"WWII's Greatest Raids" is a series that takes you into the heart of an elite band of soldiers in the heat of a key action in their history, and follows them on the mission to show just how these men put their unique combination of skills, training and equipment to the test of combat. We'll explore just how celebrated outfits such as the U.S. Army Rangers, the British Special Air Service and the Black Devil Brigade have changed the course of a battle, or perhaps even a war, through their courage, daring and commitment.
Runtime: 60 minutes
WWII's Greatest Raids - Air raids on Japan - Netflix
Allied forces conducted many air raids on Japan during World War II, causing extensive destruction to the country's cities and killing between 241,000 and 900,000 people. During the first years of the Pacific War these attacks were limited to the Doolittle Raid in April 1942 and small-scale raids on military positions in the Kuril Islands from mid-1943. Strategic bombing raids began in June 1944 and continued until the end of the war in August 1945. Allied naval and land-based tactical air units also attacked Japan during 1945. The United States military air campaign waged against Japan began in earnest in mid-1944 and intensified during the war's last months. While plans for attacks on Japan had been prepared prior to the Pacific War, these could not begin until the long-range B-29 Superfortress bomber was ready for combat. From June 1944 until January 1945, B-29s stationed in India staged through bases in China to make a series of nine raids on targets in western Japan, but this effort proved ineffective. The strategic bombing campaign was greatly expanded from November 1944 when bases in the Mariana Islands became available as a result of the Mariana Islands Campaign. These attacks initially attempted to target industrial facilities using high-altitude daylight “precision” bombing, which was also largely ineffective. From February 1945, the bombers switched to low-altitude night firebombing against urban areas as much of the manufacturing process was carried out in small workshops and private homes: this approach resulted in large-scale urban damage. Aircraft flying from Allied aircraft carriers and the Ryukyu Islands also frequently struck targets in Japan during 1945 in preparation for the planned invasion of Japan scheduled for October 1945. During early August 1945, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were struck and mostly destroyed by atomic bombs. Japan's military and civil defenses were unable to stop the Allied attacks. The number of fighter aircraft and anti-aircraft guns assigned to defensive duties in the home islands was inadequate, and most of these aircraft and guns had difficulty reaching the high altitudes at which B-29s often operated. Fuel shortages, inadequate pilot training, and a lack of coordination between units also constrained the effectiveness of the fighter force. Despite the vulnerability of Japanese cities to firebombing attacks, the firefighting services lacked training and equipment, and few air raid shelters were constructed for civilians. As a result, the B-29s were able to inflict severe damage on urban areas while suffering few losses. The Allied bombing campaign was one of the main factors which influenced the Japanese government's decision to surrender in mid-August 1945. However, there has been a long-running debate over the morality of the attacks on Japanese cities, and the use of atomic weapons is particularly controversial. The most commonly cited estimate of Japanese casualties from the raids is 333,000 killed and 473,000 wounded. There are a number of other estimates of total fatalities, however, which range from 241,000 to 900,000. In addition to the loss of mostly civilian life, the raids contributed to a large decline in industrial production.
WWII's Greatest Raids - Attacks on small cities - Netflix
The firebombing campaign against small cities continued through June and July. On the night of 19 June B-29s struck Fukuoka, Shizuoka and Toyohashi. On 28 June Moji, Nobeoka, Okayama and Sasebo were attacked. Kumamoto, Kure, Shimonoseki and Ube were bombed on 1 July. Two nights later, Himeji, Kōchi, Takamatsu and Tokushima were attacked. On 6 July, attacks were conducted against Akashi, Chiba, Kōfu and Shimizu. Gifu, Sakai, Sendai and Wakayama were struck on 9 July. Three nights later, the B-29s targeted Ichinomiya, Tsuruga, Utsunomiya and Uwajima. On 16 July, Hiratsuka, Kuwana, Namazu and Ōita were attacked. Chōshi, Fukui, Hitachi, Okazaki were bombed on 19 July. After a break of almost a week, Matsuyama, Omuta and Tokuyama were firebombed on 26 July. XXI Bomber Command also conducted an intensive propaganda campaign alongside its firebombing raids. It has been estimated that B-29s dropped 10 million propaganda leaflets in May, 20 million in June and 30 million in July. The Japanese government implemented harsh penalties against civilians who kept copies of these leaflets. On the night of 27/28 July, six B-29s dropped leaflets over 11 Japanese cities warning that they would be attacked in the future; this was intended to lower the morale of Japanese civilians and convince them that the United States was seeking to minimize civilian casualties. Six of these cities (Aomori, Ichinomiya, Tsu, Uji-Yamada Ōgaki and Uwajima) were attacked on 28 July. No B-29s were lost in the raids on these cities, though six were damaged by attacks from between 40 and 50 fighters and another five were hit by anti-aircraft fire. August 1945 began with further large-scale raids against Japanese cities. On the 1st of the month, 836 B-29s staged the largest single raid of World War II, dropping 6,145 tons of bombs and mines. The cities of Hachiōji, Mito, Nagaoka and Toyama were the main targets of this operation; all four suffered extensive damage and 99.5 percent of buildings in Toyama were destroyed. The cities of Imabari, Maebashi, Nishinomiya and Saga were attacked on 5 August. These raids had also been preceded by propaganda leaflets and radio broadcasts from Saipan warning that the cities would be attacked. From late June the 315th Bombardment Wing conducted a series of night precision bombing attacks against the Japanese oil industry, independently of the precision day and night incendiary raids. The wing's B-29s were fitted with the advanced AN/APQ-7 radar that allowed targets to be accurately located at night. Arriving in the Marianas in April 1945, the 315th underwent a period of operational training before flying its first attack against the Utsube Oil Refinery at Yokkaichi on the night of 26 June. The 30 bombers (out of 38 dispatched) that struck the refinery destroyed or damaged 30 percent of the facility. The unit's next attack was against a refinery at Kudamatsu three nights later, and on the night of 2 July it struck another refinery at Minoshima. On the night of 6/7 July the 315th Bombardment Wing destroyed the Maruzen oil refinery near Osaka, and three nights later it completed the destruction of the Utsube refinery. The wing had conducted 15 operations against Japanese oil facilities by the end of the war. During these attacks it destroyed six of the nine targets attacked for the loss of four B-29s. However, as Japan had almost no crude oil to refine due to the Allied naval blockade of the home islands these raids had little impact on the country's war effort. During mid-July the USAAF strategic bomber forces in the Pacific were reorganized. On 16 July, XXI Bomber Command was re-designated the Twentieth Air Force and LeMay appointed its commander. Two days later the United States Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific (USASTAF) was established at Guam under the command of General Carl Spaatz. USASTAF's role was to command the Twentieth Air Force as well as the Eighth Air Force, which at the time was moving from Europe to Okinawa. The Eighth Air Force was led by James Doolittle (who had been promoted to general) and was being reequipped with B-29s. The Commonwealth Tiger Force, which was to include Australian, British, Canadian and New Zealand heavy bomber squadrons and attack Japan from Okinawa, was also to come under the command of USASTAF when it arrived in the region during late 1945.
In mid-June Arnold visited LeMay's headquarters at Saipan. During this visit he approved a proposal for XXI Bomber Command to attack 25 relatively small cities with populations ranging from 62,280 to 323,000 while also continuing precision raids on major targets. This decision was made despite a recommendation from the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS) team, which was assessing the effectiveness of air attacks on Germany, that operations against Japan should focus on the country's transportation network and other targets with the goal of crippling the movement of goods and destroying food supplies. LeMay's plan called for precision attacks on important industrial targets on days when the weather over Japan was clear and incendiary attacks guided by radar on overcast days. As both the cities and industrial facilities targeted were relatively small, the B-29 force would be sent against multiple locations on days in which attacks were conducted. This targeting policy, which was labeled the “Empire Plan”, remained in force until the last days of the war. Five major precision bombing attacks were conducted as part of the Empire Plan. On 9 June, two groups of B-29s bombed an aircraft factory at Narao and another two groups raided a factory in Atsuta; both facilities were badly damaged. A single group of Superfortresses also attempted to bomb a Kawasaki Aircraft Industries factory at Akashi but accidentally struck a nearby village instead. The next day, XXI Bomber Command bombers escorted by 107 P-51s successfully attacked six different factories in the Tokyo Bay region. Precision bombing raids were also conducted on 22 June, when 382 B-29s attacked six targets at Kure, Kakamigahara, Himeji, Mizushima and Akashi in southern Honshu. Most of the factories targeted were badly damaged. Four days later, 510 B-29s escorted by 148 P-51s were sent against nine factories in southern Honshu and Shikoku. Heavy clouds over the region meant that many bombers attacked targets of opportunity individually or in small groups, and little damage was done to the raid's intended targets. Cloudy weather prevented any further large-scale precision attacks until 24 July, when 625 B-29s were dispatched against seven targets near Nagoya and Osaka. Four of the factories attacked suffered heavy damage. Renewed cloudy weather prevented any further Empire Plan precision attacks in the last weeks of the war. XXI Bomber Command began incendiary raids against small cities from 17 June. On that night, Hamamatsu, Kagoshima, Ōmuta, Yokkaichi were each attacked by a wing of B-29s using similar tactics to those employed in the firebombing raids against the major cities. Of the 477 B-29s dispatched, 456 struck their targets and Hamamatsu, Kagoshima, Yokkaichi suffered extensive damage; overall 6.073 square miles (15.73 km2) of buildings were destroyed. The cities were almost undefended and no B-29s were lost to Japanese actions. This operation was judged a success, and set the pattern for XXI Bomber Command's firebombing attacks until the end of the war. As the campaign continued and the most important cities were destroyed, the bombers were sent against smaller and less significant cities. On most nights that raids were conducted, four cities were attacked, each by a wing of bombers. Two-wing operations were conducted against Fukuoka on 19 June and Ōmuta on 26 July, however. Sixteen multi-city incendiary attacks had been conducted by the end of the war (an average of two per week), and these targeted 58 cities. The incendiary raids were coordinated with precision bombing attacks during the last weeks of the war in an attempt to force the Japanese government to surrender. As the small cities were not defended by anti-aircraft guns and Japan's night-fighter force was ineffective, only a single B-29 was shot down during this campaign; a further 66 were damaged and 18 crashed as a result of accidents.
WWII's Greatest Raids - References - Netflix