First World War in the News is an edited review of hand-picked World War I (1914-1918) articles - covering everything from the soldiers and generals to the trenches and militaria.

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From Soldiers to Generals
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World War II

American Civil War

Chemical Warfare

Latest hand-picked First World War news.

How deadly was the poison gas of WW1?
The first major gas attack in war occurred 100 years ago this weekend, in what is now Poland. Gas soon became a routine feature of trench warfare, horrifying soldiers more than any conventional weapon. But was it actually as deadly as its terrible reputation suggests?

Digging up World War I chemical weapons in D.C.
Greg Nielson pushed a joystick, and a video camera zoomed in on 3 men in moon suits and gas masks as they geared up to detonate a weapon of mass destruction less than 5 miles from the White House. The destruction of 5 poison-filled First World War shells ended just as planned. But the strange saga of America's most unusual hazardous waste site is far from over. Since 1993, the Army Corps of Engineers has removed 84 chemical-filled shells and 1,000 conventional munitions, plus 44,000 tons of contaminated debris, from the campus of American University and the upscale lawns of Spring Valley.

Thousands of WW1 soldiers died because generals ignored mustard gas warnings
Thousands of soldiers could have been saved if generals had listened to warnings about the horrors of mustard gas, files reveal. British troops on the Western Front were not prepared when the Germans first used it in 1917. Documents recovered by the Royal Society of Chemistry show British generals ignored warnings from military chemists in an official memo sent 18 months before the first German attack, in which they described the military potential of the gas. A 31-page account by Leonard Levy, from the Royal Engineers Anti-Gas Establishment, describes how a Major Dudley saw the potential of the gas when he worked in a German laboratory before the war.

Letter from Winston Churchill to Edward Harrison, who invented the gas mask, found
An unknown letter from Winston Churchill to Edward Harrison, WWI army chemist who invented the gas mask, has been discovered. Churchill, then minister of Munitions, tells Harrison's widow that "it is in large measure to him that our troops have been given effectual protection from the German poisonous gases". Harrison died just days before the end of WW1, working himself to death to develop the perfect gas mask. His work on the gas mask saved countless soldiers from the death caused by poisonous gas in the trenches. For his work he was decorated with the highest honours like France's Legion d'Honneur.

Germany: Clean-up of First World War poison-gas plant completed
The cleaning of a former plant which made horrific German poison-gas shells used in World War I is complete after 20 years of work. The Espagit factory in Hallschlag, Rhineland Palatinate state accidentally exploded in 1920 when 20,000 poison-gas shells were on the premises. The debris meant the site was an ecological disaster area for decades. Attacks with gas clouds on enemy lines during the First World War left great numbers of men maimed or blinded. The Allies also resorted to the tactic. The cleaning project cost 55M euros, 10 times as much as estimated 20 years ago.

Dew of Death: Lewisite, America's WWI Weapon of Mass Destruction   (Article no longer available from the original source)
"Dew of Death: The Story of Lewisite, America's World War I Weapon of Mass Destruction" by Joel A. Vilensky with Pandy R. Sinish is an examination of the origin, evolution, and impact of lewisite, a weaponized arsenic compound developed in the US during WWI and subsequently utilized as a major chemical agent worldwide to the present day. While breaking little new ground for historians, the book nonetheless adds to a growing body of scholarly addressing what are often termed "Weapons of Mass Destruction," or WMD. What sets this study apart from most historical works on these subjects is the expert information that Vilensky clearly conveys.

WW1 Chemical Warfare - AEF Western Front gas experience   (Article no longer available from the original source)
This paper chronicles chemical agents in World War I, the U.S. Army's preparations for gas warfare prior to and after American entry into the war, and the AEF experience with gas on the Western Front. Chemical warfare affected tactics and almost changed the outcome of WWI. The success of the first use of gas caught both sides by suprise. The pace of hostilities permitted the Allies to develop a suitable defense and eventually to field a considerable offensive chemical capability. From the introduction of chemical warfare in early 1915 the Allies were usually one step behind their German counterparts in the development of gas doctrine and the gas tactics.