Frustration and Debate
Meanwhile, the invasion clock continued ticking, and Arnold grew increasingly frustrated. The Japanese had responded to the attacks on their homeland by launching two night raids from Iwo Jima against Saipan that wrecked four B-29S, left three more unserviceable, and damaged six more.64 Hansell remained committed to the high altitude, daylight, precision attacks. “I considered that the whole concept of strategic air warfare as a war-winning strategy, carried out by unified air command, was hanging in the balance,” he later wrote.65 At the suggestion of his chief of staff, he had attacked Tokyo with twenty-four bombers in a night raid at lower altitudes on 29 November with incendiaries—his B-29S had dropped high explosive bombs on the other raids—though the results remained disappointing. “I still feel that our primary effort should be by visual bombing, when possible, because it is always inherently more accurate,” Hansell wrote Arnold on 16 December, “but with the improvement in radar bombing, I feel that our efforts can be directed against our primary target every time and that it will not be necessary to waste our bombs on large city areas as a secondary effort.”66
Arnold likely never saw this bit of reasoning. Across the top of Hansell’s letter, he scrawled: “Gen. Norstad summarize for me— hha.” Brigadier General Lauris Norstad had replaced Hansell as Twentieth Air Force Chief of Staff when Hansell took over XXI Bomber Command. Norstad had been one of Arnold’s “fair haired boys” as an Advisory Council colonel in early 1943, and had served in staff positions in North Africa and Italy before returning to Washington DC in summer 1944. He observed Arnold’s impatience when Hansell delayed the initial в-29 raid against Tokyo, and watched the frustration mount as the poor bombing results from XXI Bomber Command arrived at the Pentagon. Norstad encouraged Hansell to send his problems to him, rather than Arnold. “If there are really serious major problems which you feel absolutely must be brought to his attention, don’t hesitate to do so,” he wrote Hansell on 7 December, “but I think the normal run of difficulties will only be an annoyance to him and can be better handled by me anyway.”67
Larry Norstad had developed his own ideas about how to address HanselPs difficulties, and many of those notions stemmed from observing targeting deliberations that continued among coa members. In September 1944, soon after he became Twentieth Air Force Chief of Staff, Norstad attended coa meetings regarding target priorities for Japan. Once more, the analysts considered the utility of attacking “urban industrial areas” and focused on the prospects of area bombing Zones I and II in Japan’s six most populous cities. Colonel John F. Turner remarked, “We have been intrigued with the possibilities.. . of complete chaos in six cities killing 584,000 people.”68 Turner noted that “successful” raids might produce even more casualties and that Japan’s industrial production would drop roughly 15 percent. Later calculations indicated that a drop of only 11 percent would occur, mostly from the output of machine tools, because Zones I and II contained fewer industries than originally thought.69
The analysts also considered the psychological impact that such raids might have. While their expert on Japanese culture thought that the panic and fear of fire might cause civilians to demand political reorganization, he did not believe that the Japanese would accept unconditional surrender until the arrival of American troops.70 The coa members suggested that an “experimental” incendiary raid from Saipan or China against a densely populated area of a city would provide data from which they could make more accurate estimates. In the meantime, they agreed that aircraft factories, especially those producing engines, were priority targets and that the Saipan force should attack them, while XX Bomber Command in China should continue to attack steel production.
The coa’s September conclusions underpinned the 10 October 1944 report that they submitted to Arnold—their last formal product of the war. In it, the analysts culled the target systems that they believed would have the most telling impact on Japan’s war effort to three: the aircraft industry, urban industrial areas, and shipping. The analysts deemed that the U. S. Navy’s sea-control campaign had “checked the expansion of the Japanese economy and rendered the attack on steel through coke much less important,” and the same logic applied to other materiel resources.71
Most of the report focused on the forthcoming operations of the Marianas-based XXI Bomber Command. The committee members recommended that attacks begin against Japan’s five major aircraft engine plants, followed by “an attack upon the industrial areas of Tokyo, Yokohama, Kawasaki, Nagoya, Kobe and Osaka.” Such raids would “burn out all housing in Zones I and II” and likely “increase and prolong losses effected by precision attacks on war industries.”72 Still, the analysts noted that area bombing would minimally impact Japan’s “front-line strength” because of “the apparent existence of considerable stocks of aircraft components and of excess manufacturing capacity in tanks and trucks.”73 They recommended that area attacks “should be postponed until they can be delivered in force and completed within a brief period.”74 B-29S could also assist in isolating Japan by mining sea lanes.
The committee members further stressed flexibility in adopting their proposed program. They noted that once bombing began from the Marianas, it might reveal “that Japanese fighter defense is so ineffective that attack upon the aircraft industry should not be given precedence over a mining campaign or attacks on urban industrial areas.” The analysts further called for a “trial attack against an industrial area on Kyushu or Honshu” during the initial phase of XXI Bomber Command operations before the force had built up to full strength.75 The target priorities listed in the report became the priorities sent to Hansell in November.76
Norstad in particular was impressed by the coa report and thought that its recommendations offered the best chance for air power to make a rapid—and decisive—contribution to victory. On 17 November he wrote Major General Lawrence Kuter, Arnold’s assistant chief for plans who frequently oversaw coa activities: “The work of this Committee as represented by its report, was superior. Conclusions reached have been the subject of serious study by this Headquarters and have lead [sic] directly to the directive covering the operations of this command for the next three months.”77 That same day Hansell was to begin bombing Japan’s aircraft industry from the Marianas, in accordance with the coa outline for operations. While those raids produced meager results, they also showed that Japanese fighters offered feeble resistance to the в-29 force. Arnold remained impatient for bombing success, and Norstad deemed that the time had come to test the prospects of urban area attacks. On 18 December he sent Hansell a message to attack the main residential district of Nagoya with one hundred B-29S dropping the new м-69 gasoline gel incendiary bombs.
Hansell responded to Norstad’s directive within hours. “I have with great difficulty implanted the principle that our mission is the destruction of selected primary targets by sustained and determined attacks using precision bombing methods both visual and radar,” he answered. “The temptation to abandon our primary targets for secondary area targets is great and I have been under considerable pressure to do so, but I have resisted so far. I am concerned that a change to area bombing of the cities will undermine the progress we have made. However, I am accepting your No. s-18-2 [message number] as an order from you and a change in my directive and I will launch this operation next.”78 Norstad replied that XXI Bomber Command’s primary mission remained the destruction of Japanese air power, but the requested strike was a “special requirement resulting from the necessity of future planning.”79
Hansell did indeed attack Nagoya next. Yet he did so with forty – eight B-29S, not one hundred; his crews aimed at the Mitsubishi aircraft factory, not the city’s residential area; and they dropped м-76 incendiaries, not the M-69S that Norstad had requested— the five-hundred-pound м-76 could penetrate brick and concrete structures (like the roof and walls of the Mitsubishi factory), while the lightweight м-69 could not.80 On 27 December the bombers returned to Tokyo once more to attack the Nakajima factory with high explosive bombs, and once more the results were meager. That same day an exasperated Arnold, mindful of the impression that в-29 operations made on an American public eager for success against Japan—and retribution for the Bataan Death March and Kamikaze attacks—admonished Hansell:
To oversimplify our basic operating policy, it is our purpose to destroy our targets. For this reason we have avoided announcing in advance what we propose to do and we have carefully screened our news releases to avoid the public’s becoming overoptimistic. We want to let the results speak for themselves. However, we must accept the fact that we have a big obligation to meet. To fulfill this we must in fact destroy our targets and then we must show the results so the public can judge for itself as to the effectiveness of our operations. .. .
To me the best evidence of how you are getting along is the pictures of the destruction that you have accomplished against your primary targets.81
On 28 December, Hansell’s press statement assessing his first raids against Japan appeared in several American newspapers. Despite praising the excellence of the в-29 and its crews, he also noted that “we have much to learn and many operational and other technical problems to solve.”82 Arnold decided that he had heard enough. He told Norstad to head to the Marianas and notify Hansell that he had been relieved from command.