Protection Sought for World War I Ships

Protection Sought for World War I Ships


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The UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage, introduced in 2001, aimed to help member nations better protect shipwrecks, submerged ruins and other valuable, increasingly fragile, parts of their underwater heritage. The organization estimates that there are more than 3 million undiscovered shipwrecks scattered over the globe, including more than 12,500 sailing ships and war vessels lost at sea between 1824 and 1962 alone. With improved technology, these wrecks are becoming more accessible all the time, making them vulnerable to treasure hunters, commercial salvage operations and other types of looting.

The 2001 convention originally applied only to sites sunk more than 100 years ago. Now, as reported by BBC News, experts from 36 nations met last week in Bruges, Belgium to hear how the convention will soon be extended to protect thousands more sites. These include hundreds of ships sunk during the naval engagements fought during World War I, many of which are popular locations for recreational divers and for salvage companies looking to dismantle the wrecks. According to UNESCO’s Ulrike Guerin, protection under the convention “prevents the pillaging, which is happening on a very large scale, it prevents the commercial exploitation, the scrap metal recovery, and it will have regulations on the incidental impacts, such as the problem of trawlers going over World War I sites.”

Though the naval losses on both sides during the Great War did not match the carnage in the trenches, engagements at sea had a significant impact on the conflict. Britain mobilized an estimated 11,000 vessels; of those, some 1,100 were sunk, and more than 74,000 sailors and 15,300 merchant marines were killed. On the German side, hundreds of warships were sunk, and almost 35,000 men lost. Among the additional civilian death toll were the 1,198 people killed when a German submarine sank the Lusitania off the Irish coast on May 7, 1915, in an incident that would indirectly lead to the United States’ entry into the global conflict.

The locations of ships sunk during such large-scale clashes as the Battle of Jutland and Gallipoli are well known, and are attractive destinations for divers and commercial salvage operations alike. In recent years, more and more ships have been dismembered for salvage as the price of metals like copper, brass and aluminum has increased. In 2011, Dutch salvage vessels picked over the remains of three British Royal Navy cruisers (the HMS Aboukir, HMS Hogue and HMS Cressy) that were sunk by a German submarine off the Netherlands in 1914. At the time, naval veterans’ associations from seven nations (Britain, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Austria and Belgium) accused the salvage crews of desecrating the graves of 1,500 sailors lost when the ships went down. Now, the Netherlands is one of the nations said to be close to signing the convention, eliminating the threat of similar dismemberments in future.

Still, the increased number of protected sites will put a strain on resources for member nations. As Dr. Innes McCartney, leader of six research expeditions to wrecked ships from the Battle of Jutland, tells the BBC: “There are war graves in the English Channel that in the past few weeks have been subject to salvage, within sight of land. This issue is ongoing. If you want to stop it, it’s a matter of resource. Mouth is one thing but money is what makes the difference.” McCartney and his team want to build a global inventory of ships lost during the war and investigate their erosion, and also call for increased education about the history of such ships. Twice as many merchant ships were sunk in World War I than in World War II, he says, a fact of which most of the public is unaware. According to McCartney, “One of the challenges is to show people what is there and that it is very much part of their cultural history and legacy.”

As part of the World War I centenary this weekend, UNESCO asked all ships at sea to use commemorative signaling on Saturday, June 28 by lowering their flags or ensigns to half-mast. This, as well as a sound signal from all ships in port, was to serve as a symbol of peace and reconciliation, a remembrance of those killed in the war and a reminder of the need to protect its heritage–on land and underwater.


The Washington Naval Conference, 1921–1922

Between 1921 and 1922, the world’s largest naval powers gathered in Washington, D.C. for a conference to discuss naval disarmament and ways to relieve growing tensions in East Asia.

In the wake of World War I, leaders in the international community sought to prevent the possibility of another war. Rising Japanese militarism and an international arms race heightened these concerns. As a result, policymakers worked to reduce the rising threat. Senator William E. Borah (R–Idaho) led a congressional effort to demand that the United States engage its two principal competitors in the naval arms race, Japan and the United Kingdom, in negotiations for disarmament.

In 1921, U.S. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes invited nine nations to Washington, D.C. to discuss naval reductions and the situation in the Far East. The United Kingdom, Japan, France and Italy were invited to take part in talks on reducing naval capacity, while Belgium, China, Portugal, and the Netherlands were invited to join in discussions on the situation in the Far East. Three major treaties emerged out of the Washington Naval Conference: the Five-Power Treaty, the Four-Power Treaty, and the Nine-Power Treaty.

The Five-Power Treaty, signed by the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, France and Italy was the cornerstone of the naval disarmament program. It called for each of the countries involved to maintain a set ratio of warship tonnage which allowed the United States and the United Kingdom 500,000 tons, Japan 300,000 tons, and France and Italy each 175,000 tons. Japan preferred that tonnage be allotted at a 10:10:7 ratio, while the U.S. Navy preferred a 10:10:5 ratio. The conference ultimately adopted the 5:5:3 ratio limits. Since the United States and the United Kingdom maintained navies in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans to support their colonial territories, the Five-Power Treaty allotted both countries the highest tonnage allowances. The treaty also called on all five signatories to stop building capital ships and reduce the size of their navies by scrapping older ships.

Though the treaty was widely regarded as a success, the inclusion of Article XIX, which recognized the status quo of U.S., British, and Japanese bases in the Pacific but outlawed their expansion, created a controversy amongst U.S. policymakers. Many members of the U.S. Navy in particular worried that limiting the expansion of fortifications in the Pacific would endanger U.S. holdings in Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines.

Additionally, although the Five-Power Treaty controlled tonnage of each navy’s warships, some classes of ships were left unrestricted. As a result, a new race to build cruiser ships emerged after 1922, leading the five nations to return to the negotiating table in 1927 and 1930 in an effort to close the remaining loopholes in the Treaty.

In the Four-Power Treaty, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and Japan agreed to consult with each other in the event of a future crisis in East Asia before taking action. This treaty replaced the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of 1902, which had been a source of some concern for the United States. In the years following World War I, U.S. policymakers saw Japan as the greatest rising military threat. Heavily militarized and looking to expand its influence and territory, Japan had the potential to threaten U.S. colonial possessions in Asia and the profitable China trade. Because of the 1902 agreement between the United Kingdom and Japan, however, if the United States and Japan entered into a conflict, the United Kingdom might be obligated to join Japan against the United States. By ending that treaty and creating a Four-Power agreement, the countries involved ensured that none would be obligated to engage in a conflict, but a mechanism would exist for discussions if one emerged.

The final multilateral agreement made at the Washington Naval Conference, the Nine-Power Treaty, marked the internationalization of the U.S. Open Door Policy in China. The treaty promised that each of the signatories—the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, and China—would respect the territorial integrity of China. The treaty recognized Japanese dominance in Manchuria but otherwise affirmed the importance of equal opportunity for all nations doing business in the country. For its part, China agreed not to discriminate against any country seeking to do business there. Like the Four-Power Treaty, this treaty on China called for further consultations amongst the signatories in the event of a violation. As a result, it lacked a method of enforcement to ensure that all powers abided by its terms.

In addition to the multilateral agreements, the participants completed several bilateral treaties at the conference. Japan and China signed a bilateral agreement, the Shangtung (Shandong) Treaty, which returned control of that province and its railroad to China. Japan had taken control of the area from the Germans during World War I and maintained control of it over the years that followed. The combination of the Shangtung Treaty and the Nine-Power Treaty was meant to reassure China that its territory would not be further compromised by Japanese expansion. Additionally, Japan agreed to withdraw its troops from Siberia and the United States and Japan formally agreed to equal access to cable and radio facilities on the Japanese-controlled island of Yap.

Together, the treaties signed at the Washington Naval Conference served to uphold the status quo in the Pacific: they recognized existing interests and did not make fundamental changes to them. At the same time, the United States secured agreements that reinforced its existing policy in the Pacific, including the Open Door Policy in China and the protection of the Philippines, while limiting the scope of Japanese imperial expansion as much as possible.


With the introduction of the Whitehead torpedo in 1873, and the subsequent development of the torpedo boat, new means were sought to protect capital ships against underwater attacks. In 1876 the British Admiralty Torpedo Committee came up with a number of recommendations for combating torpedoes, which included ". nets of galvanised iron hung around each battleship from projecting 40 ft spars". [1] Experiments were conducted in 1877, with HMS Thunderer becoming the first operational ship to be fitted with the nets.

Torpedo nets could be hung out from the defending ship, when moored or otherwise stationary in the water, on multiple horizontal booms. Each boom was fixed to the ship at one end at or below the edge of the main deck, by a steel pin that permitted the boom to be swung against the ship and secured when the ship sailed. A series of such booms was so fixed at intervals along each side of the ship. When the ship was moored, the free ends of the booms could be swung out with the net hung on the outer ends, thus suspending the net at a distance from the ship equal to the length of the boom, all around the ship. With the net mounted, a torpedo aimed at the ship would hit the mesh net and explode at a sufficient distance from the hull to prevent serious damage to the ship.

Early booms were made of wood, originally 10 inches (250 mm) in diameter but increased in the 1880s to 12 inches (300 mm). Each boom weighed 20 to 24 long cwt (1,000 to 1,200 kg) and cost £28 to £30. In the House of Commons on 9 April 1888 Admiral Field, who was MP for Eastbourne, asserted that steel booms designed by William Bullivant were at least 5 long cwt (250 kg) lighter, one-third less expensive and "superior in many other respects", and asked Lord George Hamilton, First Lord of the Admiralty whether the Committee on Torpedo Net Defence had recommended steel booms and whether the Admiralty would further test them. In reply the First Lord claimed that steel booms doubled up on impact, were more vulnerable to accidental damage, and were harder to repair aboard a ship, whereas wooden ones were easier to replace. His Lordship further stated that the steel booms that the Committee favoured were of a different type from those designed by Bullivant. [2]

On 21 June 1888 three Opposition Liberal MPs questioned the First Lord on whether wooden booms were the best choice for either effectiveness or cost. Admiral Field claimed that the Admiralty Torpedo Committee and Dockyard officials preferred steel booms as they weighed less than 10 long cwt (510 kg) and cost £20 to £22. Field alleged that in experiments since September 1886 wooden booms "invariably failed" and that steel booms were lighter and more effective. In reply the First Lord claimed that in five experiments, wooden booms had worked on all but one occasion and that steel booms would be more expensive. When questioned by James Picton, MP for Leicester, the First Lord agreed that wooden beams were heavier. Then John Brunner, MP for Northwich, asked who was opposing steel booms, so that Parliament might debate whether to dismiss them. The First Lord ended the discussion by retorting that "it was most improper that Questions should be put to him for the purpose of advertising inventions". [3]

About 1875 William Munton Bullivant had taken over the Wire Tramway Co, a manufacturer of wire and steel rope based in Millwall, London, [4] and turned it into Bullivant and Co. [5] The company exhibited at trade events including the Naval and Submarine Exhibition of 1882. [6] Bullivant developed not only steel torpedo nets but also steel booms to suspend them from ships. In 1888 Admiral Field and other Liberal MPs offended the First Sea Lord by promoting Bullivant's products in the House of Commons. [3]

The adoption of these nets resulted in the introduction of the torpedo net cutter on the nose of torpedoes, [8] either in the form of scissors in Japanese designs, or a French pistol-powered version.

Later heavier, denser nets used by the German and British navies were regarded as "torpedo-proof".

In spite of fitting the major ships with anti-torpedo nets, and close danger of war, the Russians did not deploy the nets during the Japanese destroyer torpedo attack on the Imperial Russian Navy stationed on a roadside of Port Arthur on 8 February 1904, which was the opening shots of the Russo-Japanese War. [9]

In other actions later in the war, nets were used effectively by the Russian battleship Sevastopol. At the end of the siege of Port Arthur she was anchored outside the harbor in a position where she was sheltered from the fire of the Japanese batteries but became exposed to persistent attacks from torpedo boats. From 11 to 16 December 1904, Sevastopol was exposed to numerous night attacks. The Japanese deployed 30 torpedo-boats, of which two were lost, and it was estimated that altogether 104 torpedoes were fired against the ship. One torpedo exploded in the nets near the bow and produced a leak in the torpedo room another damaged the compartment forward of the collision bulkhead, because the nets yielded to such an extent that it exploded near the hull. The last two torpedoes that struck the ship were fired at close range against the unprotected stern: they damaged the rudder and produced a serious leak under the quarterdeck, so that the aft end of the ship sank until it touched the bottom. The leak was repaired, the ship was re-floated and on the last day of the siege she was taken out to deep water and scuttled.

The sinking by torpedo of three Allied battleships during the 1915 Dardanelles Campaign, all with torpedo nets deployed, demonstrated that the increased speed of newer torpedoes and the tactic of firing several torpedoes at the same location on the target had made the torpedo net ineffective. Torpedo nets were superseded by the anti-torpedo bulge and torpedo belts.

Torpedo nets were revived in the Second World War. In January 1940 the UK Admiralty had the ocean liner Arandora Star fitted out with steel booms at Avonmouth and then ordered her to Portsmouth where she spent three months testing nets of various mesh sizes in the English Channel. The net successfully caught all the torpedoes fired at them and reduced the ship's speed by only 1 knot (1.9 km/h), but in March 1940 the nets were removed. [10] In July the unprotected Arandora Star was sunk by a torpedo, killing 805 people.

Booms and nets were fitted to a few ships in August 1941, and by the end of the Second World War they had been fitted to 700 ships. The nets did not protect the whole of a ship, but protected from 60 to 75 percent of each side. 21 ships so equipped were subject to torpedo attacks while the nets were deployed. 15 ships survived as the nets succeeded in protecting them. The other six were sunk because a torpedo either penetrated a net or hit an unprotected part of a ship. [10]

Nets protected ships at anchor, especially as obstacles against submarines, human torpedoes, and frogmen. They were also used to protect dams, and led to the development of bouncing bombs to defeat them, as in Operation Chastise.


Ancient Greek myths about Hercules poisoning his arrows with the venom of the Hydra monster are the earliest references to toxic weapons in western literature. Homer's epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, allude to poisoned arrows used by both sides in the legendary Trojan War (Bronze Age Greece). [1]

Some of the earliest surviving references to toxic warfare appear in the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. [2] The "Laws of Manu," a Hindu treatise on statecraft (c. 400 BC) forbids the use of poison and fire arrows, but advises poisoning food and water. Kautilya's "Arthashastra", a statecraft manual of the same era, contains hundreds of recipes for creating poison weapons, toxic smokes, and other chemical weapons. Ancient Greek historians recount that Alexander the Great encountered poison arrows and fire incendiaries in India at the Indus basin in the 4th century BC. [1]

Arsenical smokes were known to the Chinese as far back as c. 1000 BC [3] and Sun Tzu's "Art of War" (c. 200 BC) advises the use of fire weapons. In the second century BC, writings of the Mohist sect in China describe the use of bellows to pump smoke from burning balls of toxic plants and vegetables into tunnels being dug by a besieging army. Other Chinese writings dating around the same period contain hundreds of recipes for the production of poisonous or irritating smokes for use in war along with numerous accounts of their use. These accounts describe an arsenic-containing "soul-hunting fog", and the use of finely divided lime dispersed into the air to suppress a peasant revolt in 178 AD. [ citation needed ]

The earliest recorded use of gas warfare in the West dates back to the fifth century BC, during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. Spartan forces besieging an Athenian city placed a lighted mixture of wood, pitch, and sulfur under the walls hoping that the noxious smoke would incapacitate the Athenians, so that they would not be able to resist the assault that followed. Sparta was not alone in its use of unconventional tactics in ancient Greece Solon of Athens is said to have used hellebore roots to poison the water in an aqueduct leading from the River Pleistos around 590 BC during the siege of Kirrha. [1]

The earliest archaeological evidence of gas warfare is during the Roman–Persian wars. Research carried out on the collapsed tunnels at Dura-Europos in Syria suggests that during the siege of the town in the third century AD, the Sassanians used bitumen and sulfur crystals to get it burning. When ignited, the materials gave off dense clouds of choking sulfur dioxide gases which killed 19 Roman soldiers and a single Sassanian, purported to be the fire-tender, in a matter of two minutes. [4] [5] [6] [7]

Quicklime (the old name for calcium oxide) may have been used in medieval naval warfare – up to the use of "lime-mortars" to throw it at the enemy ships. [8] Historian and philosopher David Hume, in his history of England, recounts how in the reign of Henry III (r.1216 – 1272) the English Navy destroyed an invading French fleet, by blinding the enemy fleet with quicklime. D’Albiney employed a stratagem against them, which is said to have contributed to the victory: Having gained the wind of the French, he came down upon them with violence and gassing a great quantity of quicklime, which he purposely carried on board, he so blinded them, that they were disabled from defending themselves. [9]

In the late 15th century, Spanish conquistadors encountered a rudimentary type of chemical warfare on the island of Hispaniola. The Taíno threw gourds filled with ashes and ground hot peppers at the Spaniards to create a blinding smoke screen before launching their attack. [10]

Leonardo da Vinci proposed the use of a powder of sulfide, arsenic and verdigris in the 15th century:

throw poison in the form of powder upon galleys. Chalk, fine sulfide of arsenic, and powdered verdegris may be thrown among enemy ships by means of small mangonels, and all those who, as they breathe, inhale the powder into their lungs will become asphyxiated.

It is unknown whether this powder was ever actually used.

In the 17th century during sieges, armies attempted to start fires by launching incendiary shells filled with sulfur, tallow, rosin, turpentine, saltpeter, and/or antimony. Even when fires were not started, the resulting smoke and fumes provided a considerable distraction. Although their primary function was never abandoned, a variety of fills for shells were developed to maximize the effects of the smoke.

In 1672, during his siege of the city of Groningen, Christoph Bernhard von Galen, the Bishop of Münster, employed several different explosive and incendiary devices, some of which had a fill that included Deadly Nightshade, intended to produce toxic fumes. Just three years later, August 27, 1675, the French and the Holy Roman Empire concluded the Strasbourg Agreement, which included an article banning the use of "perfidious and odious" toxic devices. [ citation needed ]

The modern notion of chemical warfare emerged from the mid-19th century, with the development of modern chemistry and associated industries. The first recorded modern proposal for the use of chemical warfare was made by Lyon Playfair, Secretary of the Science and Art Department, in 1854 during the Crimean War. He proposed a cacodyl cyanide artillery shell for use against enemy ships as way to solve the stalemate during the siege of Sevastopol. The proposal was backed by Admiral Thomas Cochrane of the Royal Navy. It was considered by the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, but the British Ordnance Department rejected the proposal as "as bad a mode of warfare as poisoning the wells of the enemy." Playfair's response was used to justify chemical warfare into the next century: [11]

There was no sense in this objection. It is considered a legitimate mode of warfare to fill shells with molten metal which scatters among the enemy, and produced the most frightful modes of death. Why a poisonous vapor which would kill men without suffering is to be considered illegitimate warfare is incomprehensible. War is destruction, and the more destructive it can be made with the least suffering the sooner will be ended that barbarous method of protecting national rights. No doubt in time chemistry will be used to lessen the suffering of combatants, and even of criminals condemned to death.

Later, during the American Civil War, New York school teacher John Doughty proposed the offensive use of chlorine gas, delivered by filling a 10-inch (254 millimeter) artillery shell with two to three quarts (1.89–2.84 liters) of liquid chlorine, which could produce many cubic feet of chlorine gas. Doughty's plan was apparently never acted on, as it was probably [12] presented to Brigadier General James Wolfe Ripley, Chief of Ordnance. [ clarification needed ]

A general concern over the use of poison gas manifested itself in 1899 at the Hague Conference with a proposal prohibiting shells filled with asphyxiating gas. The proposal was passed, despite a single dissenting vote from the United States. The American representative, Navy Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, justified voting against the measure on the grounds that "the inventiveness of Americans should not be restricted in the development of new weapons." [13]

The Hague Declaration of 1899 and the Hague Convention of 1907 forbade the use of "poison or poisoned weapons" in warfare, yet more than 124,000 tons of gas were produced by the end of World War I.

The French were the first to use chemical weapons during the First World War, using the tear gases ethyl bromoacetate and chloroacetone. They likely did not realize that effects might be more serious under wartime conditions than in riot control. It is also likely that their use of tear gas escalated to the use of poisonous gases. [14]

One of Germany's earliest uses of chemical weapons occurred on October 27, 1914, when shells containing the irritant dianisidine chlorosulfonate were fired at British troops near Neuve-Chapelle, France. [3] Germany used another irritant, xylyl bromide, in artillery shells that were fired in January 1915 at the Russians near Bolimów, in present-day Poland. [15] The first full-scale deployment of deadly chemical warfare agents during World War I was at the Second Battle of Ypres, on April 22, 1915, when the Germans attacked French, Canadian and Algerian troops with chlorine gas. [16] [17] [18]

A total 50,965 tons of pulmonary, lachrymatory, and vesicant agents were deployed by both sides of the conflict, including chlorine, phosgene, and mustard gas. Official figures declare about 1.3 million casualties directly caused by chemical warfare agents during the course of the war. Of these, an estimated 100,000–260,000 casualties were civilians. Nearby civilian towns were at risk from winds blowing the poison gases through. Civilians rarely had a warning system put into place to alert their neighbors of the danger. In addition to poor warning systems, civilians often did not have access to effective gas masks. [18] [19] [20]

World War I-era chemical ammunition is still found, unexploded, at former battle, storage, or test sites and poses an ongoing threat to inhabitants of Belgium, France and other countries. [21] Camp American University where American chemical weapons were developed and later buried, has undergone 20 years of remediation efforts. [22] [23]

After the war, the most common method of disposal of chemical weapons was to dump them into the nearest large body of water. [24] As many as 65,000 tons of chemical warfare agents may have been dumped in the Baltic Sea alone agents dumped in that sea included mustard gas, phosgene, lewisite (β-chlorovinyldichloroarsine), adamsite (diphenylaminechloroarsine), Clark I (diphenylchloroarsine) and Clark II (diphenylcyanoarsine). [25] [26] [27] Over time the containers corrode, and the chemicals leaked out. On the sea floor, at low temperatures, mustard gas tends to form lumps within a "skin" of chemical byproducts. These lumps can wash onto shore, where they look like chunks of waxy yellowish clay. They are extremely toxic, but the effects may not be immediately apparent. [24]

Between World War I and World War II, chemical agents were occasionally used to subdue populations and suppress rebellion.

Lenin's Soviet government employed poison gas in 1921 during the Tambov Rebellion. An order signed by military commanders Tukhachevsky and Vladimir Antonov-Ovseyenko stipulated, "The forests where the bandits are hiding are to be cleared by the use of poison gas. This must be carefully calculated, so that the layer of gas penetrates the forests and kills everyone hiding there." [28] [29]

In 1925, 16 of the world's major nations signed the Geneva Protocol, thereby pledging never to use gas in warfare again. Notably, while the United States delegation under Presidential authority signed the Protocol.

Alleged British use in Mesopotamia Edit

It has been alleged that the British used chemical weapons in Mesopotamia during the Iraqi revolt of 1920. Noam Chomsky claimed that Winston Churchill at the time was keen on chemical weapons, suggesting they be used "against recalcitrant Arabs as an experiment", and that he stated to be "strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes". [30] [31]

According to some historians, including Geoff Simons and Charles Townshend, the British used chemical weapons in the conflict, [32] [33] while according to Lawrence James and Niall Ferguson the weapons were agreed by Churchill but eventually not used [34] [35] R.M. Douglas of Colgate University also observed that Churchill's statement had served to convince observers of the existence of weapons of mass destruction which were not actually there. [36]

Spanish use in Morocco Edit

Combined Spanish and French forces dropped mustard gas bombs against Berber rebels and civilians during the Rif War in Spanish Morocco (1921–1927). These attacks marked the first widespread employment of gas warfare in the post-WWI era. [37] The Spanish army indiscriminately used phosgene, diphosgene, chloropicrin and mustard gas against civilian populations, markets and rivers. [38] [39] Despite having signed the Geneva Protocol in 1925, Spain continued to use chemical weapons for the subsequent two years. [39]

In a telegram sent by the High Commissioner of Spanish Morocco Dámaso Berenguer on August 12, 1921 to the Spanish minister of War, Berenguer stated: "I have been obstinately resistant to the use of suffocating gases against these indigenous peoples but after what they have done, and of their treacherous and deceptive conduct, I have to use them with true joy." [40]

According to military aviation general Hidalgo de Cisneros in his autobiographical book Cambio de rumbo, [41] he was the first warfighter to drop a 100-kilogram mustard gas bomb from his Farman F60 Goliath aircraft in the summer of 1924. [42] About 127 fighters and bombers flew in the campaign, dropping around 1,680 bombs each day. [43] The mustard gas bombs were brought from the stockpiles of Germany and delivered to Melilla before being carried on Farman F60 Goliath airplanes. [44] Historian Juan Pando has been the only Spanish historian to have confirmed the usage of mustard gas starting in 1923. [40] Spanish newspaper La Correspondencia de España published an article called Cartas de un soldado (Letters of a soldier) on August 16, 1923 which backed the usage of mustard gas. [45]

Chemical weapons used in the region are the main reason for the widespread occurrence of cancer among the population. [46] In 2007, the Catalan party of the Republican Left (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya) passed a bill to the Spanish Congress of Deputies requesting Spain to acknowledge the "systematic" use of chemical weapons against the population of the Rif mountains [47] however, the bill was rejected by 33 votes from the governing Socialist Labor Party and the opposition right-wing Popular Party. [48]

Italian use in Libya and Ethiopia Edit

In violation of the Geneva Protocol, [49] Italy used mustard gas and other "gruesome measures" against Senussi forces in Libya (see Pacification of Libya, Italian colonization of Libya). [50] Poison gas was used against the Libyans as early as January 1928 [49] The Italians dropped mustard gas from the air. [51]

Beginning in October 1935 and continuing into the following months Fascist Italy used mustard gas against the Ethiopians during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War in violation of the Geneva Protocol. Italian general Rodolfo Graziani first ordered the use of chemical weapons at Gorrahei against the forces of Ras Nasibu. [52] Benito Mussolini personally authorized Graziani to use chemical weapons. [53] Chemical weapons dropped by warplane "proved to be very effective" and was used "on a massive scale against civilians and troops, as well as to contaminate fields and water supplies." [54] Among the most intense chemical bombardment by the Italian Air Force in Ethiopia occurred in February and March 1936, although "gas warfare continued, with varying intensity, until March 1939." [53] J. F. C. Fuller, who was present in Ethiopia during the conflict, stated that mustard gas "was the decisive tactical factor in the war." [55] Some estimate that up to one-third of Ethiopian casualties of the war were caused by chemical weapons. [56]

The Italians' deployment of mustard gas prompted international criticism. [52] [55] In April 1936, British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin told Parliament: "If a great European nation, in spite of having given its signature to the Geneva Protocol against the use of such gases, employs them in Africa, what guarantee have we that they may not be used in Europe?" [55] [57] Mussolini initially denied the use of chemical weapons later, Mussolini and Italian government sought to justify their use as lawful retaliation for Ethiopian atrocities. [52] [53] [55]

After the liberation of Ethiopia in 1941, Ethiopia repeatedly but unsuccessfully sought to prosecute Italian war criminals. The Allied powers excluded Ethiopia from the United Nations War Crimes Commission (established 1942) because the British feared that Ethiopia would seek to prosecute Pietro Badoglio, who had ordered the use of chemical gas in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, but later "became a valuable ally against the Axis powers" after the fascist regime of Mussolini fell and, after the rise of the Italian Social Republic, Italy became a co-belligerent of the Allies. [52] In 1946, the Ethiopians under Haile Selassie again sought "to prosecute senior Italian officials who had sanctioned the use of chemical weapons and had committed other war crimes such as torturing and executing Ethiopian prisoners and citizens during the Italian-Ethiopian War." [52] These attempts failed, in large part because Britain and the U.S. wished to avoid alienating the Italian government at a time when Italy was seen as key to containing the Soviet Union. [52]

Following World War II, the Italian government denied that Italy had ever used chemical weapons in Africa only in 1995 did Italy formally acknowledge that it had used chemical weapons in colonial wars. [58]

Nerve agents Edit

Shortly after the end of World War I, Germany's General Staff enthusiastically pursued a recapture of their preeminent position in chemical warfare. In 1923, Hans von Seeckt pointed the way, by suggesting that German poison gas research move in the direction of delivery by aircraft in support of mobile warfare. Also in 1923, at the behest of the German army, poison gas expert Dr. Hugo Stoltzenberg negotiated with the USSR to build a huge chemical weapons plant at Trotsk, on the Volga river.

Collaboration between Germany and the USSR in poison gas continued on and off through the 1920s. In 1924, German officers debated the use of poison gas versus non-lethal chemical weapons against civilians.

Chemical warfare was revolutionized by Nazi Germany's discovery of the nerve agents tabun (in 1937) and sarin (in 1939) by Gerhard Schrader, a chemist of IG Farben.

IG Farben was Germany's premier poison gas manufacturer during World War II, so the weaponization of these agents cannot be considered accidental. [59] Both were turned over to the German Army Weapons Office prior to the outbreak of the war.

The nerve agent soman was later discovered by Nobel Prize laureate Richard Kuhn and his collaborator Konrad Henkel at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg in spring 1944. [60] [61] The Germans developed and manufactured large quantities of several agents, but chemical warfare was not extensively used by either side. Chemical troops were set up (in Germany since 1934) and delivery technology was actively developed.

Imperial Japanese Army Edit

Despite the 1899 Hague Declaration IV, 2 – Declaration on the Use of Projectiles the Object of Which is the Diffusion of Asphyxiating or Deleterious Gases, [62] Article 23 (a) of the 1907 Hague Convention IV – The Laws and Customs of War on Land, [63] and a resolution adopted against Japan by the League of Nations on May 14, 1938, the Imperial Japanese Army frequently used chemical weapons. Because of fear of retaliation, however, those weapons were never used against Westerners, but against other Asians judged "inferior" by imperial propaganda. According to historians Yoshiaki Yoshimi and Kentaro Awaya, gas weapons, such as tear gas, were used only sporadically in 1937 but in early 1938, the Imperial Japanese Army began full-scale use of sneeze and nausea gas (red), and from mid-1939, used mustard gas (yellow) against both Kuomintang and Communist Chinese troops. [64]

According to historians Yoshiaki Yoshimi and Seiya Matsuno, the chemical weapons were authorized by specific orders given by Emperor Hirohito himself, transmitted by the chief of staff of the army. For example, the Emperor authorized the use of toxic gas on 375 separate occasions during the Battle of Wuhan from August to October 1938. [65] They were also profusely used during the invasion of Changde. Those orders were transmitted either by Prince Kan'in Kotohito or General Hajime Sugiyama. [66] The Imperial Japanese Army had used mustard gas and the US-developed (CWS-1918) blister agent lewisite against Chinese troops and guerrillas. Experiments involving chemical weapons were conducted on live prisoners (Unit 731 and Unit 516).

The Japanese also carried chemical weapons as they swept through Southeast Asia towards Australia. Some of these items were captured and analyzed by the Allies. Historian Geoff Plunkett has recorded how Australia covertly imported 1,000,000 chemical weapons from the United Kingdom from 1942 onwards and stored them in many storage depots around the country, including three tunnels in the Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney. They were to be used as a retaliatory measure if the Japanese first used chemical weapons. [67] Buried chemical weapons have been recovered at Marrangaroo and Columboola. [68] [69]

Nazi Germany Edit

During the Holocaust, a genocide perpetrated by Nazi Germany, millions of Jews, Slavs, and other victims were gassed with carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide (including Zyklon B). [70] [71] This remains the deadliest use of poison gas in history. [70] Nevertheless, the Nazis did not extensively use chemical weapons in combat, [70] [71] at least not against the Western Allies, [72] despite maintaining an active chemical weapons program in which the Nazis used concentration camp prisoners as forced labor to secretly manufacture tabun, a nerve gas, and experimented upon concentration camp victims to test the effects of the gas. [70] Otto Ambros of IG Farben was a chief chemical-weapons expert for the Nazis. [70] [73]

The Nazis' decision to avoid the use of chemical weapons on the battlefield has been variously attributed to a lack of technical ability in the German chemical weapons program and fears that the Allies would retaliate with their own chemical weapons. [72] It also has been speculated to have arisen from the personal experiences of Adolf Hitler as a soldier in the Kaiser's army during World War I, where he was gassed by British troops in 1918. [74] After the Battle of Stalingrad, Joseph Goebbels, Robert Ley, and Martin Bormann urged Hitler to approve the use of tabun and other chemical weapons to slow the Soviet advance. At a May 1943 meeting in the Wolf's Lair, however, Hitler was told by Ambros that Germany had 45,000 tons of chemical gas stockpiled, but that the Allies likely had far more. Hitler responded by suddenly leaving the room and ordering production of tabun and sarin to be doubled, but "fearing some rogue officer would use them and spark Allied retaliation, he ordered that no chemical weapons be transported to the Russian front." [70] After the Allied invasion of Italy, the Germans rapidly moved to remove or destroy both German and Italian chemical-weapon stockpiles, "for the same reason that Hitler had ordered them pulled from the Russian front—they feared that local commanders would use them and trigger Allied chemical retaliation." [70]

Stanley P. Lovell, Deputy Director for Research and Development of the Office of Strategic Services, reports in his book Of Spies and Stratagems that the Allies knew the Germans had quantities of Gas Blau available for use in the defense of the Atlantic Wall. The use of nerve gas on the Normandy beachhead would have seriously impeded the Allies and possibly caused the invasion to fail altogether. He submitted the question "Why was nerve gas not used in Normandy?" to be asked of Hermann Göring during his interrogation after the war had ended. Göring answered that the reason was that the Wehrmacht was dependent upon horse-drawn transport to move supplies to their combat units, and had never been able to devise a gas mask horses could tolerate the versions they developed would not pass enough pure air to allow the horses to pull a cart. Thus, gas was of no use to the German Army under most conditions. [75]

The Nazis did use chemical weapons in combat on several occasions along the Black Sea, notably in Sevastopol, where they used toxic smoke to force Russian resistance fighters out of caverns below the city, in violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol. [76] The Nazis also used asphyxiating gas in the catacombs of Odessa in November 1941, following their capture of the city, and in late May 1942 during the Battle of the Kerch Peninsula in eastern Crimea. [76] Victor Israelyan, a Soviet ambassador, reported that the latter incident was perpetrated by the Wehrmacht's Chemical Forces and organized by a special detail of SS troops with the help of a field engineer battalion. Chemical Forces General Ochsner reported to German command in June 1942 that a chemical unit had taken part in the battle. [77] After the battle in mid-May 1942, roughly 3,000 Red Army soldiers and Soviet civilians not evacuated by sea were besieged in a series of caves and tunnels in the nearby Adzhimushkay quarry. After holding out for approximately three months, "poison gas was released into the tunnels, killing all but a few score of the Soviet defenders." [78] Thousands of those killed around Adzhimushkay were documented to have been killed by asphyxiation from gas. [77]

In February 1943, German troops stationed in Kuban received a telegram: "Russians might have to be cleared out of the mountain range with gas." [79] The troops also received two wagons of toxin antidotes. [79]

Western Allies Edit

The Western Allies did not use chemical weapons during the Second World War. The British planned to use mustard gas and phosgene to help repel a German invasion in 1940–1941, [80] [81] and had there been an invasion may have also deployed it against German cities. [82] General Alan Brooke, Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces, in command of British anti-invasion preparations of the Second World War said that he ". had every intention of using sprayed mustard gas on the beaches" in an annotation in his diary. [83] The British manufactured mustard, chlorine, lewisite, phosgene and Paris Green and stored them at airfields and depots for use on the beaches. [82]

The mustard gas stockpile was enlarged in 1942–1943 for possible use by RAF Bomber Command against German cities, and in 1944 for possible retaliatory use if German forces used chemical weapons against the D-Day landings. [80]

Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, issued a memorandum advocating a chemical strike on German cities using poison gas and possibly anthrax. Although the idea was rejected, it has provoked debate. [84] In July 1944, fearing that rocket attacks on London would get even worse, and saying he would only use chemical weapons if it were "life or death for us" or would "shorten the war by a year", [85] Churchill wrote a secret memorandum asking his military chiefs to "think very seriously over this question of using poison gas." He stated "it is absurd to consider morality on this topic when everybody used it in the last war without a word of complaint. "

The Joint Planning Staff, however, advised against the use of gas because it would inevitably provoke Germany to retaliate with gas. They argued that this would be to the Allies' disadvantage in France both for military reasons and because it might "seriously impair our relations with the civilian population when it became generally known that chemical warfare was first employed by us." [86]

In 1945, the U.S. Army's Chemical Warfare Service standardized improved chemical warfare rockets intended for the new M9 and M9A1 "Bazooka" launchers, adopting the M26 Gas Rocket, a cyanogen chloride (CK)-filled warhead for the 2.36-in rocket launcher. [87] CK, a deadly blood agent, was capable of penetrating the protective filter barriers in some gas masks, [88] and was seen as an effective agent against Japanese forces (particularly those hiding in caves or bunkers), whose gas masks lacked the impregnants that would provide protection against the chemical reaction of CK. [87] [89] [90] While stockpiled in US inventory, the CK rocket was never deployed or issued to combat personnel. [87]

Accidental release Edit

On the night of December 2, 1943, German Ju 88 bombers attacked the port of Bari in Southern Italy, sinking several American ships—among them the SS John Harvey, which was carrying mustard gas intended for use in retaliation by the Allies if German forces initiated gas warfare. The presence of the gas was highly classified, and authorities ashore had no knowledge of it, which increased the number of fatalities since physicians, who had no idea that they were dealing with the effects of mustard gas, prescribed treatment improper for those suffering from exposure and immersion.

The whole affair was kept secret at the time and for many years after the war. According to the U.S. military account, "Sixty-nine deaths were attributed in whole or in part to the mustard gas, most of them American merchant seamen" [91] out of 628 mustard gas military casualties. [92]

The large number of civilian casualties among the Italian population was not recorded. Part of the confusion and controversy derives from the fact that the German attack was highly destructive and lethal in itself, also apart from the accidental additional effects of the gas (the attack was nicknamed "The Little Pearl Harbor"), and attribution of the causes of death between the gas and other causes is far from easy. [93] [94]

Rick Atkinson, in his book The Day of Battle, describes the intelligence that prompted Allied leaders to deploy mustard gas to Italy. This included Italian intelligence that Adolf Hitler had threatened to use gas against Italy if the state changed sides, and prisoner of war interrogations suggesting that preparations were being made to use a "new, egregiously potent gas" if the war turned decisively against Germany. Atkinson concludes, "No commander in 1943 could be cavalier about a manifest threat by Germany to use gas."

After World War II, the Allies recovered German artillery shells containing the three German nerve agents of the day (tabun, sarin, and soman), prompting further research into nerve agents by all of the former Allies.

Although the threat of global thermonuclear war was foremost in the minds of most during the Cold War, both the Soviet and Western governments put enormous resources into developing chemical and biological weapons.

Britain Edit

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, British postwar chemical weapons research was based at the Porton Down facility. Research was aimed at providing Britain with the means to arm itself with a modern nerve-agent-based capability and to develop specific means of defense against these agents.

Ranajit Ghosh, a chemist at the Plant Protection Laboratories of Imperial Chemical Industries was investigating a class of organophosphate compounds (organophosphate esters of substituted aminoethanethiols), [95] for use as a pesticide. In 1954, ICI put one of them on the market under the trade name Amiton. It was subsequently withdrawn, as it was too toxic for safe use.

The toxicity did not go unnoticed, and samples of it were sent to the research facility at Porton Down for evaluation. After the evaluation was complete, several members of this class of compounds were developed into a new group of much more lethal nerve agents, the V agents. The best-known of these is probably VX, assigned the UK Rainbow Code Purple Possum, with the Russian V-Agent coming a close second (Amiton is largely forgotten as VG). [96]

On the defensive side, there were years of difficult work to develop the means of prophylaxis, therapy, rapid detection and identification, decontamination and more effective protection of the body against nerve agents, capable of exerting effects through the skin, the eyes and respiratory tract.

Tests were carried out on servicemen to determine the effects of nerve agents on human subjects, with one recorded death due to a nerve gas experiment. There have been persistent allegations of unethical human experimentation at Porton Down, such as those relating to the death of Leading Aircraftman Ronald Maddison, aged 20, in 1953. Maddison was taking part in sarin nerve agent toxicity tests. Sarin was dripped onto his arm and he died shortly afterwards. [97]

In the 1950s the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment became involved with the development of CS, a riot control agent, and took an increasing role in trauma and wound ballistics work. Both these facets of Porton Down's work had become more important because of the situation in Northern Ireland. [98]

In the early 1950s, nerve agents such as sarin were produced— about 20 tons were made from 1954 until 1956. CDE Nancekuke was an important factory for stockpiling chemical weapons. Small amounts of VX were produced there, mainly for laboratory test purposes, but also to validate plant designs and optimise chemical processes for potential mass production. However, full-scale mass production of VX agent never took place, with the 1956 decision to end the UK's offensive chemical weapons programme. [99] In the late 1950s, the chemical weapons production plant at Nancekuke was mothballed, but was maintained through the 1960s and 1970s in a state whereby production of chemical weapons could easily re-commence if required. [99]

United States Edit

In 1952, the U.S. Army patented a process for the "Preparation of Toxic Ricin", publishing a method of producing this powerful toxin. In 1958 the British government traded their VX technology with the United States in exchange for information on thermonuclear weapons. By 1961 the U.S. was producing large amounts of VX and performing its own nerve agent research. This research produced at least three more agents the four agents (VE, VG, VM, VX) are collectively known as the "V-Series" class of nerve agents.

Between 1951 and 1969, Dugway Proving Ground was the site of testing for various chemical and biological agents, including an open-air aerodynamic dissemination test in 1968 that accidentally killed, on neighboring farms, approximately 6,400 sheep by an unspecified nerve agent. [100]

From 1962 to 1973, the Department of Defense planned 134 tests under Project 112, a chemical and biological weapons "vulnerability-testing program." In 2002, the Pentagon admitted for the first time that some of tests used real chemical and biological weapons, not just harmless simulants. [101]

Specifically under Project SHAD, 37 secret tests were conducted in California, Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland and Utah. Land tests in Alaska and Hawaii used artillery shells filled with sarin and VX, while Navy trials off the coasts of Florida, California and Hawaii tested the ability of ships and crew to perform under biological and chemical warfare, without the crew's knowledge. The code name for the sea tests was Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense—"SHAD" for short. [101]

In October 2002, the Senate Armed Forces Subcommittee on Personnel held hearings as the controversial news broke that chemical agents had been tested on thousands of American military personnel. The hearings were chaired by Senator Max Cleland, former VA administrator and Vietnam War veteran.

United States chemical respiratory protection standardization

In December 2001, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL), along with the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center (ECBC), and the U.S. Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published the first of six technical performance standards and test procedures designed to evaluate and certify respirators intended for use by civilian emergency responders to a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapon release, detonation, or terrorism incident.

To date NIOSH/NPPTL has published six new respirator performance standards based on a tiered approach that relies on traditional industrial respirator certification policy, next-generation emergency response respirator performance requirements, and special live chemical warfare agent testing requirements of the classes of respirators identified to offer respiratory protection against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) agent inhalation hazards. These CBRN respirators are commonly known as open-circuit self-contained breathing apparatus (CBRN SCBA), air-purifying respirator (CBRN APR), air-purifying escape respirator (CBRN APER), self-contained escape respirator (CBRN SCER) and loose- or tight-fitting powered air-purifying respirators (CBRN PAPR).

Soviet Union Edit

There were reports of chemical weapons being used during the Soviet–Afghan War, sometimes against civilians. [102] [103]

Due to the secrecy of the Soviet Union's government, very little information was available about the direction and progress of the Soviet chemical weapons until relatively recently. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian chemist Vil Mirzayanov published articles revealing illegal chemical weapons experimentation in Russia.

In 1993, Mirzayanov was imprisoned and fired from his job at the State Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology, where he had worked for 26 years. In March 1994, after a major campaign by U.S. scientists on his behalf, Mirzayanov was released. [104]

Among the information related by Vil Mirzayanov was the direction of Soviet research into the development of even more toxic nerve agents, which saw most of its success during the mid-1980s. Several highly toxic agents were developed during this period the only unclassified information regarding these agents is that they are known in the open literature only as "Foliant" agents (named after the program under which they were developed) and by various code designations, such as A-230 and A-232. [105]

According to Mirzayanov, the Soviets also developed weapons that were safer to handle, leading to the development of binary weapons, in which precursors for the nerve agents are mixed in a munition to produce the agent just prior to its use. Because the precursors are generally significantly less hazardous than the agents themselves, this technique makes handling and transporting the munitions a great deal simpler.

Additionally, precursors to the agents are usually much easier to stabilize than the agents themselves, so this technique also made it possible to increase the shelf life of the agents a great deal. During the 1980s and 1990s, binary versions of several Soviet agents were developed and designated "Novichok" agents (after the Russian word for "newcomer"). [106] Together with Lev Fedorov, he told the secret Novichok story exposed in the newspaper The Moscow News. [107]

North Yemen Edit

The first attack of the North Yemen Civil War took place on June 8, 1963 against Kawma, a village of about 100 inhabitants in northern Yemen, killing about seven people and damaging the eyes and lungs of 25 others. This incident is considered to have been experimental, and the bombs were described as "home-made, amateurish and relatively ineffective". The Egyptian authorities suggested that the reported incidents were probably caused by napalm, not gas.

There were no reports of gas during 1964, and only a few were reported in 1965. The reports grew more frequent in late 1966. On December 11, 1966, fifteen gas bombs killed two people and injured thirty-five. On January 5, 1967, the biggest gas attack came against the village of Kitaf, causing 270 casualties, including 140 fatalities. The target may have been Prince Hassan bin Yahya, who had installed his headquarters nearby. The Egyptian government denied using poison gas, and alleged that Britain and the US were using the reports as psychological warfare against Egypt. On February 12, 1967, it said it would welcome a UN investigation. On March 1, U Thant, the then Secretary-General of the United Nations, said he was "powerless" to deal with the matter.

On May 10, 1967 the twin villages of Gahar and Gadafa in Wadi Hirran, where Prince Mohamed bin Mohsin was in command, were gas bombed, killing at least seventy-five. The Red Cross was alerted and on June 2, 1967, it issued a statement in Geneva expressing concern. The Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Berne made a statement, based on a Red Cross report, that the gas was likely to have been halogenous derivatives—phosgene, mustard gas, lewisite, chloride or cyanogen bromide.

Rhodesian Bush War Edit

Evidence points to a top-secret Rhodesian program in the 1970s to use organophosphate pesticides and heavy metal rodenticides to contaminate clothing as well as food and beverages. The contaminated items were covertly introduced into insurgent supply chains. Hundreds of insurgent deaths were reported, although the actual death toll likely rose over 1,000. [108]

Angola Edit

During the Cuban intervention in Angola, United Nations toxicologists certified that residue from both VX and sarin nerve agents had been discovered in plants, water, and soil where Cuban units were conducting operations against National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) insurgents. [109] In 1985, UNITA made the first of several claims that their forces were the target of chemical weapons, specifically organophosphates. The following year guerrillas reported being bombarded with an unidentified greenish-yellow agent on three separate occasions. Depending on the length and intensity of exposure, victims suffered blindness or death. The toxin was also observed to have killed plant life. [110] Shortly afterwards, UNITA also sighted strikes carried out with a brown agent which it claimed resembled mustard gas. [111] As early as 1984 a research team dispatched by the University of Ghent had examined patients in UNITA field hospitals showing signs of exposure to nerve agents, although it found no evidence of mustard gas. [112]

The UN first accused Cuba of deploying chemical weapons against Angolan civilians and partisans in 1988. [109] Wouter Basson later disclosed that South African military intelligence had long verified the use of unidentified chemical weapons on Angolan soil this was to provide the impetus for their own biological warfare programme, Project Coast. [109] During the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, South African troops then fighting in Angola were issued with gas masks and ordered to rehearse chemical weapons drills. Although the status of its own chemical weapons program remained uncertain, South Africa also deceptively bombarded Cuban and Angolan units with colored smoke in an attempt to induce hysteria or mass panic. [111] According to Defence Minister Magnus Malan, this would force the Cubans to share the inconvenience of having to take preventative measures such as donning NBC suits, which would cut combat effectiveness in half. The tactic was effective: beginning in early 1988 Cuban units posted to Angola were issued with full protective gear in anticipation of a South African chemical strike. [111]

On October 29, 1988, personnel attached to Angola's 59 Brigade, accompanied by six Soviet military advisors, reported being struck with chemical weapons on the banks of the Mianei River. [113] The attack occurred shortly after one in the afternoon. Four Angolan soldiers lost consciousness while the others complained of violent headaches and nausea. That November the Angolan representative to the UN accused South Africa of employing poison gas near Cuito Cuanavale for the first time. [113]

Falklands War Edit

Technically, the reported employment of tear gas by Argentine forces during the 1982 invasion of the Falkland Islands constitutes chemical warfare. [114] However, the tear gas grenades were employed as nonlethal weapons to avoid British casualties. The barrack buildings the weapons were used on proved to be deserted in any case. The British claim that more lethal, but legally justifiable as they are not considered chemical weapons under the Chemical Weapons Convention, white phosphorus grenades were used. [115]

Vietnamese border raids in Thailand Edit

There is some evidence suggesting that Vietnamese troops used phosgene gas against Cambodian resistance forces in Thailand during the 1984–1985 dry-season offensive on the Thai-Cambodian border. [116] [117] [118]

Iran–Iraq War Edit

Chemical weapons employed by Saddam Hussein killed and injured numerous Iranians and Iraqi Kurds. According to Iraqi documents, assistance in developing chemical weapons was obtained from firms in many countries, including the United States, West Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and France. [119]

About 100,000 Iranian soldiers were victims of Iraq's chemical attacks. Many were hit by mustard gas. The official estimate does not include the civilian population contaminated in bordering towns or the children and relatives of veterans, many of whom have developed blood, lung and skin complications, according to the Organization for Veterans. Nerve gas agents killed about 20,000 Iranian soldiers immediately, according to official reports. Of the 80,000 survivors, some 5,000 seek medical treatment regularly and about 1,000 are still hospitalized with severe, chronic conditions. [120] [121] [122]

According to the Foreign Policy, the "Iraqis used mustard gas and sarin prior to four major offensives in early 1988 that relied on U.S. satellite imagery, maps, and other intelligence. . According to recently declassified CIA documents and interviews with former intelligence officials like Francona, the U.S. had firm evidence of Iraqi chemical attacks beginning in 1983." [123] [124]

Halabja Edit

In March 1988, the Iraqi Kurdish town of Halabja was exposed to multiple chemical agents dropped from warplanes these "may have included mustard gas, the nerve agents sarin, tabun and VX and possibly cyanide." [125] Between 3,200 and 5,000 people were killed, and between 7,000 and 10,000 were injured. [125] Some reports indicated that three-quarters of them were women and children. [125] The preponderance of the evidence indicates that Iraq was responsible for the attack. [125]

Persian Gulf War Edit

The U.S. Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency's longstanding official position is that Iraqi forces under Saddam Hussein did not use chemical weapons during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. In a memorandum in 1994 to veterans of the war, Defense Secretary William J. Perry and General John M. Shalikashvili, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote that "There is no evidence, classified or unclassified, that indicates that chemical or biological weapons were used in the Persian Gulf." [126]

However, chemical weapons expert Jonathan B. Tucker, writing in the Nonproliferation Review in 1997, determined that although "[t]he absence of severe chemical injuries or fatalities among Coalition forces makes it clear that no large-scale Iraqi employment of chemical weapons occurred," an array of "circumstantial evidence from a variety of sources suggests that Iraq deployed chemical weapons into the Kuwait Theater of Operations (KTO)—the area including Kuwait and Iraq south of the 31st Parallel, where the ground war was fought—and engaged in sporadic chemical warfare against Coalition forces." [126] In addition to intercepts of Iraqi military communications and publicly available reporting:

Other sources of evidence for sporadic Iraqi chemical warfare include U.S. intelligence reports on the presence of Iraqi chemical weapons in the KTO military log entries describing the discovery by U.S. units of chemical munitions in Iraqi bunkers during and after the ground war incidents in which troops reported acute symptoms of toxic chemical exposure and credible detections of chemical-warfare agents by Czech, French, and American forces. [126]

Nerve agents (specifically, tabun, sarin, and cyclosarin) and blister agents (specifically, sulfur-mustard and lewisite) were detected at Iraqi sites. [126]

The threat itself of gas warfare had a major effect on Israel, which was not part of the coalition forces led by the US. Israel was attacked with 39 scud missiles, most of which were knocked down in the air above their targets by Patriot missiles developed by Raytheon together with Israel, and supplied by the US. Sirens warned of the attacks approximately 10 minutes before their expected arrival, and Israelis donned gas masks and entered sealed "safe" rooms, over a period 5 weeks. Babies were issued special gas-safe cribs, and religious men were issued gas masks that allowed them to preserve their beards. [127] [128] [129]

In 2014, tapes from Saddam Hussain's archives revealed that Saddam had given orders to use gas against Israel as a last resort if his military communications with the army were cut off. [130]

In 2015 The New York Times published an article about the declassified report of operation Avarice in 2005 in which over 400 chemical weapons including many rockets and missiles from the Iran-Iraq war period were recovered and subsequently destroyed by the CIA. [131] Many other stockpiles, estimated by UNSCOM up to 600 metric tons of chemical weapons, were known to have existed and even admitted by Saddam's regime, but claimed by them to have been destroyed. These have never been found but are believed to still exist. [132] [133]

Iraq War Edit

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, American service members who demolished or handled older explosive ordnance may have been exposed to blister agents (mustard agent) or nerve agents (sarin). [134] According to The New York Times, "In all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act." [135] Among these, over 2,400 nerve-agent rockets were found in summer 2006 at Camp Taji, a former Iraqi Republican Guard compound. "These weapons were not part of an active arsenal" "they were remnants from an Iraqi program in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war". [135]

Syrian Civil War Edit

Sarin, mustard agent and chlorine gas have been used during the conflict. Numerous casualties led to an international reaction, especially the 2013 Ghouta attacks. A UN fact-finding mission was requested to investigate alleged chemical weapons attacks. In four cases the UN inspectors confirmed use of sarin gas. [136] In August 2016, a confidential report by the United Nations and the OPCW explicitly blamed the Syrian military of Bashar al-Assad for dropping chemical weapons (chlorine bombs) on the towns of Talmenes in April 2014 and Sarmin in March 2015 and ISIS for using sulfur mustard on the town of Marea in August 2015. [137] In 2016, Jaysh al-Islam rebel group had used chlorine gas or other agents against Kurdish militia and civilians in the Sheikh Maqsood neighborhood of Aleppo. [138]

Many countries, including the United States and the European Union have accused the Syrian government of conducting several chemical attacks. Following the 2013 Ghouta attacks and international pressure, Syria acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention and the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons began. In 2015 the UN mission disclosed previously undeclared traces of sarin compounds [ disputed – discuss ] in a "military research site". [139] After the April 2017 Khan Shaykhun chemical attack, the United States launched its first attack against Syrian government forces. On 14 April 2018, the United States, France and the United Kingdom carried out a series of joint military strikes against multiple government sites in Syria, including the Barzah scientific research centre, after a chemical attack in Douma.

For many terrorist organizations, chemical weapons might be considered an ideal choice for a mode of attack, if they are available: they are cheap, relatively accessible, and easy to transport. A skilled chemist can readily synthesize most chemical agents if the precursors are available.

In July 1974, a group calling themselves the Aliens of America successfully firebombed the houses of a judge, two police commissioners, and one of the commissioner's cars, burned down two apartment buildings, and bombed the Pan Am Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport, killing three people and injuring eight. The organization, which turned out to be a single resident alien named Muharem Kurbegovic, claimed to have developed and possessed a supply of sarin, as well as four unique nerve agents named AA1, AA2, AA3, and AA4S. Although no agents were found at the time Kurbegovic was arrested in August 1974, he had reportedly acquired "all but one" of the ingredients required to produce a nerve agent. A search of his apartment turned up a variety of materials, including precursors for phosgene and a drum containing 25 pounds of sodium cyanide. [140]

The first successful use of chemical agents by terrorists against a general civilian population was on June 27, 1994, when Aum Shinrikyo, an apocalyptic group based in Japan that believed it necessary to destroy the planet, released sarin gas in Matsumoto, Japan, killing eight and harming 200. The following year, Aum Shinrikyo released sarin into the Tokyo subway system killing 12 and injuring over 5,000.

On December 29, 1999, four days after Russian forces began an assault of Grozny, Chechen terrorists exploded two chlorine tanks in the town. Because of the wind conditions, no Russian soldiers were injured. [141]

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. cities of New York City and Washington, D.C., the organization Al-Qaeda responsible for the attacks announced that they were attempting to acquire radiological, biological, and chemical weapons. This threat was lent a great deal of credibility when a large archive of videotapes was obtained by the cable television network CNN in August 2002 showing, among other things, the killing of three dogs by an apparent nerve agent. [142]

In an anti-terrorist attack on October 26, 2002, Russian special forces used a chemical agent (presumably KOLOKOL-1, an aerosolized fentanyl derivative), as a precursor to an assault on Chechen terrorists, which ended the Moscow theater hostage crisis. All 42 of the terrorists and 120 out of 850 hostages were killed during the raid. Although the use of the chemical agent was justified as a means of selectively targeting terrorists, it killed over 100 hostages.

In early 2007, multiple terrorist bombings had been reported in Iraq using chlorine gas. These attacks wounded or sickened more than 350 people. Reportedly the bombers were affiliated with Al-Qaeda in Iraq, [143] and they have used bombs of various sizes up to chlorine tanker trucks. [144] United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attacks as "clearly intended to cause panic and instability in the country." [145]

The Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and the Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, or the Geneva Protocol, is an international treaty which prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons in warfare. Signed into international Law at Geneva on June 17, 1925 and entered into force on February 8, 1928, this treaty states that chemical and biological weapons are "justly condemned by the general opinion of the civilised world." [146]

Chemical Weapons Convention Edit

The most recent arms control agreement in International Law, the Convention of the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction, or the Chemical Weapons Convention, outlaws the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons. It is administered by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an intergovernmental organisation based in The Hague. [147]


Contents

In the first week of World War I Japan proposed to the United Kingdom, its ally since 1902, that Japan would enter the war if it could take Germany's Pacific territories. [4] On 7 August 1914, the British government officially asked Japan for assistance in destroying the raiders from the Imperial German Navy in and around Chinese waters. Japan sent Germany an ultimatum on 15 August 1914, which went unanswered Japan then formally declared war on Germany on 23 August 1914 in the name of the Emperor Taishō. [5] As Vienna refused to withdraw the Austro-Hungarian cruiser SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth from Tsingtao (Qingdao), Japan declared war on Austria-Hungary, too, on 25 August 1914. [6]

Japanese forces quickly occupied German-leased territories in the Far East. On 2 September 1914, Japanese forces landed on China's Shandong province and surrounded the German settlement at Tsingtao. During October, acting virtually independently of the civil government, the Imperial Japanese Navy seized several of Germany's island colonies in the Pacific - the Mariana, Caroline, and Marshall Islands - with virtually no resistance as while they were part of German New Guinea the islands were administered by German colonial officers with only a small police force of local Pacific islanders to defend it, there were small clashes between them and landing Japanese troops but this did little to stop the Japanese takeover. The Japanese Navy conducted the world's first naval-launched air raids against German-held land targets in Shandong province and ships in Qiaozhou Bay from the seaplane-carrier Wakamiya. On 6 September 1914 a seaplane launched by Wakamiya unsuccessfully attacked the Austro-Hungarian cruiser Kaiserin Elisabeth and the German gunboat Jaguar with bombs. [7]

The Siege of Tsingtao concluded with the surrender of German colonial forces on 7 November 1914.

In September 1914, by request of the Imperial Japanese Army, the Japanese Red Cross Society put together three squads, each composed of one surgeon and twenty nurses, which were dispatched to Europe on a five-month assignment. The teams left Japan between October and December 1914 and were assigned to Petrograd, Paris, and Southampton. The arrival of these nurses received wide press coverage, and their host countries subsequently asked for these teams to extend their assignment to fifteen months. [8]

Japan also sent its battle cruiser HIJMS Ibuki to assist with the protection of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) troop convoy (which included contingents from New Zealand) as it sailed from Western Australian to Egypt on 1 November 1914. [9]

With Japan's European allies heavily involved in the war in Europe, Japan sought to further consolidate its position in China by presenting the Twenty-One Demands to Chinese President Yuan Shikai in January 1915. If achieved, the Twenty-One Demands would have essentially reduced China to a Japanese protectorate, and at the expense of numerous privileges already enjoyed by the European powers in their respective spheres of influence within China. In the face of slow negotiations with the Chinese government, widespread and increasing anti-Japanese sentiments, and international condemnation (particularly from the United States), Japan withdrew the final group of demands, and a treaty was signed by China on 25 May 1915.

Throughout 1915–1916, German efforts to negotiate a separate peace with Japan failed. On 3 July 1916, Japan and Russia signed a treaty whereby each pledged not to make a separate peace with Germany, and agreed to consultation and common action should the territory or interests of each in China be threatened by an outside third party. Although Russia had a claim to Chinese territory by the Kyakhta and other treaties, Japan discouraged Russia from annexing Heilongjiang and began to slowly push the other powers out, such as the Germans in the Twenty-One Demands (1915). The delineating line between Russian (north) and Japanese (south) spheres of influences in China was the Chinese Eastern Railway. [10]

On 18 December 1916 the British Admiralty again requested naval assistance from Japan. The new Japanese cabinet under Prime Minister Terauchi Masatake was more favorably inclined to provide military assistance, provided that the British government back Japan's territorial claims to the newly acquired German possessions in the South Pacific and Shandong. When Germany announced the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare on 1 February 1917, the British government agreed. [11]

Two of the four cruisers of the First Special Squadron at Singapore were sent to Cape Town, South Africa, and four destroyers were sent to the Mediterranean for basing out of Malta, headquarters of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet. Rear-Admiral Kōzō Satō on the cruiser Akashi and 10th and 11th destroyer units (eight destroyers) arrived in Malta on 13 April 1917 via Colombo and Port Said. Eventually this Second Special Squadron totaled three cruisers (Akashi, Izumo, Nisshin, 14 destroyers (8 Kaba-class destroyer, 4 Momo-class destroyer, 2 ex-British Acorn-class), 2 sloops, 1 tender (Kanto).

The 17 ships of Second Special Squadron carried out escort duties for troop transports and anti-submarine operations against attacks from German and Austro-Hungarian submarines operating from bases along the eastern Adriatic, the Aegean Sea, from Constantinople, thus securing the vital eastern Mediterranean sea route between the Suez Canal and Marseilles, France.

The Japanese squadron made a total of 348 escort sorties from Malta, escorting 788 ships containing around 700,000 soldiers, thus contributing greatly to the war effort, for a total loss of 72 Japanese sailors killed in action. A total of 7,075 people were rescued by the Japanese from damaged and sinking ships. This included the rescue by the destroyers Matsu and Sakaki of nearly 3000 persons from the troopship SS Transylvania which was hit by a German torpedo on 4 May 1917. No Japanese ships were lost during the deployment but on 11 June 1917 Sakaki was hit by a torpedo from Austro-Hungarian submarine U-27 off Crete 59 Japanese sailors died.

With the American entry into World War I on 6 April 1917, the United States and Japan found themselves on the same side, despite their increasingly acrimonious relations over China and competition for influence in the Pacific. This led to the Lansing–Ishii Agreement of 2 November 1917 to help reduce tensions.

On July 9, Commander Kyōsuke Eto, military attaché with the Royal Navy, was killed in the Vanguard disaster.

In late 1917, Japan exported 12 Arabe-class destroyers, based on Kaba-class design, to France.

The British under Admiral George Alexander Ballard gave strong praise to the high operational rate of the Japanese squadron, and its quick response to all British requests. In return, the Japanese absorbed British anti-submarine warfare techniques and technologies and gained invaluable operational experience. After the end of the war, the Japanese Navy brought back seven German submarines as prizes of war, which greatly contributed to future Japanese submarine design and development.

In 1918, Japan continued to extend its influence and privileges in China via the Nishihara Loans. Following the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Japan and the United States sent forces to Siberia in 1918 to bolster the armies of the White movement leader Admiral Alexander Kolchak against the Bolshevik Red Army. In this Siberian Intervention, the Imperial Japanese Army initially planned to send more than 70,000 troops to occupy Siberia as far west as Lake Baikal. The plan was scaled back considerably due to opposition from the United States. [12]

Toward the end of the war, Japan increasingly filled orders for needed war material for its European allies. The wartime boom helped to diversify the country's industry, increase its exports, and transform Japan from a debtor to a creditor nation for the first time. Exports quadrupled from 1913 to 1918. The massive capital influx into Japan and the subsequent industrial boom led to rapid inflation. In August 1918, rice riots caused by this inflation erupted in towns and cities throughout Japan. [13]

The year 1919 saw Japan's representative Saionji Kinmochi sitting alongside the "Big Four" (Lloyd George, Wilson, Clemenceau, Orlando) leaders at the Paris Peace Conference. Tokyo gained a permanent seat on the Council of the League of Nations, and the Paris Peace Conference confirmed the transfer to Japan of Germany's rights in Shandong. Similarly, Germany's more northerly Pacific islands came under a Japanese mandate, called the South Seas Mandate. Despite Japan’s prowess on a global scale, and its sizable contribution to the allied war effort in response to British pleas for assistance in the Mediterranean and East Asia, the United Kingdom and the United States leadership present at the Peace Conference rejected Japan's bid for a racial equality proposal in the Treaty of Versailles. [14] Japan nevertheless emerged as a great power in international politics by the close of the war.

The prosperity brought on by World War I did not last. Although Japan's light industry had secured a share of the world market, Japan returned to debtor-nation status soon after the end of the war. The ease of Japan’s victory, the negative impact of the Showa recession in 1926, and internal political instabilities helped contribute to the rise of Japanese militarism in the late 1920s to 1930s.


8. Benedetto Brin

Battleship: Italian Regia Marina
Built: 1899 to 1905

Though it had a short operational life, the Benedetto Brin certainly jumped head first into the First World War. A pre-dreadnought warship of the Regina Margherita class, it was designed for open-water conflicts and gave priority to speed over protection. It had enough weaponry to compensate for its lack of protection and made for a formidable enemy on the high seas. However, its untimely loss was caused by an onboard explosion during its deployment in Tripoli, which was most probably caused by sabotage.


World War I and Alabama

Wartime Alabama Alabama's involvement with the United States' participation in World War I in many ways reflected the state's pre-war culture, economy, society, gender and racial relations, and politics. Mobilization generated a frenzy of activity but engendered few permanent changes, other than acting as a catalyst for the Great Migration, as tradition yielded only slightly to modernism. Military mobilization engaged Alabama almost immediately after the United States declared war in April 1917. Powerful congressmen secured three training bases for the state. The Ohio Boys at Camp Sheridan Thirty-seventh Ohio "Buckeye" Division trained at Camp Sheridan, much to the delight of Montgomery's merchants, who prospered from the new business, while Army pilots from Taylor Field enthralled Montgomery's elite. Camp McClellan in Anniston hosted the Twenty-ninth "Blue-Gray" Division from the mid-Atlantic region. Ohio Boys at Camp Sheridan In addition to providing 5,000 National Guardsmen and 7,000 other volunteers, Alabama contributed approximately 74,000 white and black draftees, called "selectmen," to the Army. Most black troops were assigned to labor battalions, but two black units that trained in Alabama, Maryland's First Separate Negro Company and Ohio's Ninth Battalion of Infantry Colored, saw action with the Ninety-third Division under French command. More than 2,500 Alabamians were killed fighting in the fields of France. Red Cross Headquarters in Montgomery, 1918 Alabamians from all walks of life pitched in to help the war effort. Many joined voluntary organizations such as the Red Cross, the Women's Committee of the Council of National Defense, the War Camp Community Service, the YMCA, the YWCA, and the Four-Minute Men and Women, which were groups of amateur orators who promoted the war effort. Others formed ad hoc service groups. Near Camps Sheridan and McClellan, women assisted soldiers' families, provided transportation to and from camps, and hosted social gatherings to draw soldiers away from prostitutes and saloons. Local communities, professors from Alabama State Normal School for Negroes (now Alabama State University), and women's clubs in Montgomery and Tuscaloosa organized canning factories to preserve Victory Garden produce and keep food affordable in their cities. Robert R. Moton Despite white mistrust as war fever spread across the state, black Alabamians continually demonstrated their full support for the war. Black spokesmen like Robert R. Moton, G. T. Buford, Emmett Scott, and dozens of local leaders organized their segregated communities for patriotic rallies, Liberty Bond drives, draft registration, and send-offs for both black and white troop trains. Whenever possible, blacks ran parallel war services, including the Red Cross, ad hoc clubs, and even the men's and women's Four-Minute speakers' series. Montgomery Victory Parade 1919 World War I did advance a more Progressive agenda in state politics, however, because it exposed the generally poor health and low literacy rates among recruits from Alabama. Governor Henderson hired physician Hastings Hart of the Russell Sage Foundation to study the state's institutions. Hart's findings, including low spending on education and low school attendance compared with national averages, embarrassed Alabama politicians and enhanced the Progressive candidacy of Thomas Kilby, who served as governor from 1919 to 1923. Although unable to enact all the reforms he sought, particularly the elimination of the notorious convict-lease system, Kilby did use government power to make life in the state more equitable and to reform many outmoded institutions.

Overall, Alabamians fully participated in mobilizing and fighting America's first "total war" of the twentieth century. After the armistice, they rapidly returned to life as they had known it, with a few changes in the political role of women and the social role of government. In the 1920 presidential election, candidate Warren Harding suggested the United States return to "normalcy." By then, Alabama already had.

Amerine, William H. Alabama's Own in France. New York: Eaton & Gettinger, 1919.


100 Years of Respiratory Protection History

In 1919, the U.S. Bureau of Mines (USBM) initiated the first respirator certification program. Several months later, on January 15, 1920, this federal body certified the first respirator. To recognize the important milestones of the past 100 years, this webpage documents a general historical overview of respiratory protection research and the evolution of the certification program as undertaken by the U.S. federal government.

Respiratory Protection History Prior to the 1800s

Pliny the Elder, photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Around the world, scientific minds recognized the need for respiratory protection long before the U.S. Bureau of Mines. The history of respiratory protection traces back as far as Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), a Roman philosopher and naturalist, who made use of loose animal bladder skins to filter dust from being inhaled while crushing cinnabar, which is a toxic, mercuric sulfide mineral used at the time for pigmentation in decorations. Many centuries later, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) recommended the use of wet cloths over the mouth and nose as a form of protection against inhaling harmful agents (Spelce et al., &ldquoHistory,&rdquo 2018 Cohen and Birkner, 2012).

Further scientific inquiry and discovery led to the use of early atmosphere-supplying respirators. While ancient divers used hoses and tubes for supplied air, seventeenth century scientists added bellows to these devices as a way of providing positive pressure breathing. Although science has made advancements over time, the need for proper respiratory protection became increasingly apparent. In the 1700s, Bernadino Ramazzini, known as the father of occupational medicine, described the inadequacy of respiratory protection against the hazards of arsenic, gypsum, lime, tobacco, and silica (Spelce et al., &ldquoHistory,&rdquo 2018 Cohen and Birkner, 2012).

While these scientific discoveries and advancements to respiratory protection were pivotal, the most important date for respiratory protection was still to come.

Nealy Smoke Mask from The National Fireman's Journal December 8, 1877

The 18 th and 19 th centuries achieved the development of what we would recognize today as respirators, far surpassing the use of animal bladders and wet cloths. In 1827, the Scottish botanist Robert Brown discovered the phenomenon known as the Brownian movement &ndash the theory that collisions of rapidly moving gas molecules causes the random bouncing motion of extremely small particles. Understanding the behavior of small particles, the properties of filter media and their interactions led to the first particulate respirator. In the mid-1800s, German scientists conducted studies with industrial dust and bacteria and their relationship with respiratory health. In 1877, the English invented and patented the Nealy Smoke Mask. The Nealy Smoke Mask used a series of water-saturated sponges and a bag of water attached to a neck strap. The wearer could squeeze the bag of water to re-saturate the sponges to filter out some of the smoke. (Coffey, 2016 Cohen and Birkner, 2012 Kloos, 1963).

On July 1, 1910, the U.S. Department of the Interior established the United States Bureau of Mines (USBM). The USBM worked to address the high fatality rate of mineworkers. In 1919, the USBM initiated the first respirator certification program in the United States. In 1920, MSA Safety Company manufactured the Gibbs respirator. This closed-circuit self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) operated on compressed oxygen and a soda lime scrubber to remove carbon dioxide. (Spelce et al., 2017). According to MSA Safety Company, industries, fire departments, and health departments were the first to utilize the Gibbs Breathing Apparatus (WebApps.MSANet.com). The U.S. Navy requested a respirator comparable to those used for emergency escape purposes for mineworkers, leading to the invention of the Gibbs breathing apparatus, named for United States Bureau of Mines engineer and inventor W.E. Gibbs. Gibbs also created a respirator specifically for aviators (Spelce, et al., 2017).

World War I presented a new kind of threat to soldiers &ndash chemical warfare gases, such as chlorine, phosgene, and mustard gas. The U.S. War Department asked the USBM to develop gas mask standards. Military equipment at the time did not account for protective masks or respirators. Combat equipment did not include respirators until World War II (Caretti, 2018). As a result, chemical warfare in WWI accounted for 1.3 million casualties and approximately 90,000 fatalities. This amounted to about 30% of all casualties during the war (Fitzgerald, 2008).

World War I respiratory protection, photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Additionally, WWI troops from all over the world helped a new influenza virus spread. The lack of vaccines and respiratory protection contributed to high fatalities from the flu virus. The U.S. reported the first flu symptoms in March 1918. In October of 1918 alone, the flu virus killed 195,000 Americans resulting in the San Francisco Board of Health recommending the use of masks in public spaces. The pandemic flu began to decline in early 1919. The flu caused approximately 50 million deaths across the world, including 675,000 in the United States (&ldquo1918 Pandemic,&rdquo 2018). The spread of the pandemic flu at this time displayed the need of additional respiratory protection and research needed in healthcare settings.

While the flu pandemic exhibited a need for healthcare respiratory protection, researchers at the time still largely focused on the respiratory protection of mining. On March 5, 1919, the USBM produced Schedule 13, &ldquoProcedure for Establishing a List of Permissible Self-Contained Oxygen Breathing Apparatus.&rdquo Schedule 13 set the first set of regulations for human testing of protection of self-contained breath apparatus respirators and certification thereof (Kyriazi, 1999). Finally, on January 15, 1920 the USBM certified the first respirator, the Gibbs breathing apparatus. (Spelce et al., &ldquoHistory,&rdquo 2018 Cohen and Birkner, 2012). The Gibbs breathing apparatus, originally designed for mine work, became the first approved respirator for industrial work. (Spelce, et al., 2017).

Gibb&rsquos Breathing Apparatus

During World War I, the U.S. government sought improvements for respiratory protection across several industries as well as the military. The passing of the Overman Act of May 20, 1918 by President Wilson gave authority for the Army to lead the research efforts in respiratory protection in order to engage in chemical warfare and defense. However, this delegation of research power was short-lived, and the USBM regained the primary task of mine safety research. (Spelce, et al., 2017).

The USBM developed Schedule 14 shortly after for the certification of military-use gas masks. Over time, the USBM altered Schedule 14, &ldquoProcedure for Establishing a List of Permissible Gas Masks,&rdquo several times. Initial modifications to it included acknowledgement of the 1941 USBM &ldquoFacepiece Tightness Test&rdquo which tested the detectable leakages and freedom of movement of the user (Spelce, et al., &ldquoHistory&rdquo (Cont.), 2018).

Because of the horrific casualties of WWI from chemical warfare, armed forces on both sides of the battlefield refrained from using chemical agents during WWII. Both sides shared the paranoia that the enemy had more harmful chemical warfare agents (Chauhan, 2008). As the world entered World War II, the U.S. Navy&rsquos use of asbestos increased for insulation purposes for pipes in naval vessels. It was not until 1939 that a Medical Officer for the U.S. Navy recognized the need for crew to wear respirators when cutting and wetting amosite and other asbestos containing insulation. Later, as the U.S. entered World War II, Fleischer et al. released a study acknowledging the dangers and risks of dust exposures in asbestos insulation manufacturing. However, even after the publication of the Fleischer et al. study in 1946, the U.S. Navy continued to use asbestos with the additional warning that &ldquoexposure to asbestos dust is a hazard which cannot be overlooked in maintaining an effective occupational-hygiene program.&rdquo The Navy continued to recommend confinement of pipe covering operations, and the use of respirators and ventilation (Barlow et al., 2017).

1930s Mask, photo courtesy of Caretti

In the early 1930s, the Hawk&rsquos Nest Tunnel disaster occurred in West Virginia. The estimated death toll, one of the worst in American industrial history, ranges from roughly 700-1,000 deaths of the 3,000 who worked underground. The tragedy of this disaster expedited the publication of the USBM&rsquos first approval of dust/fume/mist respirator approval standards in 30 CFR Part 14, Schedule 21 (USBM 1934). &ldquoThe USBM had already developed standards for and approved oxygen breathing apparatus (1919), gas mask respirators (1919), and hose mask respirators (1927). By 1937, the Bureau expanded its schedule for testing hose masks to include a variety of supplied-air respirators including Type CE abrasive blasting respirator&rdquo (Spelce, et al., 2019). Schedule 21 describes several types of respirators, including Type A, B, C, combinations of A-C, and D (Spelce, et al., 2019). The original Schedule 21 from 1934 included the following requirements:

  • Exhalation valves were required, and inhalation valves were optional
  • Added Pressure-Tightness Tests to assess the fitting characteristics of the respirator
  • Revised the Direct Leakage and Man Test (coal dust test) by eliminating work exercises
  • The high concentration silica dust defined the test period as one 90-minute test, not three 30-minute test periods
  • Eliminated the low concentration Silica Dust Test
  • Water Silica Mist and Chromic Acid Mist Tests defined the sampling period after 156 minutes and after 312 minutes, respectively
  • Added a Lead Dust Test
  • Eliminated the Lead Paint Test

Revisions to Schedule 21 expanded in 1955 under 30 CFR 14 to include the approval respirators with single use filters and reusable filters. Among these, there are two classes of respirators, including approval for protection against Pneumoconiosis and approval against dust that were not more toxic than lead. These approvals expanded to also included protection against lead fumes, silica, and chromic acid mists (Spelce, et al., 2019).

The USBM began to set stricter regulations on respirators during WWII. It established &ldquocertain basic requirements applicable to all types of respiratory equipment. These requirements are as follows: (1) They must give adequate protection (2) they must be reasonably comfortable and physically convenient to wear (3) they must provide an acceptable period of protection and (4) they must be constructed of durable materials. (IC 7130, August 1940, page 5)&rdquo (Spelce et al., 2018 D&rsquoAlessandro, 2018). The regulation of respiratory protection permitted the standardization of higher quality respiratory protection.

After WWII and the use of chemical gas in warfare, researchers continued their work on improving respiratory protection for soldiers. The events of World War II and the boom of industry on the home front exhibited a need for improved respiratory protection in industry. Americans on the home front went to work on the production lines to aid the war effort, ushering in a booming era of industry and manufacturing. However, those workers inhaled high amounts of asbestos due to poorly regulated working conditions. Early accounts from turn of the century industrial hygienists documented the dangers of airborne asbestos in working environments, but it was not until the mid-1950s that prolonged exposure to asbestos caused widespread concern. Research efforts still did not fully serve this need until even later, in the 1960s and 1970s. &ldquoWith the introduction of the membrane filter sampling method in the late 1960s and early 1970s, asbestos sampling and exposure assessment capabilities advanced to a degree which allowed industrial hygienists to more precisely characterize the exposure&ndashresponse relationship&rdquo (Barlow et al., 2017).

Non-combatant mask, circa 1940, photo courtesy of Caretti

Researchers performed tests on respirators to measure protection, but their levels of protection were unregulated. There was not yet a system in place to set a threshold standard of protection nor any regulatory body in the manufacturing of respirators. The respirators used in different settings, such as in construction or commercial farming, lacked regulation to ensure necessary protection against the airborne hazards in these types of settings.

Further, Schedule 21B in 1965 expanded. These changes include (1) extend certification of approval to respirators designed to protect against dusts, fumes, and mists that are significantly more toxic than lead (2) permit certification of combinations of dispersoid-filter and other types of respirators (3) revise current tests to realize accuracy and speed of testing and (4) revise the fees for inspection and testing (USBM, 1964) (Spelce, et al., 2019). This provided further regulation and protection for industrial workers&rsquo respiratory health.

&ldquoThe use of respirators continued unregulated until the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act was enacted in 1969, resulting in regulations governing the certification and use of respirators in the mining industry. The Occupational Safety and Health Act, which established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), was promulgated in 1970&rdquo (Cohen and Birkner, 2012).

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, &ldquoThe Congress finds that personal injuries and illnesses arising out of work situations impose a substantial burden upon, and are a hindrance to, interstate commerce in terms of lost production, wage loss, medical expenses, and disability compensation payments&rdquo (91 st Congress, 1970). Further, the OSH Act of 1970 acknowledges a need for regulation in the safety and health of working citizens to preserve &ldquohuman resources.&rdquo The document sets standards for work places to maintain as well as formulate a regulatory body to oversee the adherence to these standards. The OSH Act not only sets standards to protect workers from physical injury and disease, but also acknowledges the necessity to protect workers from psychological harm in the workplace, such as anxiety linked to physical injury risk at work.

The OSH Act also established the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as a research body focused on the health, safety, and empowerment of workers to create safe and healthy workplaces (NIOSH, &ldquoAbout&rdquo). OSHA and NIOSH continue to be important organizations that assist in safety recommendation and regulation in the workplace, in the area of respiratory protection as well as other areas of personal protective equipment.

&ldquoCongress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 1970, and gave it the responsibility for promulgating standards to protect the health and safety of American workers. On February 9, 1979, 29 CFR 1910.134 gained recognition as applicable to the construction industry (44 FR 8577). Until the adoption of these standards by OSHA, most guidance on respiratory protective devices use in hazardous environments was advisory rather than mandatory&rdquo (Department of Labor, 1998). OSHA reprinted, without change of text, 29 CFR Part 1926 with the General Industry Occupational Safety and Health Standards in 29 CFR part 1910. This has since become a set of OSHA regulations (&ldquoEditorial Note,&rdquo 1978).

In 1994, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report entitled &ldquoGuidelines for Preventing the Transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in Health-Care Facilities, 1994.&rdquo This document revises the 1990 tuberculosis (TB) guidelines in response to an outbreak in 1991 and studies from 1985 that show a multi-drug resistance to the bacterium that causes TB. These guidelines emphasize importance of healthcare professionals&rsquo proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), specifically respiratory protection. Areas of emphasis for respiratory protection include ventilation, donning, use, and doffing. Finally, the guidelines address the need to maintain a full respiratory protection program within healthcare settings, ensuring all healthcare workers train in proper PPE use. This is of particular importance for healthcare workers that move from department to department, such as therapists, dieticians, maintenance, interns, etc.

As respiratory protection became mandatory, the importance of a tight and proper respirator fit increased. In 1995, OSHA revised the certification regulations for fit testing. This led to further research in 1996 regarding exposure in the workplace, causing researchers to use simulated workplace protection factors and exposure simulations (Cohen and Birkner, 2012 Department of Labor, 1998).

&ldquoOn 10 July 1995, the respirator certification regulation, 30 CFR 11, was replaced by 42 CFR 84 (NIOSH, 1995). The primary regulatory changes introduced by 42 CFR 84 are associated with a new approval concept, performance requirements for particulate respirator filters, and instrumentation technology. 42 CFR 84 updated filter requirements and tests to provide an assessment of the effectiveness of the filter based upon its efficiency to remove particulates of the most penetrating size from the ambient air regardless of the particulate composition and toxicity (NIOSH, 1994). The approval philosophy for filters changed from minimum requirements considered safe to breathe for various types of dust/fume/mist respirators to acceptable filter efficiency levels against laboratory generated aerosols with particles of the most penetrating size&rdquo (Spelce, et al., 2019).

The OSHA respiratory protection standard, 29 CFR 1910.134, published on January 8, 1998, replaced the agency&rsquos original standard promulgated in 1972. The rule standardized regulations for respirator use in all industries, including maritime, construction, and general industry. However, this did not include updates for the respiratory protection of the healthcare industry, which at this time still functioned under 29 CFR 1910.134 regulations. While this new development did not include the use of respirators in the healthcare setting, it did effectively progress industry, manufacturing, and construction towards a more healthy and safe work environment.

The necessity for respiratory protection in the healthcare setting came to the forefront of concern with the outbreak of tuberculosis in the 1990s. According to the TB Respiratory Protection Program in Health Care Facilities: Administrator&rsquos Guide, &ldquoThe use of respirators in the health care setting is a relatively new but important step forward in the efforts to prevent the transmission of tuberculosis (TB). Air-purifying respirators provide a barrier to prevent health care workers from inhaling Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The level of protection a respirator provides is determined by the efficiency of the filter material and how well the facepiece fits or seals to the health care worker&rsquos face. A number of studies have shown that surgical masks will not provide adequate protection in filtering out the TB organism. Additionally, surgical masks are not respirators and therefore, are not NIOSH-certified and do not satisfy OSHA requirements for respiratory protection&rdquo(1999).

In 2001, Congress requested the creation of a division within NIOSH to focus on the improvement and research of PPE and personal protective technologies (PPT). This division, the National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) conducts scientific research, develops guidance and authoritative recommendations, disseminates information, and responds to requests for workplace health hazard evaluations.

The focus for respiratory protection research shifted drastically in the early 2000s when national tragedy struck. On September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, Shanksville, PA, and Washington D.C. led to first responders in these cities, as well as nationally, to jump into action. The employees of NIOSH NPPTL also mobilized. According to NIOSH NPPTL employee Robert Stein,

&ldquoIf anyone ever doubted the potential for impact on a vast scale, those doubts should have been firmly dispelled the morning of September 11, 2001. I was sitting at my desk that was in building 02 at the time when I got a phone call from one of my colleagues who was off site that day. He said, &ldquoThey are flying planes into the World Trade Center.&rdquo I had already heard the news that an airplane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers, but his was the first voice to identify and call it out as an intentional act. Things started to develop rapidly after that. The personnel at the newly formed lab gathered to develop response plans. Response planning quickly evolved into planning for communication contingencies as we got word that government sites would be evacuated. Obedient to the directions to leave the work site, several of us mustered at the nearby home of one of our colleagues to finish up with our what-if&rsquos and how-to-get-in-touch-with&rsquos. It was an eerie ride home, very confusing to the senses travelling under the beautiful blue skies of a perfect late summer day, but with such serious and unknown threats seemingly looming everywhere.

Even while there was still a ban on commercial flights, NPPTL sent two individuals to the World Trade Center site to help with respiratory protection issues as they were occurring. Not only were they able to provide immediate assistance at the World Trade Center site, but the first-hand experience they gained observing the difficulties encountered trying to provide respiratory protection to such a large number of first responders, recovery workers, law enforcement personnel, and other workers involved in the response helped to shape technical and policy decisions for months and years afterwards. The entire lab dedicated long hours in order to complete new statements of standard for respirator types with protections appropriate to protect first-responders involved in terrorist incidents, and then approve respirators so those new standards would actually result in providing appropriate respiratory protection for those workers.&rdquo

Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the PPE used by first responders became a top priority for NIOSH, as it emphasized the PPE needed to protect those risking their own lives in order to save lives. In the weeks after September 11, the New York City Fire Department&rsquos Bureau of Health Services (FDNY-BHS) and NIOSH launched a collaborative study. This study researched the effectiveness of personal protective equipment, including respiratory protection, and the occupational hazards and exposures of these first responders. The results indicated that many firefighters did not use adequate respiratory protection during the first week of the rescue/recovery operation (MMWR, 2002).

First Responders using inconsistent respiratory protection practices, photo courtesy of Shutterstock

A study researched seven first responders to the attacks in New York on September 11 and their exposure to the dust at Ground Zero on September 11 or September 12. All were non-smokers or had only smoked in their distant past. The results of the study showed that all seven first responders developed some form of lung disease after their exposure to the dust at Ground Zero (Wu, et al., 2010).

Research suggests the rate of respiratory illness was so high due to a lack in use of respiratory protection. According to firsthand accounts by P.J. Lioy and M. Gochfeld in their 2002 article &ldquoLessons Learned on Environmental, Occupational, and Residential Exposures from the Attack on the World Trade Center,&rdquo an alarmingly low number of individuals were using respiratory protection in the field at Ground Zero, and many that had respiratory protection were not wearing it (Crane et al., 2012).

The work to improve respiratory protection and subsequent guidance on use of respiratory protection has continued well after 2001. In 2005, NIOSH released its &ldquoInterim Guidance on the Use of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Full Facepiece, Air-Purifying Respirators/Gas Masks Certified under 42 CFR Part 84.&rdquo According to NIOSH NPPTL employee, Jeff Peterson, &ldquoI would certainly say that one of the biggest accomplishments in the field of respiratory protection is the development of the voluntary NIOSH CBRN requirements.&rdquo

The CBRN requirements answered the need of emergency responders to maintain knowledge of PPE in a time of increased global terrorism. This interim guidance document provided guidelines for the selection and use of NIOSH-approved full facepiece, tight fitting, non-powered, air-purifying respirators (APR) for protection against quantified CBRN agents.

Following September of 2001, NIOSH and The RAND Corporation developed multiple volume reports dedicated to protecting emergency responders (Szalajda, 2008). NIOSH also developed three CBRN standards. The first requires that self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) meet CBRN protection standards because it &ldquois used where the respiratory threat level is unknown or known to be immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH)&rdquo (Szalajda, 2008).

Secondly, NIOSH developed a standard for a full-facepiece, air-purifying respirator. &ldquoThe CBRN APR full-facepiece respirator is widely used by multiple responder groups. It provides a lower level of protection than the SCBA and its use is generally allowed once conditions are understood and exposures are determined to be at levels below those considered to be IDLH&rdquo (Szalajda, 2008).

The third priority was that air-purifying and self-contained escape respirators meet CBRN standards. This enabled a more general workforce, rather than those solely focused on first responders, to use PPE safely in a CBRN terrorist incident. As addressed by Deputy Director Jon Szalajda, NIOSH NPPTL &ldquocontinues to develop criteria for additional types of respirators in response to responders&rsquo needs for appropriate respiratory protection against the anticipated hazards faced in performing rescue and recovery operations resulting from viable terrorist threats, as well as HAZMAT incidents&rdquo (Szalajda, 2008).

Nurse demonstrating the donning of PPE worn by healthcare providers when treating an Ebola patient in a medical intensive care unit (ICU), photo courtesy of the CDC

In 2015, the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) standard Z88.2 updated the standard practice for respiratory protection. The Z88 Committee established the standard in 1969, with revisions in 1989 and 1992. The Z88.2 standard &ldquosets forth minimally accepted practices for occupational respirator use provides information and guidance on the proper selection, use and maintenance of respirators, and contains requirements for establishing, implementing and evaluating respirator programs. The standard covers the use of respirators to protect persons against the inhalation of harmful air contaminants and against oxygen-deficient atmospheres in the workplace&rdquo (ANZ88.2-2015, 1.1).

From 2014-2016, a global epidemic of the Ebola virus disease spread to the United States. During this time, proper PPE use in healthcare settings became a paramount concern, as the highly contagious virus spreads from contact with blood and other bodily fluids. Because of the virus&rsquo highly contagious nature, the CDC recommended the use of a NIOSH-approved N95 respirator, or higher level of particulate filtration, or a powered air-purifying (PAPR) when caring for a Person Under Investigation (PUI) for the Ebola virus disease or a person with a confirmed case of the virus. Further, the CDC released guidelines for the disposal, cleaning, and disinfection based on the type of respirator worn by a healthcare worker when treating an Ebola patient. (Frequently Asked Questions, Ebola, 2018).

In 2019, &ldquoNIOSH NPPTL continues to provide national and world leadership in respirator approval, research, and standards development to support the workers who rely on respiratory protection,&rdquo states NPPTL Director, Dr. Maryann D&rsquoAlessandro. Such research includes understanding respirator comfort, fit, and usability stockpiling of respirators and rapid respiratory protection training in healthcare settings.


Protection Sought for World War I Ships - HISTORY

W orld War 1 at Sea

by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

Naval War in Outline
US Navy Ship Names
Warship numbers and losses, 1914-18
Losses by year
Key to main characteristics including US Torpedo and Gun Calibres
Main ship types - Dreadnoughts to Submarines

The US Navy inflicted few losses on the German Navy - one definite U-boat plus others possibly mined in the huge North Sea barrage laid in part by the US Navy between Scotland and Norway. Also few major ships were lost to enemy action - one armoured cruiser and two destroyers. However the large and still expanding US Navy came to play an important role in the Atlantic and Western European waters, as well as the Mediterranean after the declaration of war in April 1917.

Most of the battlefleet stayed in American waters because of the shortage of fuel oil in Britain, but five coal-burning dreadnoughts served with the British Grand Fleet as the 6th Battle Squadron (US Battleship Division 9) tipping the balance of power against the German High Seas Fleet even further in favour of the Allies. They were also present at the surrender of the German Fleet. Other dreadnoughts (Battleship Division 6) were based in Berehaven, Bantry Bay, SW Ireland to counter any break-out by German battlecruisers to attack US troop convoys. Some of the pre-dreadnoughts, armoured cruisers and protected cruisers were employed as convoy escorts, 1917-18 both along the coasts of the Americas and in the Atlantic.

All three scout cruisers of the 'Chester' class together with some old gunboats and destroyers spent part of 1917-18 based at Gibraltar on convoy escort duties in the Atlantic approaches. The destroyers were part of the at least 36 United States destroyers that reached European waters in 1917-18, many of them based at Queenstown, Ireland, and St Nazaire and Brest, France. Their main duties were patrol and convoy escort, especially the protection of US troopship convoys.


US Submarine K.5 in 1919

Some of the 'K' class (K.5 above) submarines were based in the Azores and 'L' class at Berehaven, Bantry Bay, Ireland on anti-U-boat patrols 1917-18.

In 1917 the programme of large ship construction was suspended to concentrate on destroyers (including the large 'flush decker' classes, 50 of which ended up in the Royal Navy in 1940), submarine-chasers, submarines, and merchantmen to help replace the tremendous losses due to unrestricted U-boat attacks. Some of the destroyers and especially the sub-chasers ended up in the Mediterranean, patrolling the Otranto Barrage designed to keep German and Austrian U-boats locked up in the Adriatic Sea.


The Surface War in the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean, 1914-1918 ↑

The Naval Strategies of Great Britain and Germany ↑

Most of the naval operations in World War I unfolded in the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean between Great Britain and Germany. The contest between these two powers proved not to be the one envisioned by the naval planners of either side at the outbreak of the conflict. The strategies of both sides rested in part on the idea that a decisive fleet encounter between the powers would decide the war at sea. That view was a product of the writings of Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-1914). In his Influence of Sea Power on History, Mahan emphasized the need for the construction of battle fleets based on battleships to destroy an enemy force. The strategies produced by the two powers to achieve this end, however, worked against such an occurrence.

The British started planning for a possible war with Germany as early as 1901 when they began to examine the threat to their commerce posed by German surface raiders. Subsequent examinations of the possible German threat produced a strategy in 1908, that called first and foremost for the destruction of the German battle fleet. The core element of this plan was the implementation of a naval blockade of Germany to both cut off its overseas commerce and deny supply through neutral European powers by seizing contraband of war that could be re-shipped to Germany on neutral vessels. Specifically, the 1908 plan called for a close blockade of Germany. This practice entailed the deployment of naval units close to the entrances of Germany’s ports to control all commercial traffic. British naval officials hoped that a close blockade would force the Germans to sortie their fleet in an attempt to break the blockade and thus stave off economic ruin. They assumed that their fleet’s numerical superiority would result in victory through a decisive fleet action.

The British altered this plan in the years after 1908 in lieu of the technological advances that produced the self-propelled torpedo and more efficient mines. These weapons held the potential of doing grave damage to a close blockade and thus undermining it without the German High Seas Fleet having to engage in a decisive battle. As a result, by 1914 the strategic plan called for a distant blockade where a force of cruisers would patrol the entrance to the North Sea between the Orkney Islands and the coast of Norway. In concert with this effort the Grand Fleet, the main portion of the Royal Navy was tasked with conducting sweeps into the northern North Sea in the hope of meeting any German force that might sortie to break the blockade. Decisive action versus the Germans remained the centerpiece of British pre-war deliberations on strategy.

The revised British plan greatly decreased the chance of a decisive fleet action given the strategy of Germany. German planning, beginning in 1896, was predicated on the numerical inferiority of the German Navy versus that of the British and sought the same goal of decisive battle. By 1905 German strategy rested on a defense of their major ports against a close blockade through placing the battle fleet in the region of Heligoland Bight and in the principle naval bases of the North Sea. On the outbreak of war, the German Navy would engage British blockading forces largely with torpedo boats and submarines, whittling down their numerical superiority, before engaging the denuded British Royal Navy in a decisive battle for naval superiority in the North Sea. Subsequent deliberations, however, led to many believing that the British would employ a distant blockade rather than a close one. This event would render impossible the attacks envisioned to whittle down the force strength of the British. A satisfactory solution to this problem never materialized. On the outbreak of war, German naval planning was a mixture of directives to deal with both the scenario of a distant blockade and a close one. The plan called for attacks versus a distant blockade by submarines and minelayers while the main elements of the German High Seas Fleet would remain in Heligoland Bight to guard against British raids or attempts to institute a close blockade. Naval officials hoped that both efforts would produce enough British losses to achieve a parity in fleet strength vital to the decisive battle that remained the chief object. As a result, Germany entered World War I with no clearly defined naval strategy.

German naval officials overlooked that in the event Britain instituted a distant blockade they might not send major units of their fleet into the North Sea at all. Such a scenario would condemn the German battle fleet to inaction while Britain retained command of the North Sea. This situation proved to be exactly how the war in the North Sea unfolded, as German forces waited for a massed attack that did not come. The result was very limited surface action that did not produce the decisive contest between battle fleets hoped for by either side. Instead, naval war in the North Sea revolved primarily around the use of smaller naval vessels.

Surface Warfare, 1914-1918 ↑

The outbreak of war found the British Grand Fleet in command of the sea. The fleet was under the command of Admiral John Jellicoe (1859-1935) and based primarily at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. Additional naval squadrons were in the southern British Isles. Among these was the Channel Fleet of pre-dreadnought and cruisers charged with the defense of the English Channel and for protecting transport to and from the European continent. There was also the Harwich Force comprised of light cruisers and destroyers situated at the naval base of Harwich on Britain’s southeastern coast. Also based at Harwich were two submarine flotillas and a further small force of old cruisers. Assorted lighter forces patrolled the Irish Sea as well as the English Channel.

Opposing these forces was the German High Seas Fleet under the command of Admiral Friedrich von Ingenohl (1857-1933). The main naval bases of the High Seas Fleet were Kiel in the Baltic, and Wilhelmshaven and Cuxhaven in the North Sea. Defenses stationed at the outpost of Heligoland Island protected the latter two ports and guarded the Kiel Canal that led to the former. Other forces lay around the entrances of the Jade, Elbe, and Weser rivers. Many of these guarded Heligoland Bight since Heligoland Island served as an advanced outpost for warning the fleet of any major British sortie into the area.

The first action of the surface war involved light forces of both sides. On 5 August 1914, British destroyers of the Harwich Force engaged and sank the Königin Luise, a passenger ship converted to lay mines, as it tried to mine the approaches to Harwich. Aside from this small engagement there was no surface action as the British between 7 August and 22 August transported the British Expeditionary Force to France as the German Army launched offensive operations against France. The High Seas Fleet did not interfere with this operation primarily since it contradicted German strategy to wear down the British Navy by attrition before launching a decisive battle against it. The result was that the opening of the war was largely a waiting game between the two sides. The Germans launched reconnaissance operations comprised of light forces in August to ascertain the whereabouts of the British Grand Fleet while the British focused on implementing their distant blockade of Germany.

The Battle of Heligoland Bight (28 August 1914) ↑

Frustration over the inaction at the opening of the war led to the first pitched engagement between the British and Germans. On 23 August 1914, Commodore Roger Keyes (1872-1945), the commander of Great Britain’s submarine forces, submitted a plan to the British Admiralty that called for an attack on the German naval forces that patrolled in Heligoland Bight. The plan employed surface units and submarines. The surface warships were those of the First and Second Destroyer Flotillas under Commodore Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt (1870-1951). Each flotilla comprised sixteen destroyers and their flotilla leaders, being one light cruiser each. The submarines were those of Keyes’ command. Two battle cruisers under Rear Admiral Sir Archibald Moore (1862-1934) were detailed to cruise in support to the north of Heligoland Island. Included with Moore’s force were the six light cruisers of the First Light Cruiser Squadron under the command of Commodore William E. Goodenough (1867-1945) and three more battle cruisers under the commander of the Grand Fleet’s Battle Cruiser Squadron, Vice Admiral David Beatty (1871-1936).

The attack began shortly before 7:00 am on 28 August 1914 when Tyrwhitt’s surface flotillas engaged the German defenders under Rear Admiral Leberecht Maass (1863-1914), the commander of the Second Scouting Group and senior officer of the High Seas Fleet’s torpedo boats that patrolled near Heligoland Island. Maass’ force comprised nine destroyers on an outer patrol line in the bight, an equal number of minesweepers that lay closer to Heligoland Island, four light cruisers, and two torpedo boat flotillas. The Germans also operated an additional seven cruisers in support, but they were in port at the opening of the engagement.

The heavy fog that lay in the area produced an extremely confusing engagement that hampered the effectiveness of the British attack. The situation deteriorated for the British around 11:00 am as additional German cruisers arrived on the scene. The arrival of Goodenough’s cruisers helped to offset this threat while Tyrwhitt called for further reinforcement from Beatty’s battle cruisers. These latter warships did a great deal of damage to German forces. By 1:30 pm, the British called off the operation as they became aware of heavier German units en route to the bight.

The arrival of British reinforcements proved decisive and produced a British victory. Two British destroyers and a light cruiser were badly damaged while one German destroyer and three light cruisers were sunk. The tactical triumph was, however, negligible. Defects in British shells that led to failures to detonate on impact lessened German losses. The battle also could have proven a disaster for the British as the Admiralty failed to notify either Tyrwhitt or Keyes of the presence of Beatty’s battle cruisers, which might have been sunk by British ships mistaking them for the enemy. Even so, the battle did have some strategic impact. Wilhelm II, German Emperor (1859-1941), being fearful of additional losses in the future, ordered that the commander-in-chief of the German High Seas Fleet must ask for his consent before committing to a full-scale battle. This order greatly limited offensive operations of the German High Seas Fleet.

From Heligoland Bight to the Battle of Dogger Bank (24 January 1915) ↑

By the end of 1914, the strategy of the High Seas Fleet in the North Sea rested on hit-and-run raids against the British coastal towns of Scarborough, Hartlepool, and Whitby in the hope of drawing out and destroying a small portion of the Grand Fleet. The British could not intercept the German raids because the Grand Fleet was anchored too far north. That situation changed after December 1914 when the British deciphered captured German naval code books. These allowed them to learn of all German fleet movements in advance. Combined with this advantage was the transfer of Admiral Sir David Beatty’s Battle Cruiser Squadron to the more southern port of Roysyth on the east coast of Scotland. These two events led to the British intercepting German forces off the Dogger Bank in the North Sea.

In January 1915 Admiral von Ingenohl instructed Vice Admiral Franz von Hipper (1863-1932), the commander of the Scouting Forces of the High Seas Fleet, to patrol the Dogger Bank with a force of three battle cruisers (Seydlitz, Derfflinger, and Moltke), the armored cruiser Blücher, four light cruisers, and eighteen destroyers. The British Admiralty, aware of Hipper's orders, dispatched Vice Admiral Beatty with five battle cruisers (Lion, Princess Royal, Tiger, New Zealand, and Indomitable), seven light cruisers, and thirty-five destroyers to intercept the German force.

Beatty sighted Hipper at 7:15 am and pursued the German force, which retreated as Hipper realized that he was outgunned. The German squadron, however, could not escape the British owing to the Blücher as it was slower than the German battle cruisers. As a result, Beatty closed the range and opened fire. In the ensuing engagement both Blücher and Seydlitz (Hipper’s flagship) were heavily damaged, but the British performance suffered from Beatty’s communications being misunderstood by his commanders. This resulted in unequal fire distribution for the British.

Meanwhile, Hipper’s order to concentrate fire on Beatty’s flagship, the Lion, led to damage that slowed the ship and effectively removed it from the battle. Beatty’s attempt to order a pursuit of the enemy’s rear were again misunderstood and led the British force to concentrate solely on the badly damaged Blücher, which sank. The rest of the German force escaped. In exchange for the loss of Blücher, Beatty suffered significant damage only to Lion.

The Battle of Dogger Bank, like the Battle of Heligoland Bight had little strategic impact on the course of the war. It did, however, reveal the superior gunnery of the Germans and led the British to develop improved gunnery techniques. It also showcased the threat posed by cordite fires, being the propellant for firing shells, that could detonate a warship's magazines and destroy the ship as nearly happened to Seydlitz. The Germans subsequently promoted better safety in the handling of these charges. Finally, the battle led to the removal of Admiral von Ingenohl as commander-in-chief of the High Seas Fleet. He was replaced by the more cautious Admiral Hugo von Pohl (1855-1916), who further restricted the movements of the High Seas Fleet.

From Dogger Bank to the Battle of Jutland (31 May-1 June 1916) ↑

The lack of a decisive fleet action and the increasing threat posed by the British blockade led the Germans to conduct a counter-blockade against British commerce through the use of submarines in an attempt to force Great Britain from the war. As a result, there was little surface action until after January 1916, when Commander-in-Chief of the High Seas Fleet Pohl died and was replaced by the more aggressive Vice Admiral Reinhard Scheer (1863-1928). In April 1916 Scheer resumed the hit-and-run raids on the British coast with the bombardment of Lowestoft and Yarmouth. On 31 May the High Seas Fleet sortied in hope of luring a portion of the Grand Fleet to a point west of the Jutland Peninsula of Denmark. British intelligence was aware of the operation through knowledge of the deciphered German naval codes. The Admiralty consequently sortied the Grand Fleet, which led to the Battle of Jutland, being the only engagement of the main fleets of the British and Germans in World War I.

The British Grand Fleet under the command of Admiral Jellicoe was, as it had been throughout the war, numerically superior to that of the Germans. It consisted of 151 ships that included twenty-eight battleships, nine battle cruisers, thirty-four cruisers, and eighty destroyers. Admiral Scheer's High Seas Fleet numbered 101 ships that included sixteen battleships, six pre-dreadnoughts, five battle cruisers, eleven cruisers, and sixty-three destroyers.

In keeping with his plan to lure out a portion of Britain's navy, Scheer had separated his battle cruisers under the command of Vice Admiral Hipper from the main force. Hipper was to act as the lure to bring British forces in range of Scheer's battleships that could subsequently annihilate the weaker force. As Hipper steamed north ahead of Scheer, the Grand Fleet moved south with an advance force that included Vice Admiral Beatty's battle cruisers and fast battleships under the command of Rear Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas (1862-1928). As the British were aware of the German plan, Jellicoe hoped to use this force in much the same way as Scheer had in mind for Hipper.

At about 2:30 pm some 100 miles off Jutland the two opposing scouting forces sighted one another. Hipper’s force subsequently turned south with Beatty’s ships in pursuit. Both sides opened fire at 3:45 pm in an opening engagement that proved a disaster for the British. Beatty was without the support of Evan-Thomas’ battleships since his squadron missed a signal to engage the German ships and subsequently fell behind. When Evan-Thomas did enter the battle poor maneuvering largely obviated the use of his force. In addition, superior German gunnery combined with poor armor protection for the battle cruisers took its toll. By 4:26 pm both the battle cruisers Indefatigable and Queen Mary were sunk from magazine explosions. Beatty’s flagship, Lion, almost suffered a similar fate if not for quick flooding of the amidships magazines. Beatty then reversed course upon sighting the main body of the High Seas Fleet in the hope that he could lure Hipper and Scheer towards Jellicoe’s force. The German pursuit led at 6:32 pm to the loss of another British battle cruiser, the Invincible.

This triumph meant little for the Germans as they confidently pursued Beatty’s forces. At dusk around 6:30 pm the High Seas Fleet sighted Jellicoe’s battleships steaming in line-ahead formation. The British subsequently crossed the “T” of the German battle line. This allowed for full broadside fire for the British while the Germans could only bring their forward guns to bear. Scheer, realizing that he was outnumbered and outgunned, executed a 180-degree turn to try and retreat with Jellicoe in pursuit. A subsequent 180-degree turn brought Scheer once more under Jellicoe’s fire, but a further reversal of course allowed him to slip away during the night as his destroyers launched torpedo attacks to cover his retreat. While there were many individual ship actions during the night of 1 June, Scheer succeeded in withdrawing most of his force.

The Battle of Jutland proved a huge disappointment for both sides as it was not the decisive engagement that naval officials had envisioned. Even so, the Germans proclaimed the Battle of Jutland (or the Skagarrak as they labelled it) a victory for the High Seas Fleet. In terms of overall losses, this was indeed the case. The British lost fourteen vessels: three battle cruisers, three cruisers, and eight destroyers. They also suffered 6,094 casualties. The Germans lost eleven ships, being one battle cruiser, one pre-dreadnought, four cruisers, and five destroyers in addition to 3,058 casualties. The British Admiralty, on the other hand, was at first dismissive of the battle amidst accusations that Jellicoe was too cautious in the engagement and thus allowed the Germans to escape. Such criticism led to his removal as commander-in-chief of the Grand Fleet in December 1916 in favor of Vice Admiral Beatty.

In truth, despite its failure to be a decisive battle, Jutland was indeed important. The engagement ranks as a strategic defeat for the Germans despite the losses they inflicted on the British. The High Seas Fleet had been forced to retreat while the British Grand Fleet retained command of the sea and the economic blockade of Germany. In addition, the Battle of Jutland inflicted such material damage to the High Seas Fleet that it was incapable of putting back to sea for months.

From Jutland to the End of the War ↑

In the wake of Jutland, the Germans never risked the High Seas Fleet in an open battle again, although it did sortie in August and October 1916. The surface fleet remained largely inactive in 1917 in favor of the German submarine war against the Allies. The only actions were the German Zeebrugge raids in February, March, and April where destroyers from Ostend and Zeebrugge sortied into the English Channel to try to disrupt troop and supply movements. The engagements, however, were ineffective. The entry of the United States into the war as an Associated Power of the Allies on 6 April 1917 further increased the numerical disparity between Germany and the Allied powers and added to the inaction in the surface war. The last major operation proved to be the 22-23 April 1918 Ostend and Zeebrugge raids by the British in an attempt to deny these ports to German submarines and destroyers.

By this point, the German High Seas Fleet was in an increasing state of collapse. Its morale had plummeted due to its lack of use. The last sortie of the High Seas Fleet was in April 1918 when Scheer steamed up the Norwegian coast in an attempt to destroy Scandinavian convoys bound for Britain. This operation is a reflection of the German strategic shift away from the use of the fleet against surface forces of the British in favor of a war on commerce, primarily through the use of submarines.

By 29 September 1918, General Erich Ludendorff (1865-1937) urged his government to ask for an armistice amidst declining fortunes on land. By this time, the German navy had decisively lost the submarine campaign while the British blockade had damaged Germany’s war effort. In terms of the surface war, the final blow came on 28 October 1918 when the High Seas Fleet mutinied rather than put to sea for a suicidal last assault. The fleet subsequently surrendered to the Allies on 21 November 1918, to be interned at Scapa Flow. It was scuttled there on 26 June 1919 as an act of defiance against the Treaty of Versailles.

The Mediterranean and Black Sea Theaters, 1914-1918 ↑

Much like the war in the North Sea and the Atlantic, naval operations in the Mediterranean Sea revolved around the use of small craft and ultimately submarines rather than pitched conflict between battle fleets. The opening of the war pitted the naval forces of France and the Austro-Hungarian Empire against one another. The Austro-Hungarians did not wish to seek open battle due to the marked numerical inferiority of their fleet versus that of the French. The first operation of the war consequently was one conducted by Germany. Rear Admiral Wilhelm Souchon (1864-1946), the commander of the German Mediterranean Division, sortied from his base in the Adriatic Sea instead of being potentially trapped there by the French. His force, consisting of one battle cruiser and a light cruiser, steamed for the Dardanelles Straits and arrived in Turkey after eluding a British squadron. These ships were subsequently transferred to the Ottomans, contributed to the Ottoman decision to join the Central Powers on 29 October 1914, and were used to bombard Russian ports in the Black Sea. Strategically, the entry of the Ottoman Empire proved a crucial event since it not only opened another front versus the Russians, but it also closed the supply route to Russia via the Dardanelles and into the Black Sea. Allied attempts to force open the straits and drive the Ottomans from the war resulted in failure. The February-March 1915 Dardanelles Campaign, being an Allied naval operation to open the straits, was unsuccessful at the cost of three battleships. The 25 April 1915 to 9 January 1916 Gallipoli Campaign, an amphibious invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula with the same goal, also failed at the cost of three more, older battleships.

The Italian entry into the war as an Allied power on 23 May 1915 changed little in terms of operations in the Mediterranean. Admiral Anton Haus (1851-1917), commander of the Austrian navy, sortied in the Adriatic to bombard Italian ports, but mostly the war in the Adriatic revolved around smaller craft as Haus wished to keep his navy as a fleet in being rather than risk it against the preponderance of Allied force in the Mediterranean. There were, however, a few exceptions. The first of these occurred in the context of Bulgaria’s entry into the war as a Central Power in the autumn of 1915. The evacuation of the Serbian Army following a joint Austrian, German, and Bulgarian offensive that overran Serbia led on 29 December 1915 to a raid on the Albanian port of Durazzo by the Austrian navy that cost it two destroyers. Following this, the only other surface engagement was the 15 May 1917 Battle of Otranto Straits when the Austrian Navy disrupted an Allied barrage that attempted to close the straits. Subsequent attempts by the Austrians at more aggressive action under Rear Admiral Miklós Horthy de Nagybána (1868-1957), who assumed command of the navy in March 1918, were abortive. In June 1918 Horthy cancelled a raid using battleships of the fleet upon losing the battleship Szent István to torpedo attack by small craft.

Rather than surface action, the Central Powers increasingly relied on submarine attacks of Allied supply lines in the Mediterranean instead of surface operations. These proved costly for the Allies until late in the war when a convoy system supplemented by an anti-submarine force based in Malta contained the threat. Aiding in these efforts during 1918 were units of the United States Navy based in Gibraltar.

The Surface War in the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and Baltic Sea ↑

While most of the surface naval warfare occurred in the North Sea, there was a series of engagements in other theaters. Like the principle contest in the North Sea, these had very little effect on the outcome of the war. The most celebrated of them occurred in the opening months of the war as the British sought to hunt down the units of Germany’s East Asian Squadron. This force, under the command of Vice Admiral Maximilian von Spee (1861-1914), consisted of two armored cruisers and three light cruisers. Upon the outbreak of the war, Spee elected to steam towards the western coast of South America with the goal of returning to Germany. British efforts to hunt him down led to the 1 November 1914 Battle of Coronel. The Germans defeated a weaker British force with no consequent loss. A further engagement, being the 8 December 1914 Battle of the Falklands Islands, resulted in the destruction of Spee’s force by British battle cruisers. The British also hunted down during 1914 and the first half of 1915 the few German light cruisers still at sea. The most notable of these was the SMS Emden, lost in November 1914, which Spee had detached from his force in order to raid Allied commerce.

The Pacific theater exited by the German East Asia Squadron was dominated by operations of the Japanese against German territorial holdings since Japan declared war against Germany on 23 August 1914 as an Allied power. In December 1914 the Japanese conducted an amphibious assault that captured the German naval base of Qingdao on the Chinese mainland. By this time the Japanese had also seized all German held islands in the Pacific that were north of the equator. Throughout the remainder of the conflict the Japanese navy was dedicated to policing Allied lines of communication in the Pacific.

Naval operations in the Baltic Sea were more important than those in the Pacific as the theater was extremely important to Germany. Control of the Baltic allowed for a supply of iron ore from Sweden as well as denying a supply route to Russia. The Russian Baltic fleet did little to affect the course of the war at sea. The Russians dedicated their resources to the protection of the Gulf of Finland and their own coastline to protect against any German amphibious assaults. The situation in the Baltic was one of stalemate until early 1917 when the Germans endeavored to secure the islands in the Baltic as a precursor to an assault on St. Petersburg. While the Germans succeeded in the capture of the islands, the amphibious assault on St. Petersburg never materialized as on 7 November 1917 the Bolsheviks seized power and declared their intention to withdraw Russia from the war.


The 5 Most Epic Battleship Showdowns in Naval History

Analysts and the general public once widely perceived battleships to constitute the currency of naval, and to some extent national, power.

Here's What You Need to Know: Battleships took pride of place in the navies of the first half of the twentieth century.

The age of the steel line-of-battleship really began in the 1880s, with the construction of a series of warships that could carry and independently aim heavy guns external to the hull. In 1905, HMS Dreadnought brought together an array of innovations in shipbuilding, propulsion, and gunnery to create a new kind of warship, one that could dominate all existing battleships.

Although eventually supplanted by the submarine and the aircraft carrier, the battleship took pride of place in the navies of the first half of the twentieth century. The mythology of of the battleship age often understates how active many of the ships were both World War I and World War II saw numerous battleship engagements. These are the five most important battles of the dreadnought age.

Battle of Jutland:

In the years prior to World War I, Britain and Germany raced to outbuild each other, resulting in vast fleets of dreadnought battleships. The British won the race, but not by so far that they could ignore the power of the German High Seas Fleet. When war began, the Royal Navy collected most of its modern battleships into the Grand Fleet, based at Scapa Flow.

The High Seas Fleet and the Grand Fleet spared for nearly three years before the main event. In May 1916, Admiral Reinhard Scheer and Admiral John Jellicoe laid dueling traps Scheer hoped to draw a portion of the Grand Fleet under the guns of the High Seas Fleet, while Jellicoe sought to bring the latter into the jaws of the former. Both succeeded, to a point British battlecruisers and fast battleships engaged the German line of battle, before the arrival of the whole of the Grand Fleet put German survival in jeopardy.

The two sides fought for most of an afternoon. The Germans has sixteen dreadnought battleships, six pre-dreadnoughts, and five battlecruisers. Against this, the British fielded twenty-eight dreadnoughts and nine battlecruisers. Jellicoe managed to trap the Germans on the wrong side of the Grand Fleet, but in a confused night action most of the German ships passed through the British line, and to safety.

Many, on both sides, considered Jutland a disappointment. Both Scheer and Jellicoe believed that they missed a chance to destroy the enemy fleet, the latter with considerably more justifiable cause. Nevertheless, together the two sides lost four battlecruisers and a pre-dreadnought battleship. Had either side enjoyed a bit less luck, the losses could have been much worse.

Battle of Mers-el-Kebir:

The surrender of France in 1940 left the disposition of the French Navy in question. Many of the heavy ships, mostly located in French colonies, could aid either Axis or British forces. In early July 1940, Winston Churchill decided to take a risk averse approach. The Royal Navy would force a French decision, with the result of either seizing or destroying the French navy.

The largest concentration of French ships, including four French battleships, lay at Mers-el-Kebir, in Algeria. Two of the French battleships were veterans of World War I old, slow, and not particularly useful to either the Italian or the British navies. The prizes were six heavy destroyers, and the fast battleships Strasbourg and Dunkerque. These ships could contribute on either side of the conflict.

The British dispatched Force H from Gibraltar, consisting of HMS Hood, HMS Valiant, HMS Resolution, the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, and a flotilla of supporting ships to either intimidate or destroy the French. Royal Navy representatives submitted an ultimatum to their French counterparts, demanding that the ships either join the British, sail to America and disarm, or scuttle themselves. What precisely happened in the communications between Force H and the French commander remains in dispute. What we do know is that the British battleships opened fire, with devastating results. Bretagne’s magazine exploded, killing over a thousand French sailors. Provence and Dunkerque both took hits, and promptly beached themselves. Strasbourg made a daring dash for the exit, then outran Hood to escape the British task force.

In the end, the British sank one obsolete ship and damaged another. They damaged one fast battleship, and let another escape. 1300 French sailors died during the battle. Fortunately, the surviving French sailors had little interest in serving the Germans they would eventually scuttle most of their ships at Toulon, following a German invasion of Vichy.

Battle of Calabria:

Most of the battles in the Mediterranean theater in World War II came about as the result of convoy protection. The Italians needed to escort their convoys to Libya, while the British needed to escort convoys to Malta, and points east.

In July 1940, shortly after the destruction of the French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir, the far escorts of two convoys met each other in battle. An Italian task force consisting of the battleships Giulio Cesare, Conti di Cavour, and various smaller ships rubbed up against a British convoy including HMS Warspite, HMS Malaya, HMS Royal Sovereign, the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle, and associated escorts.

The Italians had the initial advantage, as the dispersal of Royal Navy ships meant that only Warspite could fire upon the Italian line. Warspite engaged both enemy ships, coming under fire from Giulio Cesare as Malaya and Royal Sovereign hurried to her aid. After several near misses on both sides, Warspite struck with one of the longest hits in the history of naval artillery. The hit, which detonated ammunition on Giulio Cesare’s deck, resulted in a loss of speed that forced the Italian ship out of line. This cost the Italians their moment of advantage with odds at 3-1, the remaining Italian ships retired.

Although the Italians failed to score a victory in the battle, they did demonstrate that the Royal Navy could not operate in the central Mediterranean without heavy escort. The addition of two new, modern fast battleships in the next months would give the Italians a major advantage, which the airstrike on Taranto would ameliorate only for a time. The Allies could not claim naval supremacy in the ‘Med’ until 1943, when the Italian fleet surrendered under the guns of Malta.

Battle of Denmark Strait:

When the German battleship Bismarck entered service in 1941, she became the largest warship in the world, displacing the Royal Navy battlecruiser HMS Hood. In May 1941, the Bismarck sortied from Norway in the company of the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. The Germans planned to use the pair as commerce raiders, with Bismarck drawing off or destroying the capital ship escorts of any convoys, while Prinz Eugen concentrated on the merchant ships themselves.

The first task force to intercept Bismarck included HMS Hood, HMS Prince of Wales, and four destroyers. HMS Prince of Wales was theoretically comparable to Bismarck, but teething problems (she had only very recently completed trials) limited her combat effectiveness. HMS Hood carried a similar armament to Bismarck (8 15” guns), but also carried twenty more years of age.

Appreciating the threat that long-range fire posed to the thin deck-armor of Hood, Vice Admiral Lancelot Holland sought to close the range as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, Bismarck’s fifth salvo caught Hood amidships, resulting in a huge explosion. Analysts debate to this day what precisely happened aboard Hood, but the blast took her to the bottom so quickly that only three crewmembers (from a crew of 1419) escaped.

Late in the battle, Prince of Wales scored a hit on Bismarck that caused a fuel leak. This killed Bismarck’s mission she could not raid into the Atlantic with fuel running low. Bismarck broke contact with Prince of Wales (which by this time was severely hampered by gunnery breakdowns), and attempted to run for home. Two days later she was caught by HMS Rodney and HMS King George V, which avenged Hood by sending Bismarck to the bottom.

Second Battle of Guadalcanal:

In late 1942, Americans owned the day over the Solomon Islands, largely by virtue of their control of Henderson Airfield. The Japanese, on the other hand, owned the night. The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) used its advantages at night to run supplies and reinforcements to Japanese troops on Guadalcanal, and to bombard American positions.

On November 13, a task force including two Japanese battleships tried to “run the slot” and bombard Henderson. The IJN task force was met by a group of American cruisers and destroyers, which took advantage of surprise and good luck to cripple the battleship Hiei. American aircraft finished off Hiei the next day.

The following evening, the Japanese tried again. The Americans, virtually tapped out after months of grueling combat, went to their aces in the hole USS Washington and USS South Dakota, a pair of fast battleships normally tasked with escorting carriers. Four destroyers screened the two battleships. The IJN force included the battleship Kirishima (sister of Hiei, and survivor of the first battle), four cruisers, and nine destroyers.