Bombing of South-East Asia (1944–45)

Last updated
Bombardment of Southeast Asia
Part of Pacific Theatre of World War II
Damage caused by Allied bombing.jpg
A Royal Air Force motor transport driver surveys damage caused by Allied bombing at Singapore docks, September 1945.
Result Allied victory

From 1944 to 1945, during the final stage of World War II, the Allies undertook the strategic bombing of South-East Asia . The main targets of Allied air raids were Thailand and Japanese-occupied Indochina.

World War II 1939–1945, between Axis and Allies

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from more than 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Allies of World War II Grouping of the victorious countries of World War II

The Allies of World War II, called the United Nations from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.

Strategic bombing during World War II

Strategic bombing during World War II was the sustained aerial attack on railways, harbours, cities, workers' and civilian housing, and industrial districts in enemy territory during World War II. Strategic bombing is a military strategy which is distinct from both close air support of ground forces and tactical air power.


Royal Navy operations

Grumman Avenger torpedo bombers from HMS Indefatigable forming up for a raid on a Japanese oil refinery at Pangkalan Brandan, Sumatra. The Royal Navy during the Second World War A27166.jpg
Grumman Avenger torpedo bombers from HMS Indefatigable forming up for a raid on a Japanese oil refinery at Pangkalan Brandan, Sumatra.

By 1944, the German Navy no longer presented a major threat and the Royal Navy was able to transfer major units to the Far East. This would fulfil a British wish to become involved in the Pacific War. First, however, experience was required of large-scale naval air operations and of United States procedures. To this end and to degrade Japanese capabilities, attacks were made on Indonesian oil installations, some in concert with the American carrier, USS Saratoga.[ citation needed ]

USS <i>Saratoga</i> (CV-3) US Navy aircraft carrier sunk by nuclear weapon testing at Bikini atoll

USS Saratoga (CV-3) was a Lexington-class aircraft carrier built for the United States Navy during the 1920s. Originally designed as a battlecruiser, she was converted into one of the Navy's first aircraft carriers during construction to comply with the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. The ship entered service in 1928 and was assigned to the Pacific Fleet for her entire career. Saratoga and her sister ship, Lexington, were used to develop and refine carrier tactics in a series of annual exercises before World War II. On more than one occasion these exercises included successful surprise attacks on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. She was one of three prewar US fleet aircraft carriers, along with Enterprise and Ranger, to serve throughout World War II.

Operation Cockpit

Operation Cockpit was a bombing raid by aircraft from two Allied naval forces on 19 April 1944. The targets were Japanese port and oil facilities on Sabang Island.

Operation Transom

Operation Transom was a bombing raid on Japanese targets at Surabaya, Java by American and British aircraft on 17 May 1944 during World War II.

Operation Crimson

Operation Crimson was a British-led naval operation in World War II, the objective being simultaneous naval bombardment and aerial strikes on Japanese airfields in the Indonesian cities of Sabang, Lhoknga and Kutaraja, to be launched from aircraft carriers in the Indian Ocean on 25 July 1944.

Indochina bombing campaign

Because colonial French Indochina remained loyal to the Vichy government and made numerous concessions to Japan, including allow Japanese troops, ships and airplanes to be stationed in Cochinchina, the Allies targeted industrial and military facilities in neutral Indochina beginning in 1942. In this the Allies were aided by a young French naval officer, Robert Meynier, [1] who, beginning in May 1943, organised a network of informants in the bureaucracy of French Indochina. Before the collapse of the network in mid-1944 it managed to provide information on bombing targets, Japanese troops whereabouts and fortifications. [2] In August 1942, the United States Fourteenth Air Force based in southern China undertook the first air raids in Indochina. In September 1943, the United States picked up the pace of the bombing, hitting the harbour of Haiphong repeatedly. By the end of 1944 the Japanese were entirely avoiding Haiphong. In late 1943 the Americans began raiding the phosphate mines at Lao Cai and Cao Bang. [2] In all of this the air force had the help of "GBT", a multi-ethnic (and possibly Freemason) network of spies and informants working outside control of either Vichy of the Free French. [3] In September 1944 the Americans dropped leaflets in French and Vietnamese showing pictures of the liberation of Paris, and quoting various jovial war correspondents from Europe. [4]

French Indochina Federal state in Southeast Asia

French Indochina, officially known as the Indochinese Union from 1887 and the Indochinese Federation after 1947, was a grouping of French colonial territories in Southeast Asia.

Cochinchina former country

Cochinchina or Quinam is a region encompassing the southern third of current Vietnam whose principal city is Saigon. It was a French colony from 1862 to 1954. The later state of South Vietnam was created in 1954 by combining Cochinchina with southern Annam. In Vietnamese, the region is called Nam Bộ. Historically, it was Gia Định (1779–1832), Nam Kỳ (1834–1945), Nam Bộ (1945–48), Nam phần (1948–56), Nam Việt (1956–75), and later Miền Nam. In French, it was called la colonie de Cochinchine.

Fourteenth Air Force Numbered air force of the United States Air Force responsible for space forces

The Fourteenth Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Space Command (AFSPC). It is headquartered at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

Coal mined in the Hon Gai region around Haiphong, was shipped south along the coast, either by train or by junk, to be converted into charcoal gas, which was necessary to replace dwindling gasoline and petroleum supplies. The Allies targeted these shipments, putting a stop to them by the end of 1944. Besides charcoal gas, the Japanese in Indochina relied on ethanol, usually produced from rice, and on butanol as fuel for motor vehicles and aircraft, respectively. Two butanol distilleries at Cholon became the targets of airstrikes in February 1944, [5] and the ethanol distilleries of Nam Dinh and Thanh Hoa were hit several times into March. [2] By the summer, the United States Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was reporting increased alcohol production in the north, in Tonkin, even as the famine was spreading. [5] In April–May, American bombers hit the spinning and weaving mills of Haiphong and Nam Dinh, although the villagers continued cloth production on hand looms in nearby villages. [6] In May the US Army Air Forces began sending B-24 Liberators on night runs over Saigon, hitting mainly port facilities and railyards, but also some residential neighbourhoods. On 16 May an attack killed 213 civilians and injured another 843. Detailed target maps of Saigon were produced based on information obtained in April–June 1944. [2] On 7 February 1945, a B-29 Superfortress, flying from Calcutta through cloud cover, and dropping bombs by radar, mistakenly hit a hospital and a French barracks in Saigon. Thirty Europeans and 150 Vietnamese were killed, hundreds more injured, and not one Japanese harmed. [2]

Junk (ship) Type of boat

A junk is a type of ancient Chinese sailing ship that is still in use today. Junks were used as seagoing vessels as early as the 2nd century AD during the Eastern Han dynasty and developed rapidly during the Song dynasty (960–1279). They continued to evolve in the later dynasties, and were used throughout Asia for extensive ocean voyages. They were found, and in lesser numbers are still found, throughout South-East Asia and India, but primarily in China. Found more broadly today is a growing number of modern recreational junk-rigged sailboats.

Gasoline Transparent, petroleum-derived liquid that is used primarily as a fuel

Gasoline, or petrol, is a colorless petroleum-derived flammable liquid that is used primarily as a fuel in spark-ignited internal combustion engines. It consists mostly of organic compounds obtained by the fractional distillation of petroleum, enhanced with a variety of additives. On average, a 42-U.S.-gallon (160-liter) barrel of crude oil yields about 19 U.S. gallons of gasoline after processing in an oil refinery, though this varies based on the crude oil assay.

Petroleum Naturally occurring hydrocarbon liquid found underground

Petroleum is a naturally occurring, yellowish-black liquid found in geological formations beneath the Earth's surface. It is commonly refined into various types of fuels. Components of petroleum are separated using a technique called fractional distillation, i.e. separation of a liquid mixture into fractions differing in boiling point by means of distillation, typically using a fractionating column.

The British intelligence mission Force 136 air-dropped several Free French operatives into Indochina in early 1945. They provided detailed information on targets to British headquarters in India and China, who transmitted them to the Americans. The French operatives were reluctant to provide information on French or Vietnamese targets, and their most important contribution was relating ship movements along the coast. American carrier aircraft sank twenty-four vessels and damaged another thirteen in January 1945. [2] An OSS report of 19 March 1945 contains eight pages of shipping information from one anonymous French official who had contacts from Saigon in the south to Qui Nhon in the north. [2] Another Frenchman, a civilian ship pilot working for the Japanese on the Saigon river, sent shipping information to the Americans until March, and even continued with Japanese until the war's end without being discovered. [7]

"By July 1945, American aircraft roamed Indochina at will, bombing and strafing trains, small postal and passenger boats, government buildings, and storage facilities of any description." [2]

As the famine spread, on 8 March 1945, General Eugène Mordant of the Corps Léger d'Intervention radioed the Free French government in Paris asking them to pressure the United States to halt bombing operations against the ports north of Vinh, in a vain effort to forestall further food shortages. [8] The Fourteenth Air Force could not render tactical air cover to the French and Indochinese defending Lang Son from a hostile Japanese takeover on 9–10 March. [9] After the citadel capitulated on 12 March, bombers of the Fourteenth did strike it, inadvertently killing several hundred native Vietnamese riflemen who were being interned there by the Japanese. [10] Between 12 and 28 March, the Americans flew thirty-four bombing, strafing and reconnaissance missions over Vietnam, although the commanding general, Claire Chennault, refused to air-drop weapons in light of the confusing situation on the ground. He did, however, drop medicines. [11]

The American bombing campaign gained intensity after the surrender of Germany and victory in Europe. On 4 July 1945 in Nam Dinh province American airplanes hit the steam launch Nam Hai, killing two and hospitalising twenty-seven (with two dying en route); five others were missing. A few days later Haiphong was struck, sinking a dredge and a floating dock. The Japanese moved their ships up the Mekong river from Saigon and Cap St Jacques (now Vung Tau). [2] The United States also dropped leaflets in French, Vietnamese and Japanese, and some were bilingual. They warned people to stay away from railroads, bridges and ferries, and cautioned them against helping the Japanese to repair bomb damage: "Our airplanes will come again, and if you are near the target you will probably be killed by association." [12] After the victory over Japan, on 19 August the denizens of Hanoi broke into the streets and removed the black coverings of the street lamps. [13]

Thailand bombing campaign

Bombing of Rama VI Bridge Bombing of Rama VI Bridge.jpg
Bombing of Rama VI Bridge

Although Thailand declared war on both the United States and the United Kingdom, the former chose to treat the declaration as made under duress on account of the Japanese invasion and hence null. The British accepted the declaration and considered Thailand an enemy. According to a report of December 1945, the Allies dropped 18,583 bombs on Thailand, resulting in the death of 8,711 people and the destruction of 9,616 buildings, 617 trucks, 73 locomotives and 173 other vehicles. A further 1,194 buildings were damaged. [14] The prime target of the campaign was Bangkok, the Thai capital. Rural areas were almost entirely unaffected. [15]

In October 1944 the British reported that they were receiving "high grade intelligence" from Thailand concerning bombing targets and the results of their bombing raids. [16] The United States Office of Strategic Services (OSS) had a mission in Thailand supporting the Free Thai movement. Frequent messages were sent by OSS officers on the ground to South East Asia Command (SEAC) imploring more discriminate target selection in Thailand, but the OSS had little influence on the air force. [17]

A strafing run of 5 March 1945 on the Bangkok Noi railway station in Thonburi resulted in 78 civilian fatalities and damage to the house of the Thai politician Pridi Banomyong, an important American ally. [18] On 22 March a train carrying Thai soldiers was hit outside of Paknampo, although Free Thai allies had urged that the railway line not be targeted because the troops being transferred might be useful in the north in the event of a Thai–Japanese break. [18] Another "indiscriminate bombing and strafing" of a railroad killed 400 civilians and 50 Thai soldiers on 2 April. [17] On 7 April, American airplanes attacked Don Muang airfield, destroying several craft of the Thai Air Force, including two that had just landed with the commander of the Phayap Army, the Thai force then occupying part of Burma. [17] During this raid, three Americans—Captain Abrahams, Lieutenant Mackenzie and Lieutenant Wimer—had to bail out of their aircraft and were captured by the Thais. [17]

On 14 April 1945, the American and British B-24 Liberators raided Bangkok from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., knocking out the Samsen power plant and damaging the city's only other one. Bangkok was left mostly without power or running water, and 200 civilians were killed. [19] On 18 April, the Allies raided Bangkok again, striking the wharves of the Borneo Company, two of which burned for at least two more days. [20] On 10 July eight B-24s of the Royal Air Force killed 90 and injured 400 in a raid on Bangkok. [21] On 13 July Pridi Banomyong requested a halt to Allied bombing, urging leaflet drops instead. On 14 July, the Bangkok terminus railway station was bombed. [14] On 29 July the Royal Air Force bombed the Bangkok Noi railway station, although they missed the station itself and one bomb landed on the campus of Thammasat University. [22] Thammasat—which had held foreign internees until its evacuation after the 5 March bombing [23] —was not the only university affected: Chulalongkorn University had to suspend classes by January 1945 on account of the bombing. [24] A SEAC report of 27 July concluded that an interruption to the bombing campaign prompted by Free Thai complaints only encouraged the Japanese, who knew about Allied contact with Thai elements, to pressure the Thais in request a halt to the bombing. [22]

See also

Related Research Articles

Albert Peter Dewey, was an American Office of Strategic Services operative shot to death in a case of mistaken identity by Communist aligned Viet Minh troops on September 26, 1945. Dewey was the first American fatality in French Indochina, killed during the 1945 Vietnamese uprising.

Laotian Civil War 1959-1975 civil war in Laos

The Laotian Civil War (1959–75) was a civil war in Laos fought between the Communist Pathet Lao and the Royal Lao Government from 23 May 1959 to 2 December 1975. It is associated with the Cambodian Civil War and the Vietnam War, with both sides receiving heavy external support in a proxy war between the global Cold War superpowers. It is called the Secret War among the CIA Special Activities Division and Hmong veterans of the conflict.

First Indochina War 1946-1954 war between France and Hồ Chí Minhs forces

The First Indochina War began in French Indochina on December 19, 1946, and lasted until July 20, 1954. Fighting between French forces and their Việt Minh opponents in the south dated from September 1945. The conflict pitted a range of forces, including the French Union's French Far East Expeditionary Corps, led by France and supported by Bảo Đại's Vietnamese National Army against the Việt Minh, led by Hồ Chí Minh and the People's Army of Vietnam led by Võ Nguyên Giáp. Most of the fighting took place in Tonkin in northern Vietnam, although the conflict engulfed the entire country and also extended into the neighboring French Indochina protectorates of Laos and Cambodia.

Free Thai Movement

The Free Thai Movement was a Thai underground resistance movement against Imperial Japan during World War II. Seri Thai were an important source of military intelligence for the Allies in the region.

Operation Linebacker an aerial operation during the Vietnam War

Operation Linebacker was the codename of a U.S. Seventh Air Force and U.S. Navy Task Force 77 air interdiction campaign conducted against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam from 9 May to 23 October 1972, during the Vietnam War.

Jean Étienne Valluy French general

Jean Etienne Valluy was a French general.

The Vietnamese famine of 1945 was a famine that occurred in northern Vietnam in French Indochina during World War II from October 1944 to late 1945, which at the time was under Japanese occupation from 1940 with Vichy France as a puppet government. Between 400,000 and 2 million people are estimated to have starved to death during this time. The demographics vary from French estimates of 600,000-700,000 dead, to official Vietnamese numbers of 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 victims.

Empire of Vietnam former country

The Empire of Vietnam was a short-lived puppet state of Imperial Japan governing the former French protectorates of Annam and Tonkin between March 11 and August 23, 1945.

Japanese invasion of French Indochina battle

The Japanese invasion of French Indochina was a short undeclared military confrontation between Japan and France in northern French Indochina. Fighting lasted from 22 to 26 September 1940, simultaneous with the Battle of South Guangxi in the Sino-Japanese War.

The French Far East Expeditionary Corps was a colonial expeditionary force of the French Union Army that was initially formed in French Indochina during 1945 during the Pacific War. The CEFEO later fought and lost in the First Indochina War against the Viet Minh rebels.

Japanese <i>coup détat</i> in French Indochina

The Japanese coup d'état in French Indochina, known as Meigo Sakusen, was a Japanese operation that took place on 9 March 1945 towards the end of World War II. With Japanese forces losing the war and the threat of an Allied invasion of Indochina imminent, the Japanese were concerned about an uprising against them by French colonial forces.

Trần Trọng Kim Vietnamese Prime Minister

Trần Trọng Kim, courtesy name Lệ Thần, was a Vietnamese scholar and politician who served as the Prime Minister of the short-lived Empire of Vietnam, a state established with the support of Imperial Japan in 1945 after Japan had seized direct control of Vietnam from the Vichy French colonial forces during the Second World War. He was an uncle of Bui Diem.

Jean Sainteny or Jean Roger was a French politician who was sent to Vietnam after the end of the Second World War in order to accept the surrender of the Japanese forces and to attempt to reincorporate Vietnam into French Indochina.

War in Vietnam (1945–46) Prelude to the Indochina Wars

The War in Vietnam, codenamed Operation Masterdom by the British, and also known as Nam Bộ kháng chiến by the Vietnamese, was a post–World War II armed conflict involving a largely British-Indian and French task force and Japanese troops from the Southern Expeditionary Army Group, versus the Vietnamese communist movement, the Viet Minh, for control of the southern half of the country, after the unconditional Japanese surrender.

Rail transport in Vietnam

The railway system in Vietnam is owned and operated by the state-owned Vietnam Railways. The principal route, the single track North-South Railway running between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, accounts for 1,726 kilometres (1,072 mi) of the network's total length of 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi). The national railway network uses mainly metre gauge, although there are several standard gauge and mixed gauge lines in the North of the country.

Bombing of Bangkok in World War II

Bangkok was bombed by the Allies on numerous occasions during World War II. I It was also the target for the first combat mission by Boeing B-29 Superfortresses in June 1944.

French Indochina in World War II

In the northern-hemisphere summer of 1940 Germany rapidly defeated the French Third Republic, and colonial administration of French Indochina passed to the French State. In September 1940 Japanese troops first entered parts of Indochina; and in July 1941 Japan extended its control over the whole of French Indochina. The United States, concerned by Japanese expansion, started putting embargoes on exports of steel and oil to Japan from July 1940. The desire to escape these embargoes and to become self-sufficient in resources ultimately contributed to Japan's decision to attack on December 7, 1941 the British Empire and simultaneously the USA and at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii). This led to the USA declaring war against Japan on December 8, 1941. The US then joined the British Empire, already at war with Germany since 1939, and its existing allies in the fight against the Axis powers.

1940–1946 in French Indochina

1940—1946 in French Indochina focuses on events that happened in French Indochina during and after World War II and which influenced the eventual decision for military intervention by the United States in the Vietnam War. French Indochina in the 1940s was divided into five protectorates: Cambodia, Laos, Tonkin, Annam, and Cochinchina. The latter three made up Vietnam. In 1940, the French controlled 23 million Vietnamese with 12,000 French soldiers, about 40,000 Vietnamese soldiers, and the Sûreté, a powerful police force. At that time, the U.S. had little interest in Vietnam or French Indochina as a whole. Fewer than 100 Americans, mostly missionaries, lived in Vietnam and U.S. government representation consisted of one consul resident in Saigon.


  1. David G. Marr, Vietnam 1945: The Quest for Power (University of California Press, 1995), 271 n. 117. Meynier was married to a daughter of the Vietnamese mandarin Hoang Trong Phu. Several French and British agents died attempting to free her from a German prison camp to participate in the espionage network.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Marr, Vietnam, 271–74.
  3. Marr, Vietnam, 272 n. 119. This network was named for its three leaders: Laurence Gordon, a Canadian, who headed up Texaco's operations in Haiphong before the war; Harry Bernard, a British tobacco dealer; and Frank Tan, a Chinese–American entrepreneur. The network was also aided by a French priest with a wide array of connexions in the Catholic mission in Indochina.
  4. Marr, Vietnam, 274 n. 135.
  5. 1 2 Marr, Vietnam, 34.
  6. Marr, Vietnam, 32.
  7. Marr, Vietnam, 274 n. 132. This pilot, a political leftist, was referred to as Monsieur Canac by Ho Huu Tuong in an interview in 1967, a nickname perhaps derived from the Kanak people of the South Pacific.
  8. Marr, Vietnam, 100.
  9. Marr, Vietnam, 241. When General Chennault of the Fourteenth Air Force requested permission from China Burma India Theater headquarters to bomb Japanese positions around Lang Son on 9 March, he received the order "Give them hell". In the end, Japanese and French positions were too close together for a safe bombing.
  10. Marr, Vietnam, 60.
  11. Marr, Vietnam, 242.
  12. Marr, Vietnam, 274 and n. 135. On 20 July the Americans dropped leaflets in Vietnamese and Japanese in Hung Yen province. Cf. also Fig. 20 on p. 275, which shows a Vietnamese/French leaflet that refers to the locals as Các ba.n Viê.t-Nam ("Vietnamese friends").
  13. Marr, Vietnam, 401.
  14. 1 2 E. Bruce Reynolds, Thailand's Secret War: The Free Thai, OSS, and SOE During World War II (Cambridge University Press, 2005), 354 n. 68.
  15. Reynolds, Thailand's Secret War, 431.
  16. Reynolds, Thailand's Secret War, 258.
  17. 1 2 3 4 Reynolds, Thailand's Secret War, 301–02 and n. 47.
  18. 1 2 Reynolds, Thailand's Secret War, 296.
  19. Reynolds, Thailand's Secret War, 304–05 with photograph on 306.
  20. Reynolds, Thailand's Secret War, 307.
  21. Reynolds, Thailand's Secret War, 354.
  22. 1 2 Reynolds, Thailand's Secret War, 355.
  23. Reynolds, Thailand's Secret War, 352.
  24. Reynolds, Thailand's Secret War, 293.