Meanwhile, on the other side of the world…

XBradTC posted on the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge a couple of days ago. On this day in 1944, 77 B-29 Superfortress and 200 other aircraft of U.S. Twentieth and Fourteenth Air Forces bombed Hankow (also spelled Hankou), part of the Wuhan metropolitan area in China. Its military significance was as a port where the Han River meets the Yangtze. There were also steelworks in nearby Hanyang. The city was hit with five hundred tons of incendiary bombs and burned for three days.

The city had been bombed earlier in 1944 with little strategic effect. Operation Matterhorn set up B-29 bases in China and India for bombing Japanese-held cities in mainland China, Formosa (now Taiwan) and the Japanese island Kyushu. Major General Curtis LeMay was transferred from Europe to China to lead this operation, which was hamstrung by the supply lines. From Wikipedia, “For every Superfortress combat mission, the command flew an average of six B–29 round-trip cargo missions over the Hump.” They just couldn’t supply enough fuel and bombs to keep up. The Marianas ended up being better bases for bombing Japan.

Interesting politics must have been involved, because there were deals with both Chiang Kai-Shek and Mao Zedong.

4 thoughts on “Meanwhile, on the other side of the world…”

  1. LeMay’s 21st, or 20th (can’t remember which it was) supplied Mao with medical supplies and a few radios so Mao could help downed crews. He said later he didn’t like it, but his crews came first.

    Even in the Marianas, LeMay ran out of bombs. He had to deal with Nimitz and LeMay warned Nimitz that he was running low, but Nimitz and his staff had no feel for the kind of consumption rates LeMay’s forces had. A squadron of B-29s could expend more bombs on one mission than a Carrier task force could. It was the difference between a tactical and strategic air force.

  2. While I was a geology student at WSU in the late 1970s, I met a Chinese geologist who was one of the first allowed to come to the West (his wife and daughter were held in Peking/Bejing as surety for his return). He wore the typical Mao suit, and a cap with a red star. He spoke perfect English — slang really from the 1940s, since he learned it as a young boy from the American airmen landing in his city after flying over The Hump (Himalayas). As a preeminent Chinese massive sulfide expert, he had translated one of my professor’s textbooks from English, and he had to work in the re-education camps as a young man as a result of his advanced education. China was a difficult place for a well-qualified scientist in those days, and so, Pullman must have been a no-brainer for him!

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