The Great War: Development of Modern Chemical Weaponry

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The time was 1914. Europe was a thermometer with skyrocketing temperatures of tension. As countries began declaring war on each other in Europe, troops began to mobile for what they thought would be a traditionally fought war: the British cavalry leading the Entente to a decisive victory. How were the European powers to know that this massive war would be fought entirely in the ground with surprise attacks and innovative technology that changed the meaning of “war” forever? World War I (The

Great War) was unique from any other war in history because of the development of modern chemical weaponry, the way soldiers fought, and the post-war dealings. In past wars, large cannons and manual guns were used to defeat the enemy. World War I brought about major chemical and machine innovation. The use of airplanes and tanks greatly influenced the decisive victory of the Allied Powers. The development of modern chemical weaponry in the 20th century greatly impacted the outcome of the war because soldiers had never before seen such a harmful weapon used to destroy massive amounts of people.

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Some historians call the Great War the chemist’s war because of the many innovations in science and chemical weaponry (Fitzgerald). The use of various gases during the stalemate would kill of the enemy quick and allow the other side to gain ground. One of the first gases used to attack was chlorine gas used by the Germans against the French. The Germans placed over 6,000 steel cylinders along their side and waited for the correct wind pattern to release the gas. Each cylinder was filled with pressurized liquid chlorine and completely terrorized the French who did not expect such a horrifying weapon. L watched] figures running wildly in confusion over the fields. Greenish-gray clouds swept down upon them, turning yellow as they traveled over the country blasting everything they touched and shrilling up the vegetation…. Then there staggered into our midst French soldiers, blinded, coughing, chests heaving, faces an ugly purple color, lips speechless with agony, and behind them in the gas soaked trenches, we learned that they had left hundreds of dead and dying comrades. ” -British soldier (Fitzgerald) This attack “marked the first successful use of lethal chemical weapons on the tattletale” (Fitzgerald).

Chemical weapons did damage to soldiers as opposed to immediate death. As said in Robert Mandela’s study of chemical warfare, World War I was the start of deadly weaponry that impacted the battlefield and life in the trenches. “… World War I is universally considered the beginning of the era of “significant” use AT sun arms Owe to ten unique “confluence AT chemical silence Ana military technology” at the time. While the chemical weapons used during that war reflected relative ignorance about their short and long-term effects, the conflict taught lessons hat set the tone for all subsequent governmental use of chemical warfare. (Mandela) Never before was there such a weapon that defeated more than 4,000 troops in one attack (Fitzgerald). Not only did this weapon damage soldiers, but it also left innocent populations with major side effects and life-long illnesses (Mandela). But what was the response from other countries when this new weapon appeared? According to Marion Gerard in his critical article on chemical warfare during World War l, the British were initially “morally repulsed and militarily vulnerable”. The armies had no protection against such a harmful tool.

It is important to remember that the British were prepared to fight a quick war, and the soldiers were not prepared nor were they comfortable to be fighting such a disgusting and cynical war (Gerard). The addition of chemicals made the fight much more complicated for distinguished societies such as the British. In order to win a war, a country must fight the war in the same manner as it’s opposing team. The British could not bear to comply with the German chemical evolution, but the country knew that it could not win unless the playing field was evened out.

What is interesting is that gas was supposedly prohibited from warfare according to “the Hogue Conferences of 1899 and 1907” (Gerard). “The slow suffocation of soldiers that resulted from the chlorine gas in April violated the agreement” (Gerard). If using harmful gases in warfare was strictly prohibited, why were the Germans not convicted of a crime when the soldiers deployed it? The way around the Conference agreements was to use cylinders, much like helium tanks, to deploy harmful gases. The law states that the use of “projectiles” to release gas is illegal (Gerard).

Simply changing what the deadly gases came out of made the most difference in how World War I was executed. Gas was not an entirely new weapon in warfare, but World War I saw the first use of this weapon on a large scale” (“World War l”). After gas became a normal weapon for both sides, gas masks became a required part of the uniform. These masks became safer as the war went on with the development of new technology, but they saved many lives as a result. As quoted by the unknown author, the gases used in World War I showed people all around the world Just what was coming in the 20th century as far as innovations in military weaponry.

The original intent of the tank came from the terrain on farms. The caterpillar tracks made travel over the rough land very easy for the workers. Although many historians are under the impression that no vehicles were invented for the war until the tank, but many of the Central Power countries had developed vehicles that could be utilized on normal terrain (Truman). The very first model of the tank was a complete flop. The tracking came off and could not stand the muddy conditions of the trenches. “Its main weakness was the track system” (Truman).

Although the tank had many failures with minimal wins, its creation signaled a new era of warfare and the reaction of more advanced tanks used in World War II. Airplane use in World War I was very limited because the United States, the main supplier for the European nations, did not have their own airplane model or manufacturer. The United States used a British model, the DO-4 (Rumania). Since the amount of planes made in the t a states Day automobile companies was too small, u I roofs would practice with French aircrafts, which were poorly made.

The use of airplanes would be more effective in World War II, but the creation of the first models boosted many economies all over the United States and Europe. Usage of tanks, airplanes, and gas in the trenches and battlefield deeply impacted the outcome of World War I and differentiated it from any other war in history because it was the first time that harmful weapons were used on purpose to damage the opposing side with no consequences. Harmful gases deeply impacted the outcome of the war, but the agonizing trench warfare defined World War I as a stalemate.

Encyclopedia Britannica defines Trench warfare as “Warfare in which the opposing sides attack, counterattack, and defend from sets of trenches dug into the ground” (“Trench Warfare”). The definition does to come close to defining the horrors of the trenches in World War l. As described in “The Sociology of Trench Warfare 1914-18” written by A. E. Seaworthy, the trenches were “six to seven feet in depth and six feet in width. A fire step ran laterally along the front of the trench; this was mounted by the soldier to repel attacks or to observe the enemy. In the same article, the infamous “no-man’s-land” is described as twenty to a thousand yards in depth and one hundred to three hundred yards across. It was very dangerous to exit the trench because if any movement was seen on either side, he command was to shoot. Various weapons used in the trenches consisted of trench mortar, the machine gun, the rifle grenade, the cannon, the rifle, and various types of hand bombs (Seaworthy). As previously mentioned, harmful gases were used to defeat enemy trenches as well. An issue that presented itself in the trenches was “active-front policy’.

This varied mainly between the French and British soldiers because of the loss of morale in French soldiers and heavy confidence in British generals from their soldiers. “The British army also endured heavy casualties” which undistributed to their willingness to fight until the end, even if it meant “fighting” in a muddy trench in a stalemate (Seaworthy). British hopes of World War I being a “quick war”, as previously mentioned, were quickly diminished when the fighting left the battlefield and fell straight into the hands of new artillery and extra-large grave holes.

A theory of the author is that the German use of lethal gases prolonged the stalemate of trench warfare because the need to compete with advanced technology and win the war was too tempting for the British army. Therefore, no effort was made o find a better way to utilize soldiers on the battlefield until close to the end of the war with the production of airplanes and tanks (“World War l”). The tanks did make travel over trenches fairly easy for both sides, but due to technical problems with the tracking system, many tanks could not be utilized properly.

Trench warfare made World War I unique from any other war because the soldiers were utilizing new technology while fighting in trenches, which was a completely different atmosphere for most veterans and new soldiers. The death count was also significantly increased u to trench warfare and the military weaponry used to break the stalemate. The failure of tanks led to many deaths Just from the crashes and glitches. American entry into the war in 1917 greatly impacted the decisive victory of the Entente due to the fresh outlook of the strong American boys.

Not only did the tanks and airplanes produced by American companies help with the entry of America in 1917, but it led to a greater chance AT ten Allele placatory at ten Ana AT ten war. I nee Ana not Eden fighting aimlessly for 4 years in the trenches, and therefore allowed for an ultimate Orca against the Central powers to sign a treaty to end the war Just a year later. When ending the war, Woodrow Wilson made it clear that his purpose for fighting was to create a “new world order” (“World War l”).

Although Willow’s intentions were good, the European nations had other plans as far as alleged “peace talks”. Secret negotiations had been made throughout the battling countries during the war and made the aftermath a lot more complicated as far as sorting out how to rebuild Europe (“World War l”). Much of the negotiations made after World War I greatly contributed to the beginnings of World War II. Perhaps one of the most controversial plans involving how to begin rebuilding was Woodrow Willow’s Fourteen Points and the widely discussed national self-determination.

Although widely criticized by public leaders, the outcome of the infamous Fourteen Points is forever remembered because “its fate was Willow’s greatest failure” (Throatiest). Wilson was simply ahead of his time by suggesting such radical ideas in the fragile state of the world. The President wanted no blame to be put on Germany, unlike France. Since France believed it was the “most affected” by the war, it believed that Germany should take he blame and pay reparations for all it had done. These ideas went completely against Willow’s ideology for a more peaceful world after such a conflict.

He believed that blame would only make matters worse and create a deeper conflict that would soon lead to another war (Throatiest). The Treaty of Versailles (1919) was supposed to include Willow’s Fourteen Points, which included The League of Nations (Article X) and no War Guilt. These two points were crucial in order for the treaty to repair the damage made from World War l. The League of Nations, similar to the United Nations, was created by Wilson to ensure that all countries would be protected and safe. With large powers leading it, Wilson believed that the League of Nations would be unstoppable.

Congress did not approve the Treaty with the two main points and was never signed by Wilson. Woodrow Wilson made it very clear that he would not enter the United States into another war, which is why he would not sign the Treaty of Versailles. As opposed to a peaceful negotiation after the war, the main European powers put all the blame on Germany for starting The Great War and charged them with all reparations. The powers also removed almost all military power from the country to make “future aggression by Germany impossible” (Throatiest).

The borders of many European countries were redrawn and were given colonies that were previously occupied by Germany. The impact of the Treaty of Versailles on Germany was very low citizen morale and countrywide embarrassment. These reparations also contributed to the rise of Hitler in the sass’s. Not only did the Entente (minus the United States) make Germany suffer and pay for the entire war, but it sent the country into a spiraling tunnel of debt. The low morale of the Germans made the rise of Hitler so simple since the people had no hope.

A large difference in the aftermath of World War I and World War II is that Germany accepted responsibility for beginning World War II, but the country would not take responsibility for starting World War l. This makes World War I unique from other wars because the peace gatherings were not up to par with the decade. The Entente treated the end of the war as a large blame fest to punish Germany for something it did not do all on its World War I was, by far, the beginning of a new era in technology, warfare, and reign policy. Never before was there a war fought with such new technology and chemical advancement.

Lethal gases, produced mainly by Germany and Britain, created a never-before-seen battlefield consisting of deep tunnels surrounded by barbed wire and machine guns. Although no advancement was made during battles, the inventions of chlorine gas, tanks, and airplanes led to new innovations that would be used in World War II and future wars. Where some factors showed futuristic qualities, others showed outdated policies such as the post war dealings. The way he Entente handled Germany after an armistice was signed single-handedly caused World War II.

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The Great War: Development of Modern Chemical Weaponry. (2017, Oct 05). Retrieved from

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