Document 1: Will Irwin,"Germans Use Blinding Gas to Aid Poison Fumes," New York Tribune (27 April 1915), p. 1.
Newspaper reports of the initial gas attack by Germany at Ypres emphasized the illegality of chemical warfare and the horrific effects of the poison on French troops. Articles like this one in the New York Tribune alarmed the American public about the unknown dangers of this new weapon.
Germans Use Blinding Gas
To Aid Poison Fumes
While Soldiers, Dressed Like Divers, Loose Deadly Vapor,
Exploding Shells Spread Chemical Which Impairs
Eyesight--Inspirators Protect Charging Troops.
By WILL IRWIN
(Copyright. 1915. by The New York Tribune.)
Boulogne, April 25.--The gaseous vapor which the Germans used against the French divisions near Ypres last Thursday, contrary to the rules of The Hague Convention, introduces a new element into warfare. The attack of last Thursday evening was preceded by the rising of a cloud of vapor, greenish gray and iridescent. That vapor settled to the ground like a swamp mist and drifted toward the French trenches on a brisk wind. Its effect on the French was a violent nausea and faintness, followed by an utter collapse. It is believed that the Germans, who charged in behind the vapor, met no resistance at all, the French at their front being virtually paralyzed.
Everything indicates long and thorough preparation for this attack. The work of sending out the vapor was done from the advanced German trenches. Men garbed in a dress resembling the harness of a diver and armed with retorts or generators about 3 feet high and connected with ordinary hosepipe turned the vapor loose toward the French lines. Some witnesses maintain that the Germans sprayed the earth before the trenches with a fluid which, being ignited, sent up the fumes. The German troops, who followed up this advantage with a direct attack, held inspirators in their mouths, these preventing them from being overcome by the fumes.
In addition to this, the Germans appear to have fired ordinary explosive shells loaded with some chemical which had a paralyzing effect on all the men in the region of the explosion. Some chemical in the composition of these shells produced violent watering of the eyes, so that the men overcome by them were practically blinded for some hours.
The effect of the noxious trench gas seems to be slow in wearing away. The men come out of their violent nausea in a state of utter collapse. Some of the rescued have already died from the after effects. How many of the men left unconscious in the trenches when the French broke died from the fumes it is impossible to say, since those trenches were at once occupied by the Germans.
This new form of attack needs for success a favorable wind. Twice in the day that followed the Germans tried trench vapor on the Canadians who made on the right of the French position a stand which will probably be remembered as one of the heroic episodes of this war. In both cases the wind was not favorable, and the Canadians managed to stick through it. The noxious, explosive bombs were, however, used continually against the Canadian forces and caused some losses.
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