ILLNESS AS METAPHOR (1978) by Caitlin Murray

CITIZENS - everyone who is born holds dual citizenship in the kingdom of the well and the kingdom of the sick / wants to investigate the STEREOTYPES OF NATIONAL CHARACTER / the elucidation and liberation from the metaphors of illness - illness is not a metaphor


cancer as a ruthless, secret invasion / rectify the conception of the disease, to de-mythicize it / "A leading French oncologist has told me that fewer than a tenth of his patients know they have cancer" / The metaphors attached to TB and to cancer imply living processes of a particularly resonant and horrid kind


OED definitions of cancer : "Anything that frets, corrodes, corrupts, or consumes slowly and secretly" / cancer (latin) meaning crab, was inspired - according to Galen - by the resemblance of an external tumor's swollen vein to a crab's leg / lethal growth / (scans - becoming transparent to oneself?) / what the patient cannot perceive, the specialist will determine / cancer as demonic pregnancy / not a disease of time, but of topography *spreading *proliferating *diffused

. . .

Cancer, as a disease that can strike anywhere, is a diseases of the body. Far from revealing anything spiritual, it reveals that the body is, all to woefully, just the body.

. . .

Thoreau, who had TB, wrote in 1852: "Death and disease are often beautiful, like...the hectic glow of consumption." Nobody conceives of cancer the way TB was thought of - as a decorative, often lyrical death. cancer is a rare and still scandalous subject for poetry; and it seems unimaginable to aestheticize the disease.


Freud's cancer / The Death of Ivan Ilyich / suppression / repression / passion / sublimation / the banality of health


illness as a manner of appearance - a reflection of attitudes toward the self : "Marie Bashkirtsev wrote in the
once widely read Journal, which was published, after her death at twenty-four, in 1887. 'But for a wonder, far from making me look ugly, this gives me an air of languor that is very becoming."'What was once the fashion for aristocratic femmes fatdes and aspiring young artists became, eventually, the province of fashion as such. Twentieth-century women's fashions (with their cult of thinness) are the last stronghold of the metaphors associated with the romanticizing of TB in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries."


Powerlessness and what is "Interesting" / the melancholic artist / a model for the bohemian life / a new reason for exile - a life that was mainly traveling (Italy > islands in the Mediterranean or South Pacific > the mountains, the desert):

"By a curious irony," Stevenson wrote, "the places to which we are sent when health deserts us are often singularly beautiful . . .[and] I daresay the sick man is not very inconsolable when he receives sentence of banishment, and is inclined to regard his ill-health as not the least fortunate accident of his life."

The Romantics invented invalidism as a pretext for leisure, and for dismissing bourgeois obligations in order to live only for one's art - a way of retiring from the world without having to take responsibility for the decision : (THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC PROBLEM OF TB)


. . .

the pressure to express romantic attitudes about the self is not found in cancer, but in insanity: confinement, the sanatorium, like TB insanity is a kind of exile ("a trip"), the sufferer as hectic, reckless, passionate, sensitive

some of the metaphors of TB are transferred to cancer: "the agonies that can't be romanticized"

"The romanticizing of madness reflects in the most vehement way the contemporary prestige of irrational or rude (spontaneous) behavior (acting-out), of that very passionateness whose repression was once imagines to cause TB, and is now thought to cause cancer."


However steep its incidence in a population, TB - like cancer today - always seemed to be a mysterious disease of individuals, a deadly arrow that could strike anyone, that singled out its victims one by one / you burn the effects and clothes of a TB victim: of Keats's apartment on the Piazza di Spagna - "They have burned all the furniture - and are now scraping the walls - making new windows - new doors - and even a new floor"


an inheritance: the families of Keats, the Brontes, Emerson, Thoreau, Trollope / although a hereditary factor in cancer can be acknowledged - it does not disturb the belief that cancer is a disease that strikes each person, punitively, as an individual / "Why me?"

. . .

The speculations of the ancient world - disease as divine wrath / the stinking wound in Philoctete's foot / modern fantasies - self-judgement (I'm so proud of you) / Fatal illness has always been viewed as a test of moral character, but in the nineteenth century there is a great reluctance to let anybody flunk the test - and the virtuous only become more so as they slide toward death / For those characters treated less sentimentally, the disease is viewed as the occasion finally to behave well / the death of Ivan Ilyich / Kurosawa's Ikiru (1952)


With the advent of Christianity, which imposed more moralized notions of disease, as of everything else, a closer fit between disease and "victim" gradually evolved - The idea of disease as punishment yielded the idea that a disease could be particularly appropriate and just punishment / In the nineteen century, the notion that the disease fits the patient's character, as the punishment fits the sinner, was replaced by the notion that it expresses character - It is a product of will (Schopenhauer : "the presence of disease signifies that the will itself is sick") / Disease as a form of self-expression (Groddeck : disease as a "symbol, a representation of something going on within, a drama staged by the It..." / Kant : extreme passions as cancers - pre-romantic notion / Diseases and patients as subjects for decipherment

The passive, affectless anti-hero who dominates contemporary American fiction is a creature of regular routines or unfeeling debauch; not self-destructive but prudent; not moody, dashing, cruel, just dissociated. The ideal candidate, according to contemporary mythology, for cancer.

. . .

punitive : character causes the disease / "Such preposterous and dangerous views manage to put the onus of the disease on the patient and not only weaken the patient's ability to understand the range of plausible medical treatment but also, implicitly, direct the patient away from such treatment. Cure is thought to depend principally on the patient's already sorely tested or enfeebled capacity for self-love."

Both the myth about TB and the current myth about cancer propose that one is responsible for one's disease / But the cancer imagery is far more punishing

Miss Gee knelt down in the side-aisle,
She knelt down on her knees;
'Lead me not into temptation
But make me a good girl, please.

The days and nights went by her
Like waves round a Cornish wreck;
She bicycled down to the doctor
With her clothes buttoned up to her neck.

She bicycled down to the doctor,
And rang the surgery bell;
'O, doctor, I've a pain inside me,
And I don't feel very well.

Doctor Thomas looked her over,
And then he looked some more;
Walked over to his wash-basin,
Said, 'Why didn't you come before?'

Doctor Thomas sat over his dinner,
Though his wife was waiting to ring,
Rolling his bread into pellets;
Said, 'Cancer's a funny thing.

'Nobody knows what the cause is,
Though some pretend they do;
It's like some hidden assassin
Waiting to strike at you.

'Childless women get it,
And men when they retire;
It's as if there had to be some outlet
For their foiled creative fire.


the cancer personality is regarded more simply, and with condescension, as one of life's losers (Napoleon, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert A. Taft, and Hubert Humphrey have all had their cancer diagnosed as the reaction to political defeat and the curtailing of their ambitions.) And the cancer deaths of those harder to describe as losers, like Freud and Wittgenstein, have been diagnosed as the gruesome penalty exacted for a lifetime of instinctual renunciation. (Few remember that Rimbaud died of cancer.

chapter 7

the emotional causes of cancer / the human condition / "I'm mentally ill, the disease of the lungs is nothing but an overflowing of my mental disease," Kafka wrote to Milena in 1920 /  "the happy man would not get plague."

Theories that diseases are caused by mental states and can be cured by will power are always an index of how much is not understood about the physical terrain of a disease, i.e. the peculiarly modern predilection for psychological explanations of disease, as of everything else.

psychologizing seems to provide control

Indeed, part of the denial of death in this culture is a vast expansion of the category of illness as such / Two hypothesis:

The first is that every form of social deviation can be considered an illness, ex. criminals understood as being treatable or curable

The second is that every illness can be considered psychologically - illness as a psychological event - you can cure yourself by a mobilization of will; that they can choose not to die of the disease (MILITARY LANGUAGE)

(the first hypothesis relieves guilt, the second reinstates it) PLACE THAT BLAME ON THE ILL 

(if you can cause your disease than you can deserve your disease!)


Punitive notions of cancer : fight, crusade, the killer, victims - you are ultimately responsible for falling ill and getting well (like leprosy, sontag argues) / THE DISEASE BECOMES ADJECTIVAL / the multi-determined nature of cancer - it is still mysterious - an array of cures for each of the different cancers - this is a reflection of a lack of understanding, not necessarily scientific fact (multi-determined as another word for mysterious)

cancer as "the barbarian within" - a pathology of energy, a disease of will - cancer as a disease of unexpressed energy:

In an era in which there seemed to be no inhibitions on being productive, people were anxious about not having enough energy. In our own era of destructive overproduction by the economy and of increasing bureaucratic restraints on the individual, there is both a fear of having too much energy and an anxiety about energy not being allowed to be expressed.

RECKLESS EXPENDITURE : HOMO ECONOMICUS  : (early capitalism vs. advanced capitalism) : 

Advanced capitalism requires expansion, speculation, the creation of new needs (the problem of satisfaction and dissatisfaction); buying on credit; mobility—an economy that depends on the irrational indulgence of desire. Cancer is described in images that sum up the negative behavior of twentieth-century homo economicus: abnormal growth; repression of energy, that is, refusal to consume or spend.

COUNTERATTACK - "the treatment is worse than the disease" / COLONIZATION / the military flavor of treatment 


Drugs of the nitrogen mustard type (so-called alkylating agents) —like cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan)—were the first generation of cancer drugs. Their use—with leukemia (which is characterized by an excessive production of immature white cells), then with other forms of cancer—was suggested by an inadvertent experiment with chemical warfare toward the end of World War II, when an American ship, loaded with nitrogen mustard gas, was blown up in the Naples harbor, and many of the sailors died of their lethally low white-cell and platelet counts (that is, of bone-marrow poisoning) rather than of burns or sea-water inhalation. Chemotherapy and weaponry seem to go together, if only as a fancy. The first modern chemotherapy success was with syphilis: in 1910, Paul Ehrlich introduced an arsenic derivative, arsphenamine (Salvarsan), which was called "the magic bullet."

ATAVISM OF CANCER - REPLACING THE REAL YOU (Immunologists class the body's cancer cells as "nonself.") MUTATION - the science fiction of cancer / look into the National Cancer Act of 1971 - the John Birch Societies forty-five minute film - World Without Cancer


But cancer is not just a disease ushered in by the Industrial Revolution (there was cancer in Arcadia) and certainly more than the sin of capitalism (within their more limited industrial capacities, the Russians pollute worse than we do). The widespread current view of cancer as a disease of industrial civilization is as unsound scientifically as the right-wing fantasy of a "world without cancer" (like a world without subversives). Both rest on the mistaken feeling that cancer is a distinctively ''modern'' disease.





CHEMICAL WARFARE by Caitlin Murray


Chemical Warfare  (as weapon for War - ties to West Texas) - Chemical Warfare (as medical development from mustard gas - personal) - Chemical Warfare (as environmental issue - ties to West Texas)

Fort D.A. Russell. Originally named Camp Marfa, this installation began as a supply post for U. S. Army border patrol stations in 1911. It was a cavalry camp during the years of the Mexican Revolution. Renamed for Civil War general David Allen Russell, it became a permanent Army post in 1929. Deactivated at the end of 1933, it was reopened in 1935 with artillery units. During World War II Fort Russell became an army training camp, and was home to a chemical warfare battalion as well as German prisoners of war. The fort was officially closed in October 1946. (1989) #1978

[blue and gold on unit insignia indicate chemical warfare battalions]

LONN TAYLOR: FORT D.A. RUSSELL, MARFA [This text was first presented by historian Lonn Taylor as a lecture at the Chinati Foundation on May 1, 2011.]


The full impact of the war hit Fort D.A. Russell and Marfa in early 1942, when the 77th Field Artillery departed for an unknown location and five officers and 76 men from the 81st Chemical Warfare Battalion arrived from Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland. A chemical warfare battalion was not as sinister as it sounds. It was essentially a mortar unit that fought with the infantry, but its mortars could fire not only conventional explosive shells but also phosphorous shells that would start fires and smoke shells that would lay down smokescreens, and so according to army logic it was part of the chemical corps rather the infantry.

The officers and men from Edgewood Arsenal who arrived at Fort D.A. Russell in April 1942 were charged with forming a new battalion. They were followed by 800 draftees, and it was their job to mold those men into a fighting battalion during the year that they were at Fort D.A. Russell. The 81st Chemical Warfare Battalion trained on the newly acquired artillery range and on adjoining ranches, including the slopes of Cathedral Mountain, which appeared along with the Lone Star of Texas on the shoulder patches they wore as their distinctive unit insignia. Marfa adopted the battalion in the same way that they had adopted the cavalrymen 20 years earlier. The 81st Chemical Warfare Battalion became Marfa’s own. Families adopted groups of enlisted men and served them Sunday dinners. On September 12, 1942, the men of Company D reciprocated with a reception and buffet dinner right here in Mess Hall #35, and PFC Maurice Aronson decorated these walls with cartoons depicting army life for that occasion. The cartoons, as you can see, are still here.

In April 1943 the 81st Chemical Warfare Battalion was shipped out to Camp Pickett, Virginia, and from there they were sent to England to prepare for D-Day. They were replaced by the 85th Chemical Warfare Battalion, which was under the command of  a colonel with the remarkable name of Napoleon Rainbolt.

In England, the 81st was attached to the V Corps of the First Army. They landed at Normandy, fought their way through the hedgerows, participated in the liberation of Paris and the Battle of Metz; and were in Austria when the war ended. The unit was awarded more than 500 decorations, including 353 Purple Hearts. The soldiers of the 81st corresponded with Marfa friends all through the war, and they were still wearing Cathedral Mountain on their shoulder patches when they were mustered out at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, in September 1945.

81st CHEMICAL MORTAR BATTALION The 81st Chemical Battalion (Motorized) was constituted 12 March 1942 as an inactive unit and made active at Fort D. A. Russell, Texas, 25 April 1942 under the command of Lt Col Thoms James. Departed the New York Port of Embarkation 21 October 1943 and arrived in England 2 November 1943.Committed to combat in the European Theater of Operations and landed on Omaha Beach, France on 6 June 1944. Assigned to the First Army. Served in Belgium (date unknown) Redesignated 22 February 1945 as the 81st Chemical Mortar Battalion. The date the unit entered Germany is unknown. The unit was at Branau, Germany at the end of World War II (15 August 1945 location). Served in the Army of Occupation of Germany from 2 May-14 August 1945. Returned to the United States via the New York Port of Embarkation 2 September 1945. Inactivated 7 November 1945 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. CAMPAIGN PARTICIPATION CREDIT Normandy (with arrowhead) Northern France Rhineland Ardennes-Alsace Central Europe DECORATIONS Distinguished Unit Citation (Unit cited for period 6-18 June 1944 per WD GO 73-1944) COAT OF ARMS SHIELD: Per bend or and azure, in chief a volcano peak sable erupting smoke throughout proper, in base a mullet argent. CREST: None. MOTTO: Equal to the Task. SYMBOLISM In the blue and yellow of the Chemical Warfare Services the volcano symbolizes the nearest approach in nature to modern chemical warfare agents, viz; smoke, incendiaries, harassing fumes and casualty producing gases; the lone star is symbolic of the state of Texas, in which the 81st Chemical Battalion was activated and served at its first permanent station. Photos and narratives of service are requested for this unit [from]

81st chemical warfare battalion (excerpt)

This booklet is dedicated to the forty-one officers and men of the Eighty-First Chemical Mortar Battalion who made the supreme sacrifice.

To give a thorough account of the accomplishments of the Eighty-First Chemical Mortar Battalion would take thousands of pages. To detail the heroic deeds and meritorious service of the gallant officers and men of the Eighty-First would take more thousands of pages. A booklet the size of this could be written about each enlisted man and each officer. It is believed the history is concise, yet shows the battalion to have lived up to its motto, "Equal To The Task."

Jack W. Lipphardt
Lt Col, CWS

The 81st was formed when the country was faced with the necessity of creating a highly trained, efficient army in a minimum of time.

The 81st Chemical Battalion (Motorized) was activated by GO #22, 25 April 1942, Hq Fort D.A. Russell, Texas, pursuant to GO #39, 14 April 1942, Hq Third Army, San Antonio, Texas, and War Department letter, 25 March 1942. Thus was born the 81st, without fanfare, but with quiet purpose. It was up to the battalion to write its own history and these pages will show how well the job was done.

Fort D.A. Russell, the birthplace of the 81st and where it experienced its growing pains, is situated just outside of Marfa, Texas, in the heart of the Big Bend Country. The fort was an old one, having been a cavalry post of the Border Patrol. Marfa itself was a little cattle town with a big sense of hospitality and a bit of Old Mexico. The Paisano Hotel, the Marfa Joy, the Crewes and Jimmy's Place will strike a familiar, pleasant note to all who experience their hospitality. Mexico wasn't many miles away and Ojinaga and Juarez drew many visitors from the 81st in search of Mexican atmosphere. The first impression of Fort D.A. Russell and the surrounding territory was that of vast waste and plenty of space, without a tree or a really green blade of grass for miles around, but soon the charms of the plains, the rugged beauty, mellow sunlight, and glorious nights won over. Surrounding the fort was a range of small mountains, the Smith Hills, and off in the distance could be seen the landmark of the country, Cathedral Mountain.

From activation until November of that year, the 81st Chemical Battalion was a battalion without mortars. Although it was discouraging not to have the basic weapons to work with, the time was well spent in physical conditioning, the school of the soldier, identification of chemical agents, field marches, field hygiene, small arms training, etc. Few will forget the obstacle course; but then also memorable were the swimming parties at Balmorhea and the company beer parties. Organized athletics were stressed in the battalion, and good-natured team rivalry was a high peak among the companies in baseball, basketball, football and track.

On April 2, 1943, the first contingent of the battalion left Fort D.A. Russell for Leesville, Louisiana, and on the following day the rest of the battalion followed. The grand send-off the people of Marfa gave will long be remembered by those present. They were truly sorry to see us go. The 81st had made a wonderful impression on them and had gained many friends. A military band from the airfield nearby serenaded the train as it left the station. The first phase of our military career was over, and ahead of us lay the task of preparing ourselves for combat by vigorous operations in the field.

Memorial: The Battalion placed a memorial monument to its men at Fort McClellan, Alabama on September 23, 1988. The Army closed that post on September 15, 1999, and all six (2nd, 3rd, 81st, 83rd, 86th, 91st) chemical mortar battalion monuments were moved to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, along with other Chemical Corps monuments including that of the 1st Gas Regiment. The monuments are now placed in a Memorial Park at Leonard Wood near the Chemical Corps Museum there. See photos of all memorial monuments at FLW.

FORT MCCLELLAN, ALABAMA - starting place of Donald Judd before arriving in Korea in 1946

Sandra Stewart Holyoak:  This begins an interview on February 9, 2004, in Hilton Head, South Carolina, with Charles Ralph Landback, Jr.  Mr. Landback, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today.  To begin, could you tell me where and when you were born?

Charles R. Landback, Jr.:  I was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, on July 5, 1918.


SH:  What were you doing there with the 81st?

CL:  Sometime between the wars, World War I and World War II, some person, some officer, in the Chemical Warfare Service, invented a mortar that was better than other mortars.  … Armies had been using mortars for thousands of years, I think.  This mortar was rifled and … you dropped the shell into the mouth of the mortar.  It would shoot out and go in a spiral, which meant it was more accurate.  … The base of the shell was like a clamshell thing.  When the propellant charge went off, the thing would flatten out and it would engage the rifling on the inside of the barrel of the mortar.  I don't know whether there were any fights, you know, in Washington or something, but it appeared to me as if the Chemical Warfare Service said, "We invented this mortar, we'll use it.  If you want … the mortar, we'll send you a battalion of them."  So, there were these chemical warfare mortar battalions.  We were equipped, I'm sure, in some warehouse someplace, there were poison gasses and mustard gas and so on, but we never experienced anything like that.  We had high explosive fillings for shells and white phosphorous, which made smoke.  So, we could lay down a smoke screen or we could drop high explosives in on the enemy.  … Every bit of our assignment, we were attached to an infantry group, … maybe because of these jealousies between the services; … I mean, this was a chemical warfare mortar, you know.  … "If you want the mortar, we'll get some guys, we'll train them up and we'll attach them to your unit," and so on, but, all the service that we had was in support of infantry.  The same way as artillery is in support of [infantry].

United States Army in World War II: The Technical Services
The Chemical Warfare Service: From Laboratory to Field by Leo P. Brophy, Wyndham D. Miles and Rexmond C. Cochrane (Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington D.C., 2010)

Rather belatedly, the United States Army in preparing for World War II investigated on an intensive and very large scale the chemical munitions that might be necessary or useful in fighting the Axis powers. This effort required the collaboration of a host of civilian scientists and research centers as well as a great expansion of the laboratories and proving grounds of the Chemical Warfare Service itself.

necessary, useful, expansion, preparation, investigation
proving ground

The manufacture of chemical munitions in quantity was possible only through a rapid expansion of private industry to support and supplement the work of the Army arsenals...problems of military procurement [Foreword, Warren H. Hoover, Colonel, USA, Acting Chief of Military History, Washington, D.C., 9 June 1959]

CH. 1 research and supply in world war II

Although armies have used crude chemical devices since ancient times, chemical warfare, as an applied science, is comparatively modern. Chemical warfare came along as a companion of modern chemistry, which itself dates from the late 1700's, when natural philosophers brought about a revolution in this science. As a result of this pioneer work, chemists uncovered a multitude of facts and conceived laws to hold these facts together. By the middle of the 19th century it was a simple matter for men with a knowledge of chemistry to visualize the application of toxic chemicals to warfare, and to suggest specific methods for using them.

During the Crimean War the British chemist Lyon Playfair proposed that a naval shell containing cacodyle cyanide, a toxic organic arsenic compound, be fired into Russian ships. In the same war Admiral Thomas Cochrane urged that an attempt be made to drive the Russians out of Sevastopol by burning huge quantities of sulphur dioxide gas into enemy positions. In the American Civil War, John W. Doughty of New York sent plans for a chlorine filled shell to the War Department, and Forrest Shepherd of New Haven recommended to President Lincoln that a cloud of Hydrogen chloride be use to drive the Confederates out of Petersburg. During the century several other men proposed the use of toxic chemicals in munitions.

Despite arguments that the use of chemicals in warfare was practical and that chemicals would cause less suffering than conventional weapons, national governments refused to test the ideas. Finally in 1915 Fritz Haber convinced the German Army that chlorine could force the Allies out of the trenches and he was given the responsibility of emplacing cylinders of gas in the front lines near Ypres. The first gas cloud attack, launched on a favorable breeze in the afternoon of 22 April, was a success. Allied troops were driven from their positions and only the failure of the German Army to exploit this advantage saved the Allies from a more serious setback.

Once the practicality of chemical warfare had been demonstrated the belligerents organized special units to employ military chemicals, and to conduct chemical and medical research. In the United States the War Department gave responsibility for designing protective equipment to the Medical Department in late 1915, but the Army did not set up combat chemical units or begin scientific investigations until mid-1917. (2)

. . .

The first American chemical warfare research was not carried out by the Army, but by the bureau of Mines (2)...As chemical warfare research expanded the volume of work became so great that the bureau needed a large central laboratory for co-ordinating university and industrial research, and for undertaking secret Army and Navy projects...Shortly after the research center opened at American University, it was organized into eight sections: Chemical Research, Physiological Research, Pyrotechnic Research, Chemical Manufacture, Mechanical Research, Submarine Gas, Dirigible and Balloon Gas, and Gas Mask Examination (6)

On 28 June 1918 President Wilson approved the creation of a unified chemical warfare organization by directing the War Department to establish the Chemical Warfare Service in the National Army (13)


Chemical warfare research and development dipped to its lowest point at the end of 1919. At this time the service was still a temporary wartime organization, with no guarantee that Congress would pass legislation making it a permanent branch of the Army (28)...In December 1920 a program was approved under which scientists of the Chemical Warfare Service were to concentrate on perfecting unsatisfactory wartime implements and then, as salvage operations were completed, to turn to the investigation of new items (31)...By the end of the fiscal year 1921 the salvage operations were largely completed and a number of new projects had been started (31)

During the period from 1920 to 1940 the CWS initiated approximately 700 projects for the Army, the Navy, and for civilian organizations. The military subjects encompassed gas masks, protective clothing, protective ointments, incendiary materials, mortars, airplane spray tanks, chemical cylinders, chemical artillery shells, colored smoke, chemical grenades, toxicological studies, meteorology, analytical methods, pilot plants, full-scale plants, filling plants and medical studies (32).

All research and development carried on by the CWS, whether for civilian or military purposes, and along chemical or mechanical lines, differed from academic research in that it aimed at definite, practical goals rather than the discovery of new scientific principles. In this sense it was akin to industrial research and development, which also sought the development of goods for a definite purpose, the consumer market. But even so the course of development followed by the CWS was painstaking and rigorous because it was directed toward the production of equipment upon which lives and battles might depend. The War Department, on the other hand, ordered the process to be carried out as expeditiously as possible: "The desire for perfection in any item of equipment must not delay the designation as standard type of at least one adopted type of every required article of equipment so that in any case of an emergency the procurement program may be launched without delay." In the laboratories and shops this was translated into the motto: "Strive for practicability rather than perfection." (34-5)

In the 1920s and 1930s the CWS had to creep along, but the outbreak of war in Europe changed matters. The Congressional appropriation jumped from approximately two million dollars in 1940 to more than sixty million in 1941. To handle the new problems that arose, the CWS scientific organization had to expand enormously (36).

In Cambridge, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology erected a new building which the CWS leased as a development laboratory. The location was advantageous because it was in the center of an industrial and university area, and because the MIT faculty was at hand for consultation (37)...In New York City, Columbia University permitted the CWS to occupy laboratories in the Building of Mines early in 1942 (37).

Later in 1942 the development of a more compact laboratory unit, with new and improved materials, was turned over to the National Defense Research Committee, the CWS Development Laboratory at MIT and the Technical Devision at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland...In December 1943 the CWS began design of still another laboratory, this time a highly mobile unit for proposed laboratory teams accompanying task foreces in combat zones (38-9)

As with laboratory space, the CWS found itself in need of larger testing and proving grounds. Since 1921, when the CWS had given up Lakehurst Proving Ground, all testing and proofing had been done at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland. The fields there, shared by the Chemical Warfare board and the Chemical Warfare School, and Ordnance Department's Aberdeen Proving Ground, were overcrowded, close to thickly populated areas, and too small to permit large-scale assessment of toxic agents (38).

The first new proving ground was set up in 1942, in the desert waste-land of Utah, and included part of Dugway Valley. Dugway Proving Ground became the major installation for the field testing, proof firing, and surveillance of chemical agents and munitions under temperate zone conditions. Here researchers carried out airplane spray tests of unthickened and thickened mustard at various altitudes to develop the technique of air-spraying; to determine the effect of the height and speed of the plane, as well as meteorological conditions of the atmosphere, upon the spray; and to evaluate agents and apparatus. Planes dropped incendiaries on facsimile German and Japanese buildings to enable investigators to learn what happened when bombs of certain types struck enemy structures. They also dropped phosgene, cyanogene chloride, and hydrogen cynide bombs ranging in size from 100 to 4,000 pounds from different altitudes under different meteorological conditions to test bombs and to estimate the quantity of munitions required to lay down a lethal concentration of gas upon a given area. Researchers determined firing tables for the 4.2 inch chemical mortar and for chemical rockets. They studied the behavior of gas and smoke clouds under different meteorological conditions. Smoke munitions were fired to permit a comparison of the effectiveness of different munitions, and to ascertain the relative merits of white phosphorus and plasticized white phosphorous. In 1945 the installation was the scene of a most unusual test, the SPHINX project, by means of which the CWS demonstrated to General Staff officers the potentialities of gas munitions against Japanese cave fortifications of the type that proved invulnerable to high explosives at Iwo Jima (39-40).

CH. 3 toxic agents

The Chemical Warfare Service came into existence because the armed forces needed a branch to deal with the problems arising from the use of poison gas, and although the service acquired the responsibility for other areas of warfare, such as incendiaries and smokes, its major concern during World War II remained the research, production, and neutralization of toxic agents. The first chemical used in World War I was chlorine, a heavy green gas. As the war progressed liquid and solid compounds were also used to launch chemical attacks (49)...During World War II the CWS devoted most of the time spend on the research and development of toxics to the standard agents (51):

Phosgene: Phosgene, or carbonyl chloride (CWS symbol, CG) is a colorless liquid, slightly denser than water. It boils at 47 degrees F. and hence in warm weather is in the form of vapor, unless under slight pressure as in a cylinder or shell. The vapor dissipates into the air in a few minutes, and for this reason CG is known as a nonpersistent agent. The vapor smells like green corn or new mown hay, and is extremely toxic. When inhaled, phosgene damages the capillaries in the lungs, allowing watery fluid to seep into the air cells. If the quantity inhaled is less than the lethal dose the injury is slight, the fluid is reabsorbed, the cell walls heal, and the patient eventually recovers; but if a large amount is inhaled, the air cells become flooded and the patient dies from lack of oxygen. It is difficult to estimate the severity of poisoning since the full effect is  usually not apparent until three or four hours after exposure.

Hydrogene Cyanide: At the battle of Somme in July 1916 French artillery fired shells filled with hydrogen cyanide (CWS symbol, AC). The compound has been familiar to chemists for a century but this was the first time it was used in warfare. It is a colorless liquid which evaporates quickly at room temperature and boils at 78 degrees F. The liquid and vapor interfere with normal processes in body cells, particularly in the respiratory center of the nervous system, and if present in more than a certain small concentration quickly causes death. But if cyanide is present in less than the lethal concentration the cells can convert it into a harmless compound and the body is uninjured. In this respect AC is different from phosgene, mustard, and other toxic agents which are harmful even when present in less than the lethal dose.

Cyanogen chloride: Cyanogen chloride (CWS symbol, CK) is a colorless liquid slightly denser than water. It boils at a temperature of 55° F., giving off a vapor which is approximately twice as dense as air and which irritates the eyes and nasal passages. When air containing a high concentration of the vapor is inhaled the compound quickly paralyzes the nervous system and causes death. When a low concentration is inhaled the reaction is not so rapid, but the compound accumulates in the body until a lethal concentration is reached.

Mustard Gas: In World War I the protection experts on each side tried to devise a mean of neutralizing enemy agents as soon as new agents appeared. Chlorine, the first gas used, was soon parried by an adequate mask. As new gases appeared, the masks were improved. Soon the mask furnished full protection and men were gassed only when they were careless, panicky, or caught by surprise. But in July 1917 the German Army brought out a new type of agent, mustard gas, that not only attacked the respiratory system but also the skin, soaking through clothes and shoes and raising painful blisters. It was almost impossible to shield soldiers completely against mustard. It became the king of battle gases and caused four hundred thousand casualties before the armistice. Crude mustard gas (CWS symbol, H) was a mixture of approximately 70 percent -dichloroethyl sulfide and 30 percent of sulphur and other sulphur compounds. It was an oily, brown liquid that evaporated slowly, giving off a vapor five times heavier than air. It was almost odorless in ordinary field concentrations but smelled like garlic or mustard in high concentrations—hence the name. It irritated and poisoned body cells, but generally several hours passed before symptoms appeared.

Mustard, in terms of the quantity that the CWS stockpiled, was the most important American toxic agent. The plants at the Edgewood, Hunstville, Pine Bluff and Rocky Mountain arsenals produced 174,610,000 pounds...Since mustard evaporated slowly and thus remained effective from several hours to several days, depending on weather and terrain, its use was indicated on strategic targets or on enemy positions that would not be taken immediately by American troops. Thus, it could be used to "seal off" an enemy area into which American troops were advancing and to hamper enemy lines of communication, airfields, landing beaches, artillery emplacements and observation points. In withdrawals it could be used to contaminate the routes of enemy advance.

Lewisite: In I9I8 a group of organic chemists headed by Dr. Winford Lee Lewis prepared a highly vesicant substance (blister agent), dichloro (2-chlorovinyl) arsine, which they named lewisite. The CWS leased the old Ben Hur Automobile Co. building at Willoughby, Ohio, installed equipment, and began to produce the agent.  A shipment was on the seas headed for Europe when the war ended. The CWS kept the existence of lewisite and the site of its manufacture a strict secret during the war, but later revealed the information in scientific journals.  After the armistice the service closed down the Willoughby plant and did not prepare the compound again except in laboratory quantities until 1941.

Nitrogen Mustards: In 1935 there appeared an article by Kyle Ward, Jr., describing the preparation of a new compound, 2,2',2" trichlorotriethylamine, and calling attention to its marked vesicant action. The CWS prepared and studied a sample of the substance, but found that it was less vesicant than mustard. Early in World War II the CWS learned through intelligence that the Germans were working with the same compound and with related compounds—which by now had gained the name of the "Nitrogen Mustards" because of their analogy to mustard gas.

Chloroacetophenone: Both sides used tear gas early in World War I to harass opposing troops. Troops exposed to tear gas had to wear masks for long periods of time and were very uncomfortable in the old-fashioned, heavy, bulky devices. During the war the French, Germans, and British introduced a greater
variety of tear gases than any other class of agents. After the United States entered the conflict, American chemists investigated chloroacetophenone (CWS symbol, CN) and found that it had the advantage of being cheaper and less corrosive to the inside of shells than other tear gases. The CWS developed methods of producing the agent, but the war ended before large-scale manufacture got underway.

After the armistice the service selected chloroacetophenone as the standard American tear gas. It erected a manufacturing plant at Edgewood Arsenal in 1922, and developed a number of munitions for dispersing solid
CN or solutions of CN in the field. The solid could be scattered from shells and grenades by means of high explosives, and volatilized from pots and candles by means of heat. Solutions of CN in chloroform (CNC),
with chloropicrin in chloroform (CNS), and in carbon tetrachloride and benzene (CNB) could be thrown out by grenades, shells, and high pressure cylinders.

Adamsite: The German Army introduced vomiting gases or sternutators into chemical warfare in July 1917, as an ingenious method of penetrating the canisters of Allied gas masks. They first used a solution of diphenylchloroarsine (CWS symbol, DA), which evaporated and left minute particles of DA floating in the air. The canisters at that time were able to trap true gases, the particles of which were molecular in size, but they could not retain the larger particles of DA, which were colloidal in size. Therefore the DA passed through the canister into the mask and was inhaled by the soldier. It irritated his eyes, nostrils, throat, and chest, causing nausea and vomiting. The victim had to tear off his mask, exposing himself to lethal gases fired at the same time.

After the United States entered the war, American chemists investigated the possibility of manufacturing DA. The German process proved to be complicated. Still, the CWS might have gone into production if chemists had not found a related compound that could be manufactured more easily. This was diphenylaminechloroarsine, which was named adamsite after the chemist Roger Adams. The United States did not produce vomiting gas in time for use by American troops.

Although the United States did not employ toxic agents during World War II, the money and time that went into the research, development, field tests, and production was not wasted. The armed forces had supplies of agents and equipment with which they could have waged warfare energetically if necessary. In this sense the work of the CWS was America's insurance against chemical warfare.

Contemporary: chemical corpS

The Chemical Corps regimental insignia was approved on 2 May 1986. The insignia consists of a 1.2 inch shield of gold and blue emblazoned with a dragon and a tree. The shield is enclosed on three sides by a blue ribbon with Elementis Regamus Proelium written around it in gold lettering. The phrase translates to: "Let us (or may we) rule the battle by means of the elements". The regimental insignia incorporates specific symbolism in its design. The colors, gold and blue, are the colors of the Chemical Corps, while the tree's trunk is battle scarred, a reference to the historical beginnings of U.S. chemical warfare, battered tree trunks were often the only reference points that chemical mortar teams had across no man's land during World War I. The tree design was taken from the coat of arms of the First Gas Regiment. The mythical chlorine breathing green dragon symbolizes the first use of chemical weapons in warfare (chlorine). Individual Chemical Corps soldiers are often referred to as "Dragon Soldiers."


Between 1960 and 1971, the Department of Defense funded non-consensual whole body radiation experiments on poor, black cancer patients, who were not told what was being done to them. Patients were told that they were receiving a "treatment" that might cure their cancer, but the Pentagon was trying to determine the effects of high levels of radiation on the human body. One of the doctors involved in the experiments, Robert Stone, was worried about litigation by the patients. He referred to them only by their initials on the medical reports. He did this so that, in his words, "there will be no means by which the patients can ever connect themselves up with the report", in order to prevent "either adverse publicity or litigation".

see "The Treatment"