Operation Bombing of Nagoya

The 'Bombing of Nagoya' was part of the US Army Air Forces' campaign against Japan’s industrial and urban areas in the later stages of World War II (13 December 1944/24 July 1945).

The first US strategic bombing attack on Nagoya was delivered on 18 April 1942 as part of the 'Conceal' undertaking by carrier-launched North American B-25 Mitchell twin-engined bombers in what was also known as the 'Doolittle Raid'. In this attack, one B-25 bomber targeted the Mitsubishi aircraft factory, the Matsuhigecho oil warehouse, the Nagoya Castle military barracks, and the Nagoya war industries plant. However, it was not until the bombing attacks of 1944 and 1945 that Nagoya came to suffer significant bomb damage.

According to the US Strategic Bombing Survey, during the last nine months of the Pacific War some 14,054 tons of bombs were dropped in precision and area air attacks on the factories and urban areas of Nagoya. No Japanese city other than Tokyo received as many attacks. The city came under attack 21 times between 13 December 1944 and 24 July 1945 withe the objects of '(1) mainly by precision attacks, to wipe out Nagoya’s aircraft production and, later on, its ordnance production, and (2) mainly by area attacks, to knock out the city’s remaining industries and to destroy the people’s will to resist.'

This second phase of the attacks began with precision bombing on 13 December 1944, targeting a Mitsubishi factory. Four bombers were badly damaged during the mission and had to be abandoned. On December 18, another bombing raid took place, although there was such heavy cloud that the bombers needed to bomb by radar. Japanese fighter aircraft intercepted the attacking bombers and shot down one. On 3 January 1945, there was a general firebombing of the city. On 14 January 1945, Mitsubishi plants were attacked once again. On 11 or 12 March and 19 March, there were large air raids and widespread firebombing. On 7 April, another precision bombing attack hit and destroyed most of the Mitsubishi aircraft engine factory. On 14 and 16 May, there were large air raids and widespread firebombing that targeted the Mitsubishi factories and other war industry facilities, the arsenal, railway marshalling yards, and the port. Nagoya Castle, a national treasure which was being used as a military command post, was also hit during the raid of 14 May raid and burned down.

During the winter of 1944 and spring of 1945. moreover, there were random single-bomber attacks intended as psychological warfare to disrupt the city and damage the morale of the citizens. It is estimated that 113,460 buildings were destroyed during the raids, with 3,866 people killed and 471,701 driven from their homes. On 16 July the Boeing B-29 Superfortress 'Enola Gay' four-engined heavy bomber also dropped a conventional 'Pumpkin' bomb (aerodynamically and ballistically identical to the 'Fat Man' nuclear bomb), in the Yagoto area of Nagoya as part of a bombing raid to train for the forthcoming nuclear bombing mission against Hiroshima.

Nagoya was targeted for incendiary bombing because it was the centre of the Japanese aircraft industry. The city produced between 40 and 50% of Japan’s combat aircraft and engines, including the Mitsubishi A6M Reisen 'Zero' single-engined fighter. Nagoya was also the location of a port capable of holding 38 ships of up to 10,000 tons and produced equipment for the war effort including railway equipment, ball bearings and processed food.