Having failed to achieve Japan’s capitulation by disruption of its maritime trade routes, in June 1944 the Americans began the high-altitude bombing of the country’s industrial centres with long-range B-29 Superfortresses based in China. As the war progressed and the Americans captured the Pacific islands one by one, they became able to fly from the Marianas, from Iwo Jima and, latterly, from nearby Okinawa. In February 1945 they switched to more accurate low-altitude bombing at night, often with incendiaries. The results were devastating for Japan’s largely timber-built cities. A single raid on 9 March dubbed by the Japanese ‘the night of the black snow’, destroyed 16 square miles (40 square km) of Tokyo, leaving over 1 million people homeless. At the same time huge quantities of mines were dropped in the harbours, choking off the country’s seaborne supplies. The end finally came with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August and the Japanese surrender a week later.
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