Handheld Gas Weapons

Discussions on all aspects of the Japanese Empire, from the capture of Taiwan until the end of the Second World War.
zstar
Member
Posts: 157
Joined: 15 Oct 2004 06:32
Location: as

Post by zstar » 13 Jun 2005 15:51

Image
Shown are Japanese troops attacking Haikou with gas.

Image
Japanese soldiers prepared for gas war in May 1938 near Yanzhou along the Tianjin Pukou Railway.

Image
In March 1939, the Japanese 11th Army used many "red" toxics to help the 101st and 106th divisions in the Nanchang battle

Image
Japanese gas troops of the 101st Division.

Image
Chinese children killed by Japanese soldiers with poisonous gas in 1942 at Beitan Village, Dingxian County, Hebei Province.

User avatar
PPoS
Member
Posts: 848
Joined: 22 Sep 2004 12:35
Location: Sweden

Post by PPoS » 15 Jun 2005 07:35

Yeah, but apart from Manchuria and China, did the Japanese use gas against the US or the UK?

zstar
Member
Posts: 157
Joined: 15 Oct 2004 06:32
Location: as

Post by zstar » 15 Jun 2005 11:03

Maybe on POW's such as Russians, British and Americans.

User avatar
PPoS
Member
Posts: 848
Joined: 22 Sep 2004 12:35
Location: Sweden

Post by PPoS » 25 Jun 2005 13:21

Hmmm.. But not in combat? Why wouldn't they use it against the british and the americans, where they afraid that they would do the same to the japanese?

User avatar
Sewer King
Member
Posts: 1711
Joined: 18 Feb 2004 04:35
Location: northern Virginia

Post by Sewer King » 30 Jun 2005 00:49

This was exactly the reason.

By mid-war the Japanese forces in the field had developed a respect for American technical capabilities in many areas such as long-range aviation, electronic warfare, combat engineering, supply, etc. Japan ordered a theater-wide withdrawal of its own poison gas weapons in about mid-1944. The home islands were brought into American bomber range after that time, and this may have been a leading reason after Roosevelt's promise of strong retaliation for Japanese first use of gas.

Edward Spiers' book Chemical Warfare (University of Illinois, 1986) mentions a Japanese general who reported a fear of his country's rice crop being targeted for chemical attack. The US Army Chemical Warfare Service was in fact working on such weapons toward the war's end. These were at first meant to destroy the crops of Japanese island garrisons and starve them out, but by mid-1945 they were being considered for the invasion of Japan itself. John Ray Skates' excellent book The Invasion of Japan (University of North Carolina, 1994) has some interesting detail about these plans for the pure agent Vegetable Killer Acid (VKA), and its other forms as salts (VKS) and liquid spray (VKL).

The order to withdraw gas munitions may have been in fear that some local commander might use them on his own. If so, this suggest to me that Japan TRULY feared retaliations with it.

There is also the leading military reason against using gas between regular forces -- it prevents them fighting the kind of war they wish to fight.

Even for a winning side, it means slow movement, extra discipline in an unpopular thing, heat exhaustion in suits and masks, limited vision, more injuries on top of battle wounds, extra labor for decontamination and logistics, and so on.

For the losing Japanese side, poison gas would have helped defeat their defensive fortifications. Therefore they would not be likely to begin using gas, and excuse the heavy Allied retaliation that would be expected to follow. Remember that Iwo Jima was to be gassed by naval bombardment until Roosevelt personally denied this part of the invasion plan.

There was also the moral reluctance on both sides, although of different kinds. For Japanese generals, gas was not a weapon of samurai glory. Especially one in which she may well have felt outclassed, as with tanks or electronic warfare.

Finally, large-scale chemical warfare would have been waged with bombers. The wane of Japanese air superiority, lthe oss of her carrier fleet, and the general lack of suitable bombers were against it.

The poison gas munitions still being dug up in China today imply Japan's readiness to use them in that theater back then. I have not read much about -- and would like to know -- how well she was prepared to use them in the central and SW Pacific. My expectation is that there would have been some gas stockpiles in New Guinea, Rabaul, the Marianas, or the Philippines, with both the Imperial Army and Navy.

Does anyone else know some of the answer to this?

Mil-tech Bard
Member
Posts: 656
Joined: 06 Jan 2010 15:50

Re: Handheld Gas Weapons

Post by Mil-tech Bard » 01 Jul 2010 21:09

Yes, the US Sixth Army was gassed by the Japanese naval ground forces during fighting in Manila during 1945

See page 93 at the following link:

http://cgsc.cdmhost.com/cdm4/document.p ... 185&REC=12

Mil-tech Bard
Member
Posts: 656
Joined: 06 Jan 2010 15:50

Intelligence Report of Japanese Chemical Warfare

Post by Mil-tech Bard » 01 Jul 2010 21:30

The US Army Chemical Warfare Service did a complete inventory of japanese Home Island chemical warfare stocks in 1946.

You can get those documents on-line in PDF form here:

"Intelligence Report of Japanese Chemical Warfare"

http://cgsc.cdmhost.com/cdm4/results.ph ... SOROOT=all

Sewer King wrote: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/Home ... trv699.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.

Return to “Japan at War 1895-1945”