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"Japanese Toxic Smoke Candles" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report on WWII Japanese smoke candles was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 7, Sept. 10, 1942.

[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.]


Certain aspects of Japanese chemical warfare have been summarized in a recent report.

A Japanese manual dealing with operations in the Southwest Pacific specifically refers to the possibility of the use of gas by Britain, the United States, or the Netherlands. The intention of the Japanese may be to use this "possibility" as a justification for initiating the use of gas themselves.

Some Japanese gas masks with service containers have been recovered, and many notebooks have been captured in which the gas-mask number of each member of the unit has been recorded. Small containers holding a cleansing powder similar to British antigas ointments, and a pouch containing chloride of lime, have also been recovered. The cleansing powder is issued to each man, chloride of lime to squads or larger units to be carried by the "antigas" NCO or private.

From this it will be seen that the Japanese are definitely prepared for defense against gas. Their gas masks and other equipment are, of course, equally necessary if they are to use gas offensively.

The Japanese possess, and have provided the Burma traitor army with toxic smoke candles containing an arsenious compound which causes severe irritation to the nose and throat. It is not lethal and the effects pass off in 2 or 3 hours.

The Chinese have reported the use of "poison gas" in Burma. It is known that the toxic smoke candles mentioned above have been frequently used by the Japanese in China.

The Japanese toxic smoke candles described below were captured in Burma and presumably are the same as those containing an arsenious compound and mentioned above.

The candles are of two types, hand-thrown and charge-propelled.

(a) Hand-Thrown Type.

A preliminary examination shows that this candle contains a mixture of nitrocellulose, camphor, and diphenyl arsenic acid. The mixture is ignited by means of a matchhead and friction striker, and after a delay of 3 to 4 seconds the diphenyl arsenic-acid is evolved in the form of a toxic smoke.

Diphenyl arsenic acid is a nose irritant about one-fourth as irritating as diphenylchlorarsine. As in the case of other toxic smokes, if the smoke is breathed before the mask is adjusted, the effects persist for some time after protection has been gained.

This type of candle is cylindrical in shape, about 7 inches long, and 2 inches in diameter. (See accompanying sketch and legend.) The weight is about 9 ounces. It is painted bluish gray with a red band, one-third of an inch wide, about 1 1/2 inches from the top.

Legend, hand-propelled type:

1. Lid with lettering "136A."      8. Leadfoil cover.
2. Adhesive sealing tape. 9. Bottom of container.
3. Cylindrical container, wall thickness 0.0124 in. Painted a bluish gray color.10. Handle, diameter 0.116 in.
4. Charge.11. Handle clip.
5. Fuze.12. Smoke vent.
6. Ignition cap.13. Tinfoil covering for vent.
7. Tinplate diaphragm.

[Japanese Smoke Candle -- Hand-Thrown]

(b) Charge-Propelled Type.

This candle is said to contain a composition similar to that in the hand-thrown candle.

It consists of an outer cylinder 8 inches long and 2 inches in diameter, and is painted a greenish gray color with a half-inch red band about 3 inches from the bottom. (See accompanying sketch and legend.) It contains a propelling charge, and an inner container which is the candle proper. The whole assembly is supported in an inclined position by means of an attached spike which is stuck into the ground.

The propelling charge is ignited through a time fuze by means of a friction striker and matchhead. As the inner container is ejected, the flash of discharge ignites the smoke composition in this container through a fuze of 4 to 5 seconds delay.

Legend, charge-propelled type:

1. Outer container, wall thickness 1 mm. (0.039 in.). Painted a greenish gray color.     10. Two cardboard packing disks.
2. Top lid with lettering "167 K" sealed with adhesive tape.11. Wooden disk with abrasive edging.
3. Spike used to set up the candle.12. Ignition cap.
4. Painted red band.13. Cylindrical steel pan for powder propellant.
5. Bottom lid sealed with adhesive tape.14. Propellant.
6. Clip securing spike to candle.15. Screwed base of inner container.
7. Fuze.16. Inner container, wall thickness about 2.5 mm. (0.098 in.).
8. Wooden block drilled for fuze with positioning slot at bottom.17. Smoke vent.
9. Bottom of outer container with slot at center for positioning wooden block.18. Charge.
19. Fuze tube.
20. Fuze.
21. Lead cover.

[Japanese Smoke Candle -- Charge-Propelled]

See below for sketch of device used for setting the charge-propelled smoke candle at the proper angle for the range desired.

[Angle Measuring Block]


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