Chemical weapons are an invention of the western war machine. Introduced into trench warfare by the French in 1915, over 190,000 tons of chemical weapons were produced during World War 1. There were an estimated 1.3 million casualties caused by chemicals during the war, with 90,000 fatalities.
Often referred to as the “Chemists War,” World War I saw the rise of chemical weapons being used on the battlefield. It all began with the French Army, who used tear gas in the form of small grenades.
These small grenades didn’t hold much gas, and were largely undetected by German forces. The French issued a redesign on the tear gas, and from here, weapon use expanded to other gases and agents such as mustard gas, phosgene, and chlorine.
Chemical weapons were dangerous, as they could be undetectable as well as deadly. Because of this, they were a popular choice on the battlefield. Whether used to cause nuisance or pain, chemical weapons played a large role in World War I.
Types of Gases Used
Asphyxiant gases, mainly mustard gas. Mustard gas is particularly dangerous as it can take several hours to appear. Soldiers who were burned by the gas would see large blisters form where the chemical had touched them. The blisters would fill up with blood and puss, and turn yellow. If a soldier’s body was over 50% burned, the chance for survival diminished rapidly. When inhaled, mustard gas caused internal burns and blisters and could lead to breathing issues.
Sternutator Gases such as phosgene, chlorine, and diphosgene. These gases caused pain in the chest as well as pain in the eyes and nose. They could also cause choking, nausea, vomiting, coughing and sneezing.
Lachrymator, or tear gas. Tear gas caused irritation to soldiers’ throats and eyes. The gas was more of a nuisance than anything and was virtually ineffective with a gas mask.
Development and Early Chemicals
The French were the first to employ chemical weapons, using tear gas in August of 1914. The gas was filled in 26mm grenades and contained a very low amount of tear gas, which made it unnoticeable to troops. Because of this, the active ingredient was changed from bromine to chloroacetone in the second wave of tear gas grenades that were issued to French troops. This made the gas a little stronger, but not by a substantial amount.
1915 would bring about a lot of changes to the chemical weapons being used in attacks. The Germans were the first to use gases on a large scale attack in January of 1915, when they dropped 18,000 chemical shells, loaded with xylyl bromide, on Russian lines near Rawka River west of Warsaw. This attack was a disappointment, however, as the chemical froze instead of vaporizing.
The Germans would find more success just a few months after the attack, using a different gas. German scientist Fritz Haber, who had overseen the production of chlorine as a chemical weapon, pushed for the chemical to be used in warfare.
Haber’s chlorine would be used for the first time on April 22nd, 1915. The gas was deployed from 5,730 cylinders which lined a road just north of Ypres in Belgium. At first, the deployment appeared to be unsuccessful, but as the winds shifted, the gas began to spread across the land. This lead to both Germans and Allied troops being affected by the poisonous gas. It was the first major use of poisonous gas and lead to the research of over 3,000 gases that could be used in war.
Haber’s success garnered him the name ‘Father of Chemical Warfare,’ as his use of Chlorine led to widespread advancements in chemical use. He also helped develop the gas mask, which helped aid in the amount of casualties caused by the very chemical weapons he had worked to create.
Chlorine saw even more use after the first Battle of Ypres, including in the Second Battle of Ypres, which occurred just two days after the first battle. It was then used a week later on May 2nd and again, against the British, on May 5th at Hill 60. The gas killed over 90 men at the Hill.
Following the use of gases in the Battle of Ypres and at Hill 60 against the British, they began to develop their own chemical weapons. Their first attempt with chemical weapons occurred at the Battle of Loos. It was a failure. Due to the winds, the gas never really moved past no man’s land, and some of it hung around British trenches.
To add insult to injury, the British gas masks were poorly designed. Some troops’ gas masks eye holes fogged over, causing them to remove their mask to see and so leaving them exposed.
In August of 1915, German Forces used the gas against Russian troops who were defending Fort Osowiec. The gas attack had such an effect on the Russians that the Russian Army began to research and development of chemical gas in shells.
Introduction of Phosgene
Chlorine had some drawbacks as a weapon. It was easy to detect, as once deployed the gas would produce a green cloudy smoke, which came with a strong oder. The gas was also water soluble; a damp cloth held over the face could reduce the effects the gas had on you.
So, in late 1915, the French-developed phosgene was put in to use. The gas attacked the lungs, and would cause initial symptoms of coughing, sneezing, vomiting and choking.
While phosgene could be used by itself, it was often mixed with chlorine. The gas was largely odorless and didn’t produce a cloud. This made it undetectable, and so far more dangerous. One of the issues those who used the gas faced, was that it could take up to a day for symptoms to show, meaning those who had been around the chemical could fight back. While Phosgene was the second most manufactured gas in World War I, it was the deadliest chemical weapon used. Phosgene accounted for 80-85% of all chemical weapon deaths in World War I.
Perhaps the most feared chemical weapon used in WWI was mustard gas. It was developed by the Germans and was introduced to war in July of 1917. Because mustard gas was used in shells, once deployed it could get into the soil and stay there for several weeks at a time. This meant anyone who came through the area could get the poison in their system.
Because of this, the gas was often used as a land pollutant. Mustard gas only accounts for 5% of chemical weapon deaths in WWI, but it’s widely reported on due to the nature of the burns that victims received.
Over 190,000 tons of chemical weapons were produced during World War 1. There were an estimated 1.3 million casualties caused by chemicals during the war, with 90,000 fatalities.
Originally published on 2016-11-18
Author: Lincoln Riddle
Source: War History Online
Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest.
Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!
Donate to Support Us
We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
When I think about North Korea, what first comes to my mind is a mist over the calm and majestic surface of the Taedong River near Pyongyang. Next I always recall two lovers, locked in a tender and almost desperate embrace, sitting side by side on the shore. I saw them every day, while taking brisk walks at dawn. Now I don’t know for sure whether they were real or just a product of my fantasy; a sad and gentle reminder of all that has been already lost, as well as of all that should have happened but never really ...
Since Soviet Russia’s 1991 dissolution, successive US administrations governed increasingly lawlessly and recklessly – Bill Clinton worse than his predecessors, Bush worse than him, Obama worst of all, at war with multiple invented enemies throughout his tenure – from inaugural day to the present.
A neocon Hillary Clinton presidency succeeding him risks the unthinkable – possible WW III. America’s rage for dominance, its wanting planet earth colonized, and increasing belligerence toward Russia and China points to eventual confrontation.
Unknown is to what extent, but when conflicts begin, they take on a life of their own. Starting them is easy, resolving them another ...
Missing from corporate media accounts is what causes the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK aka North Korea) to be singled out for opprobrium for what, essentially, is developing a deterrent against any entity that would attack it.
A comparison with how the United Nations deals with North Korea vis-à-vis another member state state, Israel, is instructive.
Israel occupies Palestinian territory; destroys Palestinian olive groves and poisons Palestinian sheep; sprays Palestinian homes with sewage; sabotages Palestinian water supplies; cuts off power to Palestine; terrorizes Palestinians for hours at checkpoints, including the sick, infirm, and pregnant women, some who are forced to give birth ...
On Mar. 24, US president Barack Obama announced that all 9,800 US troops currently stationed in Afghanistan will remain until the end of 2015. This generated a fair amount of criticism: it was, after all, Obama’s promise that the last American troop would leave the country in 2014.
How have Obama’s plans for pulling out of Afghanistan fared so far?
Those expecting the US to leave Afghanistan, however, should take a minute to consider this: the US still hasn’t left Germany. In fact, there are quite a few places the US hasn’t left, and while certainly most of them don’t pose a threat to American soldiers, ...
The American taxpayers have been fleeced for almost seventy years by a so-called «intelligence» agency that has systematically violated the US Constitution, broken practically every federal law on the books, and penetrated virtually every facet of American life. The Central Intelligence Agency’s creation was bemoaned by its creator, President Harry S Truman, who, in a fit of personal angst following the 1963 assassination of President John F Kennedy, wrote in a newspaper column,
“I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations… I, therefore, would like to see the ...
Two German researchers claim that Germany owes Greece 185 billion euros in World War II reparations, of which less that 1 percent has been paid.
German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reviewed a book called “Reparation Debt Mortgages of German Cccupation in Greece and Europe”, in which historian Karl Heinz Roth and researcher Hartmut Rubner, present documents of the dispute and conclude that, even though Berlin claims the war reparations issue was resolved in 1960, in fact nothing has been done about it.
According to their calculations, based on the study of mainly German documents, the total debt to Greece is 185 billion euros.
The book ...
Lest anyone be tempted to believe that President Trump and other U.S. interventionists are intervening in Venezuela because of some purported concern for the Venezuelan people, let’s examine just a few examples that will bring a dose of reality to the situation. This latest intervention is nothing more than another interventionist power play, one intended to replace one dictatorial regime with another.Egypt comes to mind. It is ruled by one of the most brutal and tyrannical military dictatorships in the world. The U.S. government loves it, supports it, and partners with it. There is no concern for the Egyptian citizenry, ...
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair currently back in Britain, cast a dark shadow over those campaigning to stay in the European Union in the 23rd June referendum. Inflicting himself on the Britain Stronger in Europe group, he spoke at every opportunity – reminding even the most passionate Europhile of the last time he assured: “I know I’m right” – Iraq.
If the “Remainers” had an ounce of sense Blair should have been ditched in a nano-second. He is not “Toxic Tony” for nothing.
However, since the long awaited Chilcot Inquiry in to the Iraq invasion is to be published just thirteen days after ...
Exclusive: The U.S. government and the mainstream media rushed to judgment again, blaming the Syrian government for a new poison-gas attack and ignoring other possibilities, reports Robert Parry.
With the latest hasty judgment about Tuesday’s poison-gas deaths in a rebel-held area of northern Syria, the mainstream U.S. news media once more reveals itself to be a threat to responsible journalism and to the future of humanity. Again, we see the troubling pattern of verdict first, investigation later, even when that behavior can lead to a dangerous war escalation and many more deaths.
Before a careful evaluation of the evidence about Tuesday’s tragedy ...
The Green Corridor is a geopolitical concept with two meanings: (a) The Islamists’ goal of creating a contiguous chain of Muslim-dominated polities from Istanbul in the southeast to northwestern Bosnia, a mere 120 miles from Austria ; and (b) The process of increasing ethno-religious assertiveness among the Muslim communities along that route. The process entails four key elements:
Expanding the area of those communities’ demographic dominance;
Establishing and/or expanding various entities under Muslim political control with actual or potential claim to sovereign statehood;
Enhancing the dominant community’s Islamic character and identity within those entities, with the parallel decrease of presence and power of non-Muslim groups; and
Prompting Muslim communities’ ambitions for ever bolder ...
An establishment pillar of the European ‘order’ – the Frankfurter Allgemeiner newspaper – explicitly touches the ‘live rail’, which is to say, it ran an op-ed last month titled ‘A Nazi EU?’, speculating on whether or not the present EU, dominated by Germany, should be understood as a lineal extension of German National Socialism. This has not before been an issue at all touched upon in mainstream German discourse. That it appears at all signals something important: a recognition that the dissidence being experienced by the EU has its roots in something other than just populist grievance tantrums. It is the resurfacing of ...
Why is France so interested in Syria? According to the Guardian, France’s policy in Syria has been “more forward than any other Western country”:
“[France] was early in calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down, still insists he must go, and recently joined airstrikes inside Syria against the Islamic State.”
France joined the United States in bombing Syrian territory (without a U.N. mandate) even before the United Kingdom did. In 2013, France stood by Obama’s side despite the fact the United Kingdom’s parliament voted not to join Obama’s efforts to “punish” Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for crossing Obama’s imaginary red line. ...
Israel has played an increasingly provocative role in the destructive conflict unfolding within and along Syria’s borders since 2011. To many observers, it appears Israeli policy borders between opportunistic and unilateral aggression. In reality, Israel’s role in the Syrian conflict fits a much larger and long-term pattern with Anglo-American plans not only for Syria but for the entire region.
A more recent row between Israel and Syria was the reported incursion of Israeli warplanes into Syrian airspace, including attacks near the eastern Syrian city of Palmyra. Palmyra hosts an ongoing battle between Syrian forces and the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (ISIS) terrorist ...
There are horrific realities of history that must not be questioned, distorted or denied by anyone with even the slightest integrity or sense of decency.
The slaughter of millions of Jews in the death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Majdanek, Belzec, Chelmno and Sobibor during the Holocaust of World War II falls squarely in this category.
So does the fundamental fact that this ultimate crime against humanity was perpetrated by Nazi Germany and its multinational fascist accomplices.
Any attempt to deny or to attempt to trivialise or minimise the enormity of this genocide, or to rehabilitate its perpetrators in any way whatsoever, is, simply ...
If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible…”
Harry S. Truman, 33rd POTUS, 1941
Since the end of the Second World War, the bourgeois historiography has tried to distort various incidents in order to vilify Socialism and the USSR. One of these incidents- which has been a “banner” of imperialism’s apologists and other anticommunists- is the so-called “Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact“* which was signed in 1939. In it’s unscientific, unhistorical effort to equate Communism with Nazism, the bourgeois propaganda presents ...
Magic, and tragic years, tend to fill the calendar of commemoration for central European patriots. There are religious intercessions; guiding symbols; omens. Then there are the calamities, the crushing battles that empty entire classes and countries.
For Hungary, a country ever dreamy and mournful about such events, there are two notable disasters of rollicking value. There is Mohács 1526, where a good deal of the country’s aristocratic elite fell before the relentless Ottoman advance. The event effectively gave the Hapsburgs the ascendency to the west, assuming the role of defender against the Turkish advance into Europe.
Then there is 1956, where the invaders ...
The American people should, in the words of Vietnam War Veteran Brian Willson “place themselves in the position of people living in targeted countries. That North Korea, a nation of 24 million people, i.e., one-twentieth the population of the U.S., many of them poor, a land slightly larger in area than the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, continues to be one of the most demonized nations and least understood, totally perplexes the Korean people.”
What most people in America do not know –and which is particularly relevant when assessing the “threats” of the DPRK to World peace– is that North Korea lost thirty percent ...
Preface At the beginning of the 20th century the Great European Powers,[i] divided into two totally antagonistic political-military alliances, were preparing themselves for the final settling of accounts among each other concerning the new division of political-economic spheres of influence and the redistributing the colonies around the world. Their different interests overlapped upon the territory of South-East Europe, much more look down at the other parts of the globe, for the reason of the exploitation of the regional natural wealth and to take advantage of the military-strategic importance of South-East Europe as the strategic hinterland of East Mediterranean and the most ...
More than six decades after Berlin’s capitulation which capped World War II, the war is still raging, now in the form of revisionist attempts to cast a shadow over the memory of Soviet soldiers who fought in it. Among other things, the efforts aimed at equating fascism – a monster nurtured by the West in the 1930s-1940s – and Russia’s XX century wartime past are supposed to divert attention from the continuity between the Anglo-Saxon imperialism and the German national socialism. The nature and key traits of the continuity are exposed in “From Imperialism to Fascism: Why Hitlers’ India was ...
Well-intentioned and artfully executed, The Vietnam War—Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s 10-part, 18-hour-long documentary series on PBS—is not history, but rather story-telling and remembrance. Balanced, exhaustive, and relentlessly solemn, it glides along the surface of things, even when that surface is crowded with arrogance, miscalculation, deceit, and bloodletting on an epic scale.According to one promotional trailer prepared for the series, “In war there is no single truth.” Embedded within every war (as in other forms of human endeavor) are multiple truths—some of them trivial, others very important indeed. The purpose of history is to unearth and engage with those truths ...
Why Trump is Wrong About North Korea
A Clinton Presidency: Humanity’s Worst Nightmare. Hillary’s “Rage for War”
A Telling Comparison: Israel versus North Korea
These are all the Countries where the US has a Military Presence (in 2015)
CIA: The Corrupt and Ignorant Agency
German Researchers: Berlin Owes Greece €185 Bln in WW II Reparations
The U.S. Government’s Love of Foreign Dictatorships
From Iraq to the Brexit Referendum: Tony Blair’s Toxic Legacy
Another Dangerous Rush to Judgment in Syria
Kosovo and the Jihadist Green Corridor in the Balkans
Suddenly Europe is an Open Question – ‘A Nazi EU?’
Here’s Why France Should Be Blamed for the Destruction in Syria
Israel: America’s “Mad Dog” in Syria
Croatia Must Not Whitewash the Horrors of Jasenovac
The 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact & Imperialist Propaganda
Manipulating Uprisings: Hungary 1956
North Korea vs the United States: Who are the Demons?
South-East Europe in the International Relations at the Turn of the 20th Century (I)
Anglo-Saxon Roots of German Nazism
Past all Reason: The Vietnam War