Document 2: "French Mowed Down in Flight From Gas Rain," New York Tribune (28 April 1915), p. 1.

Introduction

       This New York Tribune article followed up on the initial reports of the gas attack at Ypres. Despite the sensational headline, the article itself downplayed any strategic advantage the Germans might have gained from this new weapon.

FRENCH MOWED
DOWN IN FLIGHT
FROM GAS RAIN

______

Wounded Suffer Great
Pain from Effects of
Asphyxiating Bombs.

_______

CHLORINE FUMES CARRIED BY BREEZE
_________

Lemon-Colored Smoke from
German Lines Stifles Many
in Opposing Trenches.

       Paris, April 27.--Thirty-one French soldiers who were shot as they were leaving trenches near Ypres when the Germans attacked them with asphyxiating gases were brought to-day to the American Ambulance Hospita. In addition to gunshot wounds they are suffering from inflamed bronchial tubes, and their eyes are swollen from the poisonous fumes.

       These men say that as soon as they breathed the noxious gases released by the Germans they suffered acutely, their eyes stinging and their throats contracting. Some of the French soldiers became unconscious almost immediately. Others, scarcely conscious, acted on instinct and, crawling out of the trenches, staggered away from them. The connecting trenches were so choked with fugitives who had fallen unconscious that many soldiers were compelled to climb out and make their way toward the rear over the open ground.

       Some of the wounded soldiers speak with scorn of the asphyxiating bombs. "Their famous bombs killed nobody," said one of them. "They just put to sleep those who breathed the fumes. Then the Germans came up and killed the sleepers. Fortunately, help came and we finished by smashing them."

Germans Open Fire.

       As soon as the Germans perceived that the French were leaving their trenches overground they opened up an intense rifle and machine gun fire along that portion of the front, which is about three miles in extent. It was this fire which caught the wounded brought to the American Hospital. These wounded were picked up by the French troops held in reserve, which, counter-attacking, carried the greater part of the trenches which had been evacuated.

       The narratives of the wounded men differ in some respects. The physicians at the hospital attribute this divergence to the psychological effects of a wholly new experience. Some of the patients say positively that the Germans threw bombs which, on exploding, distributed the gases. The majority, however, speak of having observed a thick lemon-colored smoke arising in front of the German trenches and concealing them as though a heavy curtain had been let down. The gases hung close over the earth and, propelled by a gentle breeze, crept toward the French earthworks, scarcely one hundred yards away.

Pneumonia May Follow.

       The physicians believe that no permanent harm is likely in the case of those who were not stifled to death. The survivors suffer poignantly from inflamed membranes, but will recover without treatment. In some cases pneumonia or bronchitis may follow.

       It is the opinion of the physicians that the vapors must have been either from chlorine or else of a sulphurous nature. It is hardly believed that carbon monoxyde was used, as this gas cannot be perceived with the eye.

       It is evident from the stories of the soldiers that the wind must be precisely right to give full effect to the gases, for if released in a strong breeze the fumes would be dissipated and blown about before reaching the objective point. Meteorological charts of Northern France show that the prevailing breezes are from the south and south-west, which would favor the Allies rather than the Germans in the extensive use of gases.

Previous
Document
Document
List
Next
Document

| Documents Projects and Archives | Teacher's Corner | Scholar's Edition | Full-Text Sources | About Us | Contact Us |