World War I is often considered the first true ‘modern war’, a conflict fought between industrialised countries equipped with modern weapons. It saw the rise of powerful weapons such as heavy artillery, machine guns and airplanes – and the decline of 19th century weapons like sabres and bayonets. This page contains brief summaries of the most significant weapons of World War I:
The bayonet was a comparatively simple weapon: a bracketed dagger attached to the end of a rifle barrel. Its primary function was to turn the rifle into a thrusting weapon, so its owner could attack the enemy without drawing too close. Bayonet charges were designed for psychological impact: men were trained to advance in rows, with faces contorted, lungs blaring and bayonets thrusting. Small arms and machine guns made these charges largely ineffective, but they were effective propaganda. When not employed as weapons, bayonets were detached and used as all-purpose tools, used for anything from digging to opening canned food.
The rifle was standard issue for infantrymen from each country: it was relatively cheap to produce, reliable, accurate and easy to carry. British soldiers were issued with the Lee-Enfield 303, while most Germans received a 7.92mm Mauser. Both were known for their durability and long range (both could fire accurately at around 500 metres, while the Enfield could potentially kill a man two kilometres away). But this long range was largely wasted on the Western Front, where distances between trenches could be as low as 40 metres. Rifle cleaning, maintenance and drilling occupied a good deal of an infantry soldier’s daily routine.
In World War I, pistols or revolvers were issued mainly to officers. Enlisted soldiers only received pistols if they were required in specialist duties, such as military police work or in tank crews, where rifles would be too unwieldy. The most famous pistol of the war was the German-made Luger, with its distinctive shape, narrow barrel and seven-shot magazine. British officers were issued with the Webley Mark IV, a reliable if somewhat ‘clunky’ weapon. The Webley could reportedly fire even when caked with mud – but it was also heavy and difficult to fire accurately. For this reason many British officers resorted to using captured Lugers. Pistols were not usually a significant weapon, though they were sometimes important as concealed weapons, or for close combat in the trenches.
The image of infantrymen charging pointlessly into machine gun fire is a common motif of the war. There were fewer machine guns deployed in the war than is commonly thought – but where used they often proved deadly. At the outbreak of war Germany had the upper hand in both the quality and quantity of machine guns. The German army had more than 10,000 units in 1914, while the British and French had fewer than 1,000 each. Machine guns of the time were capable of firing up to 500 rounds per minute – but they were cumbersome, very heavy (often more than 50 kilograms) and required at least three well trained men to set up and operate effectively. Their rapid rate of fire also caused machine guns to quickly overheat, requiring elaborate water and air based cooling systems to prevent them from jamming or exploding.
Grenades are small bombs, thrown by hand or launched from a rifle attachment, which are detonated on impact or by a timer. Germany, as it did for other small arms, led the way in grenade development. Early British models like the Mark I (a cylindrical device attached to a long stick) were awkward to use and prone to accidental detonation. These were superseded by the pineapple-shaped Mills bomb, with its safety pin and firing lever. Mills bombs were produced with four and seven second fuses. Allied soldiers were trained to hurl Mills bombs over-arm – in fact the best cricket players were often co-opted as grenade specialists.
Essentially a 1-2 man small-calibre artillery piece, mortars launched grenades or small bombs short distances. Since most focus had been on long-range artillery, mortars had fallen out of favour (in 1914 Germany had just 150 mortars, Britain barely any). But the development of trench warfare created an important use for mortars: they could be fired from the safety of a trench, lobbing explosives into enemy trenches from on high. Mortars were often used to target machine-gun nests, sniper positions or smaller defensive positions. They made a distinctive ‘whoomp’ sound when launched, which was often a signal to take cover.
No development had a greater effect on the battlefields of World War I than heavy artillery. Artillery pieces were essentially huge cannons that fired explosive rounds against enemy positions, causing enormous damage to men, equipment and the landscape. During World War I they become larger, easier to handle and more accurate in their fire; they were also mobile, though moving large artillery guns became difficult if not impossible in ragged or muddy areas. There was no denying the deadly impact of artillery: more soldiers were killed by exploding shells and shrapnel than any other weapon of the Great War. At the Battle of the Somme in 1916, almost 1.8 million shells were fired on German lines in the space of a week. The largest single artillery piece was the German-built ‘Paris gun’, used to shell the French capital from 120 kilometres away.
Tanks were another of World War I’s legacies to modern warfare. These large armoured carriers, impervious to rifle and machine-gun fire, were initially called ‘landships’. When the first prototypes were being developed, the British military’s cover story was that they were building ‘mobile water tanks’, hence the name. The first British tank, the Mark I, was rushed into battle at the Somme and proved susceptible to breakdown and immobility. But designers and operators soon learned from these problems, and by late 1917 the tank was proving a most useful offensive weapon – though none of them could move faster than just a few kilometres per hour.
Mines were large bombs or explosive charges, planted underground and detonated remotely or by the impact of soldiers’ feet. Navies also used sea mines, which floated on the ocean and exploded on contact with ships. The relatively immobile warfare of the Western Front meant there was little use for anti-personnel mines – however trench soldiers often dug tunnels to plant huge mines under enemy trenches and positions. One such attack occurred at Hill 60 during the Battle of Messines (June 1917) where Australian tunnelling specialists detonated 450,000 kilograms of underground explosives, killing thousands of German troops.
Barbed wire and caltrops (single iron spikes scattered on the ground) were used extensively in ‘no man’s land’ to stop enemy advances on one’s own trench. Barbed wire was laid as screens or ‘aprons’, installed by wiring parties who often worked at night. Attacking infantry often found large barbed wire screens impossible to penetrate; many died slow lingering deaths entangled in the wire. The positioning of wire often had strategic purpose: it could keep the enemy out of grenade range from the trench, or funnel them toward machine-gun positions. More than one million kilometres of barbed wire was used on the Western Front.
Flamethrowers, pioneered by the Germans but not widely used, were terrifying weapons. Usually wielded by an individual soldier sporting a backpack or tank, flamethrowers used pressurised gas to spurt burning oil or gasoline up to 40 metres. Their chief use was as a trench clearing weapon: the burning fuel filled trenches, landing on both equipment and people and forcing them to withdraw. But the comparatively short range of flamethrowers required their carriers to be within close proximity of the enemy, where they were easy pickings for a competent rifleman. The British experimented with a larger fixed-position flamethrower, using it to clear frontline trenches at the Somme.
Torpedoes are self propelled missiles that can be launched from submarines or ships, or dropped into the sea from the undercarriage of planes. The first torpedoes, produced in the 1870s, ran on compressed air and were slow and inaccurate. The German navy pioneered the diesel powered motorised torpedo. By 1914 German torpedoes could travel at up to 75 kilometres per hour over a range of several miles. This gave German U-boats a deadly advantage over Allied ships, particularly lightly armed naval vessels and unarmed civilian shipping. As the war progressed the British made rapid advances in torpedoes and sank at least 18 German U-boats with them.
This page was written by Jennifer Llewellyn, Jim Southey and Steve Thompson. To reference this page, use the following citation:
J. Llewellyn et al, “Weapons of World War I” at Alpha History, http://alphahistory.com/worldwar1/weapons/, 2014, accessed [date of last access].
1. On the history of the battle at Ypres and its relationship to military history and the history of science and medicine, see Smart Jeffery K., “History of Chemical and Biological Warfare: An American Perspective,” in Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare, ed. Frederick R. Sidell, Ernest T. Takafuji, and David R. Franz (Washington, DC: Office of the Surgeon General, 1997), 15; L. F. Haber, The Poisonous Cloud: Chemical Warfare in the First World War (New York: Clarendon Press, 1986), 31–32. On the general topic of chemical weapons history in the United States, see Leo B. Brophy, Wyndham D. Miles, and Rexmond C. Cohrane, The Chemical Warfare Service: From Laboratory to Field (Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1959); Brooks E. Kleber and Dale Birdsell, The Chemical Warfare Service: Chemicals in Combat (Washington, DC: Center for Military History, United States Army, 2003); Leo P. Brophy and George J.B. Fisher, The Chemical Warfare Service: Organizing for War (Washington, DC: Center of Military History, United States Army, 2004). On the cultural, political, and scientific history of chemical warfare in the Unites States, see Edmund P. Russell III, “ ‘Speaking of Annihilation’: Mobilizing for War Against Human and Insect Enemies, 1914–1945,” Journal of American History 82 (March 1996): 1505–1529; see also by Russell, War and Nature: Fighting Humans and Insects With Chemicals From World War I to Silent Spring (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2001); Hugh Slotten, “Humane Chemistry or Scientific Barbarism? American Responses to World War I Poison Gas, 1915–1930,” Journal of American History 77 (September 1990): 476–498; William L. Sibert, “Chemical Warfare,” Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry 11 (November 1919): 1060–1062; Newton D. Baker, “Chemistry in Warfare,” Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry 11 (September 1919): 921–923.
2. Joy Robert J.T., “Historical Aspects of Medical Defense Against Chemical Warfare,” in Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare, 90.
3. Watkins O. S., Methodist Report, cited in Amos Fries and C. J. West, Chemical Warfare (New York: McGraw Hill, 1921), 13; also cited in Joy, “Historical Aspects of Medical Defense,” 90.
4. For a very useful and up-to-date introduction to chemical weapons and chemical terrorism, see Tucker Jonathan B., “Introduction,” in Toxic Terror: Assessing Terror Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons, ed. Jonathan B. Tucker (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000), 3. Tucker further explains the various classifications of chemical agents, which include choking agents that damage lung tissue (e.g., chlorine, phosgene), blood agents that interfere with cellular respiration (e.g., hydrogen cyanide), blister agents that cause severe chemical burns to the skin and lungs (e.g., mustard gas, lewisite), and nerve agents that disrupt nerve-impulse transmission in the central and peripheral nervous systems, causing convulsions and death by respiratory paralysis (e.g., sarin, VX).” Tucker, 33.
5. For an introduction to war, medicine, and public health, see War and Public Health, ed. Barry S. Levy and Victor W. Sidel (Washington, DC: American Public Health Association, 2000), especially the following articles: William H. Foege, “Arms and Public Health: A Global Perspective” (3–11); Richard M. Garfield and Alfred I. Neugut, “The Human Consequences of War” (pp. 27–38). On the specific topic of chemical weapons, see Allan H. Lockwood, “The Public Health Effects of the Use of Chemical Weapons,” in War and Public Health, 84–97; Challenges in Military Health Care: Perspectives on Health Status and the Provision of Care, ed. Jay Stanley and John D. Blair (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1993). On current military–medical approaches to the threat of chemical warfare and viable medical responses to that threat, see Ernest R. Takfuji and Allart B. Kok, “The Chemical Warfare Threat and the Military Healthcare Provider,” in Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare, 111–128; Ernest T. Takfuji, Anna Johnson-Winegar, and Russ Zajtchuk, “Medical Challenges in Chemical and Biological Defense for the 21st Century,” in Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare, 667–686.
6. Historians continue to debate the exact number of casualties incurred during World War I, because record keeping from that period is incomplete and much disputed. Figures vary widely depending on which sources are used and how the historian is trying to measure them. In the case of Russia and Turkey, no system for tracking either military or civilian deaths existed, so it is impossible to determine them with any accuracy. Historian Modris Eksteins estimates that 9 million died, while historian John Keegan places the number at 10 million and Ian F.W. Becekett at 9 million to 10 million. Still others, like Fritz Haber’s son Ludwig Haber, use a percentage of the European population to estimate the dead. Modris Eksteins, Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989); John Keegan, The First World War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999); Ian F.W. Beckett, The Great War, 1914–1918 (New York: Longman, 2001); Haber, The Poisonous Cloud, 31–39.
7. On the use of chemical weapons in the ancient world, see Mayor Adrienne, Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, and Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World (New York: Overlook Duckworth, 2003). On uses in the 19th century, see Edward M. Spiers, Chemical Warfare (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986), 13–14. See also Joy, “Historical Aspects of Medical Defense,” 88–90.
8. The full text of the 1899 convention is available at http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/lawofwar/hague02.htm; the full text of the 1907 convention is available at http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/lawofwar/hague04.htm, both accessed January 15, 2007.
9. Recent interest in the life of Haber includes 2 new books: Dietrich Stozenberg, Fritz Haber: Chemist, Nobel Laureate, German, Jew (Philadelphia: Chemical Heritage Press, 2004), and Daniel Charles, Master Mind: The Rise and Fall of Fritz Haber, the Nobel Laureate Who Launched the Age of Chemical Warfare (New York: Ecco, 2005). For a brief intellectual biography of Fritz Haber, see W.A.E. McBryde, “1918 Nobel Laureate Fritz Haber,” in Nobel Laureates in Chemistry, 1901–1992, ed. Laylin K. James (Philadelphia: American Chemical Society and the Chemical Heritage Foundation, 1993), 114–123.
10. The concept of the “technological fix” is embedded in much of the history of technology. The idea that social, economic, and cultural problems can be solved quickly by applying technologies to them is most notably associated with the development of war technologies such as gas weapons, radar, and the gyroscope. However, as historians Hughes Thomas P. and Wiebe E. Bijker have illustrated, technological fixes are also an essential part of electrical systems and more everyday objects such as bicycles and light bulbs. On the technological fix, see Merritt Roe Smith and Leo Marx, Does Technology Drive History? The Dilemma of Technological Determinism (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1996), particularly the introduction. On the relationship between Hughes’s concepts of the technological fix and technological momentum, see Thomas P. Hughes, Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society 1880–1930 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983), 140–174, 201–226. For technological fixes and large systems, see Hughes, Rescuing Prometheus (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998).
11. The mobilization of academic resources in Great Britain to solve the problem of gas warfare reflected the overall commitment of the country at large to prosecuting the war successfully. Scientists at Birmingham, Cambridge, Finsbury Technical College, Imperial College London, and St. Andrews carried out specific military research programs. Because British soldiers were initially unprepared for and unprotected from German gas attacks, defensive measures took first priority. The Army Medical College at Millbrook took the initial lead in developing protective devices, but soon physiology departments at Bedford College, the Lister Institute (including the animal station), Oxford University, the School of Agriculture in Cambridge, and University College London all contributed to the effort. See Haber, The Poisonous Cloud, 106–138.
12. For an expansive analysis of industrialization in World War I, see Beckett, The Great War. On the relationship between science and technology in World War I in the United States, the best work remains Daniel J. Kevles’s The Physicists: The History of a Scientific Community in Modern America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978); see especially 102–138 and 446–450. See also Daniel J. Kevles, “George Ellery Hale, the First World War, and the Advancement of Science in America,” Isis 59 (1968): 427–437. On the specific topic of research on chemical weapons during World War I, see Daniel P. Jones, “Chemical Warfare Research During World War I: A Model of Cooperative Research,” in Chemistry and Modern Society, ed. John Parascondola and James C. Whorton (Washington, DC: American Chemical Society, 1983). For a general introduction to the topic of technology and war in the United States, see Alex Roland, “Science and War,” Osiris, 1 (1985): 261–261; see also by Roland, “Technology and War: A Bibliographic Essay,” in Military Enterprise and Technological Change: Perspective on the American Experience, ed. Merritt Roe Smith (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985), 347–379. For a discussion of military innovation exclusive of chemical warfare in the period immediate following World War I, see Williamson Murray, “Innovation: Past and Future,” in Military Innovation in the Interwar Period, ed. Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millet (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 300–328. On other aspects of chemical warfare research during the period, see Sarah Jansen, “Chemical-Warfare Techniques for Insect Control: Insect ‘Pests’ in Germany Before and After World War I,” Endeavour 24 (2000): 28–33.
13. Brophy and Fisher, The Chemical Warfare Service: Organizing for War, 3.
14. The National Research Council report is quoted in Brophy and Fisher, The Chemical Warfare Service, 4.
15. Ireland M.W., The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War, Volume XIV: Medical Aspects of Gas Warfare (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1926), 35–36. Ireland went on to list the organizations and facilities where war-related research was conducted; these included “the Bureau of Mines, Pittsburgh, PA; the National Carbon Co., Cleveland, OH; the Forest Products Laboratory, Madison, WI; the University of Chicago; the research laboratory of the American Sheet & Tin Plate Co., Pittsburgh, PA; the Bureau of Chemistry laboratory, Washington, DC; the Yale Medical School laboratory, New Haven, CT; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA; the Mellon Institute, Pittsburgh, PA, and elsewhere. . . . Branch laboratories were organized from time to time at the Catholic University of American, Washington, DC; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD; Princeton University, Princeton, NJ; National Carbon Co., Cleveland, OH; Nela Park, Cleveland, OH; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; Yale University, New Haven, CT; Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT; Ohio State University Columbus, OH; [Bryn Mawr College,] Bryn Mawr, PA; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA; Cornell University, Ithaca and New York City, NY; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; Clark University, Worcester, MA; Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, MA; University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI; Sprague Institute, Chicago, IL; and Ordnance Proving Ground, Lakehurst, NJ” (35–36). On the history of American research universities, see Roger L. Geiger, To Advance Knowledge: The Growth of American Research Universities in the Twentieth Century, 1900–1940 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986). For an introduction to the history of chemists and specific scientific research schools in the United States, see John Servos, Physical Chemistry From Ostwald to Pauling: The Making of a Science in America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990). See also John Servos, “Research Schools and Their Histories,” Osiris 8 (1993): 3–15; Robert E. Kohler, From Medical Chemistry to Biochemistry: The Making of a Biomedical Discipline (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982).
16. Ireland, Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War, 35.
17. James Conant became one of the architects of the academic–military–industrial complex in the United States during the postwar period. During World War II, Conant worked closely with Vannevar Bush in leading the Office of Scientific Research and Development. Both men were instrumental in directing much of the country’s military research during World War II, including the Manhattan Project. For a summary of his research activities during World War I, see Hershberg James G., James B. Conant: Harvard to Hiroshima and the Making of the Nuclear Age (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993), 35–48. See also James B. Conant, My Several Lives: Memoirs of a Social Inventor (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), especially 41–53.
18. Slotten Hugh, “Humane Chemistry or Scientific Barbarism? American Responses to World War I Poison Gas, 1915–1930,” Journal of American History77 (September 1990): 485. See also Ireland, Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War, 25.
19. Haber, The Poisonous Cloud, 107–138.
20. Jon Silkin, The War Poems: Wilfred Owen (London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1994), 24. Owen was killed in action on November 4, 1918 at the Sambre-Oise Canal, a week before the armistice, by bullet, not by gas. For an introduction to the cultural and literary ramifications of Owen’s war poetry see: Tim Kendall, Modern English War Poetry, (New York : Oxford University Press, 2006); Daniel W. Hipp, The Poetry of Shell Shock: Wartime Trauma and Healing in Wilfred Owen, Ivor Gurney and Siegfried Sassoon (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2005); and Santanu Das, Touch and intimacy in First World War Literature, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
21. On the life of Walther Nerst, see McBryde W.A.E., “Walther Herman Nernst,” in Nobel Laureates in Chemistry, 1901–1992, ed. Laylin K. James (Philadelphia: American Chemical Society and the Chemical Heritage Foundation, 1993), 125–133.
22. Moore William, Gas Attack! Chemical Warfare 1915–1918 and Afterwards (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1987), 12.
23. Haber, The Poisonous Cloud, 51, 177.
24. Watkins, Methodist Report.
25. Palazzo Albert, Seeking Victory on the Western Front: The British Army and Chemical Warfare in World War I (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000), 42.
26. Arthur Max, Last Post (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005), 35–36. See also Palazzo, Seeking Victory on the Western Front, 42–43.
27. On gas attacks, see Goss B.C., “An Artillery Gas Attack,” Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry11 (September 1919): 829–836; James C. Webster, “The First Gas Regiment,” Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry 11 (July 1919): 621–629; Army War College, Gas Warfare, Part 2: Methods of Defense Against Gas Attacks (Washington, DC: War Department, 1918). For interesting views on gas warfare from earlier periods, see Edward S. Farrow, Gas Warfare (New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, 1920); War Office, Medical Manual of Chemical Warfare (London: His Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1939); Alden H. Waitt, Gas Warfare: The Chemical Weapon, Its Use, and Protection Against It (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1942). On the design of gas masks and respirators, see P.W. Carleton, “Anti-Dimming Compositions for Use in the Gas Mask,” Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry 11 (December 1919): 1105–1111; J. Perrot, Max Yablick, and A.C. Fieldner, “New Absorbent for Ammonia Respirators,” Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry 11 (November 1919): 1013–1019; Army War College, Methods of Defense Against Gas Attacks. See also in that series: Army War College, Gas Warfare, Part 1: German Methods of Offense (Washington, DC: War Department, 191 8); Army War College, Gas Warfare, Part 3: Methods of Training in Defensive Measures (Washington, DC: War Department, 1918); Army War College, Gas Warfare, Part 4: The Offensive in Gas Warfare, Cloud and Projector Attacks (Washington, DC: War Department, 1918); Palazzo, Seeking Victory on the Western Front, 42–43.
28. Palazzo, Seeking Victory on the Western Front, 43. See also Haber, The Poisonous Cloud, 46–46.
29. Haber, The Poisonous Cloud, 47.
30. Winter Denis, Death’s Men: Soldiers in the Great War (New York: Penguin Books, 1979), 124; also cited in Joy, “Historical Aspects of Medical Defense,” 92.
31. Arthur, Last Post, 35–36.
32. Joy, “Historical Aspects of Medical Defense,” 97. For information regarding current military procedures for dealing with chemical warfare causalities and chemical warfare defense, see the following in Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare: Frederick R. Sidell, Ronald R. Bresell, Robert H. Mosebar K Mills McNeill, and Ernest T. Takafuji, “Field Management of Chemical Casualties” (325–336); Frederick R. Sidell, “Triage of Chemical Casualties” (337–350); Charles G. Hurst, “Decontamination” (351–360); Michael R. O’Hern, Thomas R. Dashiell, and Mary Frances Tracy, “Chemical Defense Equipment” (361–397).
33. Haber suggests that the actual figures were significantly higher; see The Poisonous Cloud, 248.
34. Joy, “Historical Aspects of Medical Defense,” 91.
35. The report is quoted in Ireland, Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War, 27.
36. Ibid, 28.
37. Ibid, 28, 33–37.
38. Eksteins, Rites of Spring, 162.
39. Winter, Death’s Men, 121.
40. Quoted in Cochrane Rexmond C., Third Division at Thierry July, 1918 (Army Chemical Center, MD: US Army Chemical Corps Historical Office, 1959), 91.
41. Joy, “Historical Aspects of Medical Defense,” 94.
42. A 1919 article by Gross B.C. of the Chemical Warfare Service recommended attacking in wind conditions of less than 3 miles per hour at a relative humidity of 40% to 50%. The author noted that having considered “temperature, wind, and humidity conditions, the hours between midnight and daylight are usually the most favorable for a gas attack, and, in addition, surprise is more easily possible at this time.” Successful gas-based artillery barrages were designed to hit “small, definitely located targets known to be occupied [with a] concentrated fire of 2 minutes duration.” B.C. Goss, “An Artillery Gas Attack,” The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry11 (September 1919): 831.
43. Joy, “Historical Aspects of Medical Defense,” 100.
44. Gilchrist Harry L. and Philip B. Matz, The Residual Effects of Wartime Gases (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office; 1933), 44; also cited in Joy, “Historical Aspects of Medical Defense,” 96.
45. German attacks employing mustard gas were extremely difficult for all Allied troops, especially newly arriving AEF. Unaccustomed to gas attacks under combat conditions with even chlorine and phosgene, the AEF moved to the front just as gas warfare entered its most violent and destructive phase. In addition, an earlier decision by American scientific, medical, and military leaders to focus almost exclusively on the gas mask in lieu of a more complete approach to gas defense and treatment may have been ill conceived. A 1926 US Army medical history of gas warfare noted that the “Medical Department of the United States Army with respect to gas warfare were [sic] concerned with furnishing gas masks and other prophylactic apparatus for the Army, rather than with preparation for the care and treatment of gas casualties.” Ireland, Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War, 27.
46. August M. Prentiss, Chemicals in Warfare (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1937), 579. On the environmental consequences of war, see also Richard P. Tucker and Edmund Russell Natural Enemy, Natural Ally: Toward an Environmental History of War, ed. (Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press, 2004).
47. Joy, “Historical Aspects of Medical Defense,” 98. On the medical aspects of vesicants in general and mustard gas in particular, see Frederick R Sidell, John S. Urbanetti, William J. Smith, and Charles G. Hurst, “Vesicants,” in Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare, 197–228; Frederick R. Sidell and Charles G. Hurst, “Long-Term Heal Effects of Nerve Agents and Mustard,” in Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare, 229–246.
48. Joy, “Historical Aspects of Medical Defense,” 101.
49. Arthur, Last Post, 83.
50. Joy, “Historical Aspects of Medical Defense,” 98.
51. For a full history of the development of lewisite, see Vilensky Joel A., Dew of Death: The Story of Lewisite, America’s World War I Weapon of Mass Destruction (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005).
52. These figures are based on Gilchrist Harry L., A Comparative Study of World War Casualties From Gas and Other Weapons (Edgewood Arsenal, MD: Chemical Warfare School, 1928), p. 21, Table 7.
53. Spiers, Chemical Warfare, 13. On the general history of chemical manufacturing and chemical engineering in the United States, see John Kenly Smith, Jr, “The Evolution of the Chemical Industry: A Technological Perspective,” in Chemical Sciences in the Modern World, ed. Seymour H. Mauskopf (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993). For a view of chemical engineering activity during World War I, see Charles O. Brown, “US Chemical Plant for Manufacturing Sodium Cyanide, Saltville, Virginia,” Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry 11 (November 1919): 1010–1013; James F. Norris, “The Manufacture of War Gases in Germany,” Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry 11 (September 1919): 817–829; Edward H. Hempel, The Economics of Chemical Industries (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1939), 28–31.
54. Ryan T. Anthony, Christien Ryan, Elaine A. Seddon, and Kenneth R. Seddon, Phosgene and Related Carbonyl Halides (New York: Elsever, 1996), 12–13.
55. Ibid, 15–16.