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DOI: 10.1177/0096144214533288
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Article
The Optics of Urban Ruination:
Toward an Archaeological
Approach to the Photography of
the Japan Air Raids
David Fedman
1
and Cary Karacas
2
Abstract
World War II yielded many photographs of bombed-out cities. In this paper we telescope
between two sets and scales of images that represent the principal frames through which the
American and Japanese publics have memorialized the incendiary bombings that laid waste to
urban Japan: aerial photographs taken by the US Army Air Forces during its wartime planning,
prosecution, and assessment of the raids; and the ground-level images captured by Ishikawa
Ko

yo

, a photographer working on behalf of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. By means of a
detailed examination of the production, circulation, and consumption of these photographs—
what some scholars have called an “archaeological approach” to images of ruination—we
explore not only the visual rhetoric and reality of the destruction of Japan’s cities, but also how
that destruction is situated in history, memory, and visual culture.
Keywords
Japan, World War II, photography, air raids, mass violence
To sense the spirit of great deeds and great suffering behind the images of a lost world, behind its
ruins, that is the task which every document demands of the attentive viewer; so it is with the
photographs of zones of battles past.
1
Ernst Jünger
Introduction
Around the time that General Curtis LeMay boarded a plane in September 1945 to see and pho-
tograph for himself the destruction that his bombers had wrought upon Tokyo, a man named
Ishikawa Kōyō (1904–1989) went into his backyard and began to dig a hole.
2
Once deep enough,
he placed a clay pot containing photographic negatives inside the earth. The pictures, taken by
Ishikawa in his capacity as an official photographer for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, captured
1
Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA
2
The City University of New York, College of Staten Island, Staten Island, NY, USA
Corresponding Author:
David Fedman, Department of History, Stanford University, 450 Serra Mall, Building 200, Stanford, CA 94305-2024,
USA.
Email: dfedman@stanford.edu
533288JUHXXX10.1177/0096144214533288Journal of Urban HistoryFedman and Karacas
research-article2014
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2 Journal of Urban History
harrowing scenes of the Japanese capital’s destruction by firebombing raids that LeMay had
orchestrated over the previous months. Burned into the coating of silver salts on 35-millimeter
sheets of acetate were images of flattened landscapes and destroyed buildings amid smoldering
ruins, carbonized and asphyxiated bodies, and stunned humans who had survived the incineration
of their neighborhoods. Concerned that the American Occupation authorities would confiscate
the photographs—among the precious few images showing the immediate aftermath of Tokyo’s
air raids—Ishikawa resorted to the desperate measure of burying the visual evidence.
3
His instincts proved well founded. Indeed, when members of the United States Strategic
Bombing Survey (USSBS) arrived in Japan in the fall of 1945 to ascertain the effects of the fire-
bombing of Tokyo and other Japanese cities, they took an immediate interest in acquiring any
and all relevant ground photographs. While the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) itself
had taken many thousands of aerial photographs of destroyed Japanese cities, these alone did not
provide the USSBS with the kind of visual intelligence that would enable it to make sense of the
effects of the fires on local populations and urban infrastructures. Ishikawa’s photographs con-
veyed just this sort of information. And while the exact nature of his interactions with Occupation
authorities remains unclear, the fact that some of the USSBS’s confidential reports, published in
1947, featured reprints of his photographs is evidence that he was eventually compelled to
exhume his negatives and hand over copies.
Though different in scale, both the Army Air Force aerial photographs and those taken by
Ishikawa belong to a subgenre of war photography focused on urban ruinscapes: what scholars
have described variously as “dead cities,” “post-mortem cities,” and “ghost cities,” made so
through acts of “urbicide,” “domicide,” and “place annihilation.”
4
While urban war photography,
especially related to the firebombing of Japan’s cities, has not generated considerable sustained
study to date, we argue that such images warrant our attention. Building on the groundwork laid
by Julia Adeney Thomas, our aim here is to carry out an excavation of the extant body of photo-
graphic images related to the destruction of urban Japan in general and of Tokyo in particular in
order to elucidate “the network of connotations, practices, and relations of power . . . through
which [the photograph] emerged as an object.”
5
Informed by Thomas’s important appeal that
scholars pursue an archaeological approach to the photograph rather than simply use it as a sup-
portive device to illustrate a written argument, we consider the following examination of the
production and use of aerial and ground photos of urban Japan’s destruction as the first step in
providing a more thorough understanding of the role of urban war photographs in shaping key
chapters in Japan’s urban history as well as the politics of memory in Japan and the United States.
Urban war photography in particular merits such an approach. While much consideration has
been given to the question of the efficacy of photographs of war in causing the viewer to take a
moral stand against particular atrocities, our position is that one must thoroughly consider all
related visual evidence in order to begin to develop an understanding of the effects of war on
cities and the citizens residing therein.
6
According to Jason Francisco, such an investigation of
war photography “demands at least three discrete, simultaneous lines of inquiry”:
first, to determine what photographs were actually made of any given war, by whom and under what
circumstances; second, to specify which of these were published and circulated contemporaneously,
and in what forms; third, to delineate the ways that photographs subsequently appeared or disappeared
from public view, in what contexts and with what impact.
7
Adopting such an approach, in this article we carry out a critical examination of two discrete
bodies of photographs. The first consists primarily of the large collection of aerial photographs
produced by the USAAF between 1944 and 1945 as its XXI Bomber Command—the AAF unit
stationed in the Mariana Islands—photographed Japanese cities with its reconnaissance planes
and regular B-29 long-range bombers in order to plan, prosecute, and evaluate the efficacy of its
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Fedman and Karacas 3
air raids. Taken before, during, and immediately after individual firebombing raids that eventu-
ally reached almost every city in Japan (with the notable exceptions of Kyoto and the four candi-
date cities for nuclear attack: Hiroshima, Kokura, Nagasaki, and Niigata), this large collection of
photographs serves as a repository of visual evidence related to the intentional destruction of
urban Japan. After elucidating the history behind the production of these photographs, we exam-
ine their use within the Army Air Forces and the known instances in which some of these images
were disseminated to the American public during and after the war. We undertake a similar
analysis in our consideration of the ground photographs captured by Ishikawa Kōyō, which,
while largely ignored in the United States, have become the principal visual testimony in Japan
for public memory of the incendiary air raids as they were experienced on the ground—a topic
that is yet to receive sustained attention in the English-language literature. Viewed together—as
they rarely are—these photographs offer insights into the divergent national narratives put for-
ward by the victor and the vanquished as well as the potential for a transnational treatment of the
role of photographs in shaping the politics of memory. In this article, we therefore shift not only
between the visual scales and vantage points of the photographs themselves but also across the
postwar identities and historical perspectives that have shaped both nation’s efforts to fit the
firebombings within larger narratives of World War II.
In the final section we argue that while both aerial and ground photographs related to the
destruction of Japan’s cities have their own distinctive merits and demerits, a scalar approach to
both sets of photographs—one which telescopes between both perspectives—is a more profitable
way to look at, understand, and learn from the visual evidence of the destruction of urban Japan
and the tremendous human suffering and displacement it brought about. We contend that a con-
sideration of extant photographs that capture the various visual scales of the city—from topogra-
phy to neighborhoods to human bodies—is required to better understand the particular ways in
which such collective violence inflicted harm upon the Japanese city and its inhabitants.
8
Indeed,
when considered together, these two bodies of photographs allow us to develop a more “synoptic
view” of urban ruination, something which W.G. Sebald and others have promoted.
9
Attempting
to develop such a view in turn allows for a “gestalt of scale,” which Andrew Herod, working
from Neil Smith, defines as “the way in which different scales fit together to form an overall pat-
tern and how looking at them from different perspectives can result in very different understand-
ings of material reality.”
10
By probing the limits and possibilities of a synoptic view of Japan’s
destroyed cityscapes—by being an “attentive viewer” in the Jüngerian sense—we can enrich our
understanding not only of the ways in which the material destruction of Japanese cities unfolded
over time and space, but also of how that destruction is situated in history, memory, and visual
culture.
The Eyes in the Skies
Rigged to kites and balloons, cameras first took flight in the mid-nineteenth century as pioneers
in photography sought to capture the bird’s-eye view. It was not long thereafter that the city
became the object of its lens. Yielding possibly the first aerial image of an American city, in 1860
James Wallace took his photograph “Boston, as the Eagle and the Wild Geese See It” from a bal-
loon at 1,200 feet.
11
The earliest aerial picture showing urban destruction is probably George
Lawrence’s famous “San Francisco in Ruins” kite photograph taken from 2,000 feet in elevation
just weeks after the 1906 earthquake and fire that destroyed much of the city. Although princi-
pally utilized in the first decades of the twentieth century for practical pursuits such as urban
planning and architecture, aerial photography also inspired a mix of awe and fear among the
wider public.
12
No one captured this sentiment better than architect, urbanist, and flight enthusi-
ast Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret), who in the 1935 publication Aircraft wrote of the
frightening new vantage points on urban life:
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4 Journal of Urban History
But to-day it is a question of the airplane eye, of the mind with which the Bird’s Eye View has
endowed us; of that eye which now looks with alarm at the places where we live, the cities where it
is our lot to be. And the spectacle is frightening, overwhelming. The airplane eye reveals a spectacle
of collapse.
13
For Le Corbusier, the bird’s-eye view not only revealed “a synthetic vision of social space” but
also objectified the city by reducing urban space to a unified whole that laid bare its vulnerability.
After all, “The bird,” he wrote, “can be a dove or a hawk.” And according to Le Corbusier, “It
became a hawk. What an unexpected gift to be able to take off at night under the cover of dark-
ness, and away to sow death with bombs upon sleeping towns.”
14
If aerial photography excited the imaginations of urbanists, architects, and city planners, it
spelled a tactical sea change for military strategists in the United States and Europe.
15
As early as
1893, soldiers were experimenting with the photography of ground sites while hovering hun-
dreds of feet above the military balloon park created at Fort Logan, Colorado.
16
Such photo-
graphic experimentation continued in fits and starts, but was injected with new blood as flying
machines established themselves as new tools of warfare and intelligence after the turn of the
century. Although early pilots harbored doubts about the ability to fly and photograph at the same
time, gradual improvements in camera mounting and photographic technique refined the process,
leading many to tout aerial photography as a “new and exact science” of use for fire-fighting,
geological surveying, map-making, and warfare alike.
17
The outbreak of the First World War both heightened societal concern over the vulnerability
of cities to aerial attack and stimulated the use of aerial photography as a form of wartime recon-
naissance.
18
The most extreme defensive action taking during the war was the French subterfuge
to dupe German pilots into bombing at night an illuminated miniature model of Paris constructed
fifteen miles outside of the capital.
19
Offensively, aerial photography, employed principally as a
means to map out enemy trenches, firmly established itself as a mainstay of tactical and strategic
intelligence operations. Airmen attached to the United States Army Air Service took almost
eighteen thousand photographs as they flew over enemy territory (into which they also released
more than two hundred thousand pounds of explosives in 215 sorties). Once they developed the
negatives, technicians produced over a half million prints of these aerial photos, which military
officers then used to analyze enemy positions and plan for future attacks.
20
Although aerial camera technology advanced rapidly in the private sector during the interwar
years, the development of military air intelligence stagnated, due in large part to the U.S. govern-
ment’s fiscal austerity and reluctance to invest in air power during a time of peace.
21
The 1920s
did, however, witness various forms of small-scale experimentation and technological develop-
ment (such as the use of magnesium flares for night time photography).
22
While conflicts such as
the Spanish Civil War and the Second Sino-Japanese War saw a remarkable expansion in the
uses of aerial photography abroad, air intelligence remained a largely academic exercise in the
United States until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which laid bare the inadequacies of
American intelligence in the Pacific region, especially as related to key sites of industry spread
throughout the Japanese Empire.
23
Thereafter, Henry “Hap” Arnold, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Air Forces, ordered
that photographic intelligence and reconnaissance become a central function of the AAF’s
Intelligence Branch. Photographic officers, dubbed by one publication as “America’s Secret
Agent No. 1,” were trained to supervise the photographic mapping of enemy territory, oversee all
aerial photographers, ensure the proper operation and repair of photographic equipment, and
manage mobile and fixed laboratories.
24
All AAF enlisted men learned photo-interpretation as
part of their basic training, and some continued with four months’ additional training to learn to
operate cameras or run photo labs. AAF pilots, moreover, took two-month-long courses related
to aerial photography.
25
While U.S. air intelligence in the European theater largely played a
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Fedman and Karacas 5
supporting role to Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF), it was a chief priority in the Pacific theater,
where most photo intelligence officers found themselves at work.
26
Seeking maps, photographs,
travel accounts, and other intelligence bearing on the newly opened battlegrounds of the Asia-
Pacific region, the U.S. government also dispatched a motley crew of agents into the field to
collect any and all photographic intelligence pertinent to the war.
27
Photographs of Japan’s cities were critical to this intelligence effort. As with other forms of
spatial data, the U.S. first relied on what the Japanese themselves had produced. While not sig-
nificant in number, low-level aerial photographs of Japan’s major cities formed the foundation of
a collection of images that circulated among intelligence specialists attached to the AAF. Not
surprisingly, Tokyo, Japan’s most photographed city in the early twentieth century, featured
prominently. Beginning in the early 1930s, the capital became the subject of numerous pictorial
books, all of which now included aerial photographs.
28
Few who opened the popular photogra-
phy book Dai tōkyō shashin annai (A Photographic Guide to Greater Tokyo), published in 1933,
could have imagined that in only a dozen years the very photographs used to celebrate the
rebuilding of Tokyo in the wake of the catastrophic 1923 Kantō Earthquake would be put to use
in laying waste to the city once again.
29
Such photographs made their way into a variety of AAF planning documents, including the
Air Objective Folder, No 90.17, Tokyo Area. Issued in September of 1943, the report profiled a
lengthy list of designated targets, with the target’s name, latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates,
description, and significance. It also included dozens of oblique aerial photographs, most taken
in the 1930s, that focus on those very features of the city being celebrated in the aforementioned
Japanese-language publications (e.g. Tokyo Central Station—Target 367). One stunning 1930
vertical photograph featured in the report covers thirty square miles of the city’s densely popu-
lated Shitamachi area, which became the first major urban target area for American bombers in
1945. Many of the designated targets such as aircraft plants and munitions manufacturers are
incontestably martial in nature. Others, including electric power plants, may be said to have had
a dual use. Still others had a more non-military nature, such as Target 1448, the Tsukiji Market
and Wholesale Warehouse, deemed Tokyo’s “most important food distributing center.”
30
Taken
together, these photographs display the patchwork nature of the target information and aerial
intelligence the U.S. military had at its disposal. Based in part on intelligence shared by the
British, the report provides a detailed assessment, accompanied by numerous photographs and
maps, of a large number of industrial, military, and political sites of Japan’s capital.
31
Though
certainly helpful for profiling potential targets, the scant prewar photographs of Japanese cities
and other strategic sites were doubtless inadequate for the purposes of the AAF’s stated doctrine
of high-altitude precision bombing.
32
Analysts attached to the AAF also scoured the photographic collections of travelers, mission-
aries, and the even the popular magazine National Geographic, the latter of which furnished
nearly thirty thousand photos that were “used in briefing flyers on landmarks and bombing tar-
gets, showing invasion forces how shorelines look, identifying cities, railroad stations, and fac-
tories.”
33
Until reconnaissance planes regularly appeared over Japan’s skies beginning in late
1944, they would have to rely on such images. So meager was the photo intelligence available to
the AAF’s Twentieth Bomber Command that in its first air raid on the Japanese archipelago in
June 1944, when it targeted the Imperial Iron and Steel Works plant in Yawata, Kyushu, the only
images available at a pre-bombing briefing were a 1928 ground photograph showing the area
containing the plant and a smattering of other less-then-helpful photographs.
34
Although the AAF was still without any of its twelve long-range reconnaissance planes (then
being modified from B-29 airplanes at a Denver, Colorado, airfield), its Twentieth Bomber
Command, charged with the destruction of “Japanese industrial establishments” in Asia and
Japan proper, nevertheless hastened to gather aerial photographs. From its base in Chengdu,
China, the command dispatched more than two hundred fifty photo-reconnaissance missions
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6 Journal of Urban History
throughout much of Asia to photograph industrial and urban sites in the Japanese-held cities of
Hankow, Anshan, Palanbang, Penang, Bangkok, and Saigon. These missions also served to expe-
dite the mapping efforts of much of northern China, Manchuria, and the Korean peninsula.
35
The
seizure of the Mariana Islands, however, a Pacific Ocean chain of island redoubts roughly fifteen
hundred miles from Tokyo, marked a decisive turning point in the operational capacity for aerial
photography of the Japanese homeland, allowing for a far-reaching reconnaissance operation that
yielded a wide range of photo intelligence.
The Manual to B-29 Flight Operations, the operational guide distributed to all flight crew-
members, offers a sense of the centrality of aerial photography to the USAAF mission in the
Pacific. It includes a long section on the techniques and procedures of flight mission photogra-
phy, and addresses the various photographic responsibilities of each crewmember. Radiomen
and navigators all had at their side handheld K-20 cameras for opportunity shots; gunners often
utilized gun-mounted cameras that allowed them to shoot both simultaneously (of particular util-
ity for flak studies); and bombardiers operated bomb-mounted cameras, which automatically
triggered with the release switch. Pilots, for their part, were instructed to maintain a steady alti-
tude, speed, and bearing during reconnaissance missions to allow for accurate “photo-mapping.”
Upon their return, they were also required to “complete a ‘pilot’s trace’ on a map showing the
flight lines over which photography was accomplished, labeled with the type of cameras operat-
ing over the indicated flight lines.”
36
On November 1, 1944, an F-13 flew the first photo-reconnaissance mission over Tokyo,
where from thirty-two thousand feet it took more than seven thousand photographs.
37
Although
the crew trained their lenses principally on the Nakajima Aircraft Factory and related military
sites in the sparsely populated western portion of the Tokyo metropolis, they also took many
pictures of the ward area of the capital, home to over six million people and ultimately the chief
target zone for the firebombings of Tokyo that began a few months later. Not surprisingly,
Japanese residents below looked in awe at the lone American plane, far out of range of anti-air-
craft guns and fighter planes. The moment revealed as much for the Tokyoites on the ground
below as it did for the men flying the plane. For the reconnaissance crew, the trip produced so
many photographs it would take weeks before they could process, let alone analyze, them all
back in Guam. For the Tokyoites on the ground, the trip produced a foreboding sense of the
changing tides of the Pacific War. Returning home after seeing the plane that day, the intellectual
Kiyosawa Kiyoshi would write in his diary, “If it is said that they cannot be shot down above the
capital, then the reports of tens of planes being shot down outside of Japan is probably a lie.”
38

Up until the first air raid on Tokyo from the Mariana Islands on November 24, reconnaissance
planes made another seventeen trips to photograph Japan’s cities.
39
Official responsibility for capturing the “the long-hidden face of Japan” rested with the 3rd
Reconnaissance Squadron.
40
Operating seven fixed cameras—equipped with six-, fourteen-, and
forty-inch lenses—strategically positioned in each of the few dozen F-13 reconnaissance planes
eventually stationed in the Marianas, crewmembers made many dozens of sorties to the Japanese
archipelago, “searching out industry . . . mapping cities, spotting airfields and gun positions and
occasionally taking a squint down Hirohito’s chimney.”
41
Pictorial evidence of this last claim
was provided with an accompanying photograph that showed a detailed close-up of the Imperial
Palace. By mid-April 1945 the squadron had photographed almost seven hundred thousand
square miles of Japan.
42
After reconnaissance planes made the rough landing on air strips carved out of jungle just a
few months prior, photo officers unloaded the catch of the day (as much as six thousand feet of
film per plane), and brought the multiple film canisters to the processing labs, at first housed in
two tents until a construction battalion built a permanent structure in March 1945. Men attached
to the 35th Photo Tech Unit ran the lab, making 1.5 million prints from negatives and another 1.9
million photo reproductions by the time the war came to a close (see Figure 1).
43
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Fedman and Karacas 7
Upon their being printed, the images underwent a three-step analysis. The first phase entailed
a cursory “flash interpretation,” standardized to last but a few hours, of the images for any pho-
tographic coverage of operational intelligence of immediate value to commanders in the field.
During the second phase a larger unit of seasoned photo-interpreters (trained in the use of stereo
vision, magnifiers, and shadow effects) carried out a daylong systematic analysis of the images,
studying them in conjunction with other forms of intelligence such as extant photographs, maps,
and written reports.
44
Photo-interpreters then issued reports on topics that included “urban area
analysis” and “urban damage assessment.” The former involved “zoning of urban areas on con-
trolled mosaics for industrial, residential, mixed industrial and residential, and transportation
structures” in order to assist with the planning of attacks on Japanese cities.
45
High-level intelligence officers stationed in the field or analysts in Washington, D.C., com-
pleted the final review stage by interpreting photographs deemed of particular strategic impor-
tance. The Joint Target Group (JTG) was instrumental to this photographic inspection. Composed
of economic experts and military strategists, the Washington-based group assumed primary
responsibility for selecting Japanese targets for bombardment beginning in September 1944.
46
In
addition to commissioning detailed research on the effects of bombing on Japan’s ability to pros-
ecute the war, the JTG created “target folders” to be used in the planning of each specific attack
made by the AAF against a Japanese city. These folders contained a “target information sheet,
mosaic maps, a fire susceptibility plan, and any other pertinent data,” as well as 1:6,000 or
1:12,000 photographs of each target.
47
Using these and other materials, war planners and strategists set into motion the tactical shift
to incendiary area raids on Japanese cities. Stemming from the unsatisfactory results of the preci-
sion bombing doctrine, a long-standing perception that Japan’s cities were uniquely vulnerable
to fire, and research into the high concentration of war industries in Japan’s cities, the USAAF
Figure 1. Photo-interpreters in Saipan assembling mosaics of aerial photographs.
Source: National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures, U.S. Air Force Photo Collection, Record Group
342 FH, A40021.
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8 Journal of Urban History
proceeded with the “burn jobs” and “milk runs” that would lay waste to sixty-five cities—large
and small—over the months to follow. Aerial photographs, of course, informed decisions about
this shift to incendiary area raids at all levels of strategic planning.
Such photographs were used not only to plan and prosecute the destruction of urban Japan, but
also to mold perceptions—both in and outside of the military—of this bombing campaign. One
of the chief vehicles for the internal circulation of aerial photographs was Air Intelligence Digest,
a weekly pictorial report of the XXI Bomber Command geared toward combat crews and staff
officers based on the Mariana Islands. Although some photographs showed individually targeted
structures such as an aircraft engine plant or an industrial chemical plant, many were of cities in
the midst of their destruction or soon thereafter. Particularly revealing are the captions that
accompany these photographs. Some are factual, such as “Sakai under attack by 73rd wing on
night of 9-10 July,” while others take a more flavorful tone: “Osaka got the incendiary treat-
ment,” “B29s create more garden plots,” and “791 tons of incendiaries are apparently settling
down to a good night’s work.”
48
Accompanying a photograph of four B29’s each dropping a full
load of incendiary bomb clusters, one caption invites the reader to use their imagination to gain
a sense of the rain of ruin that fell upon one of Japan’s largest cities: “To picture the shower that
practically erased the industrial city of Yokohama on 29 May, multiply by one hundred this sky
full of incendiaries being released.”
49
Only rarely did the more extended text that accompanied these photos mention the people
inhabiting Japan’s cities. According to one report, an April 13–14 raid on a part of Tokyo that
“destroyed 10.7 square miles of the Emperor’s city” had a 1940 population density of up to
“80,000 per square mile, pretty thick by Western Standards.”
50
Burning Japan’s cities became so
central to the XXI Bomber Command’s actions from March 1945 onward that doing otherwise
merited attention. “The Bomber Command pulled a bit of a razzle-dazzle maneuver on 9 June,”
went an Air Intelligence Digest report, “departing from its systematic destruction of Japanese
cities to hit three separate pin-point targets on the same day.”
51
As will be discussed in detail below, some of these photos also made their way into the public
sphere, where they served to drum up support for the air war in the Pacific. While it is critical to
note that such aerial photographs helped create and perpetuate public perceptions in the United
States of Japanese urban spaces as singularly military or industrial and thus worthy of indiscrimi-
nate destruction, it is also important to consider their memorial value—that is, their potential as
“a trigger for the sort of ethical response central to the act of bearing witness.”
52
At the core of
the aerial photograph, argues Davide Deriu, sits a tension between surveillance and spectacle,
between actionable intelligence and visual artifact, making it imperative that we also consider the
ways in which the urban erasure captured in these photographs stirs our moral and ethical
response. But while Deriu does much to elucidate the dynamic potential of aerial photographs as
rich “visual monuments” shaping memory as much as history, his singular focus on the aerial
photograph by default ignores the same potential latent in other types and scales of photographs
of urban destruction. For this, we must turn to Ishikawa Kōyō, the chief visual documentarian of
the multiple air raids directed against the Japanese capital, whose efforts to photograph wartime
Tokyo enable us to picture the experience of these air raids on the ground.
53
Ishikawa Ko

yo

: Calamity’s Witness
Prior to the arrival of the air war to the Japanese homeland, Ishikawa had already demonstrated
tremendous range as a photographer. While earning a living in the 1930s by documenting acci-
dent sites and illicit activities for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, he regularly trained his cam-
era’s lens on the rapidly changing scenes of everyday life in the capital. His early portfolio thus
stands as something of a homage to an increasingly modernized Tokyo.
54
In 1931, Ishikawa
walked through key sections of the capital with his Leica camera in hand, taking photographs of
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Fedman and Karacas 9
electric trams passing the Matsuzakaya Department Store in Ueno, cafés in Kōenji, and school-
girls window-shopping in the Ginza. His camera thereafter captured darker, more ominous
scenes: a shot from 1935 of the visiting titular head of the puppet state of Manchukuo sitting next
to Emperor Hirohito as they rode in a horse-drawn carriage through the Yoyogi parade ground; a
shot of a wintery February day in 1936 when a group of radicalized soldiers attempted a violent
coup d’état; a shot from 1937 of drafted men bowing before the Meiji Shrine before leaving to
fight in the Second Sino-Japanese War. It was not long before Ishikawa also turned his attention
to the various drills forced upon Tokyoites. Air defense drills. Shelter drills. Civil defense drills.
Firefighting drills. All became a recurring theme of Ishikawa’s photography in the late 1930s,
and increasingly so following the first U.S. air raid on Tokyo in April 1942.
The commencement of sustained American air raids on Tokyo in late 1944 prompted a further
shift in Ishikawa’s documentary duties. Upon returning to the darkroom at the Metropolitan
Police headquarters to process the images he had taken of the damage wrought by the first major
raid on the capital on November 24, Ishikawa was summoned to the office of his section chief,
who told him that more destructive raids on Tokyo were all but certain. Disappointed with the
paucity and quality of official photographic documentation of the 1923 Great Kantō Earthquake
that destroyed much of the capital, the section chief made the following request:
I’m wondering if I could get you to continue to take photographs that faithfully capture (kokumei ni
toritsuzukete) the efforts of the police and fire-fighting forces at these bombed out areas, as well as
the condition of the damage . . . . we want you to hasten to the scenes of bombings in order to take
photos that compellingly capture their reality (hakushinryoku no aru shashin). You should of course
recognize the danger in this job.
55
Ishikawa’s charge was to produce what he and his superiors routinely described as “lasting
images.”
56
In this respect, he belonged to a small group of photographers exempted from a 1943
Ministry of Home Affairs statute prohibiting Japanese citizens from taking photographs of
bombed-out areas so as to prevent their unauthorized dissemination. Over the following months,
air raid sirens became Ishikawa’s call to duty.
He would then speed in a used Chevrolet on loan from the police department, cherished Leica
camera by his side, toward the falling bombs. The first B-29 air raids on Tokyo, directed at the
Nakajima Aircraft Engine Works plant, required a ten-mile drive west from the city center to the
sparsely populated Musashino region of the metropolis. Beginning in January 1945, however, his
trips were shortened to a matter of minutes when bombers began to target Tokyo’s more densely
populated areas. Ishikawa’s photographs of these air raids powerfully convey the fact that,
despite America’s rhetorical commitment to precision bombings, these attacks on strategic sites
often took housing and civilians with them. Human bodies are seen in his photos scattered near
the entrance to the train station in the Yūrakuchō district, and firemen are shown attempting to
put out flames near the Kyukyodo stationary store in the neighboring Ginza area. Photographs of
air raids in January and February that targeted the city center provided Ishikawa and other author-
ities a glimpse of what was to come—many times over—that March.
The night of March 9, 1945, began like most others, with Ishikawa listening to the radio in his
office at the main police station. He began to ready his camera equipment just before midnight
upon receiving reports of a large number of enemy planes heading toward Tokyo. After hearing
the collective roar of the first waves of hundreds of low-flying B-29s, however, Ishikawa knew
that this raid was unlike the others. He first watched “the dreadful spectacle” from the roof of the
Metropolitan Police Headquarters as tons of incendiaries fell on the city, but it was not long until
he was speeding down Shōwa Dōri, one of the capital’s main thoroughfares, toward the Asakusa
artisanal and working-class district, which AAF commanders had designated as part of the main
target zone. With flames enveloping his field of vision, Ishikawa detoured to a police station in
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10 Journal of Urban History
nearby Ryōgoku, where he discovered the police chief at his desk completing paperwork before
abandoning the station to the encroaching flames.
57
What followed were, according to Ishikawa, scenes from hell. His detailed account of that
evening indeed repeatedly invokes infernal metaphors to describe Tokyo’s destruction. The
“demon’s wings”
58
(akuma no tsubasa) rained fire that carbonized corpses which “flowed
through the streets like rapids.”
59
The elements also conspired against the city to whip up the red
winds (akakaze) that fanned the firestorms: “immense incandescent vortices,” he wrote, “rose in
a number of places, swirling, flattening, sucking whole blocks of houses into a maelstrom of
fire.”
60
Widespread chaos, intense heat, and the realization of the need to save his own life pre-
vented Ishikawa from taking any photographs. His Chevrolet destroyed by flames, he slowly
made his way on foot back to the Metropolitan Police Headquarters. After resting his fatigued
body, at around 2 P.M. on March 10 Ishikawa set out to document the aftermath. He saw bodies
“piled like mountains” (shitai no yama o kizuiteita) and corpses burnt to the point that “you could
no longer discern the sex of the body” (danjyo no kubetsu mo tsukanai shitai).
61
Ishikawa first
told himself not to photograph such upsetting images, but then, recalling his responsibilities to
capture the “reality of the scenes,” he began to snap the shutter.
That day Ishikawa took thirty-three photographs of the aftermath of what came to be called
the Great Tokyo Air Raid. Conveying a variety of scenes and scales, these images shed light on
the moments that immediately followed the firebombing. We bear witness to an entire neighbor-
hood reduced to smoldering rubble; homeless monpe-clad women and children carrying their
only possessions in bundles on their backs; and the various ways in which the air raid brought
death to tens of thousands of civilian bodies.
62
In one photograph, a group of men pull corpses
out of the Kikukawa canal located in the former Honjo Ward, providing corroborating visual
evidence to the many survivor accounts that tell of people jumping into the water to escape the
encroaching flames. Other photographs expose the terrible reality that so many faced as they
found themselves surrounded by fires, intentionally created by the AAF in such a way as to block
most possibilities of escape.
No photograph taken by Ishikawa challenges us in this regard more than that of the oya-ko,
the (presumably) mother and child (Figure 2). Centered on the carbonized corpses of an adult
female and an infant by her side, the photograph powerfully conveys the bodily scale of human
suffering that took place within the larger landscape of ruination. The intensity of the conflagra-
tion as it felled and burned alive the adult while she attempted to flee to safety is marked by the
charred bodies of both the female and infant. Particularly arresting are the small patches of bare
skin visible on the female’s lower-back, a visual marker that she had carried the infant on her
back until being felled by the fire. One aspect of the photograph that further imbues it with mean-
ing is the position of the adult’s body, with the head and one leg raised in the air. The viewer is
struck with a sense of motion, a sense that she was making one final attempt to raise herself and
child amid the flames.
While photographs such as this one provide an intimate sense of the bodily pain that was
inflicted by the firebombing, they also require much of the viewer. It is one thing to look at such
photographs; it is another thing altogether to comprehend or attach meaning to the actual suffer-
ing it exposes. This, of course, is far from an original observation: photography critics from
Roland Barthes to Susan Sontag have long sought to make sense of the “painful labor” inherent
to comprehending photographs of violence, pain, and suffering.
63
Sharon Sliwinski perhaps puts
this line of thinking most succinctly when she observes that “encountering images of suffering
illuminates the limit of the ability to respond.”
64
But while difficult to comprehend, Ishikawa’s photographs at the very least bear witness to
this suffering. Perhaps the most salient feature of his images is that they point to, often in upset-
ting detail, the ultimate victims of the decision to target Japan’s cities for destruction. In this
sense, these photographs merit juxtaposition with the thousands of aerial photographs (and their
attendant captions) that mask the bodily scale. Curtis Lemay, a chief proponent of the shift to
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Fedman and Karacas 11
area incendiary raids against Japan’s cities, threw this point into sharp relief when he stated the
day after the Great Tokyo Air Raid that “fire left nothing but twisted, tumbled down rubble in its
path. These facts are incontrovertibly established by reconnaissance photographs taken on the
afternoon of the strike.”
65
For Lemay, as others, the thousands of post-strike aerial photographs
of Tokyo conveyed but one scale of destruction to the capital (see Figure 3). Indeed, when look-
ing at such aerial images, the viewer is given the impression that nothing remained following the
conflagration. They fail to reveal what Ishikawa’s photographs show: the civilian suffering that
occurred at the scale of the lived urban spaces and, most principally, the body.
In this sense, Ishikawa’s pictures subvert the aerial photograph, which misleadingly show
“nothing but rubble” in the wide swaths of light grey that dominate the post-strike images.
Demonstrating to the viewer that the fire did leave something besides physical debris, Ishikawa’s
pictures—upon being seen and considered—form a principal currency in what Elizabeth Spelman
terms the “economy of circulation” that “organizes our attention to suffering”:
Photographs of this kind burn into memory: it is hard to forget them, even when we want to do so.
. . . [A] brief look, and the contours of consciousness are changed. Receptivity to such photographs
is partly a matter of individual temperament and conviction but also a matter of social location,
collective identification, and political affiliation. The meaning and effects of the images are at once
singular and shared, intimate and public.
66
Ishikawa’s photographs, however, needed to circulate in order to allow for the creation of such
an “economy of attention,” and it is to the dissemination of these images that we now turn.
The Comparative Economics of Attention
We now undertake a brief survey of the ways in which aerial and ground photographs circulated
beyond their original provenance within classified government documents to the greater public
Figure 2. Ishikawa Ko

yo

photograph of an adult female and infant killed by the conflagration created by
the firebombing of Tokyo on March 10, 1945.
Source: National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 243, Section 2 (Japanese documents), 12h
(Effects of Bombing on health and medical services—photographs and negatives), Box 136.
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12 Journal of Urban History
in both the United States and Japan. In so doing, we seek to clarify the ways in which the public
circulation—or lack thereof—of photographs has shaped particular Japanese and American atti-
tudes toward the experience of World War II and the incendiary bombing of urban Japan. Such
an analysis, we submit, will not only throw into relief the contours of the debates over the politics
of memory but also hint at the possibilities and limitations inherent to the act of consuming
images of urban ruination.
67
A fundamental but hitherto neglected aspect of the intentional targeting of Japan’s cities
involved the need to ensure that the American public would not question an approach to warfare
that the U.S. government itself had condemned before its own entrance into World War II. Thus,
concomitant with the eventual embrace of razing Japan’s cities as a legitimate military strategy
was the formation of a wartime sensibility that cast the Japanese as an enemy deserving of such
attacks. Wartime rhetoric provided copious material for the collective dehumanization of the
Japanese people into, among numerous appellations, “blood-sucking parasites” and “a preposter-
ous musical comedy species of humanity.”
68
Immediately following the initiation of hostilities,
Americans both created and encountered a plethora of such crass linguistic and visual references.
Figure 3. Aerial photograph of Tokyo taken the day after the March 10, 1945 air raid and reprinted in
The New York Times on March 14.
Source: National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures, U.S. Air Force Photo Collection, Record Group
342 FH, A3851.
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Fedman and Karacas 13
Within a few weeks of the attack on Pearl Harbor, for example, Lucky Miller and His Orchestra
sang “We’re Gonna Have to Slap the Dirty Little Jap,” and in 1942 the Music Operator Bang
belted out “Bomb Tokyo.”
69
The desire for air raids on Japan’s cities became a common refrain throughout the war.
Following the Japanese bombing of Manila in late December 1942, U.S. Senators were quoted in
The New York Times as noting the vulnerability of Japan’s cities and calling for them to be
bombed at the earliest possible moment—the only fitting response to, as one senator put it, “an
inhuman and half-civilized race.”
70
In another example, Harper’s Magazine advocated for the
destruction of Japan’s “paper-and-plyboard” cities as a way to end the war.
71
In these and other
ways, we see the formation of an American public sphere that, unlike that in Britain, did little to
question the targeting and indiscriminate bombing of Japan’s cities.
72
It follows that, as George Roeder has suggested, “despite the difficulty of evaluating how
visual imagery affect individual and collective attitudes,” wartime photographs, images, and
movies that featured negative representations of the Japanese had a pronounced impact on
Americans.
73
In this respect, images played a pivotal role in casting the Japanese as an enemy-
other and promoting the idea of the Japanese city as a target. To provide but one example, posters
of “Tokio Kid,” a “gargoyle-like cartoon character” with long teeth and claws, first graced the
walls of Douglas Aircraft and its suppliers in order to encourage workers to become more effi-
cient. The U.S. Treasury Department then used the same image to promote the purchase of war
bonds.
74
Representations of Japan’s cities were no less instrumental to the making of the Japanese
enemy. Of particular importance were the numerous aerial photographs released for publication
in U.S. newspapers and pictorial weeklies by the AAF. The first of these images ran in a January
1945 issue of Life magazine under the title “Tokyo Exposed.” Taken during the aforementioned
first aerial reconnaissance mission the previous November, the cropped photograph shows the
working-class Shitamachi area of the capital. The accompanying text orients the reader to “the
industrial and slum section” of Tokyo, with its “odorous, slimy Sumida [River] from whose
banks drunken coolies watch boat races.”
75
A February 1945 issue of Life ran a ten-page “On to
Tokyo” story in which it lamented that “Japan’s cities . . . have notably failed to burn down as
scheduled.”
76
The large-scale incendiary bombing of urban Japan that commenced the following
month, however, provided the AAF with many photographs to distribute to the American public,
some of which appeared in The New York Times, Life, and other publications over the coming
months.
Upon Japan’s capitulation, the American military had its first opportunity to closely inspect
the damage it had wrought upon urban Japan. In addition to sending members of the USSBS to
numerous cities in order to visually ascertain the damage, the government also worked to secure
relevant photographs and moving images.
77
As historian John Dower notes, American forces
confiscated all of the documentary film of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that dozens of cameramen
had collected over a period of months.
78
While intent upon preventing American forces from
confiscating his negatives, Ishikawa, too, was compelled to provide copies of some of his photo-
graphs, which subsequently appeared in two confidential publications issued by the USSBS in
1947. The Effects of Bombing on Health and Medical Services in Japan, for example, produced
by the USSBS’s Medical Division based on a five-week survey conducted in the fall of 1945,
featured eight of Ishikawa’s most harrowing images of corpses. Frustrated by the Japanese gov-
ernment’s poor record-keeping regarding air raid casualties from the firebombing of Japan’s
cities (especially when compared to that of the German government), the Medical Division had
no choice but to rely on a variety of incomplete reports from various governmental ministries and
local authorities. Ishikawa’s photographs, however, allowed them to fashion a narrative descrip-
tion of bodily harm:
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14 Journal of Urban History
Following the fires it was common to find burned corpses littering the streets of the burned areas.
Some were lying in positions in which they had fallen, others were in positions suggesting that they
had attempted to rise after falling but were unable to continue, and still others were in groups as if
they had huddled together for mutual protection. Many were burned beyond recognition, the remains
actually consisting of the skeleton with only charred remnants of clothing and soft tissues. . . .
Mothers were found with infants on their backs or clutching at their sides. In all of these instances
when the bodies were sufficiently intact, there was evidence of a struggle to escape the heat and
flames.
79
Although Ishikawa’s images featured in these confidential USSBS reports would not appear
in any English-language publications widely available to the public until the 1960s, other images
related to the air raids on urban Japan—those of the atomic bombings—were released to the
American public at a much earlier date. While censored in postwar Japan, photographs of the
atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were published widely in the United States begin-
ning in August 1945. One such instance was in the August 20, 1945, edition of Life, the cover of
which features a four-star general, the “Bomber of Japan,” sitting in front of a map of Asia, with
a cigarette held to his lips as he stares directly at the camera. He is Carl “Tooey” Spaatz, head of
the newly organized U.S. Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific. Inside the magazine are the two
mushroom cloud photographs on opposite pages with the accompanying captions: “Hiroshima—
Atom Bomb No. 1 Obliterated It” and “Nagasaki—Atom Bomb No. 2 Disemboweled It.” The
photo essay also features “before” and “after” aerial photographs of Hiroshima. While such pho-
tographs became part and parcel of the stock of visual images regularly used to transmit to the
American public the end of the war and the beginning of the atomic age, it is important to note
that in between these two sets of images are aerial photographs of the cities of Yokohama and
Kobe afire. An attendant caption mentions “cracked limbs and gashed skulls”—not of the
Japanese but of the B-29 crew members whose planes experienced extreme turbulence caused by
the superheated air rising from the burning cities. The text goes on to mention how a “good-sized
‘burn job’ did almost as much damage to property as the atomic bomb did and it also killed
almost as many people.”
80
While Americans had an opportunity to read about the experiences of a handful of atomic
bomb survivors when the New Yorker magazine published John Hersey’s “Hiroshima” in August
1946 (the Japanese public was not able to read a translation until 1949), ground images that cap-
tured suffering and death of individuals were prohibited from publication in both countries out of
concern that they would generate criticism of the U.S. government.
81
The first collection of
ground photographs of Nagasaki was published in a 1952 Japanese-language book featuring the
work of Yamahata Yōsuke, a propaganda photographer for the Japanese News and Information
Bureau during the war. Assigned to photograph the city the day after the nuclear blast, Yamahata
took over one hundred photographs, many of which captured haunting images of the wounded,
dying, and dead. The book became a bestseller and signaled a break with the various forms of
censorship under which the Japanese had lived during the Occupation.
82
Soon thereafter, Life
magazine published its own photo-essay that featured a sampling of Yamahata’s photographs.
Significantly, the publication of these photographs touched off a public debate in the pages of
Life about the morality of the bombing of Japan’s cities that give a sense of the two poles of
responses that are representative perspectives to this very day. “I . . . am hardened to shock,”
wrote Faye Johnson of Arkansas in a Letter to the Editor, “but when I saw the pictures of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki I nearly wept. That we perpetrated this horror against innocent victims
is almost unbelievable.” Mrs. Max Dalton of Utah wrote a response more closely resembling the
official position of the U.S. government: “Terrible and shocking! But no more so than those end-
less rows of neat, white American crosses.”
83
This tension in the United States as to how to
remember the destruction of two Japanese cities, in addition to how to look at related photo-
graphs, would remain over the ensuing decades.
84
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Fedman and Karacas 15
Ishikawa’s photographs were mostly ignored in the United States, and did not achieve sus-
tained attention in Japan until around 1970. One reason for this was a general reluctance in Japan
to remember much about the Asia-Pacific War save for the atomic bombings, which, according
to Julia Adeney Thomas, escaped “general amnesia on the war and are much more frequently and
openly discussed and represented in the visual arts.”
85
It is important to acknowledge, however,
that, similar to the publication of Yamahata’s photographs of Nagasaki, immediately following
the end of the occupation, on August 15, 1953, a small publisher released Tōkyō daikūshū hiroku
shashinshū (The secret photographic record of the Great Tokyo Air Raids), which drew heavily
from Ishikawa’s hundreds of images. The reader in fact is immediately confronted on the very
first page by one of Ishikawa’s more haunting photographs: that of a few dozen bodies (inciner-
ated during a major raid on May 25, 1945) lined up in two rows in front of a brick wall.
86
While many Japanese citizens proved reluctant to revisit the harrowing experiences of the air
raids, a few pioneering intellectuals and citizen activists eventually began an effort to systemati-
cally recover memories of the air raids. The establishment of the Society for the Recording of the
Tokyo Air Raids (Tōkyō kūshū o kiroku suru kai) in 1970 ushered forth a new era in which
Tokyoites, with the financial assistance of a supportive governor, began to assemble archival
documents and survivor testimonies as a means of ensuring that the destruction of Tokyo would
not be forgotten. Photographs were central to the project. In addition to traveling to the National
Archives in the United States to acquire copies of AAF aerial photographs, representatives of the
group used and positioned Ishikawa’s images as the most effective visual evidence to communi-
cate both at home and abroad the firebombing of their city.
87
For example, when invited to appear
at an international peace conference in Budapest in May 1971, Saotome Katsumoto, a central
figure in the movement to remember the air raids on urban Japan, brought a compilation of
Ishikawa’s photographs in order to “exhibit” the destruction of Tokyo.
Increasingly, Ishikawa’s photographs gained currency as some of the most compelling images
of the destructive potential of firebombs and American air power—an issue that was gaining
international salience due in no small part to the then escalating incendiary bombing campaigns
in Indochina being carried out by the United States. In this respect, Ishikawa’s photographs merit
comparison to those of Erich Andres, whose photographs of the destruction of Hamburg have
garnered similar international attention and contributed to German debates about remembrance
and loss at home under the pall of the Holocaust and Germany’s defeat.
88
Due in part to the efforts of the Society for Recording the Tokyo Air Raids and the subsequent
nationwide expansion of the group, the early 1970s also saw a widening of public engagement
with the remembrance of the air raids on Japan’s cities. For the first time in a quarter century, the
Japanese media began to feature stories about the firebombings, with widely circulating weekly
periodicals including Shūkan Gendai and Shūkan Yomiuri running long articles in which
Ishikawa’s photographs played a prominent role (Figure 4).
89
While the jarring images of
corpses—rendered all the more so when placed next to advertisements for consumer goods avail-
able to an increasingly affluent population—may seem to be out of place in magazines directed
at the general public, their presence bespeaks the Japanese media’s belated embrace of the
destruction of cities other than Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a topic worthy of attention.
Photographic consumption took other forms as well. An exhibition of Ishikawa’s photographs
at the Asaskusa’s Matsuya Department Store in 1972 represented the first opportunity for the
Japanese public to see his images in a gallery-like setting (Figure 5). That these photographs
were exhibited in a space situated in the heart of the “target zone” devastated by U.S. bombers
doubtless heightened the power of the display. Boosted by such exhibits, the publication of
numerous books about the firebombing of urban Japan, the establishment of a resource center in
Tokyo that has a permanent photo exhibit, and the use of his photographs (and personal story) in
a number of documentaries, Ishikawa’s profile and the dissemination of his images steadily
increased over the ensuing decades.
90
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16 Journal of Urban History
This is not to suggest, however, the emergence of a widespread public awareness of Japan’s
wartime urban destruction. While there is no denying an upsurge in interest in and engagement
with the air raids in some sectors of the Japanese public, media, and city governments, the central
government has largely resisted focusing on the firebombing of Japan’s cities, and the Japanese
public as a whole has little knowledge of this chapter of the long history of urban Japan. One
telling example is the Ministry of Education’s barring of historian Ienaga Saburō’s textbook on
account of his inclusion of photographs—including one related to the air raids—that, Ministry
officials argued, contributed to a dark understanding of the war.
91
Equally revealing is the content
of the Shōwa Memorial Hall (Shōwakan), the only museum built by the Japanese central govern-
ment dedicated to remembering the civilian experience of the Asia-Pacific War. Although the
exhibits there make countless references to the air raids, they include few photographs of the
destruction wrought on Japanese cities and no images of civilians killed in the firebombings.
92
And yet, however checkered the Japanese public’s engagement with these photos may be,
Ishikawa’s photographs have become central to how the destruction of Tokyo is remembered in
Japan. In the United States, by contrast, while Ishikawa’s photographs have been readily avail-
able since at least 1960, most English-language books about the bombing of Japan feature only
aerial photographs in order to visually represent the targeting of Japan’s cities. For example, out
of 57 figures featured in Kenneth P. Werrell’s 1996 Blankets of Fire: U.S. Bombers over Japan
during World War II, just one image—a nighttime aerial photo of the city of Toyama ablaze on
Figure 4. A February 25, 1971 issue of the popular weekly Shu

kan Gendai featuring Ishikawa Ko

yo

’s
photographs in an article about the firebombing of Tokyo.
Source: Reproduced from Shu

kan Gendai (Modern Weekly), February 25, 1971.
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Fedman and Karacas 17
August 1, 1945—related to the firebombing of a Japanese city appears.
93
Toyama serves as a
representative of all Japanese cities, which were “severely battered by the B-29
bombardment.”
94
Furthermore, when we focus on the few book-length publications that do include ground pho-
tographs of the firebombings, a number of issues arise. We find the earliest known instance of
Ishikawa’s photographs appearing in English-language print meant for public consumption in
1960, when Ballantine Books published Martin Caidin’s A Torch to the Enemy. A $1.25 paper-
back, the book is exceptional both for being the first publication meant for a general audience to
feature Ishikawa’s photographs (thirteen in all, which is by far the greatest among all English-
language publications in print to date), and for actually painting a humanizing portrait of Japanese
civilians as they experienced the March 1945 firebombing of Tokyo. Caidin, however, incor-
rectly states Ishikawa’s position (claiming that he was the chief of police when he took the pho-
tographs) and errs in his claim that he is the first to publish such photographs in either the United
States or Japan. While these matters may seem minor, when compiled with subsequent mistakes
regarding the provenance of the photographs they serve to create a fog of confusion about
Ishikawa and his photographic efforts.
Ishikawa’s photographs would not reappear in a U.S. publication for almost another three
decades, when Michael Sherry’s The Rise of American Air Power: The Creation of Armageddon
was published in 1987. Sherry’s award-winning book contains three of Ishikawa’s photographs
among twenty-four images that comprise what the author calls “Bombing in the American
Imagination: A Visual Essay.” Given Sherry’s critical stance on what he deems a “technological
Figure 5. Ishikawa Ko

yo

’s photographs on public display in March 1972.
Source: Image courtesy of the Tokyo Air Raid and War Damages Resource Center, originally published in To

kyo

daiku

shu

ten ankeeto shu

(Great Tokyo Air Raid Exhibit Survey), To

kyo

ku

shu

o kiroku suru kai, April 1972.
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18 Journal of Urban History
fanaticism” that resulted in the firebombing of urban Japan, it is perhaps of no surprise that the
author chooses to show some of the air raids’ ultimate effects to the human body. The grand
sweep of his project also makes it understandable that the author makes a numbers of errors
regarding Ishikawa’s photographs. While describing the images of civilians killed in the Tokyo
air raid, he mistakenly states that the images show “victims of fire attacks on unidentified
Japanese cities.”
95
Additionally, he fails to credit Ishikawa as the photographer of these disturb-
ing images, which Sherry has purposefully used as a counterpoint to his contention that aerial
photographs created a “visual environment” that “rarely gave Americans a full appreciation of
what their bombers did to Japan.”
96
It was not until the publication of historian John Dower’s Cultures of War in 2010—sixty-five
years after his Leica camera captured the images—that Ishikawa Kōyō would be correctly attrib-
uted in an English-language academic study of the incendiary air raids.
97
While Dower fails to
provide any discussion of the photograph in and of itself, he nonetheless breaks important ground.
In addition to properly identifying the photographer, he intentionally places Ishikawa’s photo-
graph next to an aerial photograph of Tokyo, which challenges the reader to simultaneously
consider the differently scaled photographs. By displaying these two photographs side-by-side,
Dower hints at new ways to looks at visual evidence related to the destruction of Japan’s cities.
Conclusion
In this article, we have set out to illustrate why excavation matters, why scale matters, and why
paying attention to pictures of atrocity matters when examining visual evidence related to the
intentional destruction of a city. We now close with a photographic juxtaposition that reinforces
these points. The first photograph (Figure 6), taken in September 1945, is among the most repro-
duced by historians seeking to convey the damage caused by air raids to urban Japan. Easily
obtainable from the U.S. National Archives, the photograph has a number of noteworthy aes-
thetic attributes. Whereas photographer Jonathan Swope lamented that Tokyo and other Japanese
cities had been “bombed into nothingness” and therefore made a poor subject for his lens, this
low-altitude, oblique aerial photograph includes a few features that interrupt the appearance of a
flattened cityscape.
98
Still standing ferro-concrete buildings break up an otherwise monotonous
foreground, and a river and two canals separate the visible land into four segments, further dis-
rupting the “nothingness” that Swope saw all around him.
As Davide Deriu claims, the aerial photograph of a destroyed cityscape such as this one may
both possess a “memorial value” and allow the viewer to “visualize the full extent of mass dev-
astation.”
99
An archaeological approach to the photograph goes beyond a simple inclusion of the
image as a visual representation of a destroyed Japanese city by considering, among other things,
the precise location that has been captured, which in turn allows for the memorial value of the
photograph to begin to be realized. The surest way to ascertain that this is indeed a photograph of
Tokyo (rather than one of, say, Osaka, which also features a series of canals) is to recognize the
distinctive circular structure to the top left of the image: the original Sumo Hall (Kokugikan).
From there we can determine that the two large bridges spanning the Sumida River on either side
of the image are the Ryōgoku Bridge to the left and Shin-Ōhashi (New Large Bridge) to the right.
Just to the lower left of the Shin-Ōhashi is the 11.5-acre Hamachō Park, built following the cata-
strophic 1923 Great Kantō Earthquake and fire in order to serve as an evacuation area should
another conflagration occur. The Tatekawa canal runs upward from the Sumida River in the top
quarter of the frame. With these visual markers in place, we can conclude that we are looking
down upon a portion of Nihonbashi (then a ward in and of itself, now a district of Chiyoda Ward)
in the foreground, with Honjo Ward (now Sumida Ward) across the river on the top left and
Fukagawa Ward (now Kōtō Ward) to the top right. When compared to another aerial photo-
graph—one taken on November 7, 1944, by the Third Photo Reconnaissance Squadron and
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Fedman and Karacas 19
marked by the 949 Engineering Aviation Topographical Group with the four “aiming points”
onto which 279 B-29 bombers dropped 1665 tons of incendiary weapons—it becomes clear that
this area stood at the heart of “Target Zone 1” designated for destruction in March 1945.
100
This
image, showing but one part of the 16.7 square miles of Tokyo destroyed during the March 10,
1945, firebombing raid, lends credence to Deriu’s assertion that aerial photographs can provide
a visual sense of destruction at the scale of the city and, therefore, is essential to consider.
However, because such photographs are unable to convey loss and destruction as it happened
at the more intimate, lived scale of the neighborhood and the body, we contend that their memo-
rial value can be more fully realized when they are considered in tandem with extant ground
photographs, such as Figure 7. In the early afternoon of March 16, 1945, almost a week after the
first major firebombing raid on Tokyo, Ishikawa Kōyō rode a motorcycle through a bracing cold
wind to Rinnōji Temple (also called Ryōdaishi) adjacent to Ueno Park. Upon arriving, he took
two photographs of around fifty people killed by asphyxiation and burns, then lined up along
both sides of a road. Air raid survivors looked for missing family members by slowly passing the
bodies, some of which had a nametag attached to clothing. Ishikawa then photographed police
and laborers as they dug a series of mass graves for the unclaimed or unidentifiable bodies.
101

Importantly, Figure 7 reveals that the majority of dead are women, and that infants are among the
casualties. As such, the image assumes tremendous memorial value by capturing and represent-
ing the portion of the civilian population most affected by the intentional destruction of the most
densely populated area of the city. While aerial photographs can capture the destruction of an
entire city (and be compared against later, post-reconstruction photographs in order to demon-
strate the resilient nature of a city), their capacity to serve as visual evidence and assume
Figure 6. A September 1945 aerial photograph of Tokyo.
Source: National Archives and Records Administration, Still Pictures, U.S. Air Force Photo Collection, Record Group
342 FH, A3910.
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20 Journal of Urban History
memorial value is only most fully effectuated when they are considered alongside those more
disturbing images of people whose lives are radically altered or cut short because of their inhabit-
ing an “urban area” that has been included as a legitimate wartime target.
Perhaps the most significant implication of the foregoing analysis is that any consideration of
the photography of urban destruction should work through a series of images that capture the
many and various scales that constitute urban space. It is important to note, however, that such a
“gestalt of scale” is also shaped by the “complex nature of sight”: the fact that our consumption
of images is determined by neurobiology—how each viewer viscerally responds to an image—as
much as by discourse and culture.
102
From individual bodies to entire cityscapes, a more kaleido-
scopic visual portrait of the destruction of urban Japan provides for a more textured history, not
simply of the events themselves but of the various and often conflicting ways they have been
remembered and forgotten. By interweaving American images from above and Japanese images
from below, therefore, it may be possible to go beyond some conventional descriptions of the
Second World War that fail to raise important, if difficult, questions about the ultimate effects of
targeting an enemy city for destruction.
Although there is of course no single approach to interpreting these images, photographic
excavation does much to highlight the history of the image and the image of the history from
which it emerged. To undertake such an excavation is to confront the latent potential of the
photograph, which, dependent upon a confluence of circumstances, may acquire an immedi-
ate iconic status and lasting impact, or lay dormant only to later reshape how history is told
and the past remembered. This is especially true of photography of urban destruction that
occurred during World War II, which has only begun to be examined not simply as visual
evidence but as a repository of its own far-reaching history of production, mediation, and
memorialization.
Figure 7. Ishikawa Ko

yo

photograph of Japanese civilians killed by the March 10, 1945 firebombing of
Tokyo.
Source: National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 243, Section 2 (Japanese documents), 12h
(Effects of Bombing on health and medical services—photographs and negatives), Box 136.
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Fedman and Karacas 21
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or
publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publi-
cation of this article:
This research was supported by a 2012 PSC-CUNY 42 Research Award and a 2012 College of Staten
Island Dean’s Research Grant.
Notes
1. Ernst Jünger, “War and Photography,” New German Critique 59 (1993): 26.
2. According to convention, we place Japanese surnames first. For an account of LeMay’s aerial tour of
Tokyo’s ruins (in what amounted to a victory lap for the USAAF), see “Air Generals View Tokyo Area
Ruins,” The New York Times, September 4, 1945.
3. For a recollection of Ishikawa’s interactions with Occupation officials, see Ishikawa Kōyō, Tsūkon no
shōwa [The regretful Shōwa period] (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1988), 148–53.
4. See, e.g., Stephen Graham, “Lessons in Urbicide,” New Left Review 19 (2004): 63–78; Stephen
Graham, “Postmortem City: Towards an Urban Geopolitics,” City 8, no. 2 (2004): 165–96; A. C.
Grayling, Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of WWII Bombing of Civilians
in Germany and Japan (New York: Walker, 2007); Kenneth Hewitt, “The Social Space of Terror:
Towards a Civil Interpretation of Civil War,” Environment and Planning D, Society and Space 5
(1987): 445–74; Robert Bevan, The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War (London: Reaktion
Books, 2007); Derek Gregory, “Doors into Nowhere: Dead Cities and the Natural History of
Destruction,” in Cultural Memories, ed. Peter Meusburger, Michael Heffernan, and Edgar Wunder
(Dordrecht: Springer, 2011), 249–82; and Douglas Porteous and Sandra Smith, Domicide: The Global
Destruction of Home (Montreal: McGill Queens University Press, 2001).
5. Julia Adeney Thomas, “The Evidence of Sight,” History and Theory 48 (2009): 153.
6. This article may be read in part as a contribution to the literature on the history of media cover-
age of war and the production and consumption of images of violence, trauma, and pain. See, e.g.,
John Taylor, Body Horror: Photojournalism, Catastrophe and War (New York: New York University
Press, 1998); Ariela Azoulay, Death’s Showcase: The Power of Image in Contemporary Democracy
(Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001); Luc Boltanski, Distant Suffering: Morality, Media, and Politics
(London: Cambridge University Press, 1999); Jill Bennett, Empathetic Vision: Affect, Trauma, and
Contemporary Art (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005); Judith Butler, Frames of War: When Is
Life Grievable? (London: Verso, 2009); Elizabeth Spelman, Fruits of Sorrow: Framing Our Attention
to Suffering (Boston: Beacon Press, 1997); Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites, No Caption
Needed: Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 2007); Alan Trachtenberg, Reading American Photographs: Images as History Mathew Brady
to Walker Evans (New York: Hill and Wang, 1989); Ulrich Baer, Spectral Evidence: The Photography
of Trauma (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002); and John Tagg, The Burden of Representation: Essays on
Photographies and Histories (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999).
7. Jason Francisco, “War Photography,” The Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century Photography (New
York: Routledge, 2005), 1637.
8. For a discussion of coordinated destruction as a form of collective violence see Charles Tilly, The
Politics of Collective Violence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
9. W. G. Sebald, On the Natural History of Destruction, trans. Anthea Bell (New York: Modern Library,
2004), 26.
10. Andrew Herod, Scale (New York: Routledge, 2010), 56.
11. For a more comprehensive account of the early development of aerial photography, see David Mattison,
“Aerial Photography,” in Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, ed. John Hannavy (New
York: Routledge, 2007), 12–15.
12. A thorough treatment of the early development of aerial photography as it relates to urban planning
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22 Journal of Urban History
(especially Paris) is Beaumont Newhall, Airborne Camera: The World from the Air and Outer Space
(New York: Hastings House, 1969). See also Anthony Vidler, “Photourbanism: Planning the City from
Above and from Below,” in A Companion to the City, ed. Gary Bridge and Sophie Watson (Oxford:
Blackwell, 2002), 35–45.
13. Le Corbusier, Aircraft (London: Trefoil, [1935] 1987), 5; For an explication of this text and a broader
analysis of Le Corbusier’s enthusiasm for flight see Christine Boyer, “Aviation and the Aerial View:
Le Corbusier’s Spatial Transformations in the 1930s and 1940s,” Diacritics 33 (October 2003):
93–116.
14. As cited in Vidler, “Planning the City from Above and from Below,” 38.
15. See Beaumont Newhall, Airborne Camera: The World from Air and Outer Space (New York: Hastings
House, 1969), 27–29.
16. Army Air Forces, The Official Guide to the Army Air Forces: A Directory, Almanac, and Chronicle of
Achievement (Washington, DC: Army Air Forces Aid Society, 1944), 341.
17. See, e.g., Willis Lee, The Face of the Earth as Seen from the Air: A Study in the Application of Airplane
Photography to Geography (New York: American Geographical Society, 1922).
18. See, e.g., Paul K. Saint-Amour, “Air War Prophecy and Interwar Modernism,” Comparative Literature
Studies 42, no. 2 (June 2005): 130–61.
19. “‘Second Paris’ Built towards End of First World War to Fool Germans,” Telegraph.co.uk, November
9, 2011.
20. The Official Guide to the Army Air Forces, 345. “The aeroplane photograph,” it was remarked shortly
after the First World War, “was developed and exploited to such an extent that it is no exaggeration to say
that the aeroplane camera became the strongest weapon of the ‘Intelligence’ staff and the topographer.”
M. N. MacLeod, “Mapping from Air Photographs,” The Geographical Journal 53, no. 6 (1919): 382.
21. On this point, see John Kries, ed., Piercing the Fog: Intelligence and Army Air Forces Operations in
World War II (Washington, DC: Air Force History and Museums Program, 1996), 81; and Michael
Sherry, The Rise of American Air Power: The Creation of Armageddon (New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press, 1989), 22.
22. In a major watershed, a photography school was established at the Naval Air Station in Anacostia,
Maryland, in 1920. Crafted in consultation with experts from Britain’s Royal Air Force, the school
offered courses in photo interpretation, photogrammetry, and photographic processing, growing from
an initial class of a couple dozen to over eight hundred by 1945. The Air Force also created its own
aerial photography school at Lowry Field Chicago in 1938, where pilots were trained in the techni-
cal flight skills particular to photographic missions. See, e.g., Army Air Forces Intelligence Training,
Naval Photographic Intelligence, National Archives M1655, 1d.1a, 2.
23. “When war came to the Pacific in December 1941,” writes John Kries, “the United States had no des-
ignated or properly equipped reconnaissance aircraft, no field laboratory capability, and no qualified
U.S. photo interpreter in the entire region.” Kries, Piercing the Fog, 87.
24. See Fairchild Camera Corporation, Focusing on Victory: The Story of Aerial Photography at War
(New York: Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corp., 1944).
25. The Official Guide to the Army Air Forces, 1944.
26. A breakdown of the global distribution of photo intelligence officers can be found in Naval
Photographic Intelligence, National Archives, Microfilm M1655, 1d.1a, 3. With limited resources
at their disposal, intelligence officers in the Pacific had no choice but to be resourceful. According to
Donald Holmes, e.g., when the Japanese “invaded Attu and Kiska, the best photographs then avail-
able were some ninety odd from the National Archives made in 1883 by a geologist, aboard a fishing
steamer, studying pelagic sealing in the Bering Sea,” which formed the basis of the U.S. battle and
landing strategy (Donald Holmes, Wartime Photographic Activities and Records Resulting Therefrom,
290.) The intelligence operation that followed was a piecemeal process of organizing military assets,
equipment, and personnel into “ad-hoc” photo-interpretation units across the Asia-Pacific, as John
Kries has shown. Assemblages of “Navy cameras, Marine photography technicians, and AAF aircraft”
had to be tolerated as it took up to a year, in part because of Naval officers’ doubts about the usefulness
of aerial photographs, to reach acceptable levels of photo intelligence in the region. Kries, Piercing
the Fog, 87; See also Naval Photographic Intelligence, National Archives, Record Group 18, M1655,
1d.1a, 5.
27. See David Fedman and Cary Karacas, “A Cartographic Fade to Black: Mapping the Destruction of
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Fedman and Karacas 23
Urban Japan during World War II,” The Journal of Historical Geography 38, no. 2 (2012): 306–28.
28. E.g., see a reprint of the 1933 Dai tokyo shashin annai (Tokyo: Hakubunkan, 2002).
29. The Japanese government, too, was quick to embrace aerial photography, which was of obvious util-
ity not only for military applications but also for the mapping and administration of its then rap-
idly expanding empire. See Kobayashi Shigeru, Kindai nihon no chizu sakusei to ajia taiheiyō chiiki:
gaihōzu e no apurōchi [Modern Japan’s map production and the Asia-Pacific region: approaches to the
Gaihōzu] (Suita: Ōsaka Daigaku Shuppankai, 2009).
30. Office of the Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Intelligence, Air Objective Folder, No 90.17, Tokyo Area,
Section: Summary and Evaluation of Tokyo Area (Washington, DC, 1943), no page number, U.S.
National Archives, Records of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Record Group 243.4.2.
31. The British were decisively ahead of the United States in operational and technological capacity for air
intelligence, having already cut their teeth with the large-scale aerial photographic efforts in the skies
over Germany. It was not long before the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved a division of labor, “whereby
primary responsibility for intelligence on the German Air Force was assigned to the British (with U.S.
assistance)” and primary responsibility for intelligence on the Japanese Air Force was assigned to the
United States (with British assistance). Strategic Air Intelligence, U.S. National Archives, Modern
Military Section, M1655, Roll 19, 1d.1j, 8.
32. Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II. The Pacific:
Matterhorn to Nagasaki, June 1944 to August 1945 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953), 55.
33. National Geographic, “How We Fight with Photographs,” 83, no. 3 (September 1944): 263.
34. Craven and Cate, Army Air Forces, 164.
35. D. B. Morse, “Eye in the Sky: The Boeing F-13,” Journal of the American Aviation Historical Society
26 (1981): 150–68; Craven and Cate, Army Air Forces.
36. “Tactical Doctrine XXI Bomber Command, Section H. Photography,” U.S. National Archives,
Modern Military Section, M1652, Roll 4. As diverse as the photographic responsibilities were the
cameras themselves: handheld K-20 point and shoot cameras; gun-mounted K-25 rigs; bomb-frame
tri-metrogon setups, which could record three-dimensional images; the 20-inch lens K-56 favored by
photographic intelligence officers; among others. Richard Eels, “Strategic Bombing Photographs,”
Quarterly Journal of Current Acquisitions 5, no. 1 (1947): 10.
37. Haywood Hansell, Strategic Air War against Germany and Japan (Washington, DC: Office of Air
Force History, United States Air Force, 1986), 179.
38. Kiyosawa Kiyoshi, A Diary of Darkness: The Wartime Diary of Kiyosawa Kiyoshi (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1999), 278.
39. Hansell, Strategic Air War, 179.
40. Air Intelligence Digest, April 19, 1945, 23. Source: Curtis E. LeMay Papers, Library of Congress.
41. Ibid., 24.
42. Hansell, Strategic Air War.
43. 35th Photo Tech Unit. Source: Curtis E. LeMay Papers, Library of Congress.
44. “Memorandum for Chief, Air Intelligence Division on Photo Intelligence,” U.S. National Archives,
Modern Military Section, M1655, Roll 18, 1d.1a, 4.
45. “Strategic Air Intelligence,” U.S. National Archives, Modern Military Section, M1655, Roll 19, 1d.1j,
16–18.
46. See Kries, Piercing the Fog, 369.
47. Joint Target Group, Memorandum No. 1, December 22, 1944, U.S. National Archives, M1653, Roll
2, 1b.1. By the war’s end, the JTG had established priorities for photographic interpretations for more
than five hundred sites in Japan, Manchuria, and Korea.
48. Air Intelligence Digest, June 16, 1945; July 21, 1945; and July 28, 1945.
49. Air Intelligence Digest, June 16, 1945, 9.
50. Air Intelligence Digest, May 4, 1945, 7.
51. Air Intelligence Digest, June 23, 1945, 3.
52. Davide Deriu, “Picturing Ruinscapes,” 200.
53. For close readings of his wartime experiences as told through his diaries, see Matsuo Kiminari, “Daitōa
sensō to kūshū nikki” [The Greater East Asia war and air raid diaries], Shōwa no kurashi kenkyū 8
(March 2012), which is serialized in three installments from 2008 to 2011.
54. See Ishikawa Kōyō, Shōwa no tokyo: ano koro no machi to fūzoku [Tokyo of the Shōwa period: the
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24 Journal of Urban History
city and its manners] (Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha, 1987).
55. A detailed remembrance of this conversation can be found in Ishikawa Kōyō, Tokyo daikūshū no
zenkiroku [The Complete Record of the Great Tokyo air raid] (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1992), 4–5.
56. For such references, see Ishikawa, Tokyo daikūshū no zenkiroku, 4, 5.
57. Ishikawa, Tsūkon no shōwa, 106.
58. Ishikawa, Tokyo daikūshū no zenkiroku, 91.
59. Ishikawa, Tokyo daikūshū no zenkiroku, 88.
60. As cited in Mark Selden, “A forgotten holocaust: U.S. bombing strategy, the destruction of Japanese
cities and the American way of war from World War II to Iraq,” in Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth-
Century History, ed. Yuki Tanaka and Marilyn Young (New York: New Press, 2007), 83.
61. Ishikawa, Tokyo daikūshū no zenkiroku, 90.
62. Based on records of various Japanese government agencies, the United States Strategic Bombing
Survey estimated that, as a result of the March 1945 firebombing, “83,793 persons lost their lives,
41,000 were injured, and 1,000,0000 were made homeless.” United States Strategic Bombing Survey.
USSBS Report 90, Effect of the Incendiary Bomb Attacks on Japan: Report on Eight Cities (Washington,
DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1947), 2. Collectively, air raids (incendiary and nuclear) on
urban Japan caused 627,675 casualties, with 279,425 fatalities. Japan Economic Stabilization Agency,
Taiheiyōsensō ni yoru wagaguni higai sōgo hōkokusho [A comprehensive report on Japan’s destruc-
tion during the Pacific War] (Tokyo, 1949).
63. See, e.g., Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (New York: Hill and Wang,
1982); and Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others (New York: Picador, 2004).
64. Sharon Sliwinski, “A Painful Labor: Responsibility and Photography,” Visual Studies 19, no. 2
(2004): 159.
65. XXI Bomber Command, Tactical Mission Report, Mission No. 40, Target: Urban Area of Tokyo,
Japan, 10 March 1945. Press Briefing, no page number. Source: U.S. National Archives, Record
Group 18, Entry 7A, Box 3224.
66. Elizabeth Spelman, Fruits of Sorrow (Boston: Beacon Press, 1998), 13–14.
67. For a discussion of the politics of memory in Japan as related to the memorialization of the Great Tokyo
Air Raid see Cary Karacas, “Place, Public Memory, and the Tokyo Air Raids,” The Geographical
Review 100, no. 4 (2010): 521–37; for a broader treatment of Japan’s public remembrance of the
Asia-Pacific War, see Franzisca Seraphim, War Memory and Social Politics in Japan, 1945–2005
(Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2008).
68. Maj. George Fielding Eliot, “Let’s Destroy Japan,” Look 9, no. 1 (January 23, 1945): 74; Impact 3,
no. 9 (1945): 3. For a broader treatment of the racial rhetoric of World War II see John Dower, War
without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (New York: Pantheon, 1987).
69. For recordings of these and other wartime songs, see www.authentichistory.com.
70. “Washington Asks for Revenge Bombings,” The New York Times, December 28, 1941.
71. Henry C. Wolfe, “Japan’s Nightmare: A Reminder to Our High Command,” Harper’s Magazine
(January 1943): 187–91.
72. This is markedly different from discussions that took place in Britain in relation to the Royal Air Force
carrying out “area bombing” raids on German cities. Bishop George Bell, e.g., gave a speech before
the House of Lords in which he stated, “It is clear enough that large-scale bombing of enemy towns
was begun by the Nazis. . . . The question with which I am concerned is this. Do the Government
understand the full force of what area bombardment is doing and is destroying now? Are they alive not
only to the vastness of the material damage . . . but also to the harvest they are laying up for the future
relationships of the peoples of Europe as well as to its moral implications?” As cited in George Bell
and Allen Kennedy et al., Bishop George Bell: House of Lords Speeches and Correspondence with
Rudolf Hess (New York: Peter Lang, 2009), 54–55. See also Vera Brittain, Seed of Chaos: What Mass
Bombing Really Means (London: Publication for the Bombing Restriction Committee, New Vision
Publishing Company, 1944).
73. George H. Roeder, “Censoring Disorder: American Visual Imagery of World War II,” in The War in
American Culture: Society and Consciousness During World War II, ed. Lewis A. Erenberg and Susan
E. Hirsch (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 47.
74. “The Tokio Kid.” Time 39, no. 24 (June 15, 1942): 38.
75. “Tokyo Exposed: B-29s Take their First Air Views,” Life (January 8, 1945): 28–29. For a discussion
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Fedman and Karacas 25
of the role that Life magazine played in publishing war-related photographs see Susan D. Moeller,
Shooting War: Photography and the American Experience of Combat (New York: Basic Books,
1989).
76. “On to Tokyo,” Life, February 19, 1945: 85–95.
77. David MacIsaac, Strategic Bombing in World War II: The Story of the United States Strategic Bombing
Survey (New York: Garland, 1976).
78. John W. Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II (New York: Norton,
2000), 414.
79. United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Report 12, The Effects of Bombing on Health and Medical
Services in Japan (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1947), 149.
80. Life, August 20, 1945, 29.
81. George Roeder Jr., “Making Things Visible: Learning from the Censors,” in Living with the Bomb:
American and Japanese Cultural Conflicts in the Nuclear Age, ed. Laura Hein and Mark Selden
(Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1997), 73–99. A few photographs were, however, published in both coun-
tries. A “Tokyo Express” photo-article in the October 8, 1945, issue of Life issue took the viewer on a
train ride to Hiroshima, where we are shown two photographs (taken by photographer J. R. Eyerman)
of people injured by the atomic bombing of that city. In one, a middle-aged woman, her face injured,
looks directly at the camera; and in the other, a mother lies next to her injured son (Life, 27–35).
82. Rupert Jenkins, Nagasaki Journey: The Photographs of Yosuke Yamahata, August 10, 1945 (Rohnert
Park, CA: Pomegranate Artbooks, 1995).
83. Life, September 29, 1952.
84. For examinations of said tensions, see Hein and Selden, eds., Living with the Bomb; Michael Hogan,
ed. Hiroshima in History and Memory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); and Edward
Linenthal and Tom Engelhardt, eds., History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American
Past (New York: Henry Holt, 1996).
85. Julia Adeney Thomas, “Photography, National Identity, and the ‘Cataract of Times’: Wartime Images
and the Case of Japan,” The American Historical Review 103, no. 5 (1998): 1486.
86. Takeuchi Toshizō, ed.. Tōkyō daikūshū hiroku shashinshū [The secret photographic record of the
Great Tokyo Air Raids] (Tokyo: Ondorisha, 1953).
87. “Akuma no kiroku, sekai ni jikiso” [Records of a nightmare; appeal to the world], Yomiuri Shimbun,
May 9, 1971, 13.
88. For more on Andres see his autobiography, Erich Andres, Der Mann mit der Leiter, 50 Jahre unter-
wegs mit dem Hamburg Fotoreporter [The man with the ladder: 50 years on the road with the Hamburg
Photojournalist] (Dölling und Galitz Verlag, 2001). See also Scott Denham, Review of Hans Erich
Nossack, Der Untergang and Jens Rehn, Nichts in Sicht, H-German, H-Net Reviews. November,
2003. For a thorough assessment of the changing contours of Germany’s public memory regarding
the air raids, see Mary Nolan, “Air Wars, Memory Wars,” Central European History 38, no. 1 (2005):
7–40.
89. “Tōkyō daikūshū no kakusareta sangeki” [The hidden tragedy of the Great Tokyo Air Raids], Shūkan
Gendai (February 25, 1971): 44–49; “San gatsu tōka tōkyō musabetsu bakugeki no kizuato” [The scars
of the March 10th indiscriminant bombing of Tokyo], Shūkan Yomiuri (March 19, 1971): 33–38.
90. In the 1980s, three books featuring Ishikawa’s photographs were released by Japan’s largest publish-
ing houses.
91. On Ienaga’s textbook battles, see Ienaga Saburō, Japan’s Past, Japan’s Future: One Historian’s
Odyssey, trans. Richard Minear (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000), 151–75.
92. For an account of the creation of the Shōwakan and an analysis of its contents see Kerry Smith, “The
Shōwa Hall: Memorializing Japan’s War at Home,” The Public Historian 24, no. 4 (2002): 35–64.
93. For similar instances, see E. Bartlett Kerr, Flames over Tokyo: The U.S. Army Air Forces’ Incendiary
Campaign against Japan 1944-1945 (New York: Donald Fine, 1991); Conrad Crane, Bomb, Cities,
and Civilians: American Airpower Strategy in World War II (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press,
1993); Barret Tillman, Whirlwind: The Air War against Japan 1942-1945 (New York: Simon &
Schuster, 2010); and Mark Clodfelter, Beneficial Bombing: The Progressive Foundations of American
Air Power, 1917–1945 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011).
94. Kenneth Werrell, Blankets of Fire: U.S. Bombers over Japan during World War II (Washington, DC:
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26 Journal of Urban History
Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996), Note to figure 51, no page number.
95. Michael Sherry, “Bombing in the American Imagination: A Visual Essay,” in The Rise of American
Air Power: The Creation of Armageddon (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987), no page
number.
96. Ibid.
97. John W. Dower, Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor / Hiroshima / 9-11 / Iraq (New York: Norton, 2011).
98. Carolyn Peter and John Swope, A Letter from Japan: The Photographs of John Swope (Los Angeles:
Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, 2006), 220.
99. Deriu, “Picturing Ruinscapes,” 197 and 199.
100. The photograph is labeled Tokyo Area Target 90.17 Urban, and found in XXI Bomber Command,
Tactical Mission Report, Mission No. 40.
101. Ishikawa, Tokyo daikūshū no zenkiroku, 95.
102. Thomas, “The Evidence of Sight,” 151.
Author Biographies
David Fedman is a PhD candidate in Japanese and Korean history at Stanford University. He is the author,
with Cary Karacas, of “A Cartographic Fade to Black: Mapping the Destruction of Urban Japan during
World War II” (Journal of Historical Geography, 2012).
Cary Karacas is an assistant professor of geography, Department of Political Science and Global Affairs,
College of Staten Island—The City University of New York. He is a cultural geographer who specializes in
modern Japan, East Asian urbanization, issues related to how memories of catastrophic loss are inscribed
upon the urban landscape, and the civilian experience of aerial bombing during war.
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