Poison Gas Essay

840 WordsApr 7, 20134 Pages
Poison gas was probably one of the most feared weapons from World War One. Poison gas was indiscriminate and could be used on the trenches even when no attack was going on. Whereas the machine gun killed more soldiers overall during the war death was frequently instant or not drawn out and soldiers could find some shelter in bomb/shell craters from gunfire. A poison gas attack meant soldiers having to put on crude gas masks and if these were unsuccessful, an attack could leave a victim in agony for days and weeks before he finally succumbed to his injuries. The first recorded gas attack was by the French. In August 1914, the French used tear gas grenades containing xylyl bromide on the Germans. This was more an irritant rather than a gas that would kill. It was used by the French to stop the seemingly unstoppable German army advancing throughout Belgium and northeastern France. While the French were the first to use a gas against an enemy, the Germans had been giving a great deal of thought to the use of poison gas as a way of inflicting a major defeat on an enemy. Among the chemicals used in the war, phosgene was responsible for the large majority of deaths. Phosgene was a potent killing agent, deadlier than chlorine. It had a potential drawback in that some of the symptoms of exposure took 24 hours or more to manifest. This meant that the victims were initially still capable of putting up a fight. Although this could also mean that apparently the effects of the gas would incapacitate fit troops on the following day. Colorless and having an odor likened to "moldy hay," phosgene was difficult to detect, making it a more effective weapon. Although phosgene was sometimes used on its own, it was more often used mixed with an equal volume of chlorine to help it spread across the battlefield. Although phosgene was never as notorious in public consciousness as our

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