The Associated Press reports: As a spring breeze wafted into his trench, commander Georges Lamour of the French 73rd infantry saw something almost surreal drift his way. A yellow-green cloud.
He barely had time to react. “All my trenches are choked,” Lamour cried into the field telephone to headquarters. “I am falling myself!”
These were the last words heard from Lamour. World War I, and warfare itself, were never the same.
Chlorine gas — sent crawling in favorable winds over Flanders Fields from German positions — sowed terror and agony for the first time on April 22, 1915. The era of chemical weaponry had dawned. The weapon of mass slaughter came to symbolize the ruthlessness and, many say, futility of the 1914-1918 Great War.
“It is a new element in warfare. It is indiscriminate,” said Piet Chielens, curator at the In Flanders’ Fields Museum in nearby Ypres. And what’s more, he said, “you create psychological terror.”
Foaming at the mouth, crazed and blinded, the French soldiers fled in all directions — sucking for oxygen, finding poison instead. The chlorine seeped into body fluids and ate away at eyes, throat and lungs. Some 1,200 French soldiers were killed in the chaos of that first 5-minute gas attack and the fighting that followed. Lamour, like scores of comrades, was never found.
“You drown in your own lungs,” Chielens said. [Continue reading…]