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific War) reported approximately 79% of the city’s urban area had been totally destroyed, with 740 civilians killed, 1,248 seriously wounded and 35 missing. Some 18,094 residences had been destroyed.