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"Japanese Incendiary Bombs" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following WWII military report on Japanese incendiary phosphorus bombs was published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 12, November 19, 1942.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


Examination of incendiary bombs dropped by the Japanese over Rangoon showed that the most common type contained, as incendiary filling, a large number of rubber pellets impregnated with phosphorus.

The bomb is 3 feet 4 inches long, 7 1/4 inches wide at the nose, and 9 inches wide at the fin; the latter is 1 foot 3 inches long by 9 inches wide; the cylinder containing the pellets is 7 inches wide and the casing 1/2 inch thick; the pellets are gray in color, 1 1/16 inches long and 1 inch in diameter.

The bomb has a high explosive charge in the nose cap. There is also a steel exploder tube running down the inside of the bomb body. The fuze is instantaneous, and, on explosion, a high fragmentation effect is obtained, the splinters from the nose cap having a very flat trajectory. Pellets are widely scattered, some having been located as far as 50 yards from the point of impact. On explosion of the bomb, these incendiary pellets ignite immediately or within a minute or two of falling. Each pellet produced a flame 4 to 6 inches high burning at a comparatively low temperature. They burn from 5 to 7 minutes, giving off a gray smoke, smelling slightly of burning rubber.

The pellets can be temporarily extinguished by throwing water over them or by covering with sand or earth. Since the pellets ignite after the water has evaporated or the sand has been removed, they should be picked up as soon as possible and placed in a bucket of water or other container and emptied on some open ground; they should be thinly spread out to allow them to burn out harmlessly. Any instrument except the bare hands or highly inflammable material may be used for picking up the pellets; very effective and cheap instruments can be made from old kerosene cans shaped into scoops, pincers, or tongs. In case of necessity the pellets can be picked up by means of two pieces of wood used as "chopsticks."

Sometimes a number of pellets remain in the bomb crater. They should be allowed to burn themselves out if the crater is in the open; the crater should then be widened, using a shovel or other tool in order to expose any further pellets, and these should be dealt with as explained above. If near inflammable material, the crater should be doused with water; the pellets can then be dug out and removed while the earth is still wet.

The pellets should not be allowed to come in contact with any part of the body; they should not be stepped upon as they may burn even through boots or shoes. Fragments of the bomb should not be touched since they will probably be covered with phosphorus, and tools used in dealing with the bomb should be thoroughly washed after use.

The introduction of this phosphorus bomb does not render the stirrup pump any less effective; where fires have been started, the stirrup pump can be brought into operation to control them, and the water will also temporarily extinguish the pellets until they can be picked up. Extreme caution however must be exercised by the No. 1 of the stirrup-pump party in approaching fires caused by phosphorus bombs, in order to avoid injury to himself through crawling over the pellets lying on the floor. It must be realized that the pellets are dangerous to handle or touch even when temporarily extinguished and apparently inactive.


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