Operation Bombing of Shizuoka

The 'Bombing of Shizuoka' by Major General Curtis E. LeMay’s 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 (19/20 June 1945).

Although Shizuoka lacked major targets of military significance, it was the fifteenth largest city in Japan with an estimated population in 1945 of 212,000, and was a major regional commercial centre. The Tokaido main line railway connecting Tokyo and Osaka also ran through the city.

Shizuoka was bombed 10 times during World War II. Tactical raids with high explosive bombs were made against a defunct Mitsubishi aircraft engine plant in March, April and May, and on 7 June 1945, a tactical raid by Boeing B-29 Superfortress four-engined heavy bombers caused moderate damage to Shizuoka’s industrial areas.

On 19 June 1945, 137 B-29 bombers of Brigadier General Thomas S. Power’s 314th Bombardment Wing launched a major firebombing attack on the central part of the city. The bombers attacked in two waves from east and west in order to trap the population within the centre of the city, between the mountains and the sea, dropping 13,211 incendiary bombs. The resulting firestorm destroyed most of the city. Shizuoka’s civil defence measures were crude at best and the city had almost no anti-aircraft defences. Air raid shelters consisted of a hole in the ground next to wooden houses with a wooden roof covered with a thin layer of soil and clay. As a result of the high ground water levels in the area, these shelters were shallow, and many people were burned alive in the firestorm. The estimated civilian casualties in the raid of 19 June were 1,952 people killed and an estimated 12,000 severely injured, and 26,891 homes were destroyed.

One year after the war, the US Army Air Forces’s Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific War) reported that 66.1% of the city had been totally destroyed.

Two B-29 bombers collided in the air during the operation, resulting in the deaths of 23 Americans.