TOKYO (AP) — Five American veterans who took part in the firebombing of Japan during World War II saw photos of leveled homes and stacks of charred bodies Wednesday at a museum dedicated to the victims, and said the outcome on the ground of their missions was awful.
Fiske Hanley of Fort Worth, Texas, was an engineer on a B-29 bomber in the March 10, 1945, firebombing of Tokyo that killed about 100,000 people and destroyed much of the eastern part of the city. On the ground, Haruyo Nihei was a schoolgirl running for her life.
Hanley and Nihei, now 95 and 79, met at the museum on Wednesday and celebrated their survival.
“I was up there,” Hanley said, pointing his finger up as he explained to Nihei that he was flying that night. “Awful.”
Hanley stopped in front of each photo on exhibit, studying the damage and shaking his head. “Terrible,” he repeated.
All five veterans crashed during the final months of the war and were taken prisoner by the Japanese.
Nihei, who survived under layers of people who fell on top of her, said she was happy that the men had taken the time to see the damage of the firebombing despite their suffering during their captivity.
“You’re a survivor, I’m a survivor too,” Hanley told Nihei.
The five veterans, who were on separate planes that firebombed different areas of Japan, are visiting Tokyo on a Japanese government reconciliation program for former prisoners of war. During their weeklong trip, they will visit the sites where they crashed and the prisons where they were held captive.
Hanley, who was a second lieutenant at 25 years old, also carried out 16 firebombing and combat missions over other major cities, including Nagoya, Kobe and Fukuoka. His B-29 was shot down over southwestern Japan 17 days after firebombing Tokyo.