April 28, 1915

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

The German use of gas again made the front page of the Capital Journal:

Use of Deadly Gases Declared To Be Violation of Rules of “Civilized” War – Men In Trenches Gasp For Breath When Breathe Air Filled With Fumes Hurled By Germans – Only the Strong Survive

The Germans are employing a new method of hurling their poisonous gas bombs in the terrible fighting about Ypres. It is by means of the shells of their new 17 inch guns.

As details of the action of the deadly gas spread by these shells are received, high officials unite in characterizing its use as in complete violation of all rules of civilized warfare. Some of the French and British victims reaching hospitals in the rear died within 30 or 40 hours of quick pneumonia. All suffered from extreme pain in the throat and lungs. Their repression was sometimes as high as fifty to the minute as they vainly gasped for breath.

The first widespread use of gas occurred as reported in the Capital Journal by the Germans at Ypres. The Germans used chlorine, which is a yellow-green gas, smiling strongly of bleach. Soldiers described the smell as one of a mix of pepper and pineapple.

When coming into contact with the lungs, the chlorine forms hydrochloric acid. In this first use of the gas, approximately 5,000 soldiers were killed. The Germans did not appreciate how effective the gas was and failed to capitalize on the gaps in the front opened up by their use of gas shells.


About whclarc

We are devoted to providing information fresh from the Archives, Library and Collections of the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon. We specialize in the history of Marion County and the greater Salem area.
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