Gas Mask and Chemical Warfare Training 1918 WWI US Army





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Uploaded on Apr 11, 2011

This clip shows various scenes of US troops training for chemical warfare and the use of gas masks. This was a completely new concept as the U.S. entered WWI in 1917. The Army had no idea how to conduct defensive gas training. In September, 1917, as the US Army prepared to send troops to Europe, it faced the overwhelming task of training hundreds of thousands of troops in gas warfare and gas defense. Gas was such a unknown weapon that division commanders and their staff officers were unwilling to give up training time for chemical defense at the expense of more traditional military skills. Initially, there were one or two hours of gas defense lectures, sometimes accompanied by a demonstration of how to wear the gas mask. As a consequence, a majority of World War I doughboys found themselves in a chemical combat environment with only a minimal amount of defensive gas training and with "no idea of what this training really meant." Confronted with this, the military determined that defensive training in gas warfare - regardless of how rudimentary - had to be given to men going to Europe. As the war progressed, the training improved. In January, 1918, the 29th Division's gas training at Camp McClellan consisted of a brief lecture and gas mask drill for one hour daily, five days a week, under the close supervision of British instructors. This compared favorably to the weekly one-hour "anti-gas instruction" in 1917. As training became more sophisticated, men underwent tests at the end of their division's training cycle. They masked and entered a chamber filled with chlorine gas. Next, they went through a chamber filled with a tear agent, where they unmasked. Although by the summer of 1918, recruits received standardized chemical warfare training, reports filed by division gas officers in Europe indicated the key to successful preparation had yet to be found. Still more training was needed, and it had to be integrated with other subjects. Gas officers realized that sufficient time for training in the camps did not exist. To make up for the deficiency, units attempted to use the time aboard transports for defensive gas training. Formal defensive training was supplemented by wearing the masks during other training activities. Men practiced their specialty while wearing masks. For example, medics wearing masks applied bandages and carried stretchers through woods and over rough terrain. Engineers constructed roads and pioneer troops dug ditches while wearing masks. After duty hours, trainees played baseball in their masks. During WWI, the Army never found the key to effective education and training for the offensive and defensive aspects of chemical warfare. A significant advantage could have been obtained if both offensive and defensive training had been integrated into all aspects of instruction. Once a soldier understood the overall nature of gas warfare and acquired confidence in his equipment and gas officers, he more easily accepted and adjusted to chemicals in actual combat. Unfortunately, U.S. training in chemical warfare never reached the sophistication needed to achieve the desired results. Equipment shortages and the lack of trained, instructors hampered the Army's preparation to engage in chemical warfare. The Army suffered needless casualties as a consequence. For much more information, read the 1984 report Chemical Warfare in World War I:The American Experience, 1917 -- 1918 at http://www.cgsc.edu/carl/resources/cs.... This clip is from the 1918 film
CHEMICAL WARFARE ACTIVITIES IN THE A.E.F, 1918, available at the US National Archive in College Park, Maryland.

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