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Mission to Tokyo: The American Airmen Who Took the War to the Heart of Japanby Robert F. Dorr
Synopses & Reviews
“In this epic story, Robert F. Dorr expertly takes us along on one of the highest-stakes missions of World War II.”
—Robert Gandt, author of The Twilight Warriors
From the Pacific island airfields of Guam, Saipan, and Tinian to Tokyo and back, Robert F. Dorr (Mission to Berlin) takes the reader on a bombing mission against Imperial Japan in World War II. Operation Meetinghouse, the Tokyo firebombing of March 9–10, 1945, is estimated by many to be the most destructive bombing assault in history. Told largely in the veterans’ own words, Mission to Tokyo covers all the men in a B-29 Superfortress mission, including pilots and other aircrew, ground crew, and the escort fighter pilots that accompanied the bombers to Japan.
In addition to placing the reader in the middle of the planning and execution of Meetinghouse, Mission to Tokyo provides a broad overview of the bombing campaign against Japan—from the retaliatory Doolittle Raid in 1942 through the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Through extensive interviews and access to personal journals of those involved, Dorr weaves together a compelling narrative of young men in battle, played out against the backdrop of the strategies of the officers running the war and trying to achieve victory in the Pacific.
Robert F. Dorr is an Air Force veteran (Korea, 1957–1960), a retired senior American diplomat (1964–1989), and the author of seventy books and thousands of magazine articles and newspaper columns about the Air Force and air warfare. Bob has written for Air and Space Smithsonian, Flight Journal, Air Forces Monthly, Air Power History, and many other publications. He is a columnist for the Air Force Times newspaper and writes the Washington Watch feature for Aerospace America magazine. His book Air Force One, a history of presidential aircraft and air travel, has been praised by critics, and the Air Force Times said his last book, Mission to Berlin, “puts you in the freezing-cold cockpit for a white knuckle mission over heavily fortified enemy territory.” Bob is also the coauthor of Hell Hawks! He lives in Oakton, Virginia, with his family and Labrador retriever.
Mission to Tokyo covers a World War II bombing mission from an airfield on the island of Tinian to Tokyo and back, in the words of pilots and other aircrew.
March 9, 1945: Operation Meetinghouse. While the Allies struggle to prepare for amphibious landings in the Japanese home islands—“the Empire,” as it was called by troops—Maj. Gen. Curtis E. LeMay devises a new strategy. Taking advantage of the traditional wood-and-paper construction of many Tokyo buildings, high-altitude raids with general purpose bombs would be replaced by low-altitude raids with incendiary bombs. Japan’s largest city, with a densely packed population of about six million and only a token fire department, was particularly vulnerable to fire.
An incendiary raid on February 25 resulted in the destruction of approximately one square mile of Tokyo. LeMay’s plan is to double the number of planes and increase the number of bombs per plane by cutting guns, ammo, and gunners. Flying low would increase accuracy and decrease the amount of fuel needed, saving weight to allow for still more bombs. The result: a devastating firestorm raging through Tokyo, laying waste to sixteen square miles and killing at least one hundred thousand Japanese, perhaps far more. The death toll exceeded that of the firebombing of Dresden or the immediate deaths caused by the upcoming atomic bombings of Hiroshima or Nagasaki.
Ultimately, Mission to Tokyo is about the young airmen who found themselves in these bombers on those deadly raids, serving their part in bringing the war to the Empire while simply trying to get back home, one mission at a time.
From Hell Hawks! author Bob Dorr, Mission to Tokyo takes the reader on a World War II strategic bombing mission from an airfield on the western Pacific island of Tinian to Tokyo and back. Told in the veterans' words, Mission to Tokyo is a narrative of every aspect of long range bombing, including pilots and other aircrew, groundcrew, and escort fighters that accompanied the heavy bombers on their perilous mission.
Several thousand men on the small Mariana Islands of Guam, Saipan, and Tinian were trying to take the war to the Empire—Imperial Japan—in B-29 Superfortresses flying at 28,000 feet, but the high-altitude bombing wasn't very accurate. The decision was made to take the planes down to around 8,000 feet, even as low as 5,000 feet. Eliminating the long climb up would save fuel, and allow the aircraft to take heavier bomb loads. The lower altitude would also increase accuracy substantially. The trade-off was the increased danger of anti-aircraft fire. This was deemed worth the risk, and the devastation brought to the industry and population of the capital city was catastrophic. Unfortunately for all involved, the bombing did not bring on the quick surrender some had hoped for. That would take six more months of bombing, culminating in the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
As with Mission to Berlin (Spring 2011), Mission to Tokyo focuses on a specific mission from spring 1945 and provides a history of the strategic air war against Japan in alternating chapters.
About the Author
Robert F. Dorr (Oakton, VA) is an Air Force veteran (Korea, 1957–1960), a retired senior American diplomat (1964–1989), and the author of seventy books and thousands of magazine articles and newspaper columns about the Air Force and air warfare. Bob has written for Air and Space Smithsonian, Flight Journal, Air Forces Monthly, Air Power History, and many other publications. He is a columnist for Air Force Times newspaper and writes the Washington Watch feature for Aerospace America magazine. Mission to Tokyo is a follow-up to his previous book, Mission to Berlin.
Table of Contents
Chapter One: Wake-Up
Chapter Two: Starting
Chapter Three: Warm-Up
Chapter Four: Struggling
Chapter Five: Way Up
Chapter Six: Soldiering
Chapter Seven: The Way In
Chapter Eight: Striving
Chapter Nine: Squabbling
Chapter Ten: To the Target
Chapter Eleven: A City Ignited
Chapter Twelve: Thirty Seconds over Tokyo
Chapter Thirteen: The Way Out
Chapter Fourteen: "What's a B-32 Dominator?"
Chapter Fifteen: Flexing the Fire
Chapter Sixteen: The Way Home
Chapter Seventeen: The Fire Blitz
Chapter Eighteen: Air Campaign
Chapter Nineteen: "Destroyer of Worlds"
Chapter Twenty: Mission to Hiroshima
Appendix One: Bomb Groups
Appendix Two: What Happened to Them?
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