This is indeed a bombardier's photograph of a U.S. aerial bombing of the city of Kobe, Japan in 1945.
The photo is a part of a small range of photos I found that claim to have 'never-seen-before' which of course is a lie, because someone has to have send the damn things when the photo was taken.
Anyhow, while not a great photograph for the poor people of 1945 Kobe, taken in context of a historical photo from WWII, this is a fantastic shot.
Obviously the shipyards/piers are the main target of the U.S forces to ensure supplies don't get in or supplies don't get out to any of the islands Japan either controls or is attempting to control. Classic war strategy - cut off the supply train of fuel, ammunition and food and you severely weaken the enemy.
It is impressive... and by that I mean the number of bombs that are being dropped... carpet bombing... a saturation bombing strike that has a broad target and its goal is to inflict as much damage to a wide range of area as possible.
Kobe, was and is the sixth-largest city in Japan by population with one-million people, was first bombed by the Allied forces (pretty much just the US of A) on May 11, 1945 targeting the Kawanishi Aircraft Company aircraft factory. It built floatcraft fighter planes. Ninety-two B-29 bombers were involved in this attack. Following the war, the Kawanishi company was reborn as Shin Meiwa Industries, which still builds sea planes to this day.
The main offensive on the city, and its population, was done by Allied forces in World War II on March 16 and again a day later on March 17, 1945.
The reason for bombing this city by the Allies was part of a defined campaign to dull the fervor of both the military and civilians in targeted areas of both during the closing stages of the war.
Aside from the city's size, it was also the largest port city in Japan, not to mention the main place where ships and ship engines were built.
Over this two-day raid, 331 B-29 bombers bombed the crap out of Kobe done by all three wings of the US XXI Bomber Command, namely the 73rd, 313th, and 314th bombardment wings.
Other attacks on Kobe were:
- June 18, 1945: 25 B-29s dropped naval mines in several areas including waters near Kobe;
- June 28, 1945: 29 B-29s again dropped naval mines in three harbors, including Kobe;
- July 19, 1945: 27 B-29s laid naval mines in several areas including waters near Kobe;
- July 30, 1945: Fighters attack airfields, railroads and tactical targets throughout the Kobe-Osaka area
That's my two-cents evaluation of the photo. Feel free to correct me if anyone possesses facts more accurate than my guess.