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November 23, 1918


JAMA. 1918;71(21):1742. doi:10.1001/jama.1918.02600470040012

The effective use of gases in warfare dates from the spring of 1915, when the Germans first used this hideous weapon on Canadian troops on the western front in France. The idea of the employment of poisonous gases against an enemy had been proposed to the British War Office many years ago, but the decision was reached, in accord with present-day considerations of humane procedure, that it should not be adopted.1 The Teutonic return to barbaric methods compelled the Allies to adopt retaliatory measures; as a result, with hundreds of American as well as foreign chemists engaged in the chemical warfare service, the German plan of gas attack proved to be a veritable boomerang.

The first gas to be used against the forces of the Allied countries was the poisonous chlorin, which was released from cylinders in the front line of trenches. The gas cloud became a weapon by