World War II: Weapons of Mass Destruction



Figure 1.-- Here Hitler Youth boys are engaging in a tug of war while wearing helmets and gas masks during 1933. This was some kind of edemonstration--notice the audience. The boys were presumably demonstrating how the gas masks coukd be wiorn even when involved in strenouous activity. The boys look to be in the DJ--the younger division of the HJ. Source: Bundesarchiv Bild 133-393.

Chemical weapons were extensively used during World War I. They were introduced by the Germans on both the Eastern and Western Front. The Western Allies retaliated by using them as well. The primary ordinance was artillery shells. Most observers believed that thaey would be used again when World war II broke out and would be used against civilians in aerial attacks. This did not occur, one of the few horrors which did not materialize. There were a few isolated incidents in Europe. Even though the Germans developed nerve agents that were far more deadly than World War I chemical agents, Hitler decided not to use them. Historians are not entirely sure why. German sources suggest that chemical experts asured him that the Allies probably had similar weaons or could easily produce them and no real advantage could be gained. There may also have been personal reasons for Hitler's decesion. World War I beligerants also developed biological weapons. The two most important seem to be antrax and thyphus. Typhus was not weaponized, but the disease itself killed millions of people during World War I and the Russian Civil War. The development of DDT managed to contain it after the War. The Germans, however, remained very concerned about it. Typhus may have been used to a limited extent on the Eastern Front. The British did a great deal of work on anthrax. The Japanese appear to have been the World War II beligerant country that most extensively used both chemical and biological weapons, primarily in China. The Soviets launched a major biological warfare program after the War. Nuclear psyicists in several countries began working on atomic energy before the War. Quite a number were Jews. The Germans were the leaders in this work and among their most important researchers was a female Jewish pysicist whose colleages helped her escape the Reich. While Germany led cthe world in neuclear physics, only the United States had the industril capacity to actually launch a nuclear weapons project. The German lead caused many of the Jewish scientists to support the Anglo American effort.

Chemical Weapons

Chemical weapons were extensively used during World War I. They were introduced by the Germans on both the Eastern and Western Front. The Western Allies retaliated by using them as well. The primary ordinance was artillery shells. Most observers believed that thaey would be used again when World war II broke out and would be used against civilians in aerial attacks. This did not occur, one of the few horrors which did not materialize. There were a few isolated incidents in Europe. Even though the Germans developed nerve agents that were far more deadly than World War I chemical agents, Hitler decided not to use them. Historians are not entirely sure why. German sources suggest that chemical experts asured him that the Allies probably had similar weaons or could easily produce them and no real advantage could be gained. There may also have been personal reasons for Hitler's decesion.

Biological Weapons

World War I beligerats did not weaponize biological agents. There are some reports that German agents in the United States inoculated horses and cattle with glanders disease before they were shipped to France. Typhus was not weaponized but the disease itself killed millions of people during World War I and the Russian Civil War. The development of DDT managed to contain it after the War. The Germans, however, remained very concerned about it. The two most important biological agents studied for weaponization in the inter-War era were typhus and antrax. Military experts varied on the potential effectiveness of biological weapoons. Major Leon Fox, U.S. Army Medical Corps, published a stufy which and concluded that biological agents would not be an effective weapn effective because of modern sanitation standards. World War II beligerants developed biological weapons. The two most important seem to be antrax and thyphus. Typhus may have been used to a limited extent on the Eastern Front. The British did a great deal of work on anthrax. The Japanese appear to have been the World War II beligerant country that most extensively used both chemical and biological weapons, primarily in China. The Soviets launched a major biological warfare program after the War.

Nuclear Weapons

Nuclear psyicists in several countries began working on atomic energy before the War. Quite a number were Jews to the extent that German Führer Adolf Hiltler called nuclear physics "Jewish phsycics". The Germans were the leaders in this work and among their most important researchers was a female Jewish pysicist whose colleages helped her escape the Reich. After the outbreak of World War II, the focus shifted to weapons research. While Germany led the world in neuclear physics, only the United States had the industril capacity to actually launch a nuclear weapons project. The German lead caused many of the Jewish scientists to support the Anglo-American effort. The effiort became known as the Manhattan Project which was the largest weapons development program in history. It was initiated by President Roosevelt when work done by German physicists led to concern that the NAZIs might build an atomic bomb. The Germans were limited by the massive industrial requirements of the industry. And Hitler viewed nuclear physics as Jewsish science. The United States did not have the same industrial constraints the Germans faced. The project required about 10 percent if the electrical generating capscity of the United States. That came close to the entire electrical generating capcity of the Reich. The Japanese were also interested in nuclear weapons. The Japanese began mining uranium at Konan, North Korea, which now is the source of the uranium for North Korea's atmoc bombs. The Japanese before the NAZI surrender had the Germans attempt to ship uranium to them by U-boats.







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Created: 5:14 AM 3/4/2010
Last updated: 8:40 PM 6/14/2013