Bombing of Kobe in World War II
The Bombing of Kobe in World War II on March 16 and 17, 1945 was part of the strategic bombing campaign waged by the United States of America against military and civilian targets and population centers during the Japan home islands campaign in the closing stages of World War II. The city would be bombed again in later months.
Reasons for Raids
Kobe was selected as a target for firebombing raids for a number of reasons. First off, it was the 6th largest city in Japan at the time, with a population of roughly 1 million. The houses were mostly flimsy and highly flammable—perfect for starting and sustaining large fires. Second, it was Japan's largest port, home to the largest concentration of shipbuilding and marine-engine manufacturing. Kobe was also an important city for transportation and business. National highways ran through the city, especially through the congested business section, and Kobe contained business facilities for steel, machinery, rubber, railway equipment, and ordnance. Lastly, Kobe's low water supply, consisting of only three reservoirs, and its poor firefighting equipment created a very fire-prone environment.
March 16/17 Raid
On March 16/17, 1945, 331 American B-29 bombers launched a firebombing attack against the city of Kobe, Japan. This raid was executed by all three wings of the XXI Bomber Command, namely the 73rd, 313th, and 314th bombardment wings. It was flown in honor of Brigadier General LaVerne Saunders, who was, at the time, recuperating in Walter Reed General Hospital from injuries he sustained during an aircraft accident. The raid targeted 4 key areas: the northwest corner of the city, the area south of the main railroad line, the area northwest of the main railroad station, and the area northeast of the third target. Of the city's residents, 8,841 were confirmed to have been killed in the resulting firestorms, which destroyed an area of three square miles and included 21% of Kobe's urban area. At the time, the city covered an area of 14 square miles (36 km²). More than 650,000 people had their homes destroyed, and the homes of another million people were damaged.
During the raid, 280 Japanese fighters were spotted, 96 of which engaged the B-29 bombers in 104 attacks; this constituted the highest proportion of fighters sighted to those attacking than previously experienced during a night raid. Despite this, no bombers were lost due to enemy defenses. Three bombers were lost during the raid, but the reason(s) for their losses are unknown.
In addition to incendiary attacks, Kobe was the target of a B-29 precision attack on industry, three mine-laying operations and one fighter-bomber sweep:
- May 11, 1945: 92 B-29s hit Kawanishi aircraft industry
- June 18, 1945: 25 B-29s laid naval mines in several areas including waters near Kobe
- June 28, 1945: 29 B-29s laid naval mines in three harbors including Kobe
- July 19, 1945: 27 B-29s laid naval mines in several areas including waters near Kobe
- July 30, 1945: Fighters attack airfields, railroads and tactical targets throughout Kobe-Osaka area
- 21st Bomber Command Tactical Mission Report 43, April 19th, 1945
- "The 6th Bomb Group." Philcrowther.com. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
- Air Force Historical Studies: U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 -- 1945