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WW1 Research Paper - The Actual Impact of Chemical Warfare in World War I

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Introduction

´╗┐The Actual Impact of Chemical Warfare in World War I ?Chlorine kills by irritating the lungs to such an extent that they flood with fluid, and the victim ?drowns?; gas victims show blueness of the lips and face and the blood becomes starved of oxygen.?[1] From this description of the devastating impact of chemical agents on unprotected soldiers at war, it is evident that this inhumane fighting tactic had the potential to play a crucial role in World War I. But chemical weapons had some drawbacks. First, they were difficult for the user to control due to weather conditions. Second, soldiers were able to protect themselves with proper attire which limited chemical warfare?s ultimate impact. As a result, many people have misunderstood the actual role and impact of chemical warfare during World War I. This paper will demonstrate that, in fact, the most significant impact of chemical weapons during World War I was their psychological effect ? that is, the sheer panic and terror that could overtake a soldier at the thought of becoming exposed to these vicious chemical agents. It will provide evidence that after some early success, chemical warfare did not break the stalemate on the battlefield, nor did it contribute to a significantly increased death toll in the soldiers? ranks. The paper will begin with an overview of chemical weapons used during World War I, which was the first conflict where chemical weapons were employed against soldiers. It will also address how the use of this inhumane tactic became so prevalent during this war. It will then describe several attempts by both the Axis and the Allies to use chemical weapons that did not significantly impact the outcomes of those conflicts. ...read more.

Middle

Early the following morning, the British soldiers released the chlorine gas over the German infantry in order to set themselves up for an infantry attack. But the plan was foiled when the wind changed directions and begun to blow the toxic gas back in the face of the attacking British infantrymen. As a result, the British inflicted more casualties to their own men then they did on the Germans.[14] Despite the failure of the first Allied attempt at employing chemical warfare, they continued to improve their tactics and were driven to be successful using this new way of fighting. In December 1915, the Germans brought a new type of poison gas into the war. This gas was called phosgene and it was even more potent than the previously used chlorine gas. This was a gas that had been used in the dye industry and the Germans believed that its toxicity would make it very effective in the war. The phosgene gas had a similar smell to that of newly mown hay and soldiers were able to identify when this type of gas attack was occurring pretty quickly. Although the soldiers were able to recognize these attacks, this gas caused lung damage very quickly to anyone who inhaled it before they were able to put on their gas masks. The French decided to try and retaliate with an attack using phosgene gas in February 1916.[15] And by 1916, both sides relied on heavy artillery to deliver specialized chemical shells. Once both sides had learned how to effectively use chemical weapons, protective measures were developed which diminished the effects of future attacks. ...read more.

Conclusion

Armed Forces. But only 2 percent of the chemical casualties among U.S. troops were fatal.[25] The other 98% were injured but survived. These numbers show that chemical weapons did not have a significant effect in terms of the number of deaths sustained, as only a small percentage of soldiers died from their effects. In fact, the overall death rate that resulted from chemical weapons during World War I was about 3%.[26] The most significant impacts of these weapons were their psychological effects and the amount of injuries they caused. Both the Allies and Axis used chemical warfare to attempt to end the continuous stalemate that had occurred from trench warfare and bring about decisive victories in World War I. But it is evident that it did not play a crucial role in determining the outcome of World War I, as many of the attempts using chemical warfare resulted in no substantial impact and it brought about no decisive victories for either side. However, this new war tactic did have a major impact on how the war was fought. Since this was a fighting tactic that had never been utilized in war before, it took some time and effort to understand what type of gas was being used in certain attacks and to develop effective equipment to protect soldiers from the gas. The use of chemical warfare also caused both the Allies and Axis to focus on developing different gases and brainstorming ways that would be the most effective in employing them against their enemy. Although this new fighting tactic changed the way the war was fought, chemical warfare?s main impact was the psychological toll it played on soldiers both on and off the battlefield throughout World War I. ...read more.

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