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Avoiding Chemical Warfare 1939–45

  • Edward M. Spiers

Abstract

When the Second World War erupted there was a widespread, and quite reasonable, expectation that poison gas would be used. Various gases had been employed in an increasingly extensive fashion during the later years of the Great War, and, despite the signing of the Geneva Protocol, poison gas still seemed a potent weapon, especially in view of its use in Ethiopia and its reported use by the Japanese in China. The great powers prepared for the worst; they feared that their opponents possessed either large stocks of chemical weapons or the potential to produce such stocks. They strove to improve their own defences, both civilian and military, and to acquire the means of deterrence through a retaliatory capability. As the threat of gas was ever present, it proved a lasting concern for political leaders and their military advisers. What warrants analysis is not simply why these weapons were not used — in respect of the balance of incentives and disincentives (an analysis already expertly done)1 — but also how the policy of deterrence evolved and developed during the conflict.

Keywords

High Explosive Chemical Weapon General Staff Arsenic Trichloride Spray Tank 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes and References

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© Edward M. Spiers 1986

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  • Edward M. Spiers

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