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"Civil Protection Against Gas Warfare in Enemy Countries" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report on protection against gas warfare in Axis countries was originally printed in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 17, January 28, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


The information below covers the steps taken n Germany, Italy, and Japan for the protection of civilians in the event of gas warfare.

a. Germany

(1) The "Luftabwehrdienst" (Air Protection League) has been responsible for the most thoroughly trained civilian population on the continent. Civil defense services, including antigas measures, are organized on a compulsory basis under control of the police and in nearly all cases are very efficient. The Nazi philosophy of subjugation acts to insure immediate obedience in civil, as well as military, matters.

(2) When an alarm is sounded, civilians are trained to go to gas-proof shelters required in all buildings. Serious consideration has been given the matter of gas-proofing shelters in Germany, and detailed instructions have been prepared and distributed. These shelters include all types, from the massive "Luftschutzturme" (air protection towers) holding up to 500 people, and the bell-shaped cement shelters with deep foundations and thick walls, accommodating 250 persons, to individual homes with gas-proofed rooms. Double-door construction with seals, special ventilating plants, and other methods of combatting gas have been adopted, despite the fact that high explosives landing in the immediate vicinity would damage and render ineffective the seals, warp the metal doors, etc. According to reports which filter through from Germany, the past year has seen an accelerated program in gas-proofing private shelters in the larger centers, such as Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Bremen, where public shelters have already been made gas-proof.

(3) An adequate organization appears to have been built up to handle civilian defense. Air-raid wardens, fire watchers (or spotters), bomb-removal and decontamination squads are all trained to combat raids on the larger cities. In some of the important industrial centers, the individual citizens have been instructed in dealing with incendiary bombs (and resultant fires) and have performed these tasks during past raids by Allied planes.

(4) As a result of regular bombing raids by Allied aircraft, blackouts are carried out in orderly and organized efficiency.

(5) Regarding gas masks, the picture is slightly obscure. The following information appears, however, to portray the general situation. Early in 1942, the authorities were reported as diligently pushing forward a program whereby every civilian would possess a gas mask, even to the extent of making house-to-house canvasses. Later information disclosed that gas masks were being collected and shipped to the armed forces at the front, together with Czech and French masks, leaving only the civilian defense personnel with masks. This action may have been predicated on the assumption that gas-proofed shelters (noted in (2) above) would obviate the necessity for civilians owning gas masks. However, it is extremely probable that in such vital spots as towns where chemicals and war gases are manufactured and stored, gas masks are possessed by local residents as a precaution against the effects of bombing.

(6) No information is available at this time regarding the use of antigas clothing by civilians, although it is known that a transparent or opaque material called "Cellaplan" has been developed in various colors and is proclaimed to be suitable for raincoats, overalls, etc. If this is a form of cellophane, it may possess good mustard-resisting properties and might conceivably be intended solely for civilian use.

(7) A German training circular for civilian defense suggests the use of "losantin" as a first aid treatment for incendiary burns. As is well known, this preparation in tablet form is a standard issue in the German Army for antigas protection. Certain factories have been reported as issuing "Rhodasopa" (an antigas soap) for use by their employees in protecting against certain vesicants.

b. Italy

The "L'Unione Nazionale per la Protezione Anti-Aeria" (UNPA), corresponding to the Air Protection League of Germany, undertook the task of assisting air defense organizations, disseminating information, and cooperating in the execution of air defense measures. In some cases, especially in the larger cities, good results were obtained, but from prisoners of war it has been learned that smaller towns had practically no air defense organization. Children in particular were trained in raid conduct. Air raid warning sectors were established, wardens appointed, blackouts were held - but apparently interest lagged. However, it may be assumed that certain training has been given the Italian populace.

With respect to gas masks, it is difficult to assess the situation accurately because of a scarcity of information. The latest reports available reveal that only about one million masks have been sold to the public, and the Pirelli company (which has a government franchise to manufacture masks) has about 2 1/2 million unsold. It may be that the latest raids on Naples, Milan, and other centers have stimulated the public's desire to own and carry gas masks. The army and air raid personnel are presumably well equipped.

c. Japan

The Antiaircraft Defense Association, "Kokukiokia," instructs civilians in air raid measures. It is a local, voluntary organization working under government control, educating and training the public. Smaller units known as "Neighbor-Group Air Defense" groups, of about 11 families each, are also organized to combat fires, etc., but until actual raid conditions prevail, no knowledge of their efficiency in training may be expected.

Such information as is available tends to show that the government is thoroughly aware of the vulnerability of the islands. As far back as 1936, air raid shelters were constructed in Tokyo, and others have been built throughout the empire since. While the necessity of gas-proofing these shelters is perfectly obvious, and no doubt regulations were issued to this effect, there is no documentary evidence along these lines.

According to a German broadcast on March 23, 1942, the Japanese government, recognizing the failure of the people to purchase gas masks for their protection, began the distribution of masks throughout the islands, limiting the number to one to a household for training purposes and assessing the costs to the individual. The State bears the cost to the poor.


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