Chemical Warfare Agents Reference and Training Chart


One of the most gruesome aspects of World War I was the use of poison gas as a weapon, which the German army first introduced on a large scale at the Second Battle of Ypres, in Flanders, Belgium, in April 1915. Armies soon adopted gas masks and respirators as protective measures. This poster about chemical warfare agents was prepared by Lieutenant Colonel Walter P. Burn, a chemical warfare expert in the United States Army, for use by American soldiers and marines. It lists the main chemical compounds used in combat, their method of delivery, physiological effects, first aid to be administered in the event of exposure, and other relevant facts. One of the deadliest gases used in the war was chlorine, which causes death by stimulating the over-production of fluids in the lungs, leading to drowning. The poster belonged to Lieutenant William Frederick Nice, also known as “Gunner Nice” of the 49th Company of the Fifth Marine Regiment. The company was known as the “Devil Dogs.” By the time the United States entered World War I, Nice was a 12-year veteran of campaigns in Haiti, Santo Domingo, Mexico, and Cuba. The men of the Fifth Marine Regiment were the first American troops sent to France after the United States entered the war. An initial detachment arrived at Saint-Nazaire on June 26, 1917, and the entire regiment by July 3. Nice’s collection of World War I documents is preserved by the Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, which collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans.

Last updated: November 14, 2017