Yawata (129.76E 33.15N) is a city in northeastern Kyushu. It was the location of Imperial Iron and Steel, the largest steel works in the Japanese Empire, which produced 2,250,000 metric tons of steel per year. This constituted 25% of Japan's rolled steel during the war. The population was 261,300 persons in 1944.

The steel works were the first Japanese target to be raided by B-29s, on 16 June 1944. Yawata was considered a valuable strategic target, but the raid also had tactical value as a diversion from the assault on Saipan. Principal targets were the three coking plants, and because the long range was thought to preclude defensive formation flying, the raid was conducted at night. Some 92 Superfortresses staged to Chengtu, of which just 68 were able to get airborne again after refueling. Of these, 47 reached the Yawata area, and although opposition was light, only one bomb actually struck the plant. Casualties were seven aircraft and 55 aircrew lost, mostly operationally. This fiasco was a harbinger of the ultimate failure of the effort to bomb Japan from China.

Because the town had poor geography for radar navigation, it was not fire bombed until 8 August 1945. On that date, three wings of B-29 Superfortresses (245 aircraft) destroyed 22 percent of the city.

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