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M47A1 Napalm Incendiary bomb
Palm Springs Air Museum visit November, 2008

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Incendiary Bombs


M47A1 Incendiary bomb at Palm Springs Air Museum - California


Incendiary or "fire" bombs were developed for use in wartime to cause considerable fire damage and also to demoralize the enemy population. Three types of incendiaries were used by the U.S. Army Air Forces during WWII; the M-47, the M-50 magnesium bomb, and the M-69 cluster bomb. These bombs were originally built to destroy enemy war industries and other buildings of military importance, but proved to be useful against dug-in fortifications.




Incendiary bombs being dropped from B-29s

Fire-bombing from B-29s. National Parks Service Photo.

These fire raids on Japan were ordered by General Curtis LeMay, and involved low flying B-29s which dropped their bombs at night. The bombers, flying from the Mariana Islands, continued their raids from November 17, 1944 until August 15, 1945.


The 100 pound M47 bomb series could be filled with Napalm, White Phosphorus, or Mustard filler. Bomb in the photo above on the left, from the Palm Springs Air Museum, is marked as an M47A1 incendiary, labeled for Napalm (NP) filler. Because of a leakage problem with the bomb cases, these bombs were filled in the field shortly before loading onto the bombers. The table below contains information from the U.S. War Department Ammunition Inspection Guide, March 2, 1944 and Palm Springs Air Museum.


M47 bomb markings

*All M47 bombs were painted blue-gray

  Contents Abbreviation Stenciling color Banding
 

White Phosphorus

WP Yellow 1 yellow band
 

Mustard Gas

H Green 2 green bands
Crude latex or sap in combination
Reduced crude latex
Dried crude latex
Smoked rubber sheets
Napalm
LA-60
CR
LA100
SR
NP

Purple
Purple
Purple
Purple

Purple

1 purple band
1 purple band
1 purple band
1 purple band
1 purple band

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