Japan mourned today for the 105,400 people killed in a single night 70 years ago, when US B-29 bombers obliterated much of Tokyo in the deadliest conventional bomb attack ever. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe bowed in a somber ceremony held in a downtown temple used as a memorial for the victims of World War II bombings. "With the lessons of the atrocities of war etched deeply in our hearts, we must humbly face the past and do our utmost to contribute to world peace," said Abe as a group of dignitaries, survivors, and other residents looked on. The B-29s flew over in the dead of night, dumping massive payloads of cluster bombs equipped with a then-recent invention: napalm. A fifth of Tokyo was left a smoldering expanse of charred bodies and rubble.
Where earlier raids targeted aircraft factories and military facilities, the Tokyo firebombing was aimed largely at civilians in places where people lived in traditional wood and paper homes at densities sometimes exceeding 100,000 people per square mile. The March 10, 1945, attack on Tokyo and similar firebombings that followed in more than 60 other Japanese cities have received little attention, eclipsed by the atomic bombings and Japan's postwar rush to rebuild. The only formal public monument for the Tokyo victims is a modest floral memorial near the temple where today's ceremony was held. Historian Masahiko Yamabe says authorities "are reluctant to acknowledge civilian suffering from the wartime leaders' refusal to end the war earlier" and face pressure for compensation.