World War 1, WWI, military history, chemical gas attacks, weaponized gas


European History | Military History


Dr. Carolyn Shapiro-Shapin


The German attack in Ypres on April 22, 1915 ushered in a new era of warfare. For the first time in military history, large amounts of weaponized gas were being deployed. The first attack utilized chlorine gas while subsequent attacks used phosgene gas, mustard gas, or a combination of them. Scientific and medical communities scrambled to combat the new threat, leading to great advancements in the understanding of the pathophysiology and treatment relating to chemical gas attacks. New ways to bypass chlorine gas, phosgene gas, and mustard gas effects were proposed and tested and already existing medical interventions proved useful. Venesection and alcohol became part of the new protocol for treatment of gas victims. Sodium bicarbonate, subcutaneous oxygen injections, cocaine, and adrenaline were among the preexisting methods incorporated into the new protocol as they were being used to treat the exact same symptoms rooted in other causes.