Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Behind the Gas MaskThe U.S. Chemical Warfare Service in War and Peace$

Thomas I. Faith

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780252038686

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252038686.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM ILLINOIS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.illinois.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Illinois University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ISO for personal use (for details see http://www.universitypressscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy). Subscriber: null; date: 21 June 2018

Battle, 1918

Battle, 1918

(p.22) 2 Battle, 1918
Behind the Gas Mask

Thomas I. Faith

University of Illinois Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter focuses on the American Expeditionary Force's (AEF) experiences with poison gas on the Western Front and the logistical effort made by the United States to support chemical warfare during World War I. The nascent Chemical Warfare Service (CWS) had to support battlefield operations in 1918 as the AEF faced poison gas in Europe. On the whole, the CWS found itself seriously challenged by conditions on the Western Front and dependent on U.S. allies for information and equipment. This chapter examines the CWS's efforts to train the AEF, manufacture chemical weapons, and use poison gas on the battlefield throughout 1918. It discusses the comparatively heavy gas casualties suffered by the AEF in the fighting due to the inadequacy of the gas-mask training that its soldiers were given. It also considers the AEF's limited use of chemical weapons against the Germans and the U.S. Army's inability to organize for chemical warfare jeopardized the gas warfare program's status after World War I ended.

Keywords:   chemical warfare, American Expeditionary Force, poison gas, Western Front, United States, World War I, Chemical Warfare Service, Europe, chemical weapons, U.S. Army

The chemical warfare organization that had evolved in the United States in 1917 had to support battlefield operations in 1918. The American Expeditionary Force (AEF) began to arrive in Europe, where it faced poison gas. On the whole, the nascent Chemical Warfare Service found itself seriously challenged by conditions on the Western Front and dependent on U.S. allies for information and equipment. The gas-mask training that soldiers of the AEF were given proved to be inadequate, and they suffered comparatively heavy gas casualties in the fighting. The AEF favored the use of more conventional weapons and therefore made only limited use of chemical weapons against the Germans. The U.S. Army’s inability to organize for chemical warfare in the time they had available delegitimized the gas warfare program and jeopardized the program’s status after World War I ended.

All U.S. soldiers preparing to serve in France in 1918 needed to know what to do in the event of a gas attack, and it was because of the importance and urgency of this task that the training responsibilities of the Surgeon General’s Office were reassigned to the Corps of Engineers in late 1917. The Corps of Engineers established the Chemical Service Section (CSS), also known simply as the Gas Service, and staffed it with chemists and engineers who were expected to bring speed and expertise to the assignment. The officers who conducted the training nevertheless lacked resources and support. They attempted to set up chemical warfare training facilities at the cantonments where the AEF was assembling across the United States, but they were plagued by shortages of equipment and lacked up-to-date instructional manuals. Moreover, the officers of the (p.23) CSS themselves had only limited experience with chemical weapons. In practice, the chemical warfare training that a soldier on his way to France would undergo consisted of a mere hour or two of gas-defense lectures and a demonstration of how to wear a gas mask, if masks were available.1

The CSS personnel assigned to deploy chemical weapons on the Western Front were among the first members of the AEF to be sent to Europe, and they also needed to be trained. Arriving in January 1918, the CSS spent weeks training with Charles H. Foulkes and the members of the British Gas Service. One of the CSS officers in the group, J. B. Garlock, wrote that the British officers praised the Americans for their “keenness to learn and the rapidity with which they mastered the work.”2 Foulkes described the relationship with U.S. gas soldiers as “most cordial.”3 In addition to training the CSS, the British provided the organization with equipment such as masks, gas cylinders, mortars, and Livens projectors. Amos A. Fries, who served as director of the CSS in France during the war, said that all of the army’s “equipment for gas troops came entirely from the English.”4

Meanwhile, CSS instructors labored to provide the soldiers of the AEF with improved chemical warfare training in piecemeal fashion as they arrived in France. It was exciting work, constantly changing as instructional regimens were adjusted and upgraded. Officers and soldiers were sometimes trained and retrained as the CSS enhanced its training program. In July, gas-warfare training activities were centralized at the CSS’s large laboratory complex and test range located outside Chaumont, called Experimental Field.5 “I am particularly struck by the good nature of the fellows,” wrote a CSS officer at the training center. “They are from most every division and are from all parts of United States. Some have never been to the front and others have been [at the front] over a year and more.”6

CSS officers tried to train AEF soldiers how to identify different chemical weapons by sight and smell, and how to decontaminate themselves, their equipment, and their surroundings once chemical weapons were used. The CSS choreographed simulated gas attacks and taught soldiers how to put on their gas masks quickly and tighten them properly. They tried to encourage soldiers to wear their masks for hours at a time in order to acclimate them to the discomfort. Soldiers in training were even encouraged to play “Gas Baseball,” a game that followed the standard rules of baseball, except that all the players were to wear their gas masks continuously during the game. Each game, however, was “to consist of not more than five innings and not to last more than two hours.”7

A typical training schedule in mid-August consisted of six days of instruction and demonstrations, between 1:30 and 4:30 in the afternoon, (p.24) and one simulated nighttime combat operation. Every day, a different variant of a gas-mask respirator exercise was conducted. On one day the men underwent mask training in a gas chamber. On another they went on a long hike in their protective gear. Besides mask drills, lectures were the most salient feature of the six-day training regime. CSS instructors lectured on the history of gas, development of gas warfare, offensive use of gas, gas defensive measures, and decontaminating procedures. They taught trainees how to inspect and maintain their masks and respirators, and also, incidentally, how to operate flamethrowers.8 Class schedules from subsequent months show that gas training continued to cover the same subjects, and remained six days long, but trainees spent mornings as well as afternoons receiving instruction.

In addition to increasing the amount of time soldiers spent receiving gas training, CSS officers constantly strove to improve the quality of the lessons and exercises. Instructors at the training centers received regular updates about the fighting and information on new tactical developments in the battlefield use of gas in order to supplement the material they taught. They tried to make practical improvements as well. One week before the war ended, with not enough time to implement this particular innovation, a gas officer in the 4th Corps wrote a memorandum suggesting improvements to the standard military mask drill.9 The drill was a series of steps taken to put on a gas mask, which soldiers repeated over and over during training so that donning a mask in combat would become second nature. In the memorandum, the officer pointed out that on an actual battlefield, soldiers do not usually put their masks on while standing up, as they are drilled to do. Most soldiers, the officer asserted, are under shell-fire when the gas alarm sounds and have already “hit the dirt” to avoid explosions and shrapnel.10 He suggested that soldiers be taught to don masks while down on one knee or lying flat under cover.

Despite attempts to improve the quality of instruction over time, CSS training activities still fell short of what the soldiers in the army required. For example, in July 1918 Army Chief of Engineers William M. Black had to issue a notice about chemical training demonstrations:

It has been noted that, in certain camps, demonstrations have been entirely too perfunctory, and entirely devoid of any characteristics which tend to make them appear at all realistic. There is no training value in a demonstration which is too obviously only a demonstration; it must have some of the characteristics, at least, of being real. It is of little value, for example, to open a cylinder of chlorine on the parade ground in order that a group of men in ranks may practice putting on masks; it is equally (p.25) valueless to stage a prepared cloud gas attack when the operators can be seen carrying up and turning on the cylinders. It is recommended that in all cases that so far as possible these demonstrations be carried out at night, at dusk, or preferably at dawn, and that all operations be concealed, allowing the surprise effect to the fullest extent.11

Gas-defense training also tended to vary from camp to camp, in spite of the existence of specific guidelines issued by the General Headquarters of the AEF. Such training fell considerably short of optimal. Perhaps the largest training discrepancy was in the area of artillery, however. No gas shells were allowed to be fired in training demonstrations, leaving CSS instructors little alternative but to describe artillery chemical attacks to trainees in classroom lectures.12 Most of the chemical weapons used during the First World War were delivered by artillery shell, and American soldiers had no actual experience with the weapon before seeing it used against them on the battlefield.

Training an army of this size quickly and comprehensively was a monumental endeavor. Over the course of the war, a relative handful of CSS soldiers had to prepare an army of four million for the poisons they were going to encounter on the battlefield. Instructing the soldiers of the AEF was complicated by the fact that the generation had come of age before childhood education became universal across the United States, and a number of soldiers would have had little formal schooling. It was almost inevitable that some soldiers would be inadequately prepared. However, as the gas officer for the 33rd Division, W. E. Vawter, observed, “the most serious” obstacle the CSS encountered as it trained the AEF “was the imagination of the individual man.”13 In the absence of personal experience with poison gas, the soldiers of the AEF used their imagination, and that tendency led to dangerous misperceptions. “This feature,” Vawter added, “accounted for too many gas casualties.”14 Gas clouds were terror weapons, capable of sowing confusion and damaging morale in excess of their ability to cause casualties. In a battlefield environment where small mistakes could get a person injured or killed, uncertainty about gas could cause casualties in and of itself.15

Accordingly, CSS trainers should have made it their priority to dispel chemical weapons myths and to assuage fears about poison gas shared by the soldiers. Unfortunately, this important responsibility was not appreciated until too late. CSS officers would admit that in their initial push to get American soldiers to understand the importance of gas-mask training, they may even have unintentionally intensified soldiers’ anxiety about chemical weapons.

(p.26) An error in starting gas training inherited from our original advisors was to relate tales of suffering and agony of men who had been gassed, especially stories of men lightly gassed and who never expected any serious results, [and then] fell dead the following day after physical exertion. A certain percentage of men detecting gas in low concentrations began to think of all these stories and they were convinced that they were in a similar state of danger, so that there was only one thing to do, evacuate them. A respect of gas and not fear was being taught.16

After hearing these stories from CSS officers during training and then listening to the rumors and second-hand information traded among members of his unit, it is not surprising that the average American soldier was confused and uncertain when it came to poison gas. The doughboys improvised when they were unsure, and they made mistakes. Soldiers could believe that they sensed gas when there was none and waste unnecessary energy performing their duties in a gas mask. Other soldiers could want to avoid looking “green” in front of members of their unit and therefore wait too long to put their masks on. A soldier afraid of being gassed might leave his mask on for longer than necessary, exhaust the filter, and become vulnerable. Another soldier might believe incorrectly that invisible poison gas had dissipated and then take his mask off while dangerous fumes were still present.

In such an atmosphere, rumor and misinformation thrived. In May 1918 the CSS published a bulletin that cautioned soldiers in combat to keep their masks on until told to take them off “on the order of an officer known to them and who has his mask off when he gives the order.” The reason given, almost certainly a rumor, was that “instances are known of the enemy’s having sent over individuals during a gas attack for the purpose of ordering our troops to take off their masks.”17

Gas paranoia was not a phenomena limited to enlisted men. Throughout World War I the CSS noted that AEF officers were reluctant to use poison gas offensively against the Germans. Commanders demonstrated an acute mistrust of poison gas, not only because they worried that the wind might blow the gas back onto American troops, but also because they feared that its use would instigate the Germans to retaliate in kind. CSS officers recorded the following (infamous) example:

As illustrating some of these difficulties, the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3 (Operations) of a certain American Corps refused to consider a recommendation to use gas on a certain point in the battle of the Argonne unless the gas officer would state in writing that if the gas was so used it could not possibly result in the casualty of a single American soldier. Such an attitude was perfectly absurd.18

(p.27) It was the attitude of that officer, and many others like him, which prompted the CSS to act as ambassadors for chemical weapons in the AEF. In a statement that foreshadowed the public relations effort of the postwar period, CSS Colonel Richmond Mayo-Smith reportedly said that “Chemical Warfare Service officers have got to go out and sell gas to the Army.”19

The CSS spent the First World War trying to convince their fellow soldiers that if they respected gas as a weapon, followed instructions, and used gas masks and other protective equipment, they could remain safe from enemy clouds. But for that conviction to ring true, the quality and utility of American gas masks would have to improve. The Department of War had decided to purchase and issue British small-box respirators (SBRs) after it became apparent that U.S. masks could not be manufactured in time. SBRs were reliable and had a filter that lasted many hours, but the soldiers found them extremely uncomfortable.20 The straps that held the mask in place were reported to cause headaches. The SBR had a nose clip inside the rubber face piece that held your nostrils shut while you wore it. Breathing was accomplished through a hose with a mouthpiece that had to be held in place between your lips. Saliva tended to accumulate around it, and long periods of wear would irritate a soldier’s lips and gums. The mask was so uncomfortable that in September 1918, officers in the CSS complained that “a rumor has reached this office that a few commanding officers are compelling men to wear the S. B. R. as punishment for minor offenses.”21 The CSS asked that this form of punishment end, “for it makes the men look upon the S. B. R. as an instrument of torture, and it may thus defeat the purpose for which the S. B. R. is intended.”22

Assistant Secretary of War and Director of Munitions Benedict Crowell wrote that, in sum, “the word discomfort is a weak description of the feelings of a man wearing one of our masks for that period.”23 A more dangerous problem, however, was the tendency for moisture to dim, or fog, the eyepieces. “Reports from the war-front have indicated that the most serious difficulty in the modern gas mask, aside from its general discomfort, results from the moisture which collects on the eyepiece and obscures vision. In action the vision is often impaired that the soldier is compelled to lay aside his mask, or else lose efficiency as a fighter. If he chooses the former course, he can almost certainly be counted as a casualty.”24 As this Bureau of Mines report excerpt implies, the general discomfort of the mask and fogging of the eyepieces could cause the soldier to discard the mask at a critical moment and become vulnerable to poison gas.

(p.28) The French-made Tissot mask was a good potential alternative to the British SBR for the Americans for several reasons: it fit comfortably over the face, did not have an uncomfortable nose or mouthpiece, and the lenses of the eyepieces did not fog up because of the way air flowed inside the mask. A pair of tubes inside the face piece blew air across the glass eyepieces as the soldier wearing it breathed. The principal is the same as a windshield defogger in a modern-day car. The U.S. government purchased very few Tissot masks, however, and they were distributed only to artillery units and medical personnel. The army believed that the face piece of the mask was too flimsy and the air valves too complex for standard infantry issue. Additionally, the Tissot mask’s filter hung on the wearer’s back instead of the front, making it unsuitable for any personnel who needed to carry packs or other equipment there.25

But because the SBR masks issued to American soldiers felt like torture devices, some doughboys improvised. U.S. soldiers sometimes procured French Army Tissot masks unofficially and used them in place of their regular masks. AEF commanders expressly forbade this practice because they believed it hurt morale: if soldiers saw their comrades opting for unauthorized equipment, misgivings about the safety of authorized gas masks might spread. Other soldiers engaged in a more dangerous practice: altering or misusing their masks to make them more comfortable to wear. The SBR was designed with extra material on both sides of the face piece so that wearers could manually wipe the inside of the eyepieces with the mask itself if the lenses fogged, but the extra material allowed the eyepieces to move around when the wearer was in motion, and constantly wiping the lenses by hand was tedious. Rather than suffer obscured vision, some soldiers had a “pernicious habit” of pulling the top part of the face piece down, exposing their eyes and forehead.26 They believed, incorrectly, that they would be protected against gas as long as the nose clip and mouthpiece were in place.27 Chemical weapons like mustard gas irritate the skin and eyes as well as the lungs, and leaving those areas exposed could result in chemical burns or blindness.

The problems with the SBR and Tissot masks lent necessity to the gas-mask development effort in the United States. Both the French and British masks had features that U.S. designers wanted to incorporate into a comfortable and sturdy prototype, but their early efforts were unsuccessful. At first the Bureau of Mines designed an American version of the SBR with an enhanced charcoal filter and a fuller face piece that made it easier for the wearer to clean the eyepieces, but the disadvantages of the mask outnumbered its advantages. The new filter was large and clumsy, making the American SBR heavier and more difficult to put on, and the (p.29) new shape allowed the eyepiece lenses to fall out occasionally. Additionally, no improvements whatsoever were made to the uncomfortable mouth and nosepieces, and the eyepieces still fogged-up.28 It was not until August 1918, nearly the end of the war, that improved American gas masks based on the French Tissot mask began to be designed and tested.29 Two different masks, the Akron-Tissot mask and the Kops-Tissot mask, were created at the same time by different manufactures. Both American Tissot masks incorporated all of the benefits of the French version and featured improved strength and usability. Very few of these models were produced before the war ended, however.30

The soldiers of the AEF experienced problems with most types of gas-defensive equipment in addition to masks. An experimental substance called sag paste, for example, was an inert salve meant to be smeared over a soldier’s entire body before going into combat to protect the skin against the effects of mustard gas, but the paste was uncomfortable to wear even in the best of circumstances. It also rubbed off on clothing and caked when the soldier perspired. More seriously, it did not neutralize the poison. If a soldier did not remove the paste from himself soon after being exposed, the mustard gas would be absorbed by the sag paste and make contact with the skin.31 To treat soldiers who had been exposed to mustard gas, CSS Medical Director Harry L. Gilchrist ordered the construction of mobile degassing facilities for front-line divisions in June 1918. These degassing facilities were trucks that were intended to carry new clothes, medical supplies, a field shower, and a twelve-hundred-gallon tank of water with a heater to areas where soldiers had been contaminated by mustard gas. Only one such degassing unit was assembled by the end of the war, however, and it never saw front-line service.32

In an effort to minimize soldiers’ contact with poison gas or prevent it altogether so that such treatments would not be necessary, the AEF initially purchased trench fans from the British, since those devices were widely used in their army. A trench fan was a flap of canvas attached to a wooden handle that soldiers would use to create an updraft in order to “shovel” gas clouds out of trenches and dugouts. But the doughboys found the use of the fans tedious and labor intensive, and their officers worried that manually swishing gas clouds around would cause exhaustion, lead to heavy breathing, and result in casualties. Trench fans eventually fell into disuse.33 The AEF did have success using chloride of lime powder to decontaminate areas affected by mustard gas, but the substance could only be spread around relatively small areas and shell holes, and it was sometimes in short supply. Barrier methods such as gas-proof blankets were employed to protect entrances to dugouts in the trenches, to prevent (p.30) gas from seeping down inside and poisoning the soldiers sheltering there. In many cases the chemically treated fabric was an effective protection method if it could be secured down over the entrance properly. A well-placed enemy artillery shell could rip the blanket off entirely, however, and there was some confusion among the soldiers about how the gas-proof fabric worked. “The principal of a gas-proof dug-out must be clearly explained to the men in the ranks as they are apt to get the idea that a gas-proof dug-out is ventilated in some mysterious way with pure air,” the CSS lamented in May 1918. “As it really is, or should be, hermetically sealed, the importance of extinguishing fires immediately on letting down the curtain is evident.”34 The devices used to defend against poison gas during the First World War tended to be more effective in theory then they were in practice.

Other than the SBR, perhaps the most important piece of anti-gas equipment for the soldiers of the AEF was the gas alarm. A gas-warfare manual advised that “a local gas alarm must be fitted up at every sentry’s post, occupied sap, battery position, etc., for the purpose of rousing men in the immediate vicinity and conveying warning to the sentries in charge of the long-distance gas alarms.”35 The alarm would alert soldiers within range of the gas to put on their masks before the fumes arrived, but supplying an alarm device that worked consistently well proved problematic. The ideal gas alarm needed to be loud enough to be heard amid the noise of battle and distinctive enough to avoid confusing it with other sounds. A false alarm would force men throughout the defensive line to spend hours awake in their gas masks while their officers tried to determine if any danger existed. Additionally, “no reliance can be placed on devices giving the alarm involving the use of the lungs—e.g., bugles or whistles,” for reasons that should be obvious.36 The CSS encouraged the use of an alarm device called a Strombos horn, which sounded a long, loud note when attached to a canister of compressed air, but they admitted that in practice “no standard pattern has been adopted for these local alarm devices. Klaxon horns, gongs (shell cases), large bells, 2-ft. lengths of steel rail or triangles made of steel rail and policemen’s rattles … are all in use.”37

In January 1918 the soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division became the first members of the AEF to occupy a position on the Western Front. Consequently, they became the first U.S. division to face chemical weapons in World War I. During the week that the 1st Infantry Division arrived, a neighboring French Army unit began moving hundreds of gas casualties from their front lines to hospitals in the rear, giving American soldiers their first sight of men wounded by chemical weapons.38 The earliest (p.31) recorded gas attack on the 1st Division occurred on February 2, but it was relatively insignificant. An estimated twenty-five gas artillery shells filled with a mixture of phosgene and diphosgene were fired at the 6th Field Artillery unit in a heavy afternoon fog near the town of Ansauville. As they had been trained, the men donned their gas masks when they heard the distinctive sound of the chemical shells “swish” and wobble through the air, but not one of the shells appeared to have exploded, and there were no casualties.39 CSS officers, inexperienced and apprehensive, believed that the German shells employed some sort of delayed action fuse that would release the gas later. They dug up as many of the shells as they could find and collected them for analysis. It is likely that the fuses on the shells were simply faulty.

Four days later the German’s lobbed a single, functioning, mustard-gas shell at the same artillery unit at Ansauville. As is typical of mustard gas, there were no immediate casualties; however, the 6th Field Artillery believed that they had sufficiently decontaminated the area with chloride of lime powder, so they remained there overnight. The next day the persistent chemical caused three soldiers in the unit to endure “severe conjunctivitis,” and a fourth soldier suffered a “burned buttock.”40 In spite of the limited and uncoordinated nature of these first attacks, the first gas casualties in the AEF typified the challenge that mustard gas posed. U.S. soldiers would have more difficulty coping with mustard gas than any other chemical agent because of its ability to cause casualties long after it has been deployed.

Gas attacks with more severe consequences occurred not long after. The Germans launched their first Livens projector drums against the AEF in a wooded area at Bois de Remieres on February 26, heavily gassing elements of the 1st Division.41 The attack happened around 1:00 A.M. and was accompanied by high-explosive mortar fire intended to cause additional confusion and panic. CSS officers believed that the gas used was a mixture of phosgene and tear gas, though descriptions from the soldiers, most of whom had never experienced a chemical attack before, varied. One account identified chlorine gas as having been used, another noted the smell of mustard gas, and there was also disagreement as to whether the tear gas used was chloropicrin or palite.42

Most of the soldiers in the gassed area were able to get their gas masks on in time, though some breathed in the gas while putting masks on and had to be treated later. Private Beddell of the 18th Infantry Division was on duty at a listening post when the gas exploded practically on top of him.43 The force of the explosion knocked down a man beside him, and Beddell was gassed while trying to put a mask on the fallen man before he had put (p.32) on his own. Private Liton, a telephone operator in the Signal Corps, managed to put his mask on in time after the concussion from the projector burst blew in the window and door of the dugout he was in, but another soldier in the dugout “went wild” with fright.44 Liton and a lieutenant attempted to restrain the man and mask him, but Liton’s gas mask was torn off in the struggle. Liton became injured by the gas as a result, and the man he attempted to assist died. Most of the division’s casualties, however, were men who assumed that the gas dissipated long before it actually had and who removed their masks too soon. Approximately 225 U.S. soldiers of the 1st Division were in the vicinity during the attack and eighty-five of them, more than one-third, were injured or killed by the gas.45 In the days before the attack, the Americans had noticed noisy hammering and other unusual activity associated with the construction of the Liven’s projectors on the German side of no-man’s-land, but the gas attack still managed to catch the 1st Division underprepared.46

Despite CSS training, the gas caused a substantial number of casualties within the division. Such episodes were unfortunately common in the AEF as the war continued and as more new soldiers from the United States continued to arrive. In World War I most American army units suffered a proportionately higher percentage of gas casualties in battle than their French, British, and even German counterparts. The 26th Infantry Division had the lamentable distinction of suffering the most gas casualties of any U.S. Army division in France. In two hundred days of front-line service, the 26th Division suffered 5,815 gas casualties, according to the Army Medical Department.47

Doctors and medics in uniform found that treating poison-gas casualties was more complicated than healing soldiers who had been wounded with more conventional weapons. During triage a physician would have to determine if a solder had been gassed, with what chemical, and how severely, based on observational evidence. The patients who suffered from genuine gas poisoning had to be distinguished from those who were experiencing gas fright or exhaustion. Soldiers who had been gassed could have residual chemicals on their bodies, clothing, or equipment. Particularly with mustard gas, there was a risk that the boots or the hair of an injured soldier could contaminate an entire hospital ward if precautions were not taken. CSS Medical Director Gilchrist recorded the following description of an ideal field dressing station operated in Bezu-le-Guery on July 1, 1918.

When gas casualties occur they are immediately removed to the dressing station…. It occupies the church, adjoining school house, and two or three nearby buildings. It is divided into sections, the operating section, (p.33) dressing section, degassing section, and administrative section. Two tents have been erected adjoining a small building fitted up as a bath house, which are used for gassed casualties. Here they are stripped and assigned to the baths, those presenting serious symptoms are not permitted to get up but are bathed on litters in a reclining position; the others are marched into the bath house where they are given hot baths. The bath house is equipped with a portable heating apparatus connected with six shower heads. After the men have been bathed and dried, their eyes, noses and throats are sprayed with a solution of bicarbonate of soda, following which they are dressed in pajamas and removed to the church which is fitted up as a temporary hospital. From here, they are evacuated to the special gas hospital at Luzancy as soon as possible.48

It was hoped that cleaning the patients thoroughly at the dressing station would prevent the contamination of other patients and staff during treatment and convalescence, but not all medical stations were as well situated as this one at Bézu-le-Guéry. Battalion-level aid stations were improvised in a variety of locations near the fighting front, such as abandoned cellars and dugouts.49 Aid-station personnel were constantly exposed to poison fumes from the chemical casualties in small, poorly ventilated areas, and there was usually a shortage of water for cleaning the patients. The staff would have to conserve the available resources by deciding how thoroughly or not to bathe a soldier before transferring him to a more permanent hospital away from the front. Gassed patients were transported in separate ambulances from other wounded whenever possible.50 Once they arrived at a gas hospital, wounded soldiers could expect a long period of recovery, depending on the severity of their injuries. Soldiers had to wait until they regained sufficient lung function to perform their duties. Mustard gas patients usually took longer to recover than other wounded, and they usually experienced a greater variety of injuries including blindness, burns, and gastro-intestinal problems.

As more new American divisions moved into defensive positions on the Western Front through the winter, the Germans planned their spring offensive to take advantage of the U.S. Army’s small numbers and relative inexperience. During the Ludendorff Offensive, which lasted from March to July 1918, the AEF aided in the defense of far-flung French villages throughout the front, places like Epernay, Cantigny, Meteren, and many others. The French, British, and U.S. forces ultimately prevailed, but the intensity and duration of the fighting represented a trial by fire for the American newcomers.

In some cases the doughboys demonstrated good gas discipline and successfully defended against chemical attack with minimal casualties. (p.34) A medical officer named Eugene A. Curtin wrote in a letter home on April 15, “We have had no lack of excitement since the old Hun started in to muss up the world in general on the 21st of March.” He continued, “A few days before the Hun orchestra started the overture with gas and we all got some of it, myself included. While it did not lay us out, due to the continual use of our masks, we nevertheless got enough of it to make us miserable.”51 Though Curtin sustained no permanent injury and soon returned to his unit, gas was a capricious weapon with an ability to produce casualties that varied from circumstance to circumstance, and not everyone was so fortunate.

The U.S. Army 2nd Division helped defend an area of trenches near Saint-Mihiel during the spring offensive and, from April 6 through April 13, they sustained several heavy phosgene and mustard-gas attacks and suffered many casualties. All U.S. corps, divisions, and regiments were assigned gas officers from the CSS, who were responsible for advising commanders about chemical weapons, supervising gas defensive operations, maintaining anti-gas equipment, and conducting gas training.52 In his report following the attacks, the gas officer for the 2nd Division expressed frustration about how poorly the soldiers were faring. “The number of casualties was inexcusably large, 277 being evacuated up until noon of April 14th,” he wrote. “Of these all suffered from conjunctivitis, many having infected lungs and several are badly blistered.”53 Together with the experiences of the 1st Division and other Army units, this battle added to the growing mountain of evidence that the AEF was vulnerable to poison-gas attacks. CSS officers began to face the implication that the bulk of the U.S. Army was badly suited to defend itself against chemical weapons.

The CSS and the 2nd Division attempted to blame each other for the heavy casualties. The division’s officers claimed that the CSS had failed to properly train and equip their soldiers, while the gas officers claimed that the soldiers and their commanders had not taken defensive measures seriously.54 Both accusations were probably true. Throughout World War I, division and regimental gas officers worked to identify the causes of gas casualties with the hope of making soldiers safer in future attacks; however, their investigations often ended in finger pointing.

The victims of chemical attacks themselves were frequently blamed for becoming gas casualties because they failed to don their masks quickly enough or to keep them on long enough for the gas to dissipate. In a few cases the French were held responsible for American casualties. After a minor chemical attack on an artillery unit in the 42nd Division caused forty-five casualties in March 1918, the gas officer concluded that the wounded “were the result of the Officer in charge taking the word of a (p.35) French Lieutenant who told him the gas wasn’t strong enough to do any damage.”55 Another gas officer attributed nearly two hundred casualties suffered by the 77th Division during a mustard-gas attack on June 24 “due to the fact that the French N. C.Os stated that there was no gas present” and U.S. soldiers had removed their masks prematurely. “I recommend,” he wrote, “that a special order be sent out to all units that our men must not remove their masks on orders from the French. On investigation, I learned that it was common for the men of the 42nd Division to complain of the French telling them to remove their masks, and on doing so to find gas present.”56

AEF officers were also often blamed for failing to enforce adequate protective measures during gas attacks, as had happened with the 2nd Division at Saint-Mihiel. When the 18th Infantry Regiment suffered a staggering 693 casualties during a gas attack in May, the largest share of the blame fell on the regiment’s gas officer, Lieutenant Robert A. Hall, who was alleged to have neglected his duties before and during the attack. Among other accusations, Hall was seen wearing the French Tissot gas mask instead of the CSS-approved British SBR. According to the CSS officer who investigated the incident, when Hall wore the more comfortable French mask, it caused a great deal of confusion in the regiment about which type of mask to wear during the attack. Some soldiers switched masks while potent gas fumes still lingered in the air, and other soldiers neglected to wear the SBR at all.57 The actions of Hall and the other officers of the 18th Infantry were deemed “contrary to existing orders, and highly detrimental to gas discipline,” and it was ultimately recommended that Hall be relieved of his duties and reassigned.58 Hall may have been culpable in this instance, but the CSS had an unfortunate tendency to attribute gas casualties to individuals and circumstances instead of blaming inadequate training, poor defensive procedures, or deficient equipment.

While working to improve the AEF’s ability to defend itself against chemical attacks in the spring and early summer, the CSS also worked to accomplish its offensive mandate and use gas as a weapon against the enemy. The combat backbone of the CSS was a unit from the Corps of Engineers, called the 30th Engineers, commanded by Earl J. Atkisson. Though many members of the unit had professional backgrounds in chemistry and chemical engineering, they had no practical experience deploying poison gas on the battlefield until they completed their training with the British and practiced their first offensive action on the evening of June 18, 1918. Their targets were German encampments around La Ferme Saint Marie, west of Pont-à-Mousson, where there were three enemy companies and a battalion headquarters. Since the purpose of the (p.36) action was to train the American gas soldiers, it took place in an area of very little fighting, described as “the most peaceful of all ‘peace-time’ fronts.”59 To carry out the attack, the 30th Engineers, with the support of the U.S. Army 26th Division, installed nineteen hundred Livens projectors less than a mile from the German encampments.

The 30th Engineers suffered no casualties as they prepared and installed the projectors. At the appointed hour, the Livens projectors launched smoke clouds and phosgene gas at their targets in sequence, while French Army artillery pieces simultaneously bombarded the Germans at La Ferme Saint Marie. Approximately ten minutes after the initial attack, German artillery pieces began to shell the 26th Division in retaliation. The counterattack lasted for several hours, but no gas soldiers in the 30th Engineers were killed or wounded. The gas soldiers conducted a withdrawal from the fighting front, under the artillery fire, once the Livens projectors had been discharged and their mission completed.60

It was difficult to judge how effective the first U.S. gas attack had been, because gauging the effectiveness of chemical weapons in general was complicated by several factors. Armies rarely followed up a poison gas attack with reconnaissance or an infantry assault into the area, because lingering chemical fumes would have posed a danger to them. Except in rare cases where masked soldiers personally reconnoitered a gassed enemy area, the CSS relied on a host of indirect evidence to estimate the effectiveness of its attacks. In this case the intensity of the German counterattack convinced the gas regiment that the casualties they had caused among the Germans had been significant. They also relied on subsequent prisoner interrogations, which determined that the German units targeted by the gas were being relieved by another division at the time of the attack. That would tend to increase the number of German casualties. Poison gas was estimated to have caused at least ten deaths and thirty injuries in one German company alone.61 The 30th Engineers considered their first action a success, and they anticipated many more such successes in the future, but the rest of the AEF viewed this gas attack differently. They took into consideration the fact that the gas soldiers had turned a peaceful front into an artillery duel. The duration and strength of the German retaliation suggested that in the future the Germans would respond to large chemical attacks with ferocity. Some army officers felt that the artillery bombardment experienced by the 26th Division as a result of this attack was not worth the damage that had been done to the enemy.62

Accordingly, the 30th Engineers spent the next month virtually sidelined as the AEF participated in a large-scale offensive along the Marne River northeast of Paris, at Château-Thierry and Belleau Wood. The battle (p.37) involved almost three hundred thousand American soldiers and was the single largest U.S. contribution to the fighting so far. The 30th Engineers were initially ordered to take part in the July offensive at Château-Thierry, but once they arrived they were ordered to perform unrelated duties. The soldiers were told that the fighting front was moving forward too rapidly for gas attacks to be practical, but James Thayer Addison, the chaplain of the 30th Engineers, wrote that the decision was also made “partly because plans for gas warfare seemed to many to be novel and even trivial.”63 Deprived of their regular duties, the soldiers of the 30th Engineers proved versatile. The men served as road-repair crews and burial parties; they created smoke screens to mask troop movements and even fired cannons of propaganda leaflets over the battlefield urging Germans to foster social revolution and end the war, although the soldiers “naturally chafed at the lack of opportunities for which they had so long and so carefully been trained.”64 The Germans were ultimately driven back from the Marne River after several weeks of fighting, and the Allies halted the offensive to begin preparing for another one at Saint-Mihiel.

The Château-Thierry offensive ended without the 30th Engineers launching any chemical weapons, but poison gas was used by the AEF nevertheless. U.S. artillery units fired gas shells during the fighting, independent of the soldiers in the gas regiment. Throughout World War I, the AEF favored chemical-weapons delivery systems that discharged smaller quantities of gas instead of the larger-scale Livens projector attacks for which the 30th Engineers were equipped. An estimated 85 percent of all poison gas used in the First World War was delivered by artillery and mortar shell.65 While a Livens projector burst briefly saturates the target area in poison chemicals, firing individual shells repeatedly at the same location would instead allow the AEF to maintain a lower concentration of gas for longer periods. Projectors depended on the element of surprise to catch enemy soldiers who were unable to don their masks quickly enough, but a steady hail of gas shells could force them to work in hazardous conditions for hours.

American artillerists chiefly used phosgene and mustard gas shells and avoided the use of visible smoke. Most French artillery shells contained smoke-generating chemicals as well as toxic gas; this allowed artillerists to see the gas clouds forming over the enemy’s position and to adjust their fire as needed. Americans preferred instead to use artillery shells that were completely filled with poison gas in order to maximize their effectiveness and to keep the gas cloud invisible to the enemy.66 CSS officer Ernest McCullough described a typical attack and its intended results.

(p.38) The usual practice towards the end of the war was to put up a two-minute burst of fire with toxic shells donning immediate effect and to follow this with a long, continued fire of more persistent gasses. The continuous fire was varied from time to time with short bursts of toxic gasses in order to catch men who had removed their masks from time to time to get relief, or to penetrate canisters which had become defective.67

Of course, wearing a gas mask for an extended period is uncomfortable and demoralizing, and if the mask malfunctioned or the filter wore out, the soldier wearing it could become a casualty. To increase confusion and panic, artillery units could also alternate between firing poison gas shells and shells filled with shrapnel or lacrimony agents. If enemy soldiers ultimately evacuated the gassed area and the artillery ceased shelling, the low concentration could dissipate relatively quickly and allow the AEF to occupy the enemy position sooner.

The AEF’s “Instructions for the Use of Chemical Shells by Artillery,” which was prepared in January 1918 based on information from the British and the French, listed eight types of targets for which artillerists should employ gas shells: “Villages in which enemy troops are quartered, groups of dug-outs anywhere, areas where enemy troops are being concentrated or where it is desirable to prevent the assembly of enemy troops, lines of communication, machine gun emplacements, battery positions, and positions beyond the objective being attacked by our troops or on the flanking side of a proposed infantry attack, and all working parties.”68

In contrast, McCullough’s study of gas artillery shells, produced after the CSS had experienced chemical warfare in battle for itself, consolidated and simplified the list into three types of artillery fire: harassing, neutralization, and interdiction.69 Harassing fire was used to gas roads and rear areas where enemy soldiers tended to congregate. Neutralization fire was used against enemy artillery positions, and it would force the gassed gun crews to evacuate the area and reposition their weapons. Interdiction fire used persistent gasses to deny the enemy use of roads and bridges during an advance or attack. The targets that McCullough described would all have been relatively deep inside an enemy area, where the wind would be unlikely to blow the gas back toward friendly soldiers, and soldiers who advanced into front line enemy positions would not have to fight in areas gassed by their own artillery.

The use of gas shells by artillery presented several serious difficulties. Gas warfare required artillerists to remain mindful of terrain and weather conditions, because environmental factors affect the concentration, persistency, and lethality of poison gas. The “Instructions for the (p.39) Use of Chemical Shells by Artillery” explained that “the effective use of gas shells is much more dependent upon weather conditions than is the case with other forms of projectiles. Wind direction and velocity, temperature, humidity, and nature of ground are all important factors which must be considered.”70

Wind direction is of prime importance and great care must be taken in choosing targets for gas shells when the wind is blowing towards our own lines. An extremely hot sun is detrimental to the effectiveness of gas because it causes the shell contents to be vaporized too rapidly and ascending air currents dissipate the gas. On the other hand, extreme cold delays vaporization. A moist atmosphere is desirable, though a heavy rain diminishes the effectiveness of gas attacks. On the whole, ideal weather conditions (absence of wind, moderately high temperature, and moist atmosphere) usually occur on a summer night. Their effect is greatest in places that are sheltered from the wind such as woods, valleys, closely built villages or ground covered with thick brush.71

Artillery crews in the AEF had to understand a great deal about how prevailing conditions would affect the gasses they used, but that was not the only unique challenge that chemical weapons presented. Different types of gas shells were marked with symbols or bands of colored paint to indicate which chemical mixture was inside. Overall this identification system worked poorly. The shells and the gasses they were filled with came from factories across the United States, Britain, and France, and standardization proved extremely difficult. In practice, artillerists had to memorize an ever-changing list of identifying marks if they hoped (for example) to launch a barrage of smoke and white phosphorous and not mustard gas. Artillerists who fired gas shells also did so under the threat of retaliation in kind. Gun crews wore their gas masks constantly, not only out of fear of German gas attack but also because their own gas shells would sometimes leak. “Leaking gas shells can best be disposed of by firing from the gun,” the soldiers were advised, “If the condition of the shell is such that [firing] is impossible, it should be buried under at least 5 feet of earth.”72 In recognition of the fact that SBR gas masks were too uncomfortable to be worn for these extended periods, doughboys in AEF artillery units were permitted to wear the French Tissot mask instead.73

In light of the many difficulties the AEF was experiencing with respect to using and defending against poison gas in France, the CSS pushed the Department of War harder to undertake a major restructuring of the U.S. chemical warfare program through the summer of 1918. CSS officers were led by a newly appointed director in Washington, D.C., Major General William L. Sibert. At the outset of World War I in 1917, Sibert (p.40) had initially been appointed to command the 1st Division of the U.S. Army in France. After a short time in this relatively prominent position, however, the commander of the AEF, John J. Pershing, removed Sibert for poor performance and sent him back to the United States to lead the Gas Service.74 Once he arrived in that position, Sibert worked with fellow CSS officers to coordinate the disparate gas-warfare responsibilities vested with the Bureau of Mines, Surgeon General’s Office, and Ordnance Department. They believed that centralizing all chemical warfare activities into one, consolidated, Chemical Warfare Service would streamline administration and communication, allow the United States to manufacture more gas and related equipment, and also improve the AEF’s ability to defend itself against German gas in France. With the AEF almost entirely dependent on gas equipment manufactured in France and Britain, and with its soldiers suffering a proportionally higher number of gas casualties than their allies or their enemies, the Department of War was willing to implement CSS recommendations that seemed capable of improving conditions.

While it was possible for the Department of War to consolidate the various gas activities within army agencies, the Bureau of Mines was a civilian agency within the Department of the Interior. An order from the President of the United States would be required to reassign resources from one cabinet agency to another. Convincing President Woodrow Wilson to change the existing administrative arrangement would be problematic, however, because all agreed that the Bureau of Mines had been doing excellent work under difficult circumstances. Sibert and the officers of the CSS simply believed that a more centralized research organization, operating from within the military, would operate more effectively. That assertion touched on a larger fundamental question about the nature of research and scientific discovery. Who should conduct scientific research vital to national defense: civilians or soldiers? Soldier-chemists could work efficiently within the military, and they could be trusted to keep their work secret, but would the army command structure and intellectual isolation make scientific discoveries less likely? Conversely, the intellectual exchange and free flow of ideas essential to scientific discovery could better occur among civilian chemists, but would that intellectual openness cause a security risk, and did civilian scientists work less efficiently than military ones?

The Department of the Interior and the Department of War exchanged memoranda about transferring chemical warfare responsibilities away from the Bureau of Mines throughout the first half of 1918. On May 15, 1918, Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane wrote to President Wilson (p.41) directly and asked him to prevent the proposed reorganization. “It would be a great mistake,” Lane wrote about the Gas Investigations Division at the Bureau of Mines, “to take this out of civilian hands.”75 Wilson’s reply professed ignorance of the subject and requested more information.

On May 16, a group of chemists who worked with the Bureau of Mines sent Lane a letter encouraging his opposition of the Department of War’s consolidation plan. The group included William H. Nichols, a leader of the American Chemical Society, which was the largest professional association of chemists in the United States. Nichols and his group later wrote that they opposed the transfer because the work the Bureau of Mines was doing was competent and innovative. “We believed also,” they said, “that the spirit of the Bureau of Mines was through its very nature more conductive to research than that of the War Department, the strictly military division of the Government. Then, too, we feared the numbing effect of the much discussed ‘red tape’ of War Department methods upon the spirit of originality, daring and speed in following new trails, so essential to the successful prosecution of research.”76 In the face of this opposition, the Department of War formerly asked the Secretary of the Interior to transfer the chemical warfare activities of the Bureau of Mines to a new chemical warfare division under its authority on May 21, 1918.

A meeting was held in Secretary of War Newton Baker’s office on the afternoon of May 25 to discuss the transfer and allow the opposing parties to articulate their respective positions. The members of the Department of War who attended were Baker, Crowell, Army Chief of Staff Peyton C. March, Sibert, and CSS officers Marston T. Bogert and William S. Bacon. Lane was traveling outside the country, but First Assistant Secretary of the Interior Alexander Vogelsang attended in his place, along with Van H. Manning and George A. Burrell from the Bureau of Mines.77

Manning spent some time at the start of the meeting expounding the chemical weapons work undertaken by the Bureau of Mines and lauding the organization’s achievements. He asserted that the Bureau of Mines should continue to perform chemical weapons research because it had a proven record of success in the field. Sibert responded that the issue was one of “control, that more efficiency could be secured by direct authority than by cooperation.”78 Manning disputed this point, saying that “more efficient work could be done by a research organization by leaving it out of military organization, because technical and scientific men would work better by request than order.”79 Manning feared the regimentation and “red tape” that Nichols and other chemists thought an army organization would engender. The meeting ended after two hours with no (p.42) resolution, but Baker and Vogelsang spoke with each other privately immediately afterward. Baker indicated that he was not yet persuaded that the proposed transfer would be beneficial, and he promised Vogelsang “that he would try to convince General Sibert that the present arrangement should be continued.”80

In a telegram from France on June 3, Pershing recommended to March that chemical warfare work be consolidated into one organization. He wrote that poison gas “may have great influence in securing ultimate victory,” and that “it is therefore requested that the President direct that in view of the existing emergency there be established in the National Army a Gas Corps.”81 Such a request from Pershing certainly carried weight. On June 25, Baker wrote to President Wilson officially recommending the transfer of Manning’s organization to Sibert. In spite of his recommendation, Baker commended Manning and the Bureau of Mines.

In the early days of preparation and organization, Dr. Manning’s contact with scientific men throughout the country was immensely valuable. He was able to summon from the universities and the technical laboratories of the country men of the highest quality and to inspire them with enthusiastic zeal in attacking new and difficult problems which had to be solved with the utmost speed. I do not see how the work could have been better done than he did it, and the present suggestion that the section now pass under the direction and control of the War Department grows out of the fact that the whole subject of gas warfare has assumed a fresh pressure and intensity, and the director of it must have the widest control so as to be able to use the resources at his command in the most effective way possible.82

Wilson approved the recommendation and issued an executive order authorizing the transfer that same day.83 The consolidation of all gas warfare activities in the Department of War and the Bureau of Mines became effective on June 29, 1918, under the Overman Act, recently passed legislation that gave the president the power to coordinate government agencies in wartime. All of the twelve hundred civilian employees and the six hundred commissioned and noncommissioned men of the Bureau of Mines Gas Investigations Division were transferred to the soon-to-be-named Chemical Warfare Service (CWS) of the U.S. Army. The chemical warfare duties of the Surgeon General’s Office, the Ordnance Department, and the Corps of Engineers were all also consolidated into the CWS.

Manning sent letters to Wilson and Sibert that acknowledged the transfer and then mailed copies of Wilson’s order and Baker’s letter to dozens of people involved in the work of the Bureau of Mines and to members of Congress over the next several days.84 He forwarded the (p.43) letters from Baker and President Wilson to Charles H. Herty, editor of the chemical industry periodical Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry; Manning asked Herty to bring the letters to the attention of the New York Times as well. Herty’s journal and other chemical industry periodicals reprinted the letters in full.85 In the aftermath of Wilson’s executive order, Manning managed to spread the word that the transfer was not the result of any negligence or failure at the Department of the Interior, and he tried to ensure that the chemists and other personnel of the Gas Investigations Division received recognition for all that they had accomplished. Individuals in the scientific community wrote letters of condolence to Manning, but industry periodicals generally viewed the transfer as a sign that the Department of War was acknowledging the important role of chemists in the war effort.86

Confronted with a chemical warfare crisis on the battlefield in France, the military’s decision to assume responsibility for research related to chemical weapons may have been a good one in the long run. Nevertheless, the civilians who worked with the Bureau of Mines correctly asserted that scientific discovery can flourish in an unfettered atmosphere of intellectual and administrative independence. Not only is it possible that the U.S. chemical warfare program suffered when it was placed solely under military authority, but the timing of the transfer was also particularly poor. When the CWS assumed responsibility for chemical weapons research in June, there were only five months of fighting remaining before the war would end in November. Had anyone known that the First World War would end relatively soon, the Bureau of Mines could have been left to continue poison-gas research uninterrupted. Instead, valuable time and resources were wasted as officers and civilian personnel adjusted to their new organization and working relationships.

Once the CWS won control of chemical weapons research from the Bureau of Mines, its officers began to implement policies designed to court chemists. They allowed most of the chemists who had worked for the Bureau of Mines to continue to work as civilians within the CWS. A notable exception was George A. Burrell, head of the Gas Investigations Division, who was put into uniform as a colonel. The CWS also worked to locate and transfer chemists who were scattered around in various other areas of the army. When the military draft was first instituted in May 1917, there were no exemptions for chemists, and the army compounded this oversight by putting drafted chemists into the general pool of soldiers eligible for frontline service. Chemists believed that they should be a protected class of specialists, and they protested both of these practices.87 Prominent organic chemist and CWS officer (p.44) Marston T. Bogert wrote that “the sending of chemists to the line in a war which can most accurately be described as a chemical war, was a suicidal blunder.”88 The CWS earned the thanks of chemists nationwide by raising awareness within the Department of War about the important war-related skills that chemists possessed, and by working to secure for them military assignments where they could use their training.

The CWS also assumed administration of Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, from the Ordnance Department and continued the rapid expansion of its facilities under the direction of Colonel William H. Walker. Poison-gas factories and support buildings were already under construction around the shell-filling plant that had been built there in 1917. The erection of a large chloropicrin plant began at Edgewood on January 25, 1918. Chloropicrin was a powerful tear gas that was sometimes used on its own and sometimes mixed with other war gasses to make them more irritating. Once it was completed, the plant housed ten enormous chloropicrin stills, each eight feet wide and eighteen feet tall.89 In March the army also began building a lethal-gas plant, designed particularly to manufacture phosgene. Phosgene is very sensitive to heat and cold, so the temperature of the chemical reactions had to be carefully controlled at every stage of the manufacturing process. Refrigeration units kept the gas in liquid form so that it could be poured into artillery shells that were cooled to 0 degrees Fahrenheit.90 By the end of World War I, the phosgene plant could produce forty tons of the gas per day, and a “practically completed” expansion was ready to double that capacity.91

By July 1918 the shell-filling, chloropicrin, and phosgene plants were all operational, and construction at Edgewood continued to abound.92 Contemporaries marveled at the grand scale of the place. Scientific American reported that “in considerably less than 12 months of active construction, we [the United States] built from the ground up a vast establishment, and developed an industry entirely new to the United States.”93 The chemists and engineers at Edgewood erected a research lab, a power station, a water system, warehouses, rail spurs, officers’ quarters, worker barracks, and a thirty-four-building hospital capable of treating 420 patients. The CWS recorded that by October 1, 1918, the arsenal teemed with a population of 233 officers, 6,948 enlisted men, and 3,066 civilians.94 Scientific American concluded, “We do not recall any other governmental work which surpasses this in the intelligent prevision with which it was laid out, the speed with which it was erected, and the brief period of time in which production on a large scale was accomplished.”95

The Ordnance Department made the decision to build a chlorine gas plant at Edgewood in winter 1917 because, in the words of one of the (p.45) plant’s designers, “chlorine is the base from which practically every gas is made which is used in warfare.”96 Over time, the plans for the facility expanded in size and scope, but construction did not begin until the summer that the CWS formally took over administration of Edgewood. Lieutenant Colonel E. B. Ellicott of the Department of War Construction Division, plant designers H. R. Nelson and Samuel M. Green, and a large team of engineers erected two cavernous buildings, each filled with rows of hundreds of electrolytic chlorine cells, as well as several additional buildings to house the other aspects of the manufacturing process. An estimated two hundred tons of salt per day would be needed for the plant to operate at capacity, so a rail spur was built for salt trains to unload directly into several large vats at the brine facility. An auxiliary power plant had to be built to supply the factory’s anticipated electrical needs. A system of pipes that ran along an elevated truss more than twenty-four hundred feet long was also built to pump the gas to other plants that needed it. This manufacturing complex was only partially online by the November armistice, but if it had reached peak production, this unprecedented facility, the CWS estimated, would have had the largest capacity of any chlorine gas factory in the world.97

Not all of the accomplishments at Edgewood were as celebrated. In May the army began the construction of a mustard-gas plant at Edgewood Arsenal, which would employ the method of manufacture created by James B. Conant and developed by Frank M. Dorsey of the Gas Investigations Division.98 Since it was a new production method, the equipment and procedures for making mustard gas were not well tested or established. Captain H. H. Hanson, the officer in charge of constructing and operating the mustard-gas plant at Edgewood, and his staff of engineers had to design and build much of the equipment themselves. In order to produce mustard gas, they first had to innovate a way to manufacture large quantities of ethylene. The forty specially designed kaolin reactors they constructed were capable of producing sixteen thousand cubic feet of ethylene per hour and were called “one of the engineering triumphs of Edgewood.”99 Hanson and his officers also built thirty large reactors to produce the sulfur monochloride that would be needed in the mustard-gas manufacturing process.

The ethylene and sulfur monochloride were combined in experimental mustard reactors to produce the liquid mustard gas, but very serious problems occurred at this step. These reactors were specially designed lead tanks filled with coils of pipe through which brine or cold water would flow in order to control the temperature of the chemical reaction. While the first experimental mustard reactors built at Edgewood were (p.46) able to produce large quantities of the liquid initially, they had to be shut down after a few days of operation. The reactor tanks and pipes had filled with sulfur waste, described as being “of a consistency of chewing gum,” and there had also been problems with the ethylene injector nozzles becoming clogged inside the tank.100 William B. Loach, an operator at the mustard-gas factory, estimated that for every pound of liquid mustard gas they made, a fifth of a pound of sulfur was also produced.101 At that rate, the reactors had quickly filled with solid sulfur waste and become inoperable.

“When making ordinary chemicals,” Loach said, “such a system can be cleaned out, but not with ‘mustard.’”102 The waste sulfur inside the reactors was completely saturated with mustard gas, and the solid clumps proved impossible to remove remotely. At first the designers tried flooding the tanks with cleaning solvent to wash out the residual sulfur, but this process failed to dislocate the stubborn chunks of toxic waste. The alternative was to clean out the reactors more or less by hand, but the gas made everything inside the reactor unsafe. CWS officers indicated that “it is almost impossible to economically remove [the residual gas], and its presence adds to the difficulty of removing the sulfur from the reactors; the men engaged in this operation almost always become casualties.”103

The engineers quickly built twenty new and improved mustard-gas reactors of various designs at the factory through the summer of 1918, but all of them had similar problems. “At no time was it possible,” Loach bemoaned, “because of troubles without number, to run more than 5 reactors in this plant at once.”104 The more mustard gas the reactors produced, the more solid sulfur was left inside the reactors. The sulfur sat at the bottom of the tanks, taking up more and more space. It caked onto the cooling coils, making it impossible to regulate the exothermic reaction; it clogged up the pipes, causing stoppages and leaks. Ambient conditions inside the mustard-gas plant were terrible. Even with only some of the mustard gas tanks operational, the chemical reactions inside them produced temperatures around one hundred degrees inside the factory. The “nauseating and burning fumes” of the mustard gas were “always in the air,” sickening and injuring the soldiers who worked there.105 Hanson lamented that for the workers the “danger of serious injuries was always present, yet there was no respite except the hospital.”106 There were no civilians who were willing to work in the mustard-gas plant, so even the most mundane tasks were dependent on enlisted personnel and officers. Since injuries were common and few men were willing to do the work, those left behind to operate the plant often had to work long shifts with little rest. Worst of all, every few days the inside of the reactors would (p.47) have to be cleaned, and everyone knew that “it was in the removal of precipitated sulfur that most of our casualties occurred.”107

The workforce at the mustard-gas factory suffered a staggering 674 casualties during the seven months the plant was in operation.108 While work in all of the poison gas plants was hazardous, there were only 251 casualties in all of the other factories at Edgewood combined during the same period. The second most hazardous Edgewood plant was the massive chlorine factory, responsible for only sixty-two injuries.109 The number of mustard-gas casualties is shocking, particularly considering that the plant never reached full production and was regularly inactive for long periods while the operators worked to make the process safer. When the postwar chief of the CWS, Amos A. Fries, told a Senate committee in 1919 that “everybody we put in that building got burned,” he was not using hyperbole.110

Like most of the factories at Edgewood Arsenal, the mustard-gas plant had been grand in its conception. Originally commissioned to produce fifty tons of mustard gas per day, its full production potential was more than twice that by the end of World War I.111 And despite the frequent equipment failures and accidents that occurred at Edgewood, the plant reportedly still managed to manufacture, on average, more mustard gas per day than both the British and French produced per month.112 After the war ended, the CWS learned that the entire German chemical industry had been able to manage a collective production rate of only six tons of mustard gas per day.

The relatively large capacities of the mustard-gas plant and the other chemical-weapons facilities at Edgewood may seem excessive. However, the officers of the CWS believed that the chemical metropolis they had constructed would be needed to supply an expanding war effort of indefinite duration, where poison gas would play an essential part. The unfortunate irony was that Edgewood Arsenal did not manage to produce and ship enough chemical weapons to supply the AEF before the war ended in November. Construction schedules, shipping delays, and material shortages made the U.S. Army dependent on French and British chemical warfare equipment, and the AEF did not fire a single poison gas shell filled at Edgewood during the First World War. At a 1920 hearing on war expenditures in the House of Representatives, Fries reflected on their failure to supply the AEF despite the vast production capabilities that were being developed at Edgewood: “I have felt that one trouble was we started on too great a scale. In other words, we started to build an enormous skyscraper for making shells, on such a plan that we could not get a single shell finished until we got the whole skyscraper system (p.48) working.”113 Fries explained that a number of scattered, smaller-scale manufacturing operations would have allowed more chemical warfare supplies to be produced in the United States more quickly in the short term, but he asserted that if the war had lasted longer, Edgewood Arsenal would have reached full productive ability.114

While CWS soldiers in the United States were fighting the “Battle of Edgewood,” their counterparts in France, for the most part, remained sidelined. AEF gas officers continued their training and inspection duties, but the battlefield use of gas was largely limited to U.S. artillery units instead of the 30th Engineers. On May 31 an early-morning trench raid performed by the 101st Infantry Regiment went tragically wrong when the wind blew American gas back on to the advancing soldiers. The 101st and 103rd Artillery Regiments in the 26th Division, as well as some French artillery units, were ordered to support the raid by firing a box barrage around a segment of trenches near Lahayville while simultaneously saturating the town with more than sixteen hundred phosgene shells. A strong, steady wind blew the gas back toward the three hundred raiding AEF soldiers, causing 236 casualties. Evidently, none of the artillery batteries involved were aware of the wind speed or direction when the attack commenced, and none of the gas officers in the 26th Division were consulted about the use of gas.115 Incidents like this were prima facie evidence that careless mistakes were causing gas casualties, and such events were galling to the CWS, whose experts had gone unutilized.

The 30th Engineers experienced their first combat fatalities on June 30, when they fell under German artillery fire while conducting a conventional mortar attack. Among those killed was an officer, 2nd Lieutenant Joseph T. Hanlon, whom the 30th Engineers mourned deeply.116 He was eulogized as “an officer of unusual promise, great ability, high ideals, every inch a soldier and one who was loved by all who knew him.”117 “In his death,” it was said, “the Service suffered a serious loss.”118 The CWS’s training ground in France, Experimental Field, was renamed Hanlon Field in his honor.

In August, the 30th Engineers began receiving new orders to deploy chemical weapons against the Germans in several places along the Western Front. One of the largest operations took place in the Vosges Sector near the town of Rambervillers. The French had observed new trench construction in the German lines near a hill under French control, called Tête du Violu, and they suspected that the Germans were planning to attack the hill. They carried out a large-scale artillery bombardment of the German trenches and asked the 30th Engineers to follow up with a chemical attack to hinder rescue-and-repair efforts.119

(p.49) On August 5 at 11 P.M., after extensive preparations, the gas soldiers launched three hundred mortar bombs and fired five hundred Livens projectors at German targets. One of the projector emplacements initially failed to launch, but a brave trio consisting of a sergeant, a private, and a farrier set out under enemy fire to repair the projectors and launch the gas. Two of the three were accidentally gassed during the exploit, and all were recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross.120 The gas attack was credited with causing heavy enemy casualties. Subsequent intelligence gathered by the French indicated that the gas had caught the Germans unprepared and had resulted in an estimated eighty to one hundred deaths. The CWS was proud of this attack, later touting it as a “striking instance of the power of offensive-gas warfare when skillfully conducted.”121

On August 9, the 30th Engineers were officially incorporated into the new CWS organization and renamed the 1st Gas Regiment.122 Now under their more appropriate moniker, the gas soldiers went on to execute another large chemical attack. The 1st Gas was ordered to launch eight hundred Livens projectors near the town of Baccarat. This operation required ninety tons of chemical munitions, which the members of the regiment moved by rail car, truck, and burro to the projector emplacements in no-man’s-land. In spite of the difficult logistics, the work was completed quickly because the area received almost no enemy artillery fire while the soldiers installed the projectors. The 1st Gas Regiment’s chaplain, Addison, recorded that their billets far to the rear were under almost constant enemy bombardment, ironically “making rest more risky than work.”123 At midnight on August 17, the gas was launched with success. Slowly but surely, the army’s chemical warfare soldiers felt they were demonstrating their effectiveness and earning trust and respect.

The AEF as a whole was still prone to suffer high numbers of casualties in German gas attacks, particularly when mustard gas was used. German artillery inundated the U.S. 89th Division with mustard gas the night of August 7 in the woods southeast of Seicheprey, causing 759 gas injuries and at least forty-seven deaths. Captain Edward Mack of the CWS understated the case when he wrote that “this was an inexcusably high number.” “Some of the men,” he said, “did not wear respirators at all, thinking that mustard gas was not dangerous. Others used the mouth-piece but did not protect their eyes by wearing the face-piece. Throughout the area about 75% of the men wore their respirators from 5 to 6 hours, but were gassed in the morning when they had to remove their respirators from exhaustion.”124

A principal reason for the large number of casualties was that the soldiers were left in position even though the ground and trees around them (p.50) had become saturated with mustard gas. A CWS report prepared after this tragedy admonished, “It is impossible to stand up under mustard gas. The only method of defense is withdrawal.”125 Yet often during a battle, or in its aftermath, withdrawal was inexpedient or impossible. Months later, during the Meuse-Argonne offensive, the 89th Division was bombarded by mustard gas while occupying another forest. The salient they defended was too strategically important to be abandoned, and even the division gas officer agreed that “it was worth 400 gas casualties not to have to evacuate the position that was won with such difficulty.”126 Mustard-gas casualties were the inevitable result of such decisions for the AEF.

In September the U.S. Army began its most ambitious offensive yet, at Saint-Mihiel. Involving more than half a million American troops, the objective was to defeat the German army in its defensive position around the city and force it to retreat eastward.127 Saint-Mihiel was south of the besieged French city of Verdun, and pushing the German forces back from it was deemed an important and difficult task. At the outset of the Saint-Mihiel offensive, the 1st Gas Regiment was separated into small platoons and assigned to different individual army divisions to make it more responsive and versatile. The various platoons were ordered to participate in the opening assault by creating smoke screens and attacking German defenders with explosives and poisonous gasses. After that, they were expected to deploy smoke, gas, and explosives as required by their assigned divisions.128

The weather was abysmal in the days that led up to the offensive. It rained constantly; the muddy, traffic-congested roads were almost impassable. In spite of the added difficulty, the 1st Gas Regiment was ready with its equipment by the start of the offensive. On September 12 at the appointed hour, the AEF began a massive artillery assault across the entire theater of operations, and soldiers began their advance toward the German positions. Those first hours of the attack were full of “brilliance and excitement” for the soldiers of the gas regiment.129 The gas platoons, scattered across the front, fired scores of weapons loaded with smoke bombs, poisonous gas, and incendiary and explosive liquids at their German targets in concert with the other elements of the 1st Army. The opening hours of the offensive were very successful, and the Germans began to fall back.

Afterward, however, the 1st Gas Regiment’s participation in the offensive came to an unexpected end. The Germans were retreating too rapidly for the fighting front to stabilize, and the AEF’s forward momentum made division commanders doubt the necessity and practicality of (p.51) any more chemical attacks.130 The AEF was also experiencing very few enemy chemical attacks during the fighting, and they did not want to invite retaliation by making more extensive use of poison gas.131 By the end of the offensive on September 15, the 1st Gas Regiment had not made any more substantive contributions to the battle.

This turn of events was disappointing for the gas soldiers, who had wanted to play a much more active role in the fighting than they ultimately did. Addison wrote in his Story of the 1st Gas Regiment that his unit’s participation in the Saint-Mihiel offensive should not be rated by its “actual value” but rather by its “potential value, the reckoning of what we might have done and should have done had occasion offered.”132 It is a story, he said, “of strain and effort, filled with carrying and reconnoitering, with watching and waiting.”133 Certainly, Addison and the other soldiers of the 1st Gas Regiment would rather have told a story about their participation in the battle that highlighted “actual value” over “potential value.”

The last major offensive of World War I was the Meuse-Argonne offensive. It was the largest American campaign of the war, involving more than 1.2 million U.S. troops. The offensive lasted from September 1918 until the war ended and was fought in the Meuse River valley and the Argonne Forest. It was extremely difficult fighting. The Germans were stalwart defenders, and Americans described some of the skirmishes there as hell on earth.

Upon the fields, along every approach, and in the trenches, still lay the dead. The whole country had been drenched with gas. Although the fields were sodden and every road-ditch was a running stream of water, the odor of charred things was everywhere as if the earth were still smoldering. One felt that all about him the hot breath of an unseen, evil power was fuming; and was glad for once that the rain was falling to destroy the hot poison in the air…. Amid universal desolation one felt as if he were treading haunted ground.134

Gas played an important role in the fighting for the German defenders, who seemed to appreciate that this might be their last chance to beat back the American and French advance. Most of the combat took place in wooded areas, which are particularly suited to gas attacks because the branches and leaf canopy act to close in the space and shelter the area from winds that would blow the poison air away. This made life on the front lines extremely difficult and dangerous for the soldiers. In one instance the 33rd Division was caught in a wooded area for several days, unable to advance. They were gassed constantly, and the absence of (p.52) wind allowed the chemical clouds to remain persistent for long periods. Gas casualties were constantly being shuttled to rear-area hospitals, so much so that one division medical officer commented that “every officer and man in the Division, working with combat battalions and in other organizations operating … near the front, was gassed to some degree during the operations.”135 As bloody and noxious as the campaign was, the fighting in the Argonne resulted in the liberation of the French city of Sedan, which was a significant accomplishment. Sedan had been in German possession since the start of the war, and its railroads supported the German army throughout Northern France. The capture of the city brought World War I closer to an end, but at a high cost. The fighting resulted in approximately 117,000 U.S. casualties.136

At the beginning of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, the 1st Gas Regiment launched sixteen separate attacks along the American front lines, firing smoke, incendiary liquid, and explosives at the Germans, but no poisonous gas. After their initial participation, events followed what was by that time a familiar pattern. The regiment was ordered to keep pace with the U.S. advance and to assist as needed, but over the weeks of fighting, they seldom participated in offensive actions.137 October 2 marked their first gas attack of the campaign, when a mere fifty-six Livens projectors were fired on German soldiers in the city of Vilosnes.138 During the final weeks of World War I, the members of the 1st Gas Regiment conducted several mortar attacks and generated smoke screens, but orders to deploy chemical weapons remained infrequent.

Advancing against the Germans in Belgium, the 37th Division suffered sporadic gas shelling from October 31 to November 4. The Division Gas Officer, Captain I. W. Nowry, wrote a report about the attacks for the CWS, noting that the gas had managed to cause only thirty-one injuries and one death. The shelling was very unusual.

In the opinion of the Division Gas Officer, the Germans were experiencing a shortage of gas shells in that Sector, as the attack lacked the systematic thoroughness which was usually characteristic of the German Gas shelling. Many times Mustard, D.A., and Phosgene were used at the same time and frequently one or all of these gasses were mixed with High Explosive shelling. The terrain affected was not at all favorable for a gas attack of any magnitude.139

The attacks had the characteristics of a disorganized rear-guard action. One week later Germany agreed to the armistice that ended hostilities. From the start of the Meuse-Argonne offensive to the November 11 armistice, the gas regiment conducted eighty-four individual operations, (p.53) and only a handful of those had involved the use of poison gas. Those last few weeks constituted the bulk of the 1st Gas Regiments’ combat activity, having only performed 133 individual combat actions over the course of the entire war.140

The 1st Gas Regiment’s record of achievement, as such, is surely one that needs to be qualified. Their battlefield activities were usually limited to firing smoke and explosive weapons at the Germans in the opening hours of a battle, followed by long periods of relative inactivity. The bulk of the chemical weapons used against Germany during World War I were fired from American artillery units, and not from the CWS’s Livens projectors. While the soldiers of the 1st Gas Regiment no doubt made a contribution to the fighting, it could not be said, as it would later be claimed by officers of the CWS, that chemical weapons had been key to winning the war. There was considerable speculation about the role that gas, and by extension the CWS, would have played on the battlefield had the war not ended when it did. One CWS officer who wrote about this potential in the postwar period was Augustin M. Prentiss: “All in all, it is clear from the plans of both sides that, had the war continued for another year, the campaign of 1919 would have been largely a chemical war. This phenomenal rise of chemicals from an unknown obscurity in 1915 to the position of a military agent of the first magnitude in 1918 is without parallel in the history of warfare.”141

Another year of war, the CWS speculated, would have given the AEF another year to improve their defensive capabilities and perhaps to design and manufacture improved gas masks. The factories at Edgewood Arsenal could have been completed and brought to full production, and researchers might have innovated new poison gasses and delivery systems. While it was true that a lengthier war would have given the CWS more time to improve aspects of the U.S. chemical warfare program, there were no guarantees. An additional year of fighting would probably not have changed the opinions of regular army officers who avoided using gas because they viewed it as a dangerous and distasteful weapon. Gas soldiers who believed that 1919 had the potential to evolve into a “chemical war” relied on several suppositions that could not be proved, but the counterfactual was supported by several technological achievements the CWS had managed before the November armistice.

The members of the CWS were pioneers in the use of smoke-generating phosphorous. They had worked to perfect methods of creating smoke screens that could mask troop movements from ground and aerial observation, as well as create the illusion of army activity in areas where there was none. The CWS had also experimented with methods of concealing (p.54) Livens projector flashes (to prevent the enemy from being alerted to an imminent gas attack) and had created decoy flashes that they hoped would force the Germans to don their gas masks unnecessarily.142 While directing CWS operations in France, Amos A. Fries proposed that airplanes be used to drop gas bombs on enemy cities.143 The AEF’s commander John J. Pershing refused the suggestion and established a policy that the U.S. Army would not intentionally gas civilians unless the Germans did so first, but forward-thinking CWS officers believed that airplanes had the potential to deliver chemical weapons to enemy targets in the future. Before the First World War ended, CWS soldiers also experimented with using a liquid incendiary called thermite as a weapon. “Like a great many other promising things in war, it didn’t entirely prove out,” Fries wrote of thermite. “Nevertheless,” he said, “it was sufficiently successful as manufactured by the British and as used by the Americans to give it a place in past history and a probable place in future military operations.”144

The most promising technological innovation the CWS achieved during World War I was the manufacture of a new, lethal war gas that was developed too late to be used by the AEF. Working at the CWS laboratory at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., Captain Winford Lee Lewis developed a substance that had been discovered in the United States in 1904 by a priest-chemist, Father Julius Arthur Nieuwland. Made by combining arsenic tetrachloride and acetylene, the black liquid produced an odor that hospitalized Nieuwland for several days. Nieuwland abandoned work on the compound because he saw no practical use for something so poisonous, but he mentioned it briefly in his innocuously titled PhD thesis, “Some Reactions of Acetylene.” Lewis heard about the experiment from a professor at Catholic University who had been Nieuwland’s advisor, Father John Griffin, and once he took up the research the substance came to be called Lewisite. Lewis delivered the formula to James B. Conant, who designed and constructed a Lewisite factory in Willoughby, Ohio, with his associate Frank M. Dorsey.145

Lewisite was an extremely exciting development in chemical-weapons research for the CWS. Researchers likened the substance to a more powerful mustard gas and, because so few people were aware of its existence, the mass production of Lewisite could be accomplished in secrecy. After only a few months of fighting alongside its more experienced allies, the AEF was going to employ Lewisite to surprise the Germans on the Western Front with a new, American-made war gas. It was anticipated that the Lewisite manufactured at Willoughby would be used in the 1919 spring offensive, but, of course, that event never materialized. The war ended before any Lewisite could be shipped across the Atlantic, (p.55) and the CWS quietly disposed of the factory equipment and stockpiled chemicals.146 It was not until confirmed rumors about Lewisite and the factory at Willoughby appeared in the press later in 1919 that the CWS abandoned secrecy and permitted its officers to boast about the achievement.147

Throughout 1918, as the CWS worked to train the AEF, manufacture chemical weapons, and use poison gas on the battlefield, gas soldiers argued that their method of war represented the most substantive military achievement of the First World War. “Gas warfare is not a fad, nor an experiment,” CWS director William L. Sibert asserted. “It is a proven, powerful instrument of war both in offense and defense.”148 However, there was little basis for such claims.149 CWS suppositions about the important role chemical weapons had played in the war were belied by the relatively limited use of gas made on the battlefield. While no one knew what potential gas might have as a weapon in future wars, its detractors considered the past prologue.


(6.) Jackson Guy Lancaster (AFC 2001/001/24036), Diaries and Journals (MS01), Veterans History Project Collection, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.

(7.) “Gas Baseball,” Gas Warfare Bulletin, issued by the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army, number 8, May 11, 1918, page 28, box 1727, entry 377, Army School of the Line, A.E.F. General Headquarters, RG 120.

(8.) “Schedule of Instruction for Students at the Army Gas School, August 19–24, 1918,” folder: Schedules, box 1725, entry 377, Army School of the Line, RG 120.

(9.) “Fourth Corps Replacement Battalion Gas Office; Report for Week ending 2 November, 1918,” November 4, 1918, page 1, box 93, entry 915, 2nd Army, Chief of Chem. Warfare, Corresp. by Subject, RG 120.

(11.) “Realistic Training,” Gas Warfare Bulletin, issued by the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army, Number 9, July 1, 1918, page 1, box 111, entry 46, War Gas Investigations, RG 70.

(p.120) (13.) Letter from Captain W. E. Vawter, Gas Officer 33rd Division, to Chief of the Chemical Warfare Service, box 93, entry 915, 2nd Army, Chief of Chem. Warfare, Corresp. by Subject, RG 120.

(16.) Letter from Captain W. E. Vawter.

(17.) “Notes on Gas Attacks against American Forces,” Gas Warfare Bulletin, issued by the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army, Number 7, May 11, 1918, page 5, box 1727, entry 377, Army School of the Line, RG 120.

(21.) “Misuse of the S. B. R.,” Gas Warfare Bulletin, issued by the Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army, number 12, September 10, 1918, page 2, box 1727, entry 377, Army School of the Line, RG 120.

(24.) “Report to the Secretary of the Interior on the Research Work of the Bureau of Mines on War Gas Investigations, July 1, 1917 to May 15, 1918,” folder 1, box 110, entry 46, War Gas Investigations, RG 70.

(28.) Ibid., 65.

(40.) Ibid., 3.

(43.) Ibid., 19.

(44.) Ibid., 19–20.

(45.) Ibid., 12.

(46.) Ibid., 11.

(49.) Hill, “History of the Medical Management,” in Tuorinsky, Medical Aspects, 93.

(p.121) (50.) Ibid., 97–99.

(51.) Eugene A. Curtin (AFC 2001/001/1379), page 72, Correspondence (MS01), Veterans History Project Collection, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.

(56.) Ibid., 458–59.

(57.) Ibid., 40–57.

(58.) Ibid., 54.

(60.) Ibid., 48–49.

(61.) Ibid., 51.

(64.) Ibid., 55–78, 56.

(67.) “Lecture by Lt-Col Ernest McCullough on the use of Gas in Warfare,” box 1725, entry 377, Army School of the Line, RG 120.

(68.) “Instructions for the Use of Chemical Shells by Artillery” (General Headquarters, American Expeditionary Forces, Office of the Chief of Gas Service, January, 1918), 3–4, U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center.

(72.) Ibid., 6.

(75.) Letter from Franklin K. Lane, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, to Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States, May 15, 1918, folder 1, box 110, entry 46, War Gas Investigations, RG 70.

(77.) “Memorandum Regarding Conference Held in the Office of the Secretary of War, from 3:00 P.M. to 4:45 P.M., May 25, 1918, Regarding the Proposed Transfer of the War Gas Investigations of the Bureau of Mines to the War Department, Under Major General Sibert, Chief of the Gas Service,” folder 1, box 110, entry 46, War Gas Investigations, RG 70.

(81.) “Cable History of the Subject ‘Chemical Warfare Service,’” Cable from Pershing 1240, June 3, 1918, page 1, folder: W. D. Chemical Warfare Service 7–63.1, box 220, entry 310, Records of the Historical Section Relating to the History of the War Department, 1900–41, RG 165.

(82.) Letter from Newton Baker, Secretary of War, to Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States, June 25, 1918, folder 2, box 110, entry 46, War Gas Investigations, RG 70.

(p.122) (83.) Letter from Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States, to Van H. Manning, Director of the Bureau of Mines, June 26, 1918, folder 2, box 110, entry 46, War Gas Investigations, RG 70.

(84.) Letter from Van H. Manning, Director of the Bureau of Mines, to General William L. Sibert, Director, Gas Service, June 29, 1918, folder 2, box 110, entry 46, War Gas Investigations, RG 70.

(90.) Ibid., 133.

(92.) The Edgewood Arsenal, Edgewood Maryland (published as vol. 1, issue 5 of Chemical Warfare [March 1919]), 7–8.

(97.) Ibid., 17–24.

(105.) Ibid., quoting Hanson, 14.

(107.) Ibid., 13.

(112.) Ibid., 13.

(117.) J. D. Law, 2nd Lieutenant, Chemical Warfare Service, “Orders No. 60,” August 30, 1918, folder: S.O. #(12a–20a) 1918, Hdq. A.E.F., 1st Gas Reg., box 85, entry 1248, Chemical Warfare Service, World War I Organization Records, RG 120.

(p.123) (118.) Ibid.

(120.) Ibid., 89.

(121.) Ibid., 92.

(122.) Ibid., 113.

(123.) Ibid., 102.

(126.) Ibid., 553.

(129.) Ibid., 120.

(130.) Ibid., 119–23.

(138.) Ibid., 146.

(147.) Ibid., 50–72.

(149.) Haber concluded that “the CWS was seen by its protagonists as a turning-point in the history of warfare. In practice it was nothing of the kind. The new branch made no significant contribution to the American military potential.” Haber, Poisonous Cloud, 143.