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Target Tokyo, part 2

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B-29s on Saipan were like artillery pointed at the heart of Japan. The Nips made a desperate attempt to knock the base out. They came over at night, too. They paid admission. But they got some of ours. The Japs might just as well have tried to stop Niagara Falls. The 21st Bomber Command was ready to hit its first target. "Our target for today: one of three of the Nakajima aircraft plants" "located 11 miles west of Tokyo." The men had hoped the first one would be Tokyo, and they were delighted. But they weren't kidding themselves. Not even those who'd been over Berlin or Ploesti or Vienna. London to Berlin and back was 1000 miles. The Foggia-Ploesti run: 1150 miles. The Foggia-Vienna run: 900 miles. But Saipan to Tokyo and back was over 3000 miles. No land-based planes had ever hit this target before. Crew chiefs and maintenance men worked right through the afternoon and night. The ordnance men fused the payload. Dawn. The coolness reminded them of that other dawn not so long ago in Nebraska. Only now they were sweating. It was kind of funny to think of themselves making history. The lead ship was A-Square-1, Dauntless Dotty. Its pilot was Robert Morgan, its bombardier Vince Evans. Remember them? They were the pilot and bombardier who flew 25 missions over Germany in a B-17 called the Memphis Belle. Five o'clock. Back home you'd have been turning over for another couple hours sleep. Or just coming in from a date. Each Super Fort carried well over 7000 gallons of gas. More than 6000 rounds of ammunition. With their great load of 500 pound general-purpose bombs and incendiaries they weighed almost 70 tons apiece. The barometer should have been falling in Tokyo. This was the final lap of the long mission. Over 10,000 miles, almost halfway around the world. To return a visit that had been paid to Pearl Harbor three years before. Pearl Harbor was on their minds now. The 2000 American dead. Hickam Field in flames. The Arizona and the Oklahoma and the Pennsylvania. There were other things on their minds. There was the triumphant feeling of being the first. The advance guard of a long procession of Super Forts that would smash Tokyo. There was the grim satisfaction of making the Nipponese high command eat its words. "Tokyo," the Japanese high command had broadcast, "is out of range of land-based American bombers." There was the uncertainty. The fear of the unknown. 1600 miles lay between them and their target. What kind of a defense would the Japs put up? How much flak? How accurate? 1600 miles lay between the target and getting back to Saipan. How many of them would get back? They recalled very clearly the fate of the Doolittle fliers who had crashed in Japan and been captured. Six hours later, through the clouds, they saw it. Fujiyama, ancient symbol of Japan. Here come some modern symbols: phosphorous bombs and flak. And fighters. Inside a Super Fort you can't see its guns. You fire by remote control. But the guns are there. And now, below them, is Tokyo. Within a radius of 15 miles of the Imperial Palace live 7 million Japanese. A people we used to think of as small, dainty, polite. Concerning themselves only with floral arrangements and rock gardens. And the cultivation of silkworms. But it isn't silkworms and it isn't Imperial Palaces these men looking for. In the suburbs of Tokyo is the huge Nakajima Aircraft plant. Well, Bud, what are you waiting for? Of the B-29s that had taken off at dawn, all but two got back to Saipan that night. And that's where it ended. The first Super Fortress mission to Tokyo. But more than an ending, it was a beginning. As the Commanding General of the Army Air Forces put it: No part of the Japanese Empire is now out of our range. No war factory too remote to feel our bombs. The battle for Japan is now underway with full speed ahead.

Video Details

Duration: 10 minutes and 52 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Views: 330
Posted by: japanairraids on Sep 9, 2010

1945 Army Air Forces film, narrated by Ronald Reagan, about the first B-29 strike on Tokyo, Japan

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