Since World War I, when the German Army first made use of
poison gas, German scientists have conducted exhaustive
research in the field of chemical warfare. The Germans
are known to be well prepared for this type of combat, both
offensive and defensive, and there is little doubt that they
would use gas with their characteristic vigor and thoroughness
should they decide that the situation seemed to demand it.
The agents that Germany may use do not differ materially
from those available to the other Powers, and may be
classified as follows:
| American classification || || German classification |
|Vesicants (blister gases).||Yellow Cross (Gelbkreuz).|
|Lung irritants. ||Green Cross (Grünkreuz).|
|Lacrimators (tear gases). ||White Cross (Weisskreuz).|
|Irritant smokes. ||Blue Cross (Blaukreuz).|
When applied as code marking to ammunition, there
is some alteration of this classification. Rings replace
crosses, and two rings of different colors indicate a gas
with dual properties. For example, a green ring and
a yellow ring indicate that the charging is a lung irritant
gas with some vesicant properties.
In general, German chemical warfare troops are
organized in regiments, battalions, and companies.
Although they are called "smoke troops" (Nebeltruppen), it
is to be emphasized that they are as well
equipped to work with gas as with smoke. For defense,
decontamination companies are included, and
there are also some specialized decontamination companies
among the medical troops.
If all troops are adequately supplied with antigas
devices, gas warfare loses much of its effectiveness and
power to terrorize. Before initiating gas warfare,
an army must protect its own troops against retaliation.
In the German Army antigas training is very
well organized; as a basis for this work, there are a
number of antigas schools to which officers and noncommissioned
officers of units are sent.
Of all the agents mentioned in paragraph 1, the vesicant
type, or a lung-irritant type possessing vesicant
properties, seems to be preferred by the Germans.
Such gases are really liquids which evaporate quickly, yielding
heavier-than-air gases which collect and persist
in low portions of the terrain. Both the liquid
and the gas will produce severe burns if they come in
contact with the skin. Ground and materiel which
have been contaminated by these agents are dangerous
over a period of hours or even, in extreme cases, for days.
All German troops are equipped on an adequate scale
with standard materials for decontamination of personnel
and weapons. These include the gas mask, anti-
gas tablets called "Losantin" (to be moistened and
made into a paste), an antigas sheet in a pouch (for protection
against vesicant spray), and a pocket flask of
weapon decontaminant. Each soldier is impressed with
the importance of being able to protect himself, and of
knowing how to decontaminate his personal equipment.
In addition, certain unit equipment is issued, such as
light and heavy protective clothing, and gas-detector
sets for gas scout sections or gas sentries. Special
equipment for decontamination on a large scale includes
decontamination vehicles, which are half-tracked trucks
equipped with rear hoppers for distributing bleaching
powder; and clothing decontamination vehicles, which
are large, windowless, six-wheeled trucks containing a
boiler for generating steam quickly, a steam chamber,
and a drying chamber. Some sections among the veterinary
troops specialize in decontamination of horses.
The Germans lay great stress on not allowing contamination
of terrain to hold up an advance. The gas
scout sections are equipped with light antigas clothing, and
have the duty of finding and marking off contaminated
areas. A special plow is used to make safe, narrow
paths which permit the rapid passage of troops in
single file. This implement is a ditching plow with a
rubber-tired, single-axle carriage and two plowshares; it
is drawn by a decontamination truck. The two plowshares
turn the sod over in opposite directions so that
a shallow trench about 20 inches wide, as well as the
slopes of the overturned earth, are free from contamination. For
large areas, specialist troops are brought up for
decontamination in accordance with a definite plan.
a. Weapons of Smoke Troops
If gas warfare breaks out, the primary role will be
assigned to the smoke battery, as it is intended to fire
gas as well as smoke. There are two different versions
of this mortar; the model 35, which has a range of about
3,000 yards, and the model 40, which has a maximum
range of about 6,500 yards. Ammunition charged with
the various agents mentioned in paragraph 1 is believed
In 1942 the Germans were distributing a new type of
weapon, the Nebelwerfer 41, which they classify as a
mortar, although it is really a rocket weapon with six
barrels set in a circle like the chamber of a revolver. The
barrels have no breech and are open at both ends. This
weapon can be used for firing high explosive, gas, or
The decontamination batteries of the smoke troops
may also engage in bulk contamination. For this purpose
they are equipped with contamination vehicles.
These are standard half-tracked vehicles on which containers
have been mounted. The liquid vesicant is
emitted by what appears to be a spray arm extended
well beyond the back of the vehicle. Emission, which is
produced by compressed air, is controlled from the
b. Equipment of Other Arms
Although the smoke mortars are perhaps more efficient
for gas projection, it is believed that extensive
supplies of gas-charged shells have been set aside for
the 105-mm and 150-mm field howitzers. Also, gas
shells may be fired from the light and heavy infantry guns.
Aircraft are important in gas warfare. The Germans
consider low-altitude (under 1,000 feet) vesicant
spray especially effective, both against personnel and
for ground contamination. Moreover, the use of aircraft
bombs with chemical charging is a possibility to
be taken into account, if gas warfare should start.
c. Miscellaneous Gas Weapons
The Germans possess gas grenades, with which their
parachute troops might be equipped. Ammunition for
antitank rifles, models 38 and 39, includes armor-piercing
tracer bullets charged with tear gas.
4. THEORETICAL USE OF GAS IN THE FIELD
The Germans distinguish between gas attack for
cloud effect and gas attack for contamination.
a. For Cloud Effect
Gas attack for cloud effect by means of nonpersistent
gases, may be attempted to achieve the following
(1) The Germans might choose to put the opposition out of action
before antigas measures could be adopted.
(2) The Germans might employ gas bombardment
for several hours, or even days, to neutralize opposing
units, weaken their gas discipline, and inflict casualties.
(3) The Germans might employ intermittent gas
bombardment to compel opposition troops to wear gas
masks during a long period, and thus weaken gas discipline.
(4) The Germans might introduce gas ammunition
into a mixed bombardment of high explosive and smoke
b. For Contamination1
The German theory of contamination by means of
persistent gases (such as mustard) is more concerned
with defense and withdrawal than with attack. However,
in attack they might consider contamination
useful for neutralizing centers of resistance which could
then be bypassed, and for safeguarding a flank. When
contaminating with artillery or aircraft, there is also
the possibility of hindering the opposition's withdrawal
or of changing its direction. However, the scope of
such tactics is limited, inasmuch as they can hamper
the advance of friendly troops.
1 It must be remembered that contamination, in a military sense, means
the process of spreading an injurious, persistent chemical agent, which will
remain in effective concentration at the point of dispersion from a few
minutes to several days, depending on local conditions.