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B-29 Superfortress bombers dropping incendiary bombs on Yokohama in May 1945

Air raids on Japan by the Allies in World War II caused extensive destruction and casualties; the most commonly cited estimates are 333,000 killed and 473,000 wounded. During the first years of the Pacific War, these attacks were limited to the Doolittle Raid in April 1942 and small-scale raids on military positions in the Kuril Islands starting in mid-1943. Strategic bombing raids began in June 1944 and were greatly expanded in November. The raids initially attempted to target industrial facilities, but from March 1945 onwards were generally directed against urban areas. Aircraft flying from aircraft carriers and the Ryukyu Islands also frequently struck targets in Japan during 1945 in preparation for an Allied invasion planned for October. In early August, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were struck and mostly destroyed by atomic bombs. Japan's military and civil defenses were not capable of protecting the country, and the Allied forces generally suffered few losses. The bombing campaign was one of the main factors in the Japanese government's decision to surrender in mid-August 1945. Nevertheless, there has been a long-running debate over the attacks on Japanese cities, and the decision to use atomic weapons has been particularly controversial. (Full article...)

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Today's featured picture

NGC 6752

NGC 6752 is a globular cluster of intermediate density in the constellation Pavo. First identified in 1826 by James Dunlop, the cluster lies around 13,000 light years distant. It is visible to the naked eye in good viewing conditions.

Photograph: NASA/STScI

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