The Firebombing of Japan: Motivations, Morality and the Effect on the Japanese Surrender

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Monday, October 1st, 2018

Monday, October 1, 20184:00PM - 5:30PMBloor - 1st floor Boardroom/Round Room/Library, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy
315 Bloor St. West
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The firebombing of Japan has been eclipsed in postwar writing by both the atomic bombings of Hiroshima/Nagasaki and the conventional bombing of Japanese cities. This is curious given (a) that the death toll – over 300,000 by conservative estimates – exceeded that of the atomic bombs and (b) the strategy relied on the same bombing techniques that caused so much controversy over Germany. The paper reviews the reasons behind the US switch from precision bombing (designed to minimize civilian casualties) to area bombing (designed to maximize them) and evaluates the effect of them on the outcome of the war. Simply put: did the killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians through conventional bombing help win the war?


Andre Schmid
Chair, Department of East Asian Studies

Randall Hansen
Interim Director, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy

Takashi Fujitani
Director, Dr. David Chu Program in Asia-Pacific Studies and Professor, Department of History


Asian Institute

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