In This Review
Black Snow: Curtis LeMay, the Firebombing of Tokyo, and the Road to the Atomic Bomb

Black Snow: Curtis LeMay, the Firebombing of Tokyo, and the Road to the Atomic Bomb

By James M. Scott

Norton, 2022, 432 pp.

The massive air raids conducted by the Allies during the later stages of World War II against both Germany and Japan remain controversial because of their enormous human toll as well as their dubious strategic benefit. In this powerful and compelling narrative history, Scott explains how and why the United States bombed Japan in this way. The production of the heavy bomber B-29 Superfortress made these raids possible, but U.S. planners chose to use the B-29 to attack cities only after failing to employ the bombers with precision. Scott acknowledges the bravery of the crews who conducted these missions and the single-minded determination and innovative tactics of General Curtis LeMay, the U.S. air force commander. All this culminated in a raid on Tokyo in March 1945 that involved 279 B-29s flying low and dropping incendiaries. The firebombing of Tokyo killed as many as 100,000 people. Scott vividly describes the horrific impact of the inferno on the city and its residents. The attack created the moral climate in which it was possible, five months later, to use atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.