From June to October 1950 US Far East Air Force (FEAF) B-29 bombers limited their targets to transport centers and industrial hubs in North Korea. Nevertheless, these “precision bombing” attacks resulted in a high rate of civilian casualties.
Referring to the attack on Kanggye, MacArthur reportedly said: “…destroy it as a lesson to any other of those towns that you consider of military value to the enemy.”
The FEAF commander General George Stratemeyer then sent orders to the Fifth Air Force and Bomber Command to “destroy
every means of communications and every installation, factory, city, and village.”
On 5 November 1950 twenty-two B-29s attacked Kanggye, destroying 75% of the city.
In the wake of the Kanggye attack, FEAF began an intensive firebombing campaign that quickly incinerated multiple Korean cities. Three weeks after the attacks began, the air force assessed the damage as follows:
- Ch’osan – 85%
- Hoeryong (Hoeryŏng)- 90%
- Huich’on (Hŭich’ŏn)- 75%
- Kanggye – 75%
- Kointong – 90%
- Manp’ochin – 95%
- Namsi – 90%
- Sakchu – 75%
- Sinuichu – 60%
- Uichu – 20%
Source: Bombing of North Korea
Available evidence points toward the conclusion that the firebombing of North Korea’s cities, towns, and villages produced more civilian deaths than any other bombing campaign in history.
Bombing Civilians: A 20th-century history
This book provides a comprehensive review and powerful moral criticism regarding the indiscriminate but also deliberate bombing of civilian populations