Wartime maps of cities damaged by Allied bombers on exhibit for first time

August 14, 2013

By DAISUKE SHIMIZU/ Staff Writer

Maps of Japanese cities that were devastated by Allied air raids during World War II are currently on display at the National Archives of Japan in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward.

Covering 131 municipalities stretching from northern Hokkaido to southern Kagoshima Prefecture, most of the maps are being shown to the public for the first time.

The maps were completed in December 1945 to provide information to military personnel, as well as civilian workers for the military, on their way home from overseas battlefields. Records show the maps were displayed in ships bringing back demobilized soldiers to Japan, according to officials.

“People must have stared at the maps to find any clues about (damage to) their homes, places where their families evacuated and other areas,” said Yukiko Nagae, an archivist at the National Archives of Japan. “I would like visitors to imagine how people at the time felt.”

Titled, “Record of air raids: General maps of war damage in major cities in Japan,” the exhibition is being organized to give people an opportunity to think about the destruction of wars.

The maps were drawn up by the data section of the First Ministry of Demobilization, which took over the investigation on the damage situation of areas across the country from the army ministry immediately after the war. Two maps each are on display for Tokyo, Kawasaki and Sasebo, a city in Nagasaki Prefecture.

Most of the maps measure about 55 x 40 centimeters. Devastated locations and heavily burned areas are indicated with red lines.

In Tokyo, for example, areas damaged by air attacks over a total of seven days between February and May of 1945 are indicated by seven patterns of red lines. The seven days include the Great Tokyo Air Raid of March 10, 1945, in which some 300 B-29s destroyed about 268,000 buildings and killed around 100,000 people.

Different patterns of red lines overlap in devastated areas along the Sumidagawa river in the eastern part of the capital. The relatively unscathed Imperial Palace appears white.

The National Archives of Japan is holding a rotating exhibition of the maps through Sept. 20. The archives is closed weekends and national holidays.

By DAISUKE SHIMIZU/ Staff Writer
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A map showing war-ravaged areas in Tokyo is being exhibited at the National Archives of Japan through Aug. 23. (Daisuke Shimizu)

A map showing war-ravaged areas in Tokyo is being exhibited at the National Archives of Japan through Aug. 23. (Daisuke Shimizu)

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  • A map showing war-ravaged areas in Tokyo is being exhibited at the National Archives of Japan through Aug. 23. (Daisuke Shimizu)
  • A map showing damaged areas in Osaka will be exhibited at the National Archives of Japan from Aug. 26 to Sept. 6. (Provided by the National Archives of Japan)
  • A map showing damaged areas in Nagoya will be exhibited at the National Archives of Japan from Aug. 26 to Sept. 6. (Provided by the National Archives of Japan)

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