No, no – not the kind of gas that guy who sits a couple of cubicles away from me has.  This is about deadly chemical use during war – specifically the risk of chemical attack against Americans during World War II.  The Modern Mechanix blog has all the gory details, as revealed in the April 1946 issue of Modern Mechanix magazine.  This is a long article, but it has lots of interesting information in it.

America was ready to give and take if the Axis had turned loose with the most inhumane of all modern weapons!

LOOK carefully at the pictures on these pages—if you’ve been wondering what we would have done in case the Axis powers had introduced deadly chemicals in the recent war.

It seems fantastic, weird and remote, now that the shooting is over. But here are the brutal facts, revealed for the first time by the Army’s Chemical Warfare Service. It was alert and ready to retaliate in heaping measure had our enemies used gas. Although the U. S. is not a party to any treaty or other agreement not to use gas, we have long been committed to the policy that we would not resort to this horrible weapon unless it was first employed by our foes. The fact that our troops were fully prepared for offensive and defensive gas warfare undoubtedly stopped the Axis from challenging us on this score.

Ready for use were various types of war gases, ideal for special purposes. Included were casualty producers which blister, choke and poison the blood and nerves and harassing agents which cause tears and nausea. The blister agents include mustard, a dark oily liquid with an onion odor, which vaporizes when released and contaminates the ground for days and even weeks; lewisite, with geranium smell and similar characteristics; and the new nitrogen-mustards which, being odorless, can be detected only with special devices. These chemicals in gas or liquid form, attack the lungs, produce blisters on unprotected skin and also injure the eyes. Because of their persistency they are mainly useful in making areas impassable.

In the choking gas group are phosgene, diphos-gene, producing colorless vapors with the odor of musty hay; and chloropicrin, a yellow gas smelling like flypaper that also irritates the eyes. They are especially useful for offense.

Among the blood and nerve poisons are arsine and hydrocyanic acid, colorless, the former with a faint aroma of phosphorus and the latter having an almond smell. These are killers.

In the non-fatal or harassing category are chloracetophenone which, though having the scent of apple blossoms, irritates the eyes, nose and skin, as does brombenzylcyanide. Adamsite and diphenylchlorarsine are irritant smokes, the former with a slight tinge of coal smoke and the latter remindful of shoe polish.

Toxic gas concentrations can be laid down by a variety of methods. The major gas weapons of the Chemical Warfare Service were chemical mortars, artillery shells, bombs, spray tanks, irritant candles, and hand grenades. The chemical mortar (4.2 inch) is a 300-pound rifled weapon which fires twenty shells a minute, each weighing 25 pounds at ranges up to two and a half miles. A chemical battalion armed with these “goon guns” can lay down three tons of phosgene in a minute. Of the artillery shells the 75 mm. howitzer, 105 mm. howitzer, 155 mm. gun and various infantry mortars can all fire toxic agents.

Honestly, that’s all kinda freaky scary, and it’s over half a century old.  There’s no mention in the article of Dimethyl Mecury, which I believe is now one of the more feared chemical attack weapons – it’s hella dangerous.  So I guess chemical warfare is even more freaky scary than it used to be.

[tags]Chemical warfare, Gas attacks[/tags]