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Chemical Warfare of WWII

World War II Chemical Warfare, secret tests and the aftermath.
Latest hand-picked WWII news. See also: WW2-related environmental threats, A-Bombs, WWII Aftermath.

Winston Churchill planned and executed a sustained chemical attack on Russia in 1919
Secrecy was paramount. Britain`s imperial general staff knew there would be outrage if it became known that the government was intending to use its secret stockpile of chemical weapons. But Winston Churchill brushed aside their concerns. As a long-term advocate of chemical warfare, he was determined to use them against the Russian Bolsheviks. In the summer of 1919 Churchill planned and executed a sustained chemical attack on northern Russia. The British were no strangers to the use of chemical weapons. During the third battle of Gaza in 1917, General Edmund Allenby had fired 10,000 cans of asphyxiating gas at enemy positions.
(rawstory.com)

Unit 731 conducted a series of very cruel experiments testing the limits of the human body
At the dawn of World War II, although biological and chemical weapons had been used previously in warfare, little was known of precisely how they worked on the human body. Curious, certain Japanese researchers in its army unit 731 conducted a series of indescribably cruel experiments testing the limits of the human body when subjected to harsh conditions, poisonous substances and lethal diseases.
(todayifoundout.com)

Japanese Unit 731 plotted to unleash a biological attacks on the United States
Japan`s Unit 731 is one of the most horrifying secrets of WWII. It experimented on Japanese and Chinese civilians as well as Russian and American POWs during the Second Sino-Japanese War in the 1930s and throughout WWII. Led by Dr. Shiro Ishii, Unit 731 committed thousands of macabre experiments and infected hundreds of thousands with the plague in China. Most of the scientists involved with Unit 731 escaped trial and entered mainstream society at the end of the war due to an agreement with American commanders. Unit 731 also planned biological attacks for the US, like a kamikaze plane launched from a submarine that would unleash the plague upon the port of San Diego.
(io9.com)

Declassified Australian military documents reveal that US contemplated a chemical bombardment on Japanese crops
Poisoning Japanese crops with chemical weapons was a "worthwhile" and justifiable tactic, according to newly declassified Australian military documents. The documents also indicate authorities contemplated testing crop-destroying chemical weapons in Queensland`s Proserpine. Documents declassified by the National Archives of Australia refer to Australia receiving information from Allies about crop destruction with chemical weapons. Documents refer to targeting "vegetable gardens" in Japanese-held islands and rice crops. By July 1945 US had built up chemical stocks "sufficient to destroy one-tenth of the rice crop of Japan".
(couriermail.com.au)

Chemical weapons the Soviet Union dumped in the Baltic Sea in 1945 can explode at any time
Cleaning up the Baltic Sea of chemical weapons has been a debate for several decades now, but nothing actually happens. According to the Soviet military archives the USSR buried in the Baltic Sea 71,469 aviation bombs with yperite, 14,258 chloracetophene bombs, 8,027 adamsite bombs, 408,565 artillery projectiles with yperite, 34,592 chemical land mines, 10,420 chemical smoke mines, 1,004 containers with 1,506 tons of yperite, 8,429 barrels with 1,030 tons of adamsite and divinilchlorarsine, 169 tons of containers of cyanide salt, chloroarsine and cyanarsine.
(baltictimes.com)

Second mass grave discovered near the ground-zero of Imperial Japan`s germ warfare
In 1989, a mass grave was found at the construction site in the Shinjuku section of Tokyo. Digging will soon start at the recently found second site, identified in 2006 by a WWII nurse. The nurse reported that they were ordered to bury the remains after Japan surrendered in August, 1945. The Imperial Japanese Army Medical College`s Research Institute for Preventive Medicine was once located here. The Unit 731 created in 1932 - aka the "Kwantung Army Epidemic Prevention and Water Supply Department" or simply the "Manchuria 731st Unit" - was also headquartered there.
(atimes.com)

US Army: 1,168,000 pounds of chemical weapons we dumped off Hawaii should stay put   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Chemical weapons dumped in deep water 5 miles south of Pearl Harbor after World War Two should remain at the site because moving them could pose more of a threat, the U.S. Army said. Records reveals the Army disposed 16,000 bombs at the site after the war - each bomb contains 73 pounds of the chemical agent mustard. Research scientist Margo Edwards said the University of Hawaii study showed the munitions aren`t a hazard, but that they`re deteriorating and should be monitored. The military`s Explosives Safety Board thinks the safest way to deal with underwater munitions is to leave them in place, but weapons that pose an imminent danger should be removed.
(washingtonpost.com)

Did Nazi scientist Otto Ambros save the Allies from Hitler`s deadly nerve agent, Tabun
Many think Hitler`s reluctance to use chemical weapons originated from his own experiences of being gassed (in 1918 Corporal Hitler faced British mustard gas attack), but chemistry professor Frank J. Dinan disagrees. In May 1943, after the defeat at Stalingrad, Hitler summoned armaments minister Albert Speer and scientist Otto Ambros to Wolf`s Lair headquarters to talk about the use of chemical weapons. Hitler feared the Allies also had access to similar weapons, asking Ambros whether his fears were justified. Ambros lied that Allied also had Tabun and Sarin, and disappointed Hitler abandoned the meeting.
(dailymail.co.uk)

New documentary explores Canadian World War II anthrax program
A documentary film aired by Radio-Canada revealed the operations of a top secret WW2 biological weapons lab in Canada. Scientists created massive amounts of anthrax in 1943 for the biological bombs for the Allies on Grosse-Ile, a tiny island in the St. Lawrence Seaway. Filmmakers Vincent Frigon and Yves Bernard believe that the operation, called Project N, was one of 3 great secrets of the war, rivaling the development of the atom bomb and the Allies cracking German codes. British PM Winston Churchill wanted 500,000 anthrax bombs as part of a massive biological offensive against the Third Reich.
(bioprepwatch.com)

War Cabinet committee files reveal Britain`s secret World War II biological weapons trials
British scientists experimented with ways of spreading foot-and-mouth disease, and lethal infections in secret biological warfare trials during World War II. A long list of the contagious agents and plagues that could be turned into weapons of mass destruction is revealed in files from a War Cabinet committee released to the National Archives. The British government was known to have produced 5m anthrax-filled cakes to infect cattle in Nazi Germany, but the documents reveal research was carried out into a far larger variety of diseases - and mostly in Porton Down, near Salisbury, and Pirbright in Surrey.
(guardian.co.uk)

Investigation into human bones thought to have come from the Japanese Unit 731
Unit 731 - Imperial Japanese Army`s medical research team - subjected over 10,000 people per year to Josef Mengele-style torture. Victims included captured Russian soldiers and downed American aircrews. The experiments ranged from hanging people upside down until they choked and burying them alive, to placing them in high-pressure chambers. New details about their victims` suffering could be revealed as the authorities investigate into human bones believed to have come from the unit. A new search is about to be carried out for mass graves that may contain more victims of human experiments.
(.telegraph.co.uk)

American occupation forces censored Unit 731 ex-members` mail
A document has emerged that shows the U.S. military ordered Occupation authorities to censor the mail of members of Unit 731, the Imperial Japanese Army section set up in 1936 that did bacterial warfare experiments on people. The secret document - discovered by professor Taketoshi Yamamoto - lists 12 Japanese whose mail should be censored, including Unit 731 commander Lt. Gen. Shiro Ishii and Kanji Ishihara, an army officer who devised the Manchurian Incident in 1931. The U.S. military gave immunity to Unit 731 members in exchange for data on bacterial warfare and live experiments.
(japantimes.co.jp)

An anthrax bomb tested in south Wales during the Second World War
MP Nia Griffith is demanding reassurances that nothing remains of an anthrax bomb tested in a south Wales estuary near Llanelli. There have been fears about water quality and the death of cockles in the Burry estuary. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said there was no contamination after the experiment in 1942. The trial to test the biological weapon emerged in an article by historian Gerald Grant. A spokesman for the MoD said: "The Gower coast was often used for munition testing during WW2. However, a bacterial weapon was only tested once, in 1942, when a 30lb bomb charge with anthrax spore was dropped from a Blenheim aircraft at 5000 feet."
(bbc.co.uk)

Britain considered chemical attack on Tokyo in 1944
British officials thought about attacking Tokyo with poison gas in 1944 - a year before the US attacked with atomic bombs. Declassified documents include a memo by a government academic entitled "Attack on Tokyo with Gas Bombs". His report was joined with a note from the Ministry of Supply (May 22, 1944): "In his report on his discussions in America Major-General Goldnoy suggested that it might be worthwhile attempting to assess the probable effects of a chemical weapons bombing attack on Tokyo." An analysis of such an attack was written by Professor D. Brunt, who explored the pros and cons, and listed two gas options (phosgene and mustard gas).
(timesonline.co.uk)

Author: Nazis developed Thalidomide and tested it on concentration camp prisoners
Was Thalidomide developed by the Nazis and tested at Nazi Death camps? The drug, prescribed to expectant mothers 1957-1961 for morning sickness led to thousands of babies being born deformed. It was believed to be invented in the 1950s by German firm Chemie Grunenthal. But documents located by Dr Martin Johnson, director of the Thalidomide Trust, suggest it was created as a antidote to nerve toxins by Otto Ambros, a Third Reich scientist. Grunenthal`s 1954 patent indicated it had already been tested on humans - before official tests started. Another file, discovered by Carlos De Napoli, seems to show the drug was tested in the death camps.
(dailymail.co.uk)

US, UK urged to reveal the location of chemical weapons dumped in the Baltic Sea
Britain and the United States should disclose the location of chemical munitions seized from Nazi Germany at the end of World War II and dumped in the Baltic Sea, the Council of Europe said. The Allies took over 300,000 tonnes of chemical munitions from Nazi Germany at the end of the war and dumped them in the Baltic Sea, in some cases in waters only a few dozen metres deep. The military secret was supposed to be revealed after 50 years but UK and US, which had taken possession of most of the stocks, decided in 1997 to keep details secret for a further 20 years.
(reuters)

5 company officials arrested in Japan`s scandal over WWII weapons removal in China
5 Japanese company officials were apprehended for alleged fraud (swindling $1.1M) in a growing scandal over a government project to remove chemical weapons abandoned in China at the end of the Second World War. Since 2004 Japan has paid out $222M to help dispose of 400,000 chemical weapons that retreating Japanese troops left in China. But the project is far behind schedule, with only 10% of the shells retrieved. China says poisons leaking from the abandoned weapons have killed 2,000 people since 1945. In 2003 one person was killed and 43 injured when workers opened a barrel of poison gas in Qiqihar.
(iht)

Surviving the gas chambers of the US military`s human-testing program
The U.S. Defense Department has long history of using service members and civilians as unknowing human test subjects. 4,000 WWII-era GIs were used in chemical research which often happened in gas chambers. US Navy member Nat Schnurman was sent to a gas chamber 6 times one week in 1942 at Edgewood Arsenal facility in Maryland. "On his last visit, a blend of mustard gas and lewisite was piped in. He was overcome with toxins, vomited into his mask and begged for release. The request was denied." In 1973 Wray C. Forrest was given a new id at Edgewood: #6692. "That was the number assigned to me... similar to the numbers assigned to the Jews in the death camps in Germany."
(opednews)

Australia: Deadly chemicals hidden in war cache, tested on own soldiers
Over 60 years Geoff Burn and Arthur Lewis, former RAAF armourers, kept silent about the secret hidden in a obsolete railway tunnel at the foot of the Blue Mountains. Thousands of chemical weapons barrels were hived away around Australia during WWII. The men were part of a undercover unit formed to look after the mortal stockpile, kept for use against Japanese troops: a fact the Defence Department refused to admit until the 1980s. They also refused to reveal that the wartime command had done chemical warfare experiments on its own soldiers. Now the Defence Department will issue a book "Chemical Warfare In Australia" detailing the unit`s story.
(smh)

U.S. doctor hears evidence from Chinese germ warfare victims
There is evidence to show Japanese troops used glanders bacterium to kill Chinese civilians in 1942, says American doctor Michael Franzblau after seeing over 10 surviving victims. Historians say at least 270,000 Chinese in Zhejiang, Jiangxi and Hunan provinces were victims of Japanese germ warfare, primarily done by the Unit 731 based in Harbin, during World War II. Unit 731 conducted biochemical experiments to develop germ warfare weapons. The professor said he began to look into the germ warfare history of Japanese troops after reading "Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932-1945, and the American Cover-Up" by historian Sheldon Harris.
(xinhuanet)

World War II weapon used to fight erosion - Nerve gas can launcher   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Using WWII-era nerve gas can launcher to fight hillside erosion. That’s what the Minnesota Department of Transportation has employed to repair 3 roadside shoulders. From an excavator, operator Tim Ruckman dangled the 2-ton red machine over the guardrail until it pressed against the ground. A series of pressurized chambers released a sharp hiss, then a loud crack as the rods were blasted into the soil. The hollow bars will stay in the ground and act like drains. The device is called a soil nail launcher and there are only 4 in world. It’s World War II technology developed to shoot nerve gas cans at the Nazis.
(winonadailynews)

British scientists tested mustard gas on Indian soldiers during WWII
British military scientists sent hundreds of Indian soldiers into gas chambers and exposed them to mustard gas, reveal documents at the National Archives in London. The British military did not check up on the Indian soldiers afterwards. Many suffered severe burns, leaving them in pain for weeks. The experiments took place over more than 10 years before and during WWII in Rawalpindi. They were conducted by scientists from the Porton Down chemical warfare establishment. The Indian tests are a part of Porton`s huge programme of chemical warfare testing on humans. 20,000 British soldiers were subjected to chemical warfare trials 1916-1989.
(hindu)

Germ warfare victims to fight on for redress - Unit 731
More than 40 plaintiffs in Zhejiang Province seeking compensation for Japanese war atrocities 1931-1945 have released a statement, condemning the Japanese Supreme Court, which had dismissed their appeal. The epicenter of Japanese atrocities in China was Unit 731, a biological warfare unit headed by the Shiro Ishii, based at Pingfang in Northeast China. Unit 731 experimented on prisoners referred to as maruta. Unit 731 pretended to be a lumber mill and maruta is the Japanese word for logs. Not a single "log" survived. The experiments remained secret for a long time, partly because of American collusion in keeping the incidents quiet.
(chinadaily)

Britain destroys last nerve gas weapons - Most from 1939-1945 era
Britain has destroyed the last of its stockpiles of mustard and nerve-gas weapons left over from World War II and the Cold War. Small quantities of lethal nerve agents will be retained at Porton Down, the secret research centre in Wiltshire, to allow scientists to develop protective clothing for British forces. A total of 3812 bombs and artillery shells filled with lethal gases have been destroyed at a cost of £10m. Most dated back to the 1939-1945 era. Britain first used chemical weapons in 1915 when it bombarded German trenches with chlorine gas shells in the battle of Loos on the Western Front.
(theherald)

Film of secret WWII chemical weapons site
The secrets within a World War 2 chemical weapons factory are being uncovered for the first time. A 1944 film about the base in Rhydymwyn near Mold being screened for local people shows what went on in the network of underground tunnels. These tunnels once stored mustard gas and explosives. The chemicals are all long gone but site manager Dave Williams said visitors still needed to take precautions. The newly-discovered 50-minute government recruitment film shines a light on a dark time. The film includes a voiceover by wartime PM Winston Churchill and footage of the activity that took place at the site.
(bbc)

British scientists wiped out an island with biological experiment
The killing power of anthrax was shown by British scientists during World War II when it was released on a tiny Scottish island to wipe out a flock of sheep. Gruinard island, off the Wester Ross coast, was so contaminated it remained out of bounds for almost 50 years. The 1942 tests were set up amid fears the Germans might attack the UK with chemical weapons. A film was made of the Gruinard Island tests but it remained classified until 1997. The report on the tests suggested anthrax could render cities uninhabitable "for generations".
(bbc)

Unit 731 planned germ warfare against U.S. forces after WW2   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Imperial Japanese Army`s germ warfare unit planned to stage germ attacks against U.S. troops in Japan just after Japan`s surrender in World War II in August 1945, according a memorandum left by the unit`s commander, Lt. Gen. Shiro Ishii. But the germ warfare team, known as Unit 731, gave up the plan after being told by then top commanders of the Imperial Japanese Army, "Don`t die in vain." It is unclear how Ishii planned to carry out the attacks because statements of the memorandum are fragmentary. Unit 731 was known to have made preparations to stage "tokko" suicide germ attacks against U.S. forces just before Japan`s surrender.
(kyodo)

Chemical warfare - Lethal doses tested on British troops   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Servicemen were subjected to lethal doses of poison in secret tests atPorton Down, an official report admit. One test saw six soldiers severely injured after their genitals were exposed to mustard gas to test prototype. The trial, in which an RAF serviceman died in agony after being given sarin, is also condemned in a list of cases in which scientists were acting "at the edge of their knowledge". Report praises the bravery of Porton Down`s scientists, who often volunteered for the most risky trials themselves. "But it`s inevitable that most attention is going to be on those trials where things went wrong."
(independent)

War Lives On at Museum of the Biological warfare experiments
Exhibit shows Japanese biological warfare experiments carried out on thousands of Chinese prisoners from 1939 to 1945. Researchers estimate 3,000 Chinese were killed and 300,000 sickened by the hideous wartime experiments. In the case of Unit 731 much of the picture was blurred until the 1980s and 1990s, when documents uncovered in Japan, China and the US gave scholars a better idea of what went on. Some Chinese prisoners were dissected live and without anesthetic, for instance, while others were cremated before they were dead.
(washingtonpost)

Japanese veteran retrieving chemical weapons in China
A Japanese war veteran arrived at Zhoujiazhen Town in Harbin to help retrieve chemical weapons buried by the invading Japanese soldiers before their surrender in WWII. Yoshida Isao enlisted in the Japanese army at the age of 15 in 1939. He received orders to bury the chemical weapons in August 1945, shortly before their surrender and retreat. "We were ordered to throw the gas bombs into water wells. After I returned to Japan, I led a normal life, but I could not forget the sounds of the bombs when we threw them into the wells."
(xinhuanet)

The Nazi bid to poison Shetland with lethal bacteria
British secret service documents reveal that Hitler wanted to introduce lethal bacteria to Shetland. The plot began in Jan 1943 when 3 exhausted Norwegians staggered ashore from Nazi-occupied Norway. Alarm bells rang when MI5 intercepted a German signal saying the boat had left Norway on a mission for German intelligence. Captain Lieutenant Klein, the new head of German intelligence in Trondheim had ordered the Reidar to be sent as a "feeler". MI5 discovered that if the Reidar trip succeeded, spies would be sent on subsequent journeys "and these would also be equipped with the necessary material for spreading bacteria in this country".
(scotsman)

Nazi mosquitoes drew blood on Italian front
The Nazis tried to halt the advance of British and American troops through Italy during World War II by unleashing malaria-carrying mosquitoes in what is believed to be the only biological warfare attack carried out in Europe, according to new research. It was meant to hinder the Allied push from the south and to punish the Italian people for what the Germans saw as treachery after Italy switched sides.
(smh)

Chemical Wars of all time - Protocols and treaties useless during wartime
As early as 1675 France and Germany outlawed poison bullets. In the 1899 Hague Convention major countries swore not to use "poison or poisoned weapons". But these efforts were dashed by the WWI. In April 1915 Germany launched the war`s first major chemical attack. The diplomats tried again in 1925 with the Geneva Protocol. Italy signed it, but Mussolini still used mustard agent during the 1935-1936 conquest of Ethiopia. Nazis pioneered a new generation of nerve agents like sarin: IG Farben`s report for Hermann Göring boasted that chemical weapons were "the weapon of superior intelligence." But Hitler was cautious, planning to use them only if the Allies did first.
(nytimes)

Chemicals weapons, believed from WWII, found off West Coast
A Canadian Forces team found the chemicals last June. It`s believed the weapons were dumped at the end of the Second World War. Until recently Canada and the United States kept quiet about their wartime sinking of explosives, mustard gas and other chemicals off the East and West Coasts.
(cbc.ca)

Chemical weapons and why Hitler didn`t use them
Before World War Two German chemists created new poisons, tabun and sarin, that wreaked havoc on the nervous system. The Nazis tested their new weapons by killing rabbits, apes and concentration-camp inmates, but Hitler shied away from using them in battle -- not out of moral delicacy but because he assumed, incorrectly, that Allied forces possessed similar agents and would launch counterattacks. After the war, Allied scientists analyzed Germany`s chemical munitions and were shocked to learn how far they had fallen behind.
(sfgate)


See also:
WW2-related environmental threats
A-Bombs
WWII Aftermath.