Opinion

Chemical weapons in World War I

Published 3:09 PM ET, Wed July 9, 2014
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World War I ushered in an era of chemical weapons use that lingers, lethally, into the present day. About 1 million casualties were inflicted, and 90,000 were killed. Here, French troops wear an early form of gas mask in the trenches during the first widespread use of gas, by the Germans at the Second Battle of Ypres in 1916. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
French soldiers making a gas and flame attack on German trenches in Flanders, Belgium, in 1918. German forces were the first to open valves on gas cylinders, releasing the toxic cloud on unprepared French troops in Ypres in 1915. DOD/Signal Office/Getty Images
The bodies of hundreds of Italian soldiers are strewn across the battlefield, victims of a gas and flame attack during World War I, as others haul the wounded on stretchers. They were members of the Ninth Italian Regiment of the Queen's Brigade. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Early gas masks were often ineffectual. The Germans and Americans would ultimately be the most successful in creating barriers to lethal gases. A German soldier shows how to wear one version. Bain News Service/Getty Images
A soldier demonstrates an ungainly French gas mask. "French masks were notoriously unreliable," wrote historian Gerald Fitzgerald. Mondadori Portfolio/Getty Images
A German cavalry unit with both horses and soldiers wearing gas masks advances during the Second Battle of the Aisne at Soissons, France, in June 1918. Mondadori Portfolio/Getty Images
A German soldier wears a more rudimentary gas mask in 1915. Although the Germans were first to deploy chemical weapons in the war, both sides were soon routinely using chlorine and other gases in battle. Bain News Service/Getty Images
Men of the British Army's 55th Division, blinded by a poison gas attack, in April 1918. British soldier Wilfred Owen captured the panic of an attack in verse "Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! -- An ecstasy of fumbling, Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time; But someone still was yelling out and stumbling, And flound'ring like a man on fire or lime." Universal History Archive/Getty Images