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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 23, 2010 07:44PM) (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
This is a thread to discuss the technology and weaponry utilized in World War I.

World War I and Its Technology

"Unlike wars in past centuries, hapless combatants, armed mainly with bayonet-equipped rifles, faced unforeseen threats, which grew out of expanding mechanization and scientific research:

the flamethrower, a German invention, could hurl a burning stream of gasoline gel at bunkers and pillboxes.

chlorine gas burned the lungs of victims, who either died or lived a miserable invalidism. Against the rules of the Geneva Convention, poisonous gas added a terrifying aspect to an already brutal war. The gas mask, invented by Garrett Augustus Morgan, an African-American, became a regular part of infantry gear.

the biplane, a plane with two sets of wings that could pinpoint troops massing for a ground attack, was enhanced by Anthony Fokker with a machine gun, which was synchronized to the turn of the propeller. The plane was frequently involved in dog fights.

high-explosive shells, frequently mentioned as the most tormenting of weapons, augmented by increased accuracy of aim, devastated trench positions and threatened whole towns.

the zeppelin, a hydrogen-filled airship, could glide silently over targets and drop bombs.

the U-boat, a lethal submarine that Germany used to invade British waters and sink supply ships, scuttled the Lusitania, a passenger vessel traveling from New York to Liverpool, lost off the coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915, killing 1,196 people.

the tank maneuvered inexorably across all types of terrain — mud, barbed wire, and trenches — on rotating caterpillar treads.

More familiar scourges — hunger, dysentery, typhus, and tetanus — reduced otherwise healthy men to ragged, dispirited wrecks.

The First World War by John KeeganJohn Keegan

message 2: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 23, 2010 08:19PM) (new)

message 4: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) Hi Bentley, if you think its worth while I'd be happy to add a few good books that cover some of these weapons; their development, history and use during World War One.

message 5: by Harvey (new)

Harvey | 286 comments sounds cool to me!

message 6: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) I think that most people agree that WW1 was were artillery and the machine-gun dominated. A good book to read about the development and use of the machine gun would be Roger Ford's book; "The Grim Reaper: Machine-Guns and Machine-Gunners in Action". Although this book covers the development and use of the machine gun from its earliest development through to Vietnam it still offers some very good accounts of WW1.

The Grim Reaper Machine-Guns and Machine-Gunners in Action by Roger Ford by Roger Ford
"In The Grim Reaper: Machine Guns and Machine-Gunners in Action the invention of the machine gun is described and the important models of different nations are examined, along with battle accounts from a variety of wars and fronts to describe the difficulties of fighting both in front of and behind such weapons. Roger Ford's The Grim Reaper is an account of this difficult subject in a manner that conveys the human experience foremost and beyond the simple technical facts of the weapons themselves. The result is an illuminating view of the history of modern warfare. No military studies reference book collection can be considered complete without The Grim Reaper." - Midwest Book Review

message 7: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) For those who would like to read further into the development and use of tanks on the Western Front during WW1 there are two good books covering this subject:

Band of Brigands The First Men in Tanks by Christopher Campbell by Christopher Campbell
Publishers blurb:
Inspired by a visit to northeast France to witness the excavation of a remarkably intact World War I tank from beneath a suburban vegetable plot near the town of Cambrai, Christy Campbell—then defense correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph—began to piece together the little-known story of the young men who formed the British Tank Corps. Very few of them had been professional soldiers; they were car enthusiasts and mechanics, plumbers, motorcyclists, circus performers, and polar explorers. One officer declared "I have never seen such a band of brigands in my life." They had trained in conditions of great secrecy in the grounds of a stately home in East Anglia and were originally known as the Heavy Branch, Machine Gun Corps. The word "tank" itself was deliberately chosen to mislead. Men in tanks saw the face of battle at its most brutal. Their task was to crush and burn the enemy out of his fortifications, and to carve a path for the infantry so they could finish the job with bayonet and grenade. Captured tank crews were beaten up or sometimes shot out of hand by the Germans. They fought in their stifling armored boxes packed with gas and explosives, aware that at any moment a shell-hit might incinerate them all. Christy Campbell has combed contemporary diaries and letters and later recollections to tell properly for the first time the robust yet harrowing story of how the first men in tanks went to war. The time frame is 1916-18, with a coda on how German blitzkrieg ideas developed from an English root.

The Devil's Chariots The Birth and Secret Battles of the First Tanks by John Glanfield by John Glanfield
Publishers blurb:
If the view of the military had prevailed in 1915, no tanks would have rolled out of British factories in World War One to become the first to enter battle. Controversy surrounded the new weapon from its inception until the Armistice and beyond. John Glanfield's intensive research has unearthed much new information on the events and personalities surrounding tank production and development to paint a refreshingly different picture of the tank story. "The Devil's Chariots" is a revelatory account of the pioneer builders and their strange machines, of the men who backed them, and their disbelievers. The heroism of the crews is not forgotten, but behind their terrifying war lay a very different series of often bitter conflicts. They were fought out in greatest secrecy by - and sometimes between - the visionaries, constructors, politicians and the Army at home and in France. The lives of many thousands of Allied and German soldiers hung on the outcome. A remarkable chain of events ensued. Abortive tracklayer trials by the Army were followed in 1914-15 by the zealous exploits of Admiralty armoured cars, and bizarre experiments which Winston Churchill was forced to conceal from the War Office. But as the weapon gained acceptance, the battle shifted to a drive for scarce resources, better tanks and design control. The account closes with the disastrous break-up of Britain's world-beating tank design team in 1923 after this, the first machine war.

message 8: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) One of the best titles to cover the development of airpower during WW1 was a book that was first published in 1993 as part of the Smithsonian History of Aviation Series:

The Great War in the Air Military Aviation from 1909 to 1921 by John H. Morrow Jr. by John H. Morrow Jr.
“Aimed at the general reader as well as the specialist, Morrow's history of the development and significance of airpower during WW I will be considered definitive. He compares the military, technological and industrial aspects in the air services of the major powers--France, Germany, England, Italy, Russia, Austria-Hungary, the U.S.--and reveals how, by means of superior production (particularly French aero-engine manufacture), the Allies prevailed in the air war. Extensively researched, the study traces the increasingly important role of aviation in the 1914-1918 conflict, first in rendering ground forces more effective through air reconnaissance and artillery observation and later in air-to-air combat, bombing and strafing. Morrow, a history professor at the University of Georgia, carries his narrative past the Armistice to describe the postwar demobilization of the air services and contraction of the aviation industry, highlighting the impact of the war on the future of air power.” – Publishers Weekly

“Organized year by year, Morrow's encyclopedic examination of aviation's part in World War I concentrates on aircraft engine and airframe production, moving from the slow and frail craft suitable only for artillery spotting to the fleets of fast and durable aircraft that swarmed through the skies at the war's end, their superior numbers meaning victory for the Allies. The approach of the author (history, Univ. of Georgia) is academic, but the emotional content of contemporary accounts rises to the surface now and then with excerpts of letters and other sources to put a human face on this brutal use of an infant technology. This is a serious yet readable history of this vital part of the conflict, meant for any reader with an interest in the early years of aviation.” – Library Journal

message 9: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
'Aussie Rick' wrote: "Hi Bentley, if you think its worth while I'd be happy to add a few good books that cover some of these weapons; their development, history and use during World War One."

That sounds great Aussie Rick

message 10: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) If anyone is interested reading further about the use of Zeppelins by the Germans during WW1 there are many good books but the most detailed would be:

The Zeppelin in Combat A History of the German Naval Airship Division 1912-1918 by Douglas Hill Robinson by Douglas Hill Robinson

There are quite a few other good books so if your interested let me know and I will post the details.

message 11: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
That looks like an interesting book too Aussie Rick..did you have this one in your library as well?

message 12: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) For those who prefer the naval side of things and would like to delve deeper into the German U-boats of WW1 and other submersibles, here’s two decent accounts by Edwyn Gray. The first book covers the German U-boats and the other looks at the British Submarine Service during WW1.

The U-Boat War, 1914-1918 by Edwyn A. Gray by Edwyn A. Gray

A damned un-English weapon The story of British submarine warfare, 1914-18 by Edwyn Gray (no cover) by Edwyn Gray

message 13: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) I know of two books covering Gas warfare during World War One; "Chemical Soldiers: British Gas Warfare in World War I" and " 'GAS!': The Story of the Special Brigade:

Chemical Soldiers British Gas Warfare in World War I (Modern War Studies) by Donald Richter by Donald Richter

"Gas!" The Story Of The Special Brigade by MGen C. H. Foulkes by MGen C. H. Foulkes

message 14: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
Terrific adds...thanks

message 15: by 'Aussie Rick' (last edited Feb 24, 2010 08:31PM) (new)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) Hi Bentley, I have an early edition of "The Zeppelin in Combat" (un-read) along with copies of:

Zeppelins Over England (no cover) by Kenneth Poolman (read)

Zeppelins of World War I: The Dramatic Story of Germany's Lethal Airships (no cover) by Wilbur Cross (read)

For those who wish to read up further on Anthony Fokker and his marvellous planes can try this title:

Fokker: The Creative Years (no cover) by A. R. Weyl

message 16: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
They all sound good to me.

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (SusannaG) For the innovations in surface ships of the period, I'd recommend

Dreadnought by Robert K. Massie and Castles of Steel by Robert K. Massie, both by Robert K. Massie

message 18: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) Two excellent books Susanna, you beat me to it!

message 19: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) One subject that may interest readers of the Great War is sniping. Although used in prior wars, I think the art of sniping developed during World War One with specific training, weapons & equipment and organisation within armies. Here is one book that covers those aspects during WW1:

SNIPING IN FRANCE 1914-18 With Notes on the Scientific Training of Scouts, Observers, and Snipers (Helion Library of the Great War) by Major Prickard (DSO MC) by Major Prickard (DSO MC)
Publishers blurb:
Sniping in France provides a detailed and richly-informative account of how the snipers of the Great War British army trained and fought, and measures taken against their German counterparts. The author was responsible for organising a cohesive structure to the training of the snipers via the First Army School of Scouting, Observation and Sniping, established in 1916.

Written in a very readable style, filled with anecdotes and fascinating detail, the author's study covers the genesis of sniping in the army, his early days instructing XI Corps, and then First Army, including much on the curriculum and work at that unit's School of Scouting, Observation and Sniping. It also includes anecdotal chapters describing sniping memories, before concluding with recollections of training the Portugese Expeditionary Force's snipers, and looking ahead to the future of sniping. Detailed appendices reproduce relevant excerpts from the army's wartime training manuals.

message 20: by Elizabeth S (last edited Feb 26, 2010 09:30AM) (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2063 comments Bentley wrote: "...chlorine gas burned the lungs of victims, who either died or lived a miserable invalidism. Against the rules of the Geneva Convention, poisonous gas added a terrifying aspect to an already brutal war. The gas mask, invented by Garrett Augustus Morgan, an African-American, became a regular part of infantry gear...."

If chlorine gas were a fairly new weapon, it couldn't have been against the Geneva Convention at the time, could it? I spent some time looking through the summaries of the 4 main conventions on wikipedia:

And I didn't see any specific mention of gas. Does anyone know when it became part of the Geneva Convention?

Overall, lots of great information, everyone. WWI really was a time of accelerated technological advances in the art of war.

message 21: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
Chlorine gas, also known as bertholite, was first used as a weapon in World War I by Germany on April 22, 1915 in the Second Battle of Ypres. As described by the soldiers it had a distinctive smell of a mixture between pepper and pineapple. It also tasted metallic and stung the back of the throat and chest. Chlorine can react with water in the mucosa of the lungs to form hydrochloric acid, an irritant which can be lethal. The damage done by chlorine gas can be prevented by a gas mask, or other filtration method, which makes the overall chance of death by chlorine gas much lower than those of other chemical weapons. It was pioneered by a German scientist later to be a Nobel laureate, Fritz Haber of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, in collaboration with the German chemical conglomerate IG Farben, who developed methods for discharging chlorine gas against an entrenched enemy. It is alleged that Haber's role in the use of chlorine as a deadly weapon drove his wife, Clara Immerwahr, to suicide. After its first use, chlorine was utilized by both sides as a chemical weapon, but it was soon replaced by the more deadly gases phosgene and mustard gas.[40:]

message 22: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
Here is an excellent article Elizabeth on Poisonous Gases with timelines:

message 23: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
This is an interesting tidbit;

Adolf Hitler
One notable poison gas victim of World War I was Adolf Hitler, who was temporarily blinded. As a result, Hitler adamantly refused to authorise the use of poison gas on the battlefield during World War II, for fear of retaliation.[48:] However, poison gas agents such as carbon monoxide and Zyklon B were extensively used against civilians in extermination camps.

message 24: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
Effect on World War II

In the Geneva Gas Protocol of the Third Geneva Convention, signed in 1925, the signatory nations agreed not to use poison gas in the future, stating "the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of all analogous liquids, materials or devices, has been justly condemned by the general opinion of the civilised world."

Nevertheless, precautions were taken in World War II. In both Axis and Allied nations, children in school were taught to wear gas masks in case of gas attack. Italy did use poison gas against Ethiopia in 1935 and 1936, and the Empire of Japan used gas against China in 1941. Germany developed the poison gases tabun, sarin, and soman during the war, and, infamously, used Zyklon B in Nazi extermination camps. Neither Germany nor the Allied nations used any of their war gases in combat, despite maintaining large stockpiles and occasional calls for their use,[nb 2:] possibly heeding warnings of awful retaliation. The United States did consider using gas to support their planned invasion of Japan.

message 25: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

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Geneva Protocol
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, usually called the Geneva Protocol, is a treaty prohibiting the first use of chemical and biological weapons. It was signed at Geneva on June 17, 1925 and was entered into force on February 8, 1928.

It prohibits the use of chemical weapons and biological weapons, but has nothing to say about production, storage or transfer. Later treaties did cover these aspects—the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention.

A number of countries submitted reservations when becoming parties to the Geneva Protocol declaring that they only regarded the non-use obligations as applying to other parties and that these obligations would cease to apply if the prohibited weapons were used against them.

message 26: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
Chemical weapons prohibitions

1675 Strasbourg Agreement
The first international agreement limiting the use of chemical weapons, in this case, poison bullets.

1874 Brussels Convention on the Law and Customs of War
Prohibited the employment of poison or poisoned weapons, and the use of arms, projectiles or material to cause unnecessary suffering.

1899 1st Peace Conference at the Hague European Nations
Prohibited "the use of projectiles whose sole purpose is the release of asphyxiating or harmful gases"

1907 2nd Peace Conference at the Hague
The Conference added the use of poisons or poisoned weapons.

1919 Treaty of Versailles
Prohibited poison gas in Germany (Added by E.Arms)

1922 Treaty of Washington
Failed because France objected to clauses relating to submarine warfare.

1925 Geneva Protocol
Prohibited the use of "asphyxiating gas, or any other kind of gas, liquids, substances or similar materials"

1972 Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention
No verification mechanism, negotiations for a protocol to make up this lack halted by USA in 2001

1993 Chemical Weapons Convention Signed
Comprehensive bans on development, production, stockpiling and use of Chemical Weapons, with destruction timelines.

message 27: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
Other gases utilized in World War along with chlorine gas was mustard gas and phosgene and many others

Gases used

A=Allies, C=Central Powers

Xylyl bromide 1914 Lachrymatory, toxic Both

Chlorine 1915 Corrosive. Lung Irritant Both

Phosgene 1915 Irritant - Skin and mucous membranes. Corrosive, toxic Both

Benzylbromide 1915 Lachrymatory C

Chloromethyl chloroformate 1915 Irritant - Eyes, skin, lungs Both

Trichloromethyl chloroformate 1916 Severe irritant, causes burns Both

Chloropicrin 1916 Irritant, lachrymatory, toxic Both

Stannic chloride 1916 Severe irritant, causes burns A

Ethyl iodoacetate 1916 Lachrymatory, toxic A

Bromoacetone 1916 Lachrymatory, irritant Both

Monobromomethyl ethyl ketone 1916 Lachrymatory, irritant

Acrolein[55:] 1916 Lachrymatory, toxic A

Hydrogen cyanide[55:] (Prussic acid) 1916 Toxic, Chemical Asphyxiant A

Hydrogen sulfide[55:] (Sulphuretted hydrogen) 1916 Irritant, toxic A

Diphenylchloroarsine[56:] (Diphenyl chlorasine) 1917 Irritant/Sternutatory C

a-Chlorotoluene (Benzyl chloride) 1917 Irritant, lachrymatory C

Mustard gas[56:] (Bis(2-chloroethyl) sulfide) 1917 Vesicant (blistering agent), lung irritant Both

Bis(chloromethyl) ether (Dichloromethyl ether) 1918 Irritant, can blur vision C

Ethyldichloroarsine[56:] 1918 Vesicant C

N-Ethylcarbazole 1918 Irritant C

message 28: by Elizabeth S (last edited Feb 26, 2010 11:07AM) (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2063 comments Wow, so much info. Thanks! The Adolf Hilter connection was interesting. In the wikipedia article, I was amazed how many more Russian gas casualties there were compared with the other countries. More than half of the fatal gas casualties were Russian.

What scary stuff.

message 29: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
Very...war is bad - no two ways about it.

message 30: by Harvey (last edited Feb 26, 2010 11:42AM) (new)

Harvey | 286 comments Was it Sherman who said "War is hell?"

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (SusannaG) My great-uncle (I think that's the right relation) was mustard-gassed.

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (SusannaG) Harvey wrote: "Was it Sherman who said "War is hell?""


message 33: by Harvey (last edited Feb 26, 2010 12:39PM) (new)

Harvey | 286 comments Luckily for me my maternal grandfather survived Ypres and subsequent action in the Silly Welsh Buggers (South Wales Borderers Rgt.) I wish when I was a small child I had had the wit to sit him down and take down his story! Hindsight is a wonderful thing!

message 34: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) Another weapon that first appeared as a result of the deadlock in trench warfare on the Western front was the flamethrower:


What a horrific weapon of war!

message 35: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Mar 05, 2010 05:40PM) (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
I mentioned that Aussie Rick...what a horrific weapon; when I was at Verdun the museum had videos and film of the Verdun battles...and flamethrowers were featured. Horrible. Seeing this in battle and what it did to the soldiers was awful.

message 36: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) I am yet to visit Verdun (next on my list) but from what I have read the flamethrower was widely used during that battle. A horrific weapon but one we have kept in our arsenals due to its effectiveness!

message 37: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
Well if you do visit the museum in that area, the films are unbelievable. I just visited there last year.

message 38: by Patricrk (new)

Patricrk patrick | 475 comments Bentley wrote: "Well if you do visit the museum in that area, the films are unbelievable. I just visited there last year." I was there in 84 and I still remember the huge rooms full of bones recovered from the battlefield.

message 39: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Mar 07, 2010 08:35AM) (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
Yes, the the Ossuarium of Douaumont; however, the visit there is quite moving; there is a wondeful film and other areas opened to the public which do not show that. However, if you are walking around the building...there are rooms in the lower area such as you described and to this day we are told that they still try to match remains; but you can imagine how impossible a task that is. The area is quite beautifully maintained. The area really is a tribute to those who fell there and very much worth the visit.

Here is a video which is not a bad representation of the area and does show the Ossuarium of Douaumont (the tall imposing structure).

message 40: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
From Musket to Breech Loader:

'... the machine gun is the weapon most often associated with the war ...'

message 41: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
From the Field Gun to the Tank
By Professor Richard Holmes

A heavy gun in action on the Italian front in 1917 ©
The battleground changed forever as soldiers faced devastating attacks from afar. Is it any wonder the Germans referred to tanks as the 'The Devil's Chariot'?

Source: link to BBC

message 42: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
Page 197:

Keegan states: "By the beginning of April, however, Falkenhayn had decided, in order partly to disguise the transfer of troops to the Eastern Front for the forthcoming offensive at Gorlice-Tarnow, partly to experiment with the new gas weapon, to renew pressure on the Ypres salient.

Gas had been used by the Germans already, on the Eastern Front, at Bolimov, on 3 January, when gas-filled shells had been fired into the Russian positions on the River Rawka west of Warsaw. The chemical agent, known to the Germans as T-Stoff (xylyl bromide), was lachrymatory (tear-producing), not lethal. It appears to have troubled the Russians not at all; prevailing temperatures were so low that the chemical froze instead of vaporising.

By April, however, the Germans had a killing agent available in quantity, in the form of chlorine. A "vessicant," which causes death by stimulating over-production of fluid in the lungs, leading to drowning, the material was a by-product of the German dye-stuff industry, controlled by IG Farben, which commanded a virtual world monopoly in those products. They were working to put the gas into cylinders for use in the trenches.

The History of IG Farben:

IG Farben Trial after World War II:

The Empire of IG Farben:

IG Farben Comeback - Time Magazine:

The biggest Farben offshoots are the Bayer, Basf (short for Badische Anilinund Sodafabrik) and Hoechst companies, which account for 95% of the total business. All have paid for their postwar reconstruction out of profits, plus some $8,000,000 in ECA loans. All made their big comebacks under the guidance of I. G. Farben oldtimers, many of whom were once staunch Nazis. Typical is the Bayer company, biggest of the group, which suffered $40 million in war damages, emerged from the war with run-down and obsolescent equipment. Like other Farben units, Bayer lost its export markets, which once accounted for about 50% of its sales, when Farben's central sales agency was abolished by the allies. Now the war damage has been repaired, new machinery added, and export business boosted to 34% of gross. In the last two years, Bayer sales have jumped 70%, to $165 million.

Time: July 17, 1952

message 43: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Mar 26, 2010 07:42AM) (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod

April 22nd at Ypres:

Chlorine Gas was used by the Germans against the French trenches (against the Zouaves and the Algerian Riflemen); after thousands of men were clutching at their throats, coughing and stumbling and turning blue...the gas was identified as chlorine. Lieutenant Colonel Ferguson, of the 28th Division, proposed that cloths soaked in water be tied round the mouth as a protection. The Germans attacked the Canadians with gas again on 24 April, but the effect was less on the first day and more reinforcements were at hand.

What do you think of the use of chemical warfare and gas by the Germans in World War I?

Page 198

message 44: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Mar 26, 2010 07:43AM) (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
Asphyxiant Phosgene and the blistering Mustard Gas:

Gas in a variety of forms, the more deadly asphyxiant phosgene, and the blistering "mustard", would continue in use throughout the war, and chlorine would kill thousands of Russian troops in German offensives west of Warsaw in May.

Why was it not successful?

Keegan stated on page 199 that "Its intrinsic limitations as a weapon, dependent as it was on wind direction, and the rapid development of effective respirators, ensured, however, that it would never prove decisive, as it might have done if large reserves had been at hand to exploit the initial surprise achieved by the Germans in the Second Battle of Ypres."

All I can say is thank goodness there were problems with effective respirators and distribution methodology.

message 45: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2063 comments Bentley wrote: "...All I can say is thank goodness there were problems with effective respirators and distribution methodology."

Well said.

As to what I think of the Germans using chemical warfare and gas in WWI, I guess I can't blame them as much as we would blame someone who did the same thing today. I think there are some similarities to the atom bomb. Both are/were powerful weapons that could achieve that desirable smashing victory by just obliterating the enemy. And yet both were terrible and hard to control.

It makes sense for the Germans, or whoever came up with it first, to try it. After all, war is about killing the other guy. It seems that how that killing is done becomes more terrible with the chemical warfare, and a line is crossed making it too terrible to continue. Where is that line? If you are the one conducting the war, how do you know when you cross it?

message 46: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Mar 29, 2010 02:43AM) (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
I guess I find difficulties with the Germans using chemical warfare; they were the aggressors in all of this - not the French or poor Belgium or even the Russians for that matter. If you are defending yourself against annihilation or a hostile takeover or to stop the war and save lives...maybe there is some sort of moral argument. I only ask the question what moral argument did the Germans have for this war or the next? Not that I condone the use of the atom bomb either - but I thought that the Allies might have been able to make a better case - and then again how do you explain the innocent deaths...a tough dilemma. But the bomb did end the war (World War II) and in that case - Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor and was the aggressor. I can understand your arguments Elizabeth and respect your is a hard one to wrap your arms around. Not sure how you know a line has been crossed unless you think of the undue suffering that you have caused and this is the deterrent.

message 47: by Erick (new)

Erick Burnham | 248 comments Bentley wrote: "Asphyxiant Phosgene and the blistering Mustard Gas:

Gas in a variety of forms, the more deadly asphyxiant phosgene, and the blistering "mustard", would continue in use throughout the war, and chlo..."

Chemical and biological weapons are the only weapons currently in use where a 100% defense is possible. The use of gas masks, protective outerwear and specially modified vehicles can protect the soldiers from all affects of a chemical or biological attack. However, the protective precautions necessary to achieve this significantly reduce combat effectiveness. In modern warfare, chemical weapons are more of a psychological weapon that can be used to reduce an enemy's combat ability than a weapon that would cause casualties.

Chemical and biological warfare also have significant tactical limitations, as Keegan notes. Wind direction can blow the gas back onto your own troops and humidity and rain can effect the persistence of the gas in the area and render it noneffective.

message 48: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
Very true Erick..however, I don't think that the World War I guys had the respirators, etc. they should have had. Here are the lyrics to a song sung in the trenches (Bombed last night) - but I think you are absolutely correct in terms of today's scenario.

Bombed last night, and bombed the night before
Going to get bombed tonight
If we never get bombed any more
When we're bombed, we're scared as we can be
Can't stop the bombing sent from higher Germany.

They're over us, they're over us,
One shell hole for just the four of us,
Thank your lucky stars there are no more of us,
'Cause one of us can fill it all alone.

Gassed last night, and gassed the night before
Going to get gassed tonight;
If we never get gassed anymore.
When we're gassed, were sick as we can be
For Phosgene and Mustard Gas is much too much for me.

They're warning us, they're warning us,
One respirator for the four of us
Thank your lucky stars that three of us can run,
So one of us can use it all alone.

Of course the lyrics could be an exaggeration...but I suspect it might not be.

I agree with a lot of what you said.

message 49: by Fran (last edited Mar 29, 2010 11:26AM) (new)

Fran Bentley wrote :I guess I find difficulties with the Germans using chemical warfare; they were the aggressors in all of this - not the French or poor Belgium or even the Russians for that matter

There is no doubt who attacked first in Europe, but no nation was free of guilt in the irrational and disproportionate colonial and armamentistic race , in my opinion there was no "poor European Nations" poor was the Belgian Congo, for example.

message 50: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 35313 comments Mod
Fran, I guess you are referring to the various strategic plans that all of the nations had in terms of future warfare if necessary. I doubt that I would say that they were guilty of anything except trying to be prepared; but we all may have different opinions; and of course as you stated "There is no doubt who attacked first in Europe."

I guess there are many differences of opinion regarding chemical warfare; the following NPR url has an excerpt from War of Nerves.

War of Nerves Chemical Warfare from World War I to al-Qaeda by Jonathan TuckerJonathan Tucker

Here is the following: (which may be of interest)

ICRC in WWI: efforts to ban chemical warfare

Faced with the growing use of poisonous gases on the battlefield, causing terrible injuries, the ICRC appealed publicly for a ban on their use. Despite the controversy surrounding the issue, the call helped bring about the 1925 Geneva Protocol – still in force today.

As far as the Belgian Congo, I really do not feel that I have enough information about that part of the world to adequately respond and a discussion on the Congo here would also be off topic for this thread.

Fran..maybe I am mistaken..but have you introduced yourself on the Introduction thread as yet? This is part of our guidelines for new posters. When you get an opportunity, it helps us know who you are when you post for the first time. I had meant to ask before when you had posted. On this site, we like to know our posters and group members and that is why we require a brief intro. If I am mistaken about this; just let me know via PM. (Thx)

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Books mentioned in this topic

The First World War (other topics)
The Grim Reaper: Machine Guns And Machine-gunners In Action (other topics)
Band of Brigands: The First Men in Tanks (other topics)
The Devil's Chariots (other topics)
The Great War in the Air: Military Aviation from 1909 to 1921 (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

John Keegan (other topics)
Roger Ford (other topics)
John Glanfield (other topics)
Christopher Campbell (other topics)
John H. Morrow Jr. (other topics)