[Notice these drawings. White men are wearing masks because they can be KILLED or badly injured. That is the only real time we have needed to wear masks – not for a stupid bloody flu. You don't need a mask for the flu. Take Vitamin C and Vitamin D and look after your health. Jan]
In the July 1915 issue, Popular Mechanics reported on a deadly new warfighting trend: poison gas. On newsstands only a few months after the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium, where the poison gas was used for the first time, the world was still grappling with the horrible new reality of the war on the Western Front.
The primitive warrior who used poisoned arrows when he did not intend to eat his victim could never have given the modern fighter any lessons in savagery. Poisoned arrows are not being used in the European war, but apparently only for the reason that they are out of date and do not destroy life on a sufficiently large scale to meet the requirements of a twentieth-century war.
To get satisfactory results the modern science of chemistry has been called into service. Poison gases are used, and if the wind is not right for this, liquid fire is thrown into the enemy’s trenches. With the conditions favorable, a dense volume of poison gas that follows the ground in a cloud fifteen feet or more in depth is sent down on the wind to the enemy’s position.
Whoever may have been responsible originally for the resort to poison gas, there is little doubt that both the Germans and the allies are now using it. The Germans used it in their recent attack on Hill No. 60 near Ypres, Belgium. In the Argonne forest in France, each side attacks with gas at every opportunity. According to press reports the gas used by the French does not kill or permanently injure its victims, but renders them unconscious for a period of one or two hours.
In a recent number of this magazine, the new French turpinite bomb was described from information coming from an apparently reliable source. In the light of civilized standards, the best that can be said for turpinite is that it kills instantly. The use of such bombs may explain the reported recent successes of the allies in Flanders. For several weeks London has stood in fear of an attack in which the city might be overwhelmed by gas bombs thrown from Zeppelins.
Nor is the use of gas and liquid fire the only lapse from the standards heretofore thought to form an integral part of modern civilization. An American manufacturer has developed a shell which, according to the advertisement, is one of the most deadly ever produced. The principal merit claimed for this shell is that when it explodes, the fragments become coated with a poison that makes the slightest scratch fatal—that places the victim practically beyond the aid of medical science, so that he dies in agony within a period of four hours.
Just what will be the outcome, or the effect on civilization, of such methods of fighting, it is impossible to estimate. Judged by the standards of modern conscience as well as by the prohibitions laid down in The Hague conventions, they appear to be a reversion to barbarism. In the Fourth Hague Convention, which relates to the laws and customs of war on land, belligerents are forbidden "to employ poison or poisoned weapons," or "to employ arms, projectiles, or materials calculated to cause unnecessary suffering."
FOR SEVERAL WEEKS LONDON HAS STOOD IN FEAR OF AN ATTACK IN WHICH THE CITY MIGHT BE OVERWHELMED BY GAS BOMBS THROWN FROM ZEPPELINS.
The stand taken heretofore by civilized nations is that the killing or disabling of the enemy accomplishes every needful and legitimate purpose. The use of gases that torture is evidently part of a system of terrorism, an attempt to make warfare as frightful as possible with the idea of discouraging the enemy. Except in the case of noncombatants the attempt is proving futile, as the army thus attacked simply equips itself with gas and fights chemical with chemical.
As a defense against gas the soldiers are being equipped with respirators of various kinds, and it is possible that as a result of this development in the war an army of fighters will soon look like an army of men engaged in mine-rescue work. Each of the French soldiers in the Argonne now has a felt mask that fits over the nose and mouth, and in the crevices of this mask is a whitish powder which neutralizes the German gas, thought to be chlorine. Thus protected, the soldier is able to stand against the clouds of gas that come floating down from the German trenches.
To this mode of attack, the French are replying in their own way. Several years ago when the French authorities were having trouble in suppressing automobile bandits, the military laboratories were called on to provide a bomb that would render the victim powerless without permanently injuring him. This is said to be the bomb that the French are using in the Argonne. When one of these bombs explodes, it gives out a gas that attacks the mucous membranes of every one within twenty yards, causing the eyes to fill with water to the point of blindness and the throat to burn as if fire had been applied. In an hour the victim is helpless and virtually blind. In another hour or two he recovers.
While the French use explosive bombs for scattering the gas, the Germans are employing an apparently less efficient method, that of releasing the gas from containers in the trenches and letting it float down on the enemy.
The German gas, however, is far the more deadly. The composition of this gas is unknown except to the Germans, but the British experts who have seen its effects are inclined to believe it is chlorine. Whatever it may be, its effects are such that death is sure to follow if it is inhaled in sufficient quantities, while a quantity too small to kill quickly will subject the victim to excruciating pains and will injure him so seriously that there is usually little hope of recovery. To escape the effects of the gas, the Germans engaged in handling it are said to wear oxygen helmets. In charging the French trenches near Ypres after an attack with gas, the Germans themselves wore masks or respirators to protect themselves.
An attack with liquid fire can evidently be carried out only at close range. Each soldier engaged in this form of attack has strapped to his back a tank containing an inflammable liquid under high pressure. Connected by a swivel joint with the bottom of the tank is a pipe, equipped with a valve, which projects several feet to the front of the user. With the valve opened and the stream lighted the oil is thrown forward in burning globules to a distance variously estimated at from ten to thirty yards.
How effective this device may be under favorable conditions is evident from the fact that in some places the trenches are less than 30 yd. apart, while in the continual process of attack and counter attack, different parts of the same trench are sometimes held by opposing forces. The soldier engaged in hurling the liquid at the enemy is himself in considerable danger of being blinded or fatally burned, and to give such protection as is possible, he is provided with goggles and a fireproof mask that entirely cover the face and throat.