1946 map of occupied Tokyo, highlighting the ravages of American firebombing

Prepared under the direction of Chief of Engineers, GHQ, U.S. Army, by Nippon Map Co., TOKYO AND VICINITY Showing bombed-out areas. [Tokyo?], Feb. 1946.
Map printed in 5 colors, 29”h x 40 ¾”w at neat line plus margins. Reverse side with title panel and large regional map printed in green. Numerous ink annotations. Small separations at a few fold intersections, two printer’s creases along upper edge with small resulting edge tear. About very good.

An uncommon and horrifying 1946 map produced for use by members of the Allied forces occupying Tokyo, highlighting the vast area of the city incinerated by American bombing near the end of the Second World War. With curious annotations, worthy of further study.

Adapted from a Japanese map, this map provides a street plan of the city, with a variety of symbols identifying political boundaries, rail- and tramways, government offices and embassies, police and fire stations, and a host of other features (The symbols are explained by legends in both Japanese and English.) Transliterations of Japanese place names are overprinted in blue, with a glossary at lower right defining 23 common suffixes commonly found in Japanese toponyms. Dominating the whole are huge zones overprinted in orange to delineate “bombed-out areas”, occasionally bisected by green lines indicating “building[s] removed for fire-break[s].”

The extent of the damage suggests a drawn-out campaign of strategic bombing. In fact most of the damage was done early on the morning of March 10, 1945, by nearly 300 bombers of Curtis LeMay’s XXI Bomber Command flying out of the Marianas islands of Guam, Saipan and Tinian. They dropped some 1600 tons of incendiary bombs on the city, destroying an estimated 16 square miles of mostly-wooden structures and asphyxiating and incinerating perhaps 100,000 people on the ground. This raid was followed by dozens of incendiary raids on Japanese cities that killed hundreds of thousands more. Some sources argue that these raids, coupled with the Allied blockade of Japanese shipping, forced Japan to the brink of surrender, even before atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagaski.

One intriguing feature of the map is the Imperial Palace, shown as intact in the area labeled “Kojimachi-Ku”. Though it was deliberately not targeted during the raid of March 10, many of its buildings were destroyed in a subsequent raid in May. I can only speculate, but the destruction of the Palace may have been intentionally omitted on this map for political reasons.

The map is rather heavily annotated, albeit obscurely so. Two concentric circles have been inked in, with radii of roughly 5 ½ and 10 ½ miles from the center of the Imperial Palace. Also present are 17 inked circles, most but not all roughly 5/8” in diameter, all in the western half of the map, and almost all are in areas undamaged by bombing. Each is accompanied by one or two numbers or alphanumeric combinations, such as a circle along Highway 2 annotated with a “14” and “200”. Finally, quite a few locations have been marked with small dots in blue ink.  The meaning of all of this is unclear: I assume the annotations are related in some way to the city’s occupation or reconstruction, but will the question to a future owner.

Rumsey, #13109. OCLC 57372066 gives 7 institutional holdings as of June 2023.