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The chemical welfare in war came to be known during the First World War when the Germans surprisingly deployed chemical weapons against their enemies. In the year 1915, the German soldiers-special unit was ordered by the German military meteorologists to open valves of more than 6,000 cylinders that were arrayed in trenches surrounding the defensive perimeter in Belgium (Fitzgerald, 2008, p. 611-625). It is believed that within just ten minutes approximately 160 tons of by then an unknown pathogen was released into the surrounding environment and thousands of French soldiers were exposed. A study on the wind patterns in the surrounding area had earlier on been undertaken by the German meteorologists to ascertain the most effective location to place the gas cylinders. The opponents in war-the French soldiers were never prepared to face this particular lethal weapon deployed by the German soldiers what immensely resulted into fatal deaths and casualties (Fitzgerald, 2008, p. 611-625).
The main objective of use of the chemical weapons by the German soldiers was to certainly weaken their opponents. There are particularly a number of gases deployed by the different opponents in World Wars depending on the harm these allies wished to inflict on their opponents. Teargas was the first chemical weapon to be used in the World War 1 (Fitzgerald, 2008, p. 611-625). Teargas a 26mm grenade full of the ethyl bromoacetate gas was first used by the French soldiers in 1911. The chemical weapon was later on adopted by the German soldiers who used it against the British soldiers. Mustard gas was popularly used by the German soldiers and perceived to be one of the most effective chemical weapons to have been used in the First World War (Fitzgerald, 2008, p. 611-625). Phosgene gas and the chlorine gas were also deployed by the different allies in World wars. The Phosgene gas and the chlorine gas are perceived to be more deadly for they resulted in more fatal consequences than the Mustard gas even when administered in small amounts. However, through the warring years the mustard gas was declared the ‘king of Battle Gasses” following its ability to cause eye injuries, lung injuries and result into blisters that were very hard to treat(Fitzgerald, 2008, p. 624). This made the soldiers exposed to the gas keep off the battle field for quite a long time.
Different scholars and historians of the world have in the past published quite differing estimates of the number of deaths and casualties that arose from use of the chemical weapons in the World War 1(Fitzgerald, 2008, p. 624). These estimates lie in a range of three hundred thousand to nine hundred thousand in which these estimates were perceived to vary from one country to another. Political activist across the world have unanimously agreed that chemical welfare in World Wars was quite an effective strategy. First, the chemical weapons made the combat very difficult on the side of the enemies since it was hard for the soldiers to fire the weapons while at the same time wearing masks. Secondly, with the masks on, it was hard for the soldiers to effectively communicate amongst themselves hence resulting into mistakes that were easily exploited by their opponents in war. Thirdly, the chemical welfare did clog the allied logistical systems (Fitzgerald, 2008, p. 611-625). In a battle field, the soldiers highly depend on the logistical systems for their upkeep and supplies. Without the supplies and upkeep, the soldiers are weakened and easily succumb to defeat. Clogging of the logistical systems by use of the chemical weapons was a major strategy employed by the major opponents in the World Wars and what has been observed to have been quite successful. According to Fitzgerald (2008, p. 611-625), use of chemical welfare in the World Wars managed to serve a number of purposes amongst them to ‘shock, worry and surprise the opponent’.
Fitzgerald, Gerard, J. (2008). Chemical Warfare and Medical Response During World War I. Am
J Public Health, 98(4), 611–625.
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