Cover Image


View/Hide Left Panel

clothing and only some of the men wore gas masks. The cumulative exposures reported for these tests ranged from 50 to 10,000 Ct.

The appendixes to the Report of the Chemical Warfare Service Conference of October 10-13, 1944, obtained from the National Archives, describe various field tests (CWS, 1944). Some of these tests may have contributed data to the summary mentioned above. Appendix VIII of the conference report outlines field tests in which bombing runs dropped from 125 to 550 tons of sulfur mustard over a specified area. Subjects wearing varying levels of protective clothing traversed the area in simulated patrols from 1 to 72 hours following the bombing. Such a protocol required the men to drop to the ground intermittently, thus coming into direct contact with contaminated surfaces. The resultant injuries were classified on the basis of the men's probable fitness for combat. Evidence of accidents during such trials can also be found in CWS documents. For example, one note describes how a group of men involved in a field test removed their gas masks after a rain storm and within two hours experienced ocular pain; three were hospitalized with acute conjunctivitis (Adler, 1944).

Gas Production, Gas Handling, and Chemical Warfare Production

Preparations for chemical warfare before and during WWII involved many additional people in the production, handling, shipping, and training to use and defend against chemical warfare agents. By the end of the war, the four CWS production facilities had produced close to 175 million pounds of ordinary sulfur mustard (H) and over 9 million pounds of distilled, purified sulfur mustard (HD) (Brophy et al., 1959). These production sites were at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland, Huntsville Arsenal in Alabama, Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas, and Rocky Mountain Arsenal in Colorado. An additional 40 million pounds of Lewisite and 200,000 pounds of nitrogen mustard were produced. Once produced, the agents were shipped to various storage facilities, depots, and proving grounds around the United States and were shipped overseas through ports such as Seattle, New York, New Orleans, and others.

This elaborate network of supply, coupled with the needs for training and chemical weapons testing, required many people from both the military and the civilian sectors. In 1939, CWS listed 803 enlisted men on its personnel rolls; this number grew to over 5,500 by December 1941 and over 61,000 by June 1943. Some 17 percent of military personnel assigned to CWS units were African Americans, a very high percentage when compared to all other units of the War Department. Women from the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) were also assigned to

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement