The Firebombing of Japan, “The New Yorker,” and St. Clair McKelway

Firebombing-Tokyo-243x366Patrick Coffey at the LA Review of Books:

ON THE NIGHT of March 9, 1945, American B-29 bombers burned 15 square miles of Tokyo, killing 100,000 civilians and leaving more than one million homeless. It was the greatest of the incendiary air raids, but it was far from the last. On March 11, American B-29s bombed Nagoya; March 13, Osaka; March 16, Kobe; March 18, Nagoya again. Five raids in nine days, 32 square miles destroyed in Japan’s four most populous cities — 41 percent of the area the Army Air Forces destroyed in all of Germany during the entire war, and at a total cost of only 22 B-29s and their crews.[i] General Curtis LeMay, who was in charge, quit, at least for a time. He had run out of napalm. Two months later, his stocks replenished, he systematically burned 62 smaller Japanese cities.

That same year, A. J. Liebling began writing his New Yorker “Wayward Press” column, which to this day is considered the gold standard in media criticism. Lieblings’s first “Wayward Press” appeared on May 19 and criticized the attempted military embargo on immediate reporting of the German surrender. Two weeks after that, The New Yorker began its coverage of the firebombing of Japan. Had Liebling been aware of the bombing’s backstory, it might have prompted a second “Wayward Press.”

more here.