August 22

Richard Marshall’s Aug. 16 Free for All letter, The effect of napalm ,” stated that “Napalm was first used in war by the United States in the firebombing of German and Japanese cities . . . [and] did not lessen the German or Japanese leaders’ willingness to fight.”

The use of weapons that include flammable liquids goes back thousands of years. The term “napalm” refers to a specific gasoline gel developed by the United States during World War II , but the first modern use of petroleum-based incendiary bombs was not by the United States but rather by German bombers in 1915 against English coastal cities. Ground and air-launched napalm-like bombs were used by both sides in that war and later saw extensive use by the Italian and German air forces in Spain and Abyssinia in the mid-1930s. The Japanese used similar types of bombs against Chinese cities in the late 1930s, the destruction of Chongqing, for instance, being almost entirely by incendiary bomb types, including bombs filled with gasoline and kerosene gels.

And yes, the Japanese assaults on Chinese civilians caused massive casualties but failed to destroy Chinese resistance against the invaders.

David Sciacchitano, McLean