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Selling Chemical Warfare

CWS Posters 1918 - 1945


By
Reid Kirby

1st Edition
EXIMDYNE
2007

Published by

eximdyne

2208 Autumn Trace Parkway


Wentzville, Missouri 63385
United States
http://www.eximdyne.com
2007 by Reid Kirby
All rights reserved.
Copyright is claimed only in the text.
Photographs and illustrations are publications of the United States Government.
Published 2007 - First Edition
This book printed on acid-free paper
Printed in the United States
Kirby, Reid (1966 - )
Selling Chemical Warfare: CWS Posters 1918 - 1945
Illustrated
1. Chemical Warfare Service. 2) United States Army. 3) History. 4) Posters.

ISBN: 978-0-967-72641-0

Cover:
Hollywood actress Linda Darnell (1923 - 1965)
posing with protective mask
during Second World War
US Army Photograph
Duties of a Gas Sentinel Poster
National Archives

For Michelle & Brian

Selling Chemical Warfare: CWS Posters 1918 - 1945 

Introduction
The The First World War presented the
US with a new technological threat
chemical warfare. The US response
to the threat was initially by mobilizing science and industry through the
National Academies of Science, its
National Research Council (est. 1916),
and the US Bureau of Mines.
The US Bureau of Mines mobilized
most of the scientific community in
forming the American University
Research Station and a confederation
of university scientists to master the
technology of chemical warfare. The
Army Ordinance Department was responsible for manufacturing chemical
weapons at Edgewood Arsenal, the
Surgeon General and Sanitation and
Medical Corps responsible for delivering protective masks and training,
and the Corps of Engineers provided
the first Gas Troops in France.
By May 1918, it became obvious that
the lack of a formal Army branch was
hindering the command and control
necessary for successfully addressing
the nations chemical warfare needs.
On 28 June 1918, the War Depart-

ment issued General Order 62 to form


a Chemical Warfare Service (CWS) as
a branch of the US Army to coordinate all chemical warfare activities.
After the First World War, the Overton Act extended the existence of the
CWS to 30 June 1920 on 11 July 1919.
Some in government campaigned
to eliminate the CWS and split its
mission to other branches, but a successful campaign by veterans groups
and industry led to amending the National Defense Act on 4 June 1920 to
make the CWS a permanent part of
the military establishment.
The mission of the CWS was originally for Gas, Smoke, and Flame. This
expanded to biological warfare and
radiological defense in the Second
World War. The CWS became the
Chemical Corps by War Department
General Order 99 on 2 August 1946.
Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara wanted to centralize authority
in the DoD and using a system analysis method the Hoelscher committee
recommended the reorganization of

Soldiers training with gas chamber

Standing guard during a chemical attack

 Selling Chemical Warfare: CWS Posters 1918 - 1945


the Army and the R&D portion of
the Chemical Corps was absorbed by
the Army Material Command (AMC)
in 1962. The Chemical School represented the remaining vestige of the
Chemical Corps, with provisioning of
chemical units under regular military
commands.
The Brown Committee recommended
the disestablishment of the Chemical
Corps in 1973, with the Ordinance
Corps absorbing many of its activities.
Its fate was in limbo the Army decidedly retained it in 1976. On 27 June
1986, the Chemical Corps joined the
Armys regimental system and became
the Chemical Corps Regiment.

Soldiers training against vesicants

US Army Chemical Corps Museum

faced in building an effective chemical warfare defense required creative


thinking. One unique approach was
enlisting major league baseball players as trainers. Another approach was
the use of poster art.
Whether motivating production, quality, training, or care of equipment, the
posters of the CWS often took on the
common forms of emotional appeal of
fear and sex, with the protective mask
central in theme.
The posters contained herein are from
the CWS R&D photographic collection, the poster collection of the
National Archives, and the US Army
Chemical Corps Museum. This is by
no means an exhaustive presentation.
Notice that the pinup calendar posters (Air Posters Series) are incomplete.
Also missing are the posters to promote the CWS after the First World
War when its survival required intense
lobbying.

The singular most important cultural


artifact of the CWS was the protective
mask, or gas mask; the symbol universally associated with chemical warfare.
The casualty effects of chemical weapons are exceptionally elastic to the
distribution and training in the use of
protective masks. The effects on the
unprepared are terrific and marginal To help preserve this history, if you
at best on the protected.
or anyone you know has a chemical
warfare related poster, please consider
Mask discipline was largely to blame donating it to the US Army Chemical
for the numbers of chemical casualties Corps Museum for proper conservain the First World War. Soldiers often tion and accession in a public collecput personal belongings in the mask tion.
satchels that impeded the use of the
mask. Officers, unable to shout com- US Army Chemical Corps Museum
mands through the mask doffed their 425 South Dakota Avenue
masks shortly after chemical attacks. Building 1607
Training at Gondrecourt of the First Fort Leonard Wood, MO 65473
Division failed to impress soldiers of
the importance of the mask on the At the very least, provide a 35 mm
battlefield, and many had to learn color photograph negative or highthrough experience.
resolution uncompressed TIFF image
file on CD to the museum.
The motivational challenges the CWS

Selling Chemical Warfare: CWS Posters 1918 - 1945 

First World War


The US military had not prepared for
war in Europe until February 1917.
Pershings First Division of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) was
going to Europe in June 1917. In early May 1917, Major L. P. Williamson
confidentially informed the director
of research on war gases, Mr. George
A. Burrell, that the first 25,000 soldiers were going to France without
protective masks, and unless the US
supplied them, would be going into
battle utterly unprotected.

an image of the Long Island factory.


Likewise, The CWS Gas Defense Division created Posters 2 and 3 to motivate the factory workers on the need
to maintain production rates.

One of the main constraints in producing protective masks was the supply of activated charcoal. At first
commercial sources supplied activated
charcoal. At Astoria on Long Island,
the CWS erected a large activation
furnace, and another facility in the
Philippines to supply activated charBasing the protective masks after the coal from Asia.
British Small Box Respirator (SBR),
Mr. Burrell believed it would take There were several efforts during the
three weeks to provide sufficient war to maintain the supply of carbon
masks for the first 25,000 soldiers. sources for activated charcoal. CoThroughout 1917, the main private coanuts were the preferred source of
contractor for assembly of the Ameri- charcoal. The Gas Defense Division
can mask was Hero Manufacturing had its Eat More Cocoanut campaign
Company in Philadelphia (the Hero that doubled US demand for cocoMask). 20,086 masks shipped to nuts in October 1918. Gas Defense
France before the end of June 1917.
Division agents traveled to Mexico,
Central, and South America to seek
Major Williamson, who was organiz- out means to increase cocoanut shell
ing Gas Defense Training, reported importation. The Philippine facility
from a Fort Sill training course that received cocoanut shells from India
the mask fabric would not withstand and elsewhere in Asia.
tear agents, and that many of the
masks had defective nose clips, eyelets, There were also alternatives to cocoaor were otherwise unsuitable for the nut shells. The CWS imported the
wear-and-tear of field use. The AEF corozo nut from the Manaca palm
also reported similar problems with tree as a carbon source. The American
this first allotment of masks includ- Red Cross had a campaign, including
ing the vulnerability of the canisters two motion pictures, in September
to Chlorpicrin. The AEF would draw 1918 to get citizens to collect apricot,
its first protective masks from Brit- peach, cherry pits, and walnut shells
ish SBRs and French M-2s. The first for protective masks. The CWS Gas
masks supplied by the United States Defense Division participated in the
were only suited for training.
campaign with its own Poster 4. By
wars end around 4,000 tons of pits
In November 1917, the War Depart- were en route to the carbon plant at
ment determined that civil contracts Astoria on Long Island.
could not supply masks in the quantity and quality needed. Though Posters 5 and 6 from the Long Island
the Hero Manufacturing Company plant were to remind workers of the
would continue to produce masks importance of their work and the
throughout the war, the government need to maintain the highest quality
established factory on Long Island in standards.
the early months of 1918 (the Long
Island Mask).
After the war, the CWS made Poster
7 to show the relationship of a nations
Poster 1, an inspirational for the fac- chemical industry to war materials.
tory workers, shows the forces of liberty requiring protective masks with

Long Island plants first protective masks

Peach pit campaign

Long Island plant on Armistice Day

 Selling Chemical Warfare: CWS Posters 1918 - 1945

Poster 1

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Poster 2

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Poster 3

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Poster 4

 Selling Chemical Warfare: CWS Posters 1918 - 1945

Poster 5

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Poster 6

Poster 7

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Second World War


In 1928, the CWS and Army Air Force
began experimenting with chemical
aerial bombs and aerial spray tanks
of mustard gas. Air power coupled
with chemical warfare became the
new threat in the Second World War.
The air war over Great Briton saw the
release of a civil defense manual called
Air Raid Precautions, or ARP, that provided a good amount of chemical protection advise for civilians.
Like the First World War, the public
support was mobilizing for the war effort to supply the materials for protective masks. Incendiaries, supplied by
the CWS, became an important part
of the nations strategic bombing campaigns.
Germany had used chemical weapons
in the First World War; Italy had used
mustard gas with impunity during its
conquest of Ethiopia; and disturbing
reports of Japan using chemical weapons in its incursion into China emanated from the East. When the US
entered the war, most believed it was
only a matter of time before the war
degenerated into an all-out gas war.
Poster 8 and 9 presented the official
War Department opinion on the priority of chemical defensive training.
Chemical defense training was the
front-line to deny the enemy an advantage with chemical weapons.
Noncommissioned officers became
an important part of this by reinforcing chemical training within every
military unit (Poster 10). Training of
these soldiers took place at Edgewood
Arsenal, Maryland. Poster 11 is from
the top half of a diploma soldiers received on successful completion of the
chemical obstacle source.
The first response was to stop breathing
and don a mask (Poster 12). Poster
12 and 13 demonstrated the need to
have discipline in the face of chemical
warfare, and not allow panic to overtake an effective response. Provoking
fear was a common method to raise
the importance of proper training, as
in Poster 14.

An artifact of the Second World War


that no longer exists in chemical protection was the gas cape. Poster 16
and 17 refer to this method, using attractive women to ensure the posters
stayed pinned up and read.
Poster 18, a rather commercial print,
was for Army Air Force soldiers, a
group representing over 90% of the
US chemical retaliatory capability.
The CWS had service companies assigned to the Army Air Force to provide technical assistance with employment of retaliatory chemical weapons
and provide decontamination and
other chemical activities to squadrons
(Poster 19).
The Learn Now series (Poster 20,
21, and 22) dictated the need to train
and know chemical defense. With no
evidence of chemical warfare on the
battlefields, soldiers often discarded
their chemical protective equipment
or used for other purposes. Poster 23,
24, 25, 26, and 27 were to correct this
behavior.

Recycling rubber for protective masks

Like the First World War, identifying


chemicals on the battlefield relied on
the sense of smell (Poster 28). Soldiers trained to lift the corner of the
mask by the eyelet to take a small
sample of air for smell, and a common
training kit was small ampoules of
real military chemicals detonated on
the ground for smelling.
The chemical agents of the Second
World War had changed little from the
First World War. Phosgene was the
primary nonpersistent agent (Poster
29), and mustard gas the primary persistent agent (Poster 30).
The secret weapon of the First World
War was lewisite (Poster 31). Field
trials in the Second World War demonstrated lewisite was a failure.
Nitrogen mustard was an emerging
threat during the war, and sort of
counter intelligence ploy by the US
(Poster 32).

Recycling fats for napalm

12 Selling Chemical Warfare: CWS Posters 1918 - 1945

Poster 8

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Poster 9

Poster 10

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Poster 11

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Poster 12

Poster 13

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Poster 14

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Poster 15

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Poster 16

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Poster 17

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Poster 18

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Poster 19

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Poster 20

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Poster 21

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Poster 22

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Poster 23

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Poster 24

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Poster 25

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Poster 26

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Poster 27

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Poster 28

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Poster 29

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Poster 30

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Poster 31

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Poster 32