You Will Be Shocked When the First Use of Chemical Weapons Was

George Chambers
Sep 29, 2020 · 3 min read

These weapons have a long and deadly history that most of us don’t know about.

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Photo by Nikoli Afina on Unsplash

Chemical weapons weren’t one of the top threats Americans worried about before September 11th, 2001. They never got much attention until the United States went to war in Iraq looking for Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. It felt like any threat was possible for those years right after 9/11.

Hussein killed thousands of people in the city of Halabja using mustard gas and nerve agents in March of 1988. The impact of the attack was felt years later because of cancer deaths, chemical contamination, and children born with genetic mutations. Syrian President Bashar Assad also used chemical weapons on his population during the Syrian civil war in 2013.

It felt like any threat was possible for those years right after 9/11.

You may be surprised to learn chemical weapons were first used by Germany over 100 years ago in World War I. There were about 1 million casualties and 90,000 deaths because of their use. Most of the deaths were slow and agonizing due to tissue damage, blistering of the skin, and drowning through lung destruction.

Germany tried to first use them in 1914 when they attacked the French at Neuve Chapelle with shells that contained tear gas. In January of 1915, they fired xylyl bromide at Russian troops at Bolimov. Most of the shells froze, but 1,000 soldiers were killed. The Germans attacked with poison gas twice during the Battle of Ypres in 1915, but the Allies held their lines.

You may be surprised to learn chemical weapons were first used by Germany over 100 years ago in World War I.

The United States used chemical weapons when they entered the war in 1917. Harry Truman was captain of a unit that fired poison gas at German troops in 1918. Truman isn’t the only notable person to have experience with chemical weapons in The Great War. Adolf Hitler got wounded in a gas attack in 1918 and unfortunately, he wasn’t one of the 90,000 killed by it.

Chemical weapons were banned after World War I in 1925 by the Geneva Protocol. The International Red Cross said they were “barbarous inventions” that can “only be called criminal.” The Nazis infamously used chemical weapons in concentration camp gas chambers during the Holocaust, but for some reason, didn’t deploy them against the Allies during World War II.

World War I had many horrific innovations that were deployed among the warring nations. Machine guns, mortars, tanks, and flame throwers are some of the new weapons that both sides used. Chemical weapons were by far the most frightening because of the physical pain, harmful psychological effects, and gruesome deaths soldiers suffered. Germany’s use of chemical weapons no doubt had an effect on the punishment handed down to them with the armistice.

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Unraveling History

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George Chambers

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Imperfect Christian, elder Millennial, I don’t care about your skin color, anti-Marxist, and Medium’s leading conservative voice providing diversity of thought.

Unraveling History

We tell the stories of our past that shape our present.

George Chambers

Written by

Imperfect Christian, elder Millennial, I don’t care about your skin color, anti-Marxist, and Medium’s leading conservative voice providing diversity of thought.

Unraveling History

We tell the stories of our past that shape our present.

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