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"Comparison Chart of War Gases" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following comparison chart of WWII chemical weapons was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 37, November 4, 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.]


a. Axis Symbols Names and Markings

The accompanying chart is compiled primarily for quick comparison of German, Italian, and Japanese names and markings with those of the United States Army.

By following a chemical or common name from left to right one can easily obtain the Axis equivalent. Should an Axis shell marking or name be known, the American or British equivalent may be found easily.

Identifying odors, physiological effects and tactical classification are also shown.

[WWII War Gases Comparison Chart]
[click to enlarge]

b. All Known Gases are Not Shown

Some of the British and American "Secret" or experimental gases are not shown. Likewise, Axis "Secret" or "Rumor" gases are not included. Twenty-nine gases are now symbolized by the British and American authorities, although this chart identifies only twenty-three due to its restricted classification.

c. German Markings

The Germans may use the word cross or band interchangeably. Recent reports state that they have concluded that a band around a gas shell is easier to apply than a stencilled cross such as they used in the first World War. On this chart a "Gelbkreuz" (yellow cross) gas would appear as a "yellow band" marking.

d. Japanese Markings

Little is known about Japanese gas shells. Although Chinese reports claim that many have been captured, none have been examined in this office.

It has been confirmed however, that Japanese gas shells have been found, and that all have had a blue and red band on their nose.

e. French Markings

The French gases are listed solely because it is generally believed that the Germans have acquired the complete stock of French chemical munitions. The numbers accompanying the names have been known to supplant the French name as a shell marking. These are code numbers for the gas.

f. British and American Symbols (Abbreviations) Identical

The British and American authorities have recently adopted the same symbols for the common war gases. The standardized symbols (or abbreviations) are used in the chart.

The band markings of the American and British armies remain different and the British tie up band markings, code letters and numbers with their various gases. These, however, are secret, and cannot be included in this chart. The American band markings are shown for comparison with the known Axis markings.


Information on all markings is scarce due to the fact that gas has not been used yet by the Germans or Italians. Drastic changes in this chart probably will be required when and if gas warfare breaks out. It is more than likely, if gas is used by the enemy, that one or more of the gases shown on the accompanying chart will be employed. Officers in the field, regardless of the branch of service to which they may be attached, should always note very carefully any shell markings and color bands. This information with their reports should be forwarded promptly together with a complete description of the ammunition. In this way locations and date of use can be identified with all field laboratory reports.

*Prepared by the Office of the Chief of Chemical Warfare Service. The accompanying chart does not include the chemical name and formula for each gas.


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