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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Gas attacks, Belleau Wood, effects, treatment and recovery, June 1918

Gas victims, walking out of battlefield,
Public Domain,

National Archives photo, courtesy of the Indiana War Memorial
     Belleau Wood is one of the most famous of the American Marine Corps' battles (June 1-28 1918).
    Remembered for the victory that was theirs, the Marines also mark this battle for the German use of mustard gas on them.
     With more than 2,000 Marines inhaling the poisonous mustard gas that blinded as it burned the skin and lungs, the Marines who survived the attack came out of the woods only by standing one man in back of the other, one hand to the man in front of them, and walking out of the danger zone.

     Various types of chemical gas compounds were used by both sides during the war. Some were more damaging than others. The worst, the mustard gas of the latter years, blistered the skin and the eyes. Worse, the gas inflamed the lungs making breathing impossible. But the gas also permeated clothing.
     The American Marine Corps fighting at Belleau Wood in June 1918 suffered heavy casualties from gas warfare. Here in the next picture, we see a nurse at a clearing station administering drops to the eyes of a Marine affected with gas. The sooner the wounded received these drops, the more likely he was to regain his sight.
American nurse administering eye drops to a Marine.
U.S. public domain, recruiting poster

This engagement at Belleau Wood was one of the most difficult for the U.S. Marine Corps during the war. Still named as one of the Corps' greatest victories, the men fought so fiercely that the Germans called them, Teufel Hunden, or Devil Dogs. Inspiring a recruiting poster in the United States, the Marines commemorated the bravery of their corpsmen by maintaining a museum at Belleau Wood which they have appropriately named, The Devil Dog Museum.

Here we see one Canadian solider affected by mustard gas. Chances of total recovery depended on concentration of gas the soldier was exposed to and the speed with which he was treated.
Canadian government photo, in public domain.

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