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The current time is: 12/15/2017 11:08:33 AM
 (1914-1918) WWI Battles
AuthorMessage
BWilson
, Posts: 3533
Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/1/2017 11:34:15 AM
[Read More]

 Some interesting data here. The bit about 12 casualties from sabers caught my eye.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
Posts: 2964
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/1/2017 12:11:24 PM
So does anyone know who 1st used gas?

Was it the Germans?

Thanks,
MD
---------------
"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

Phil Andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2599
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/1/2017 1:40:07 PM
Bill,

Fascinating stuff.

The sabre wounds are astonishing...who would have thought that a weapon of Napoleonic vintage was still extant on the battlefield one hundred years later, let alone being plied with lethal effect ?

Those statistics were compiled shortly after the war, before the dust had settled; many of those posted as missing were dead, and the 8.5 million deaths tabulated in that document needed to be increased to ten million to allow for these.

Dave,

The Germans were the first to use gas - against the Russians early in 1915. It proved ineffective in that instance but was fatally effective when used against the Allies on 22 April that year.

Regards, Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

BWilson
, Posts: 3533
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/1/2017 2:20:48 PM
 On the web page I linked to, note there is a button ("Next") to access Part Two of this document -- a separate download.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
Posts: 687
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/1/2017 2:35:27 PM

Quote:


The sabre wounds are astonishing...who would have thought that a weapon of Napoleonic vintage was still extant on the battlefield one hundred years later, let alone being plied with lethal effect ?



Actually, I would think that 12 saber casualties is rather light. Especially when theatres other than the Western Front, where cavalry may have been more actively employed, are considered.

The Lance was also still in service. I would imagine they also accounted for at least some casualties.

---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2599
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/1/2017 4:46:15 PM
The argument is bizarre.

Gas is reckoned to be a weapon that does not transgress in terms of its inhumanity .

The rationale is based on mortality rates among those admitted to medical care.

Yes, it's incontestable that a relatively tiny proportion of men admitted to hospital with gas poisoning died...one or two percent . I do not accept the estimate of 56,000 Russian deaths from gas....it just looks plain wrong ; although I must not be too cocky about this : I've been wrong too many times .

What this overlooks is the role played by gas in setting men up for the kill...the gas might not have killed them, but it left them in a condition which rendered them yet more vulnerable to the tender mercies of shellfire, bullets, grenades and bayonets....even sabres, apparently !

It was a disruptor and demoraliser.

The thought that the very air you breathe might kill you is horrific.

My comments must not be construed as a disdain for this document : it's very thought provoking, and Bill's done us a great service in bringing it to our attention.

I believe that Churchill might have been excercised by such thoughts when he argued for the use of poison gas against the rebellious tribes in Iraq.

Editing : there are some very flawed statistical data presented. For example, there are said to be 4.1 million German casualties from other weapons, of whom 1.8 million died, equating to forty three per cent. This is a huge mistake. The 4.1 million represent just the wounded admitted to hospital who survived ; the 1.8 million consists, in the main, of men who were killed on the field and didn't survive to reach hospital. A more accurate rendition would have been 6 million killed or wounded, of whom 1.8 million were either killed or died from wounds, equating to thirty per cent fatalities of all the men who were victims of the other weapons. I'm going into nerd mode here, being pernickety , but I hope I've made a fair and important point.

Regards, Phil



---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2599
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/2/2017 5:13:58 AM
The document does go into detail about the defects of US gas drill, and is very candid about the price paid.

The proportion of US gas casualties is exposed as inordinately high, suggesting that inexperience and failure to adhere to necessary protective practices resulted in tens of thousands of gas casualties that might have been avoided.

I intend to substantiate this by comparing with British experience in 1918, and when I get the chance I'll furnish some statistics and put my suggestions to the test.

Regards , Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

BWilson
, Posts: 3533
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/2/2017 5:28:24 AM
The argument is bizarre.

Gas is reckoned to be a weapon that does not transgress in terms of its inhumanity .


 Quite a contrast to the reaction of the West now when gas was used in Iraq and Syria. Glad you're enjoying the document, Phil. There are many interesting works for download at the digital library I linked to. If you are not aware of the Medical Corps' work on wounding etc. for the Second War, I can provide a link.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2599
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/2/2017 7:42:46 AM
Yes please, Bill : wound data from WW2 would make a fascinating comparison with those of 1914-18.

In the meantime, compare these stats for the British armies and their US counterparts in France and Flanders, 1918.

British and Dominion troops :

Admitted to hospital with gas poisoning : 113,764, of whom 2,673 died ( 2.35%)

Admitted to hospital with wounds : 510,722, of whom 43,411 died ( 8.5%)

The most striking difference from the American experience is the ratio between wound and gas cases.

In the British figures, the gas cases equated to 22.23% of the wound cases ; in the US experience , the figure was 46% : more than double.

This does indeed suggest that literally tens of thousands of doughboys suffered gas poisoning who might have avoided that fate if they had been afforded the same gas drill that their British counterparts upheld.

It's a tentative argument, though, and there are so many caveats : how many men were both wounded and gassed ?

And it's significant that the mortality rate among the British was higher. Perhaps this indicates the fact that many of the British gas cases were victims of the traumatic fighting of the spring of 1918, where retreats and even routs denied them the treatment offered to the casualties of the later fighting, when the Allies were advancing and could administer better care.

In the earlier part of the war, the numbers of British gas casualties were much smaller, although - and this is of note - the mortality rates were much higher, especially in 1916, with the phosgene.

Regards, Phil



---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
Posts: 687
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/2/2017 9:35:17 AM
The 56,000 figure for Russian gas deaths is noted as being "unreliable".

---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2599
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/2/2017 11:15:25 AM

Quote:
The 56,000 figure for Russian gas deaths is noted as being "unreliable".


--Jim Cameron


Yes, there is a much more plausible estimate by the modern Russian military demographer Krivosheev, who estimates that 11,000 Russian soldiers died from gas poisoning in the war.

Note that the figures for deaths that I cite for the British allude only to those who died after admission to medical facilities. We can only guess as to the number who perished before they could be brought in, or who died after being captured by the enemy.

Regards , Phil




---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

BWilson
, Posts: 3533
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/2/2017 11:47:16 AM
Phil,

 The comparison between the British and American experience makes little sense on the face of it. Effects of gas varies by type, but my gut sense is that the discrepancy here may be down to training and (unit/mission) posture of the troops hit by the gas.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
Posts: 687
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/2/2017 1:55:58 PM

Quote:
Phil,

 The comparison between the British and American experience makes little sense on the face of it. Effects of gas varies by type, but my gut sense is that the discrepancy here may be down to training and (unit/mission) posture of the troops hit by the gas.

Cheers

BW
--BWilson


The overall experience of the two armies was very different. British troops were exposed from the start, when both agents and protection were limited, and doctrine still evolving. By the time U.S. troops reached the front the full array of gasses was in play, and more effective gas masks were available.

With U.S. troops, training may have been a issue, especially with masks being removed too soon. Although having worn a Small Box Respirator, I can sympathize. They are uncomfortable, you have to keep the mouthpiece clamped between your teeth, and hard to see out of. I have read of troops removing the mask and just using the mouthpiece and nose clip, in order to be able to see to shoot!

Hervey Allen makes some interesting observations on gas in his "Toward the Flame", about the U.S. 28th Division after Soissons. One is that the fear of gas had been so drilled into the troops that if anything, masks were often put on when not really necessary. Another is just how constant a low level exposure could be in an active sector. Almost everyone would be showing some signs of exposure. Irritated eyes, heaviness in the chest, a runny nose. Unless it was bad enough to merit evacuation as a gas casualty, you worked through it.
---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2599
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/3/2017 4:40:32 AM
The author of this document had a vested interest in presenting the up beat side of gas warfare...he was a high power in the school of chemical warfare, and was bound to argue for its effectiveness and to dispel the notion that it was an atrocious feature of the battlefield.

He does, of course, make a point when he alludes to the relatively minimal fatality rates....it discomforts the enemy more to disable his troops than it does to kill them : resources devoted to evacuation and care can score heavily when it comes to assessing attrition. This is something that intrigues me : I have some doubts about this argument , although I appreciate the rationale.

One might counter that a man temporarily disabled is a man who can return to the fight.

I would reckon that the principal effectiveness of gas lay in its ability to neutralise the enemy artillery by blinding its gunners and destroying it horses.

This was an artillery war.

Regards, Phil

---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 6103
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/3/2017 5:03:06 AM

Quote:
Casualty figures do seem on the face of it, to back up the idea that gas was less deadly than the soldiers' fear of it might suggest.
The total number of British and Empire war deaths caused by gas, according to the Imperial War Museum, was about 6,000 - less than a third of the fatalities suffered by the British on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

Of the 90,000 soldiers killed by gas on all sides, more than half were Russian, many of whom may not even have been equipped with masks.

In a war of attrition morale is critical and this was an attempt to undermine morale.

Prof Edgar Jones, King's Centre for Military Health Research
Far more soldiers were injured. Some 185,000 British and Empire service personnel were classed as gas casualties - 175,000 of those in the last two years of the war as mustard gas came into use. The overwhelming majority though went on to make good recoveries.

According to the Imperial War Museum, of the roughly 600,000 disability pensions still being paid to British servicemen by 1929, only 1% were being given to those classed as victims of gas.
www blog

Regards

jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2599
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/3/2017 11:24:25 AM
That figure of six thousand British gas deaths needs to be contextualised : these were the men who died after being admitted to hospitals....we musn't forget that an unknown number probably perished on the battlefield before they were brought in....in all likelihood, dying by inches in a shell hole, and perhaps buried as A SOLDIER OF THE GREAT WAR, KNOWN UNTO GOD ....or never recovered for burial at all. Think of those awful memorials to the missing, and contemplate how some of them might have been gas casualties.

With that in mind, some studies have reckoned on nine thousand British and Dominion deaths from gas : that seems plausible to me.

The increase would be proportionately larger than that cited for the US troops in the document, because the British underwent the prolonged static battles earlier in the war, and the frightening retirements of spring 1918, in both of which the chances of being left to die on the field were greater than they were to be in the fighting of the second half of 1918, in which the Americans were prominently engaged.

Regards, Phil


---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
Posts: 6103
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/3/2017 1:16:10 PM
Here I must agree Phil-The figure for the "gassed to death and never recovered" can only be assessed as a fraction of those declared as MIA and never found-could it be as many as 5000 Allied soldiers in all theatres ????

Regards

Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2599
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/3/2017 1:27:13 PM
Yes, all of that and a good deal more, I would guess, Jim.


Editing : Not so much a case of being gassed to death : more likely rendered helpless and in agony after being gassed, abandoned and then obliterated by shellfire.

Regards , Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5719
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/3/2017 7:33:22 PM
My wife's grandfather was English and was gassed during the war.

British doctors advised him to find a gentler climate to help his breathing.

So of course, he came to Canada.

My wife told me that he was unhealthy and only able to work part time. His wife, in an unusual development for the time period, went out to work as a maid, full time. They did the best they could in a country whose social safety net was not as well developed as it is today.

She had said that her husband had been a strong man with a great sense of humour. He was different in both aspects after the war.

So yes, the gases did have consequences even if a man was able to survive.

Phil andrade
London, UK
Posts: 2599
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/4/2017 2:17:56 AM
It's even being suggested now that genetic damage had been passed on by men who had been gassed : in that sense, the effects of gas might yet be extant.

I clearly remember an old butcher who used to buy his pork from me.

He was always wheezing and his skin was abnormally crinkled even for a man in his eighties.

He obviously lived for a long time - he died in the late 1970s - but I was told by his shop manager that he had been a mustard gas casualty in 1917 and had never made a full recovery.

Regards , Phil
---------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"

"That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
Posts: 687
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/4/2017 11:29:11 AM

Quote:
Yes, all of that and a good deal more, I would guess, Jim.


Editing : Not so much a case of being gassed to death : more likely rendered helpless and in agony after being gassed, abandoned and then obliterated by shellfire.

Regards , Phil
--Phil andrade


Once the various powers had developed reasonably effective gas masks, and the related training and doctrine, gas became less of a killer and more of a surpressing weapon, such as against artillery. Destroying artillery was difficult, but it was found to be almost as effective to neutralize it. Basically, however, poison gas simply made everybody miserable.

As regards the study under discussion, poison gas was still widely viewed as an effective weapon, and it's use was actively considered during WW2, especially in the Pacific, where the fighting on Saipan and Okinawa, with suicidal acts by Japanese civilians, raised fears of massive casualties in an invasion of the Japanese home islands.

Admiral Spruance told Secretary of the Navy Forrestal: "... I remarked that if we could be allowed to use this new gas mask at Iwo Jima, we would save a lot of American lives. The Japanese defenders of Iwo Jima would die anyway, and there was no civilian population. Being killed quickly by gas was at least as merciful as being killed by flamethrowers, bullets, bombs, and shells."
Its employment was ultimately rejected on the grounds that the U.S. would have been blamed for initiating gas warfare, and, because it would have justified Japanese retaliation. That they were prepared to do so is evident by enormous quantities of chemical weapons found in the home islands.



---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
Posts: 5719
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/4/2017 11:47:55 AM
WW1 gunners would often remove their respirators because they couldn't function otherwise.

I haven't got the numbers but the Battle of Hill 70 (Lens) was notable because of the importance of artillery fire but also for the number of gunners who were gassed during operations.

I don't know whether they violated orders by removing their gear.

Cheers,

George

Jim Cameron
North Bellmore, NY, USA
Posts: 687
Re: Comparitive study of World War casualties from gas and other weapons
Posted on: 7/5/2017 11:32:02 AM
Further to my previous comment about the constant, low level exposure to gas, not enough to require medical evacuation but enough to make people miserable and degrade performance, here is a quote by a captain in the U.S. 29th Division. This is from "Other Men's Lives", by William Reddan, a decidedly bitter account of the Meuse-Argonne, where his company was reduced to 13 men.

"I found a group of youngsters all worn out, tired and ragged; nearly every man in the battalion was sneezing, coughing and bleary-eyed from loss of sleep and the effects of gas."

---------------
Jim Cameron

Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.