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Handheld Gas Weapons

Discussions on all aspects of the Japanese Empire, from the capture of Taiwan until the end of the Second World War.
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Handheld Gas Weapons

Postby PPoS on 31 May 2005 13:36

I remember reading something about some kind of handheld flares that, when they burned, created a kind of gas that was not toxic but it could choke a man. I don't remember the name of these flares and I would like to know more about them and how they were used in the field.

Also, I would like to know more about other gas weapons that were used by the Japanese forces.
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Postby Sewer King on 02 Jun 2005 04:49

The US War Department's TM-E 30-480, Handbook of Japanese Military Forces, 01 Oct 44, describes several types of tear gas and vomiting gas candles (pages 266-267):

"GAS CANDLES. Most Japanese gas and smoke candles of the stationary or hand-thrown type are fired by means of a matchhead fuse and scratcher block. All Japanese self-projecting gas and smoke candles are composed of an outer container equipped with a sliding metal spike. Before firing the candle this spike is driven into the ground to maintain the candle at the desired angle. A matchhead fuse at the lower end of the candle is ignited with a scratcher block and sets off the propellant charge which expels the inner container (projectile) carrying the main charge. The main charge is then set off by a delay fuze ignited by the propellant charge."

Sorry I could neither find any pictures nor post those in the Handbook, but possibly someone else has a source.

The tear gas candles are small measuring 7.2in long and 2.2in diameter, colored gray with a green band. They weigh about 0.5lbs and are filled with nitrocellulose wafers containing the CN tear gas mixture. A smaller, lighter version was reported but believed to be obsolete.

The vomiting gas candles came in several sizes:

light (7.2x2.2in, gray with red band, 0.6lbs, diphenylcyanarsine [DC] fill)
medium (8.8x4.4in, brown with red band, 3.3lbs, DC fill)
heavy (9.9x4.4in, brown with red band, 4.4lbs, DC fill)

All had metal ring handles on their bottoms. Their sizes and weights could vary. The cases of self-projecting ones varied in composition of cardboard, sheet metal, and wood.

I have seen the following account mentioned in a number of places. It seems to describe the use of gas candles in action. See http://www.tcp-ip.or.jp/~e-ogawa/scrap/jt960926.htm.

Other Army gas munitions mentioned in the Handbook:

75mm vesicant gas shell. Weighed 12.5lbs with 50/50 Lewisite and mustard fill. Red band and blue band on nose indicated CW round, while white band and wide yellow band on body indicated vesicant gas fill.

75mm vomiting gas shell. 13.25lbs with 0.4lbs diphenylcyanarsine fill. Red band and blue band as above. Yellow band below shell's bourrelet indicated HE burster and wide red band for vomiting gas fill.

50kg aerial gas bomb. 45in long x 7.5in diameter, 110lbs with 50/50 Lewisite and mustard fill. Gray overall with one each yellow and white bands on nose, and one yellow band on tail.

A Navy gas bomb was reported as a Special Mk 1 with green-yellow-gray-yellow banding but with no further details, reportedly from an OSS reference of 1944 quoted in http://www.clubhyper.com/reference/japanesebombsdw_1.htm.

The issue of Imperial Japanese CW weapons is still a living issue today because stockpiles of the gas munitions were hastily dumped in China and even in Japan itself, where they are accidentally broken open. Japan ordered the withdrawal of poison gas munitions in all areas in 1944, even those of smoke rounds. She feared the possibility of massive American retaliation if some local commanders was to use gas. See http://home.att.ne.jp/kiwi/AptNo7/disposed.html.

Besides the secret CW arsenal at Okunoshima, near Hiroshima, there was report of another possible CW installation on the southwest coast of Formosa. This was photographed by American reconaissance and reported by Joint Intelligence Center Pacific Ocean Area in 1944. But I haven't seen what was followed up after the war on this.
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Postby Peter H on 02 Jun 2005 08:33

A link on the Frangible Hydrocyanic acid grenade as well:

http://www.inert-ord.net/jap02h/tbgas/
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Postby PPoS on 02 Jun 2005 12:51

Wow! Thanks for all that information!

Are there any special records of their use during the war?
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Postby Sewer King on 03 Jun 2005 04:50

The page with the Japanese cyanide grenade does not show the weapon with its cap, a simple metal crown cap like that of a beer bottle. Presumably when the grenade was emptied in disarming, the cap was lost.

Only one mistake: cyanide is not a nerve agent, but a so-called "blood agent", an old-fashioned and mistaken term from when it was thought that its systemic effects were spread through the blood. Instead, cyanide prevents tissues from using oxygen.

Here is another reference for the glass cyanide grenade (with Adobe reader, go to top of page 42). This particular example was said to have been captured "shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor" but gives no more detail. The HCN agent is described as stabilized with copper. See:

http://www.nbc-med.org/SiteContent/HomePage/WhatsNew/MedAspects/Ch-2electrv699.pdf

This link is an on-line copy of the Textbook of Military Medicine Part I: Chemical and Biological Warfare, published by Office of the Surgeon General, US Army, 1997. I bought the actual book from a local used-book dealer but it is normally much more expensive. Both it and its related volumes are some of the best overall technical histories of chemical and biological warfare. There is one exception, the relatively recent disclosures of the modern Soviet bio-weapons program by two or three of its leading figures. But these are covered in books written by those men themselves.

Naturally the Japanese themselves did not easily give accounts of their own use of gas in China. To do so against the underequipped Chinese was like the Italian gas warfare against the Ethiopians, the Iraqi CW against the Kurds, or Soviet-sponsored CW reported against the Yemenis, Laotians, or Afghans. It was done where the world was unable to see or confirm it, against targets who were very vulnerable to gas and certainly could not fight back with it.

Japan Defense Agency historical records are not normally open to the public. Freedom of information is not a strong concept in a nation where the simplest facts about World War II are neither taught nor widely discussed. Considering how many records were probably destroyed by the war's end, just knowing where to begin seems problem enough.

The Textbook of Military Medicine gives this specialized reference printed during the Occupation:

5250th Technical Intelligence Company. The Use of Poison Gas by Imperial Japan in China, 1937-1945. Tokyo, Japan: self-published, 1946.

There was also a US Naval Technical Mission to Japan which among other things examined CW capability there in 1946.

Neither will probably be easily available -- the former might be in the US National Archives, and the latter at the US Naval Historical Center, both in Washington DC.

It is interesting that as war drew closer to the home islands, there may have been more of a push for the US to begin using poison gas against Japan rather than the other way around.

The senior officers who finalized Operation DETACHMENT, the invasion of Iwo Jima in Feb 45, had agreed to attack the island with gas first. It was to be fired by the naval gun bombardment, but President Roosevelt personally vetoed the idea. When he died two months after Iwo, this removed the leading objector to CW against Japan. The rising cost in casualties with each advance onto Japanese territory also raised the pressure to end the war sooner, against an enemy seen as more savage and fanatic than the Germans. The advertising slogan for gas stoves "You can Cook 'em Better with Gas!" began to be voiced in public opinion. Even American propaganda began to steel sentiment with a graphic poster showing a Chinese gas burn victim. The poster read that already "Japan used gas in China" -- and therefore was open to the retaliation that Roosevelt earlier promised. (See Roeder, George H., The Uncensored War. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993)

Some other United States Army in World War II history volumes (the so-called "green book series"), such as The Chemical Warfare Service: From Laboratory to Field published in 1959, might also have some background on Japanese CW. This is more easily available than the Textbook of Military Medicine.
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Postby tom! on 03 Jun 2005 08:06

Hi.

From a US-TM:
Image

It seems that there was another type of HCN grenade besides the copper stabilized one.


type 90 tear gas grenade (not sure about designation):
Image



There were also special trailers for chemical warfare towed by the type 94 tk special tractor:

gas attack:
Image
The gas (mainly mustard agent = mustard gas and lewisit) was sprayed from the vehicle.

decont chemicals:
Image


Yours

tom! :wink:
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Postby Peter H on 03 Jun 2005 16:49

Photo of gas/smoke candles among other Japanese ordnance,from the AWM website.Candles arrowed.
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Postby PPoS on 04 Jun 2005 16:00

Can't thank you enough guys.
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Postby Sewer King on 05 Jun 2005 06:11

Glad to help, that's what we all do.

One more disturbing thing about these Japanese glass munitions. The biological warfare program based in Manchuria under the infamous Unit 731 also developed a glass BW bomb. This was the Ga bomb, so designated with the Japanese language syllable ga. An expert glass blower based at Unit 731 and mentioned in other accounts made these glass bombs which contained a liquid concentrate of disease germs.

No illustrations seem to be known for the Ga bomb, but they may have been fairly large. Two leading authors on the subject theorized that these could have been the "Christmas ball"-like bombs reportedly dropped in the Burma theater. If so, they may have been at attempt to spread cholera. See Peter Williams and David Wallace, Unit 731: Japan's Secret Biological Warfare in World War II (in USA published by Free Press, 1989; original UK edition Hodder & Staughton differs).
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Postby Peter H on 05 Jun 2005 06:48

Frangible Hydrocyanic acid grenades

http://www.wlhoward.com/id534.htm

Model 1 Frangible Toxic Gas Hand Grenade (SEISAN SHURUDAN) Glass gas grenades were captured on Guadalcanal and in Burma early in the war. Its designation is unconfirmed and is believed to have actually been developed in the 1930s. They were also identified as "T.B. grenades" by Allied intelligence, but the meaning is unknown. These are the gas grenades once employed against British tanks in Burma near Imphal in 1942. They were filled with liquid hydrocyanic acid (AC), a blood gas derived from hydrogen cyanide. These grenades were initially reported as filled with 80 percent hydrogen cyanide (aka prussic acid). They were found stabilized with either powdered copper (Cu) or arsenic trichloride (AsCl3). Both types had metal crown caps. The copper-stabilized type had a rounded bottom with a cork plug and the other a flat bottom and a rubber plug under the caps. The copper-stabilized type was packed in a metal can and the second in a cylindrical cardboard container. Both types were further packed individually in larger cylindrical metal cans with a web carrying strap. The inner containers were double walled (sides, bottom, and lid) and filled with neutralizing agent-soaked sawdust. The arsenic trichloride-stabilized type were called the 172 B-K and 172 C-K by Allied intelligence after container markings, but these were almost certainly lot numbers rather than designations. (In early 1943, the US Military Intelligence Division reported a similar grenade being used by the Germans, but this turned out to be a mistake due to misidentification of Japanese grenades captured on Guadalcanal and retuned to the States where they were mixed up.)

Weight: 1.2 lbs Diameter: 3.9 in

Construction: glass body, steel cap Filler: 12.2 oz liquid hydrocyanic acid with stabilizer Fuze: none Causality Radius: INAIdentification: clear glass body, yellowish (copper-stabilized) or greenish (arsenic trichloride-stabilized) liquid, light olive drab shipping can with brown band Fig. 9-18 There was also a glass screening smoke grenade of similar design. Yes, it is in violation of the Hague Convention, but so was mistreatment of POWs. Gordon Rottman


Corked for display:
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http://www.horae.dti.ne.jp/~fuwe1a/imag ... /oki22.jpg
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Postby PPoS on 10 Jun 2005 09:51

Hmm.. Had no clue the japs used so much gas during the war.
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Postby Peter H on 11 Jun 2005 15:11

300,000 Frangible Hydrocyanic acid grenades were manufactured during the war.The photo of the one above was unearthed on Okinawa in 1995.By that stage of the war they were seen as being primarily an anti-tank weapon.No record of their use at Okinawa is indicated though.
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Postby Sewer King on 12 Jun 2005 04:49

PPoS wrote:Hmm.. Had no clue the japs used so much gas during the war.

It might be more accurate to say that wartime Japan had more gas available than is commonly realized today.

Considering its use in inland China, the Japanese Army used gas where it would have had some military advantage against lesser-equipped Chinese. Also a strong psychological power besides. Above all, it was done where the world could not see it or confirm it.

The 1946 military intelligence report on gas used in China would seem to have been based more on reports or accounts than on firsthand evidence. Does anyone know of any more widely available contemporary accounts or evidence?

The Nationalists pressed for American retaliation with gas, to carry out Roosevelt's promise of the same if Japan used it first. WIth his death in Apr 45, planning for CW against Japan's home islands began to pick up, in particular the consideration of gas against fortifications and crops.

My impression is that Japanese preparations for CW were oriented mainly, of firstly, against the Soviets. The Narashino gas warfare school is believed to have had a live-fire field range in Manchuria, like that for germ weapons of Unit 731 under General Ishii. The CW range might have been connected with Unit 516 at Hailar, along the rail lines to the Mongolian border.

The mustard gas factory at Okunoshima, near Hiroshima, is now a public park. Somewhat unusually, there is a small exhibit that at least gives some description of what the island once was.

Peter H wrote:300,000 Frangible Hydrocyanic acid grenades were manufactured during the war.The photo of the one above was unearthed on Okinawa in 1995.

It would be interesting to know the general archaeology of how this grenade was found.
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Postby Peter H on 12 Jun 2005 06:05

1998,not 1995.

The Okinawa Times,October 3,1998:

An unexploded poisonous gas weapon of the Imperial Japanese Army was found in the remains of an underground Japanese Army hospital used during the land battle on Okinawa in WWII. Although there were no reports of victims of poisonous ordnance during the battle, the finding was testimony that the Japanese Army planned to use poison in defense of Okinawa against the U.S. invasion. The secret grim operation of poison gas use during WWII was excavated after a fifty-three year silence.

Isamu Kuniyoshi, 59, is a man who volunteers on his own to excavate the ruins of War shelters in order to show people the cruelty of war by exhibiting various uncovered articles. In middle of July, as he was looking for War remains in the ruins of Arakaki Army Hospital in Itoman City, he found a glass ball ten centimeters in diameter. The underground hospital was like a deep foxhole, two meters high and extending a hundred twenty meters in length. Kuniyoshi encountered the poisonous weapon, without any gas, about seventy meters from the entrance while digging in the dirt with a scoop.

The explosive was a grenade supposedly containing hydrogen cyanide, known as "chabin," a teapot in Japanese named after its shape. The article was sent to Kanagawa University for chemical analysis and copper powder, a stabilizing material for cyanide, was found in the glass container. According to Professor Tadaomi Nishikubo, about eighty percent of the ingredients was copper powder which was intentionally put in the glass ball for some reason. Professor Keiichi Tsuneishi, who has studied poisonous gas weapons of the Imperial Japanese Army, commented "From the shape and the copper powder, we can say it is a chabin. It proves that poisonous gas weapons were assigned to Okinawa during the War." The professor explained that it was the first discovery of chabin at a battle site in War history.

The Japanese Army secretariat worked on the research and development of poison gas weapons. A hydrogen cyanide grenade, the chabin, was used in anti-tank operations. A soldier would throw the grenade into the air vent of a tank. Because the soldier had to get as close as possible, the operation was considered a suicide attack. The British Army had recorded that chabin were used in the Burma Campaign and also in China. There had been no reports of poisonous gas being used in the Okinawa Campaign.

The Japanese Army had produced three hundred thirty thousand chabin in Hiroshima and Tokyo by the end of WWII. According to testimonies of those who worked in a chemical factory, chabin were secretly sent to China, Taiwan, the Philippines and Singapore. There was no record of poison gas on Okinawa.

Information on poison gas weaponry was hidden or abandoned in order to escape international accusation at the end of the War, but tracing the relationship between the Okinawa Campaign and poison gas has just been initiated by the event of Kuniyoshi's excavation.
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Postby PPoS on 13 Jun 2005 14:55

Did the Japanese ever use gas against any other forces than the Chinese? Like the British or the American?
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