B-29 International Research Seminar
Air raids against the Japanese Mainland and captured Allied fliers
On May 20, 2007, the POW Research Network Japan (POW-RNJ) hosted the "B-29 International Research Seminar - Air raids against the Japanese Mainland and captured Allied fliers" at Eiko Gakuen High School in Kamakura. Seven researchers of the US and Japan presented the results of their researches, studies, and activities to the audience. Approximately 70 people participated in the seminar.
Summary of the Speeches
During the Pacific War, almost 450 allied aircraft were shot down around the Japanese Mainland, and the Japanese captured 568 airmen. Of the 568, nearly half of them were executed, killed, poisoned, vivisected, or died from diseases and war damages. Mr. Fukubayasghi introduced 15 cases tried at the Yokohama Class B and Class C War Criminal Trials, including "Tachikawa (Tokyo) Kempei-tai Case," "Tokai District Army Case," "Chubu District Army and Kempei-tai Case," and "Seib District Army Case." In those days, the Japanese Military Authorities did not recognize those airmen as POWs, and treated them as criminals who had carried out indiscriminate bombings. In consequence, there were many cases in which they were executed or killed without being taken to court for the Military trial. On the other hand, although the airmen were taken to court for the Military trial, those who were connected with the cases were tried. There was a notable case in which Maj. Gen. Okada Tasuku, Commander of the Tokai District Army, challenged the prosecutors to "legal debates" by saying, "It was indiscriminate bombing that was in violation of the International Law. Beheading was a time-honored way of execution based on Bushido, the way of the samurai."
Today’s war is an all-out war, and the issues on air raids and downed fliers in captivity still remain unsolved after many years since the war was over.
A report based on the interviews of the ex-B-29 POWs by the speakers. After introducing the B-29ers background (for the most part from white working-class of the U.S.), education and training, typical missions and attitude toward war, etc., Professor Hadley talked about a case study he pursued, from which he reported the experiences of the B-29ers downed over Niigata. Most of them suffered from Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by severe experiences as POWs, and even today, they still have bitter hatred against the Japanese. In today’s Japanese education, students are taught to view the Pacific War in terms of sufferings and victimhood, the speakers feel that the students must be taught those who are on the losing side of a war are often the most vicious, and advised that the Japanese, especially the next generation, should go backwards and pierce the truth, and help Japan to wage peace against the world. The following is the summary of Questions and Answers to/from the speakers.
Q: Did the airmen know that Japan had not ratified the Geneva Convention (POW Convention of 1929)
A: Yes, they did. Through the propaganda programs on radio, they learned that POWs were being mistreated. In an emergency, they were instructed to make a ditching rather than a forced landing.
Q: Why was it safer to ditch?
A: At sea, friendly submarines were there, being ready to rescue the downed airmen. From the air, Super Dumbos will drop a lifeboat. Just in case of alighting on land, a .45 caliber pistol was issued to each airman to survive.
Q: Did they know that the allied POWs worked at the factories they bombed?
A: No, they did not know that. The same was true with the case of Japanese ships transporting POWs. One thousand nine hundred American POWs were accidentally killed of drowned by bombings. The intelligence personnel might have known the factories where POWs worked, and the ships transporting POWs, but the information was not passed on to the commanders of the first line.
Q: What did the airmen think about the indiscriminate bombing on the cities?
A: Our research was made 60 years after the war was over. During this 60-year period, their thoughts may have changed in various ways. At our interviews, one ex-POW said, "We should have burned down more." While another POW, whose father was a priest of a Luther church, said that he kept thinking if God would forgive him for what he had done? He did nothing but kept pushing the button to release the bombs, though.
Mr. Hirano reported the following cases, which took place in the middle part of Chiba-ken Enomoto case (May 12, 1945), Otaki case (May 29, 1945), Bonass case (August 15, 1945), and Hockley case (August 15, 1945). With regard to Enomoto case, an Army NCO stationing in the temple beheaded a seriously wounded flier, and his body was used for bayonet practice. After the war, the personnel responsible for this incident were tried by the Class B and Class C Criminal Trial, and executed. In 1996, the priest of this temple erected a memorial for the victims of both sides of this incident, and a service has been held annually since then.
Mrs. Nagasawa talked about her strange encounter, and heart-warming friendship, with the former Commanding Pilot of a B-29, Major Robert F. Goldsworthy. On December 3, 1944, after bombing Nakajima Aircraft Plant in Musashino the outside of Tokyo, Major Goldsworthy' s B-29 was shot down by Japanese fighters and he bailed out of his plane, and landed on Higashi-Tonosho in Chiba-ken. He underwent hardships and ordeals at Tokyo Kempei-tai, Ohmori POW Camp. In 1997, through the kind offices of Mrs. Nagasawa, a survivor of the massive Tokyo fire bombing, and kind assistance/cooperation of the people of Higashi- Tonosho, Mr. Goldsworth, who was also a survivor of the massive Tokyo fire bombing, made the second landing on the soil of Higashi-Tonosho village, and received a warm welcome from the villagers.
On May 29, 1945, Yokohama was bombed by a total of 517 B-29s flew over the city. The largest number of aircraft involved in any one raid during WWII. Two thousand five hundred and sixty-nine tons of incendiary bombs were dropped on the city, which was 1.5 times as much as the bombs dropped on Tokyo during the massive air raid of March 10 of the same year. By this raid, 18 sq. meters of the central part of the city was completely destroyed. About 75,000 houses were burned down, 4,000 people were reported dead or missing. Actual death toll is said to be twice or three times more. After the war, the areas which had been intact from the bombings were used as the bases for the US Forces, and played important roles during the Korean War by supporting the US war efforts, and helped the economic rehabilitation of Japan, and continuing their roles to date. Thus the embers of Militarism continue to remain alive.
During the war, the Imperial Navy, for the purpose of collecting information from POWs, established Ofuna POW Camp, which was located near the place of this seminar, Eiko Gakuen. A total of 500 submariners, B 29ers, and others who were captured by the Imperial Navy were interned here and interrogated. Mr. Hiramatsu reported the results of his researches on what Ofuna Camp meant in terms of the following four groups of people, and according to the roles they played "POWs," "Administration (Yokosuka Naval Defense Unit)," "Founders/Interrogators (The 3rd Division of the Naval General Staff," and "the nearby inhabitants."
Q: To what extent were the B-29ers taught about the International Law (how to react when taken prisoner, and about indiscriminate bombing)?
A: Research suggests bomber crew members were, during training, made aware of the Geneva Convention as it related to their possible treatment as POWs. More so for those fighting in Europe, of course, as the Germans generally abided by the Convention's articles. From my oral history research, some flyers active in the Pacific recall hearing that the Japanese hadn't ratified the Convention and therefore they could expect the worst if captured by the Japanese.
No flyer I interviewed, and this is more three dozen, recalls learning about international law and indiscriminate bombing. But the US mission in Europe was precision bombing--even if the results varied and wide areas were bombed. The incendiary bombing of Japan's cities, a few Pacific B-29 crewmen recall, was rationalized by accounts of small scale manufacture in shops spread through residential areas; thus the area bombing here. No one recalls hearing a discussion of international law and how it may apply to the conventional bombing of Japan.
At the Nurnberg Tribunal, the US and British delicately evaded the charges for bombing the cities: they did not charge the Germans over similar crimes and thus avoided uncomfortable discussions of their own actions. Certainly US Air Corps General Curtis LeMay, or RAF Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, could certainly have been tried as war criminals had the outcome of the war been different.
Q: How were B-29 bombing tactics altered during 1945?'
A(Saylor): After Curtis LeMay's arrival in the Pacific to head XXI Bomber Command, in early 1945 he changed tactics and greatly impacted how B-29s were used over Japan. This information below, reprinted from the Wikipedia website does decent job of briefly explaining the new tactic.
"[in early 1945 General LeMay] became convinced that high-altitude,precision bombing would be ineffective, given the usual cloudy weather over Japan. As Japanese air defenses made medium and low-level daytime bombing impossible, LeMay switched to low-altitude, nighttime incendiary attacks on Japanese targets. At the time Japanese cities were largely constructed of combustible materials such as wood and paper. Precision high-altitude daylight bombing was ordered to proceed only when weather permitted.
LeMay commanded subsequent B-29 combat operations against Japan, including the massive incendiary attacks on sixty-four Japanese cities. This included the firebombing of Tokyo on March 9-March 10, 1945. For this first attack, LeMay ordered the defensive guns removed from 325 B-29s, loaded each plane with Model E-46 incendiary clusters, magnesium bombs, white phosphorus bombs and napalm, and ordered the bombers to fly in streams at 5,000-9,000 feet over Tokyo.
The first pathfinder planes arrived over Tokyo just after midnight on March 10. Following British bombing practice, they marked the target area with a flaming 'X.' In a three-hour period, the main bombing force dropped 1,665 tons of incendiary bombs, killing more than 100,000 civilians, destroying 250,000 buildings and incinerating 16 square miles of the city."
This idea became the pattern: single planes in a row, flying over predetermined coordinates, dropping incendiary bombs to create fires over a large area. Dozens of Japanese cities were thus destroyed or badly damaged, and thousands killed, mainly civilians.
Q: What made such precision bombing in Yokohama, according to the plans, possible?
A(Tezuka): For one thing, effective airborne radars were developed. In the case of bombing on Yokohama, it was carried out during daytime, the targets were discernible to the B-29ers. They established visual contact.
Especially, in the case of Yokohama, the bombing was carried out from low altitudes.
Through this seminar, I realized afresh "what POWs are." Aside from the POWs stipulated in the Geneva Convention, there are issues on how should downed fliers be treated - whether are they POWs or war criminals? Also there are the cases of the Japanese surrendered personnel who became POWs after the termination of the war.
With regard to indiscriminate bombings, or mistreatment of POWs, may a person escape the punishment of war crime, because he merely followed the orders of his superior? As long as there is a war, this will be an everlasting issue.
As reported by Mr. Hirano, when a POW flier was beheaded, a crowed of people watching the execution shouted for joy. I would like to pay attention to the mentality of the people then and there. Stories that the US troops had used the bodies of Japanese soldiers in place of sandbags were disseminated through the newspapers and radio broadcast all over the country, thus hatred of the people against the adversaries was stimulated and amplified.
In addition to the issues on POWs, there are also issues on civilian internees. Those hostile people who lived in Japan, and those who were brought to Japan from abroad were interned and forced to live under severe conditions. Beginning with Yokohama, there were many Internment camps all over the country. Mrs. Komiya of our Network has been researching this subject, and further researches are expected. The members of our Network have been working on his/her own theme(s), and participate in researches, studies, and activities related to the POW issues. We hold an annual study meeting at a place where once a POW Camp was. Last year, we held a Joint Seminar with ex-POWs and researchers in Australia, and hosted this seminar this year.
We would very much like to have anyone who is interested in the POW issues join our Network.
* I was glad to learn the valuable information and the interviews reported by the speakers, which we could never read in our textbooks. I will teach these in my class. (inher twenties, Kanagawa-ken)
* As I live in Ofuna, I was particularly interested in Ofuna POW Camp, and participated in this seminar. Since I did not have the slightest ideas on other subjects, the seminar was very informative for me. (in his forties, Kanagawa-ken)
* All were very good stories, and very beneficial to me. (in his/her seventies, Kanagawa-ken)
* As we are going to receive former B-29ers in the near future, this seminar was very informative and helpful for me. (in his forties, Ehime-ken)
* I was impressed by the precise report on the Niigata POWs. The Japanese translation was a most grateful. (in his forties, UNK)
* I was surprised to learn that the main gate of Ofuna POW Camp was located on the road to the primary school. It was quite a discovery for me. I remember, immediately after the war was over, we children searched for the relief dropped from airplanes. If I had another opportunity like today, I would like to attend and learn more about the matters related to POWs. (in his seventies, Kamakura)
* By attending this seminar, I have learned valuable facts, issues to think about, and many other things. I could feel the humane thoughts of those who are engaged in the research and studies on those delicate subjects. In each report, various dimensions of "War and Human beings" were clarified, and I learned anew in any war, decisions made by the countries concerned would treat their people not as human beings, but as "things" to carry out their war efforts. The slogans "To defend the country," or "For the sake of the country" are, for me, warnings for the existing situations around us today. (Teacher, Yokohama)
HADLEY(Left) and SAYLOR(Right)