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A raid in 1940
Casualties of a mass-panic during a Japanese air raid in Chongqing in 1941. Photo by Carl Mydans.

The bombing of Chongqing (Traditional Chinese: 重慶大轟炸, Simplified Chinese: 重庆大轰炸, Japanese: 重慶爆撃, from 18 February 1938 to 23 August 1943) was part of an Imperial Japanese Army Air Service and Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service terror bombing operation on the Chinese provisional capital of Chongqing authorized by the Imperial General Headquarters.

A conservative estimate places the number of bombing runs at more than 5,000, with more than 11,500 bombs dropped, mainly incendiary bombs. The targets were usually residential areas, business areas, schools, hospitals (non-military targets). These bombings were probably aimed at cowing the Chinese government, or as part of the planned Sichuan invasion.


The raids

In character with the Japanese approach to air warfare, the bombing of Chongqing was focused almost entirely on the civilian population, thus it can be seen as an early example of terror bombing. In the first two days of the campaign, the raids of May 1939 killed more than five thousand Chinese civilians.[1]

Two months later, after tens of thousands of deaths, in retaliation for firebombing, the United States embargoed the export of airplane parts to Japan, thus imposing its first economic sanction against Japan.[1]

On 5 June 1941, the Japanese flew more than 20 sorties, bombing the city for 3 hours. About four thousand residents, who hid in a tunnel, were asphyxiated.[2]

The majority of the air raids conducted against Chongqing were made with squadrons of Mitsubishi G3Ms, known as Nells, Mitsubishi Ki-1-Is, Fiat BR.20s Cicogna (Ruths), Mitsubishi Ki-21s Sallys and Kawasaki Ki-48s Lilys although towards the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Mitsubishi G4Ms (Bettys), Nakajima Ki-49s Donryu (Helens), Yokosuka P1Ys Ginga (Frances) and Mitsubishi Ki-67s Hiryu (Peggys) were also employed. Due to the unpreparedness of the Chinese Air Force at the beginning of the war, much of the air raids were totally unopposed. Thus the campaign was one made against a defenceless target, and remains, like other Japanese atrocities during the war such as the Nanjing Massacre, highly contentious to the present day.

Total bomb tonnage and raids

Three thousand tons of bombs were launched on the city between 1939 and 1942.[2] According to photographer Carl Mydans, the spring 1941 bombings were «the most destructive shelling ever made on a city.» [3] A total of 268 air raids were conducted against Chongqing.

Lawsuit against Japanese government

In March 2006, 40 Chinese who were wounded or lost family members during the bombings sued the Japanese government asking 10 million yen each and asked for apologies. "By filling a lawsuit, we want the Japanese people to know about Chongqing bombings," said a victim.[4]



  1. ^ a b Herbert Bix (2001). Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan. , p.364
  2. ^ a b Don Moser (1978). China-Burma-India. Time-Life. , pp.11, 8
  3. ^ Don Moser, China-Burma-India, Time-Life, 1978, p.8
  4. ^ Chongqing bombing victims sue, Japan Times, 31 March 2006,, Japanese Government accused of Chongqing Bombings, People's Daily Online,

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