THE CHEMICAL WARFARE SERVICE: CHEMICALS IN COMBAT. By Brooks E. Kleber and Dale Birdsell. (1966, 1984, 1990; 697 pages, 8 charts, 7 maps, 46 illustrations, bibliographical note, glossaries, index, CMH Pub 10-3.)

Chemicals in Combat, the last of three volumes devoted to the Chemical Warfare Service (CWS) in World War II, covers the overseas story of that technical service. The first six chapters concern planning, organization, and logistics in the major theaters of operations. Most of the remaining chapters describe the development and combat employment of smoke munitions and generators, the 4.2-inch mortar, the portable and mechanized flamethrowers, and incendiary munitions.

An underlying theme pervades this overseas story. The Chemical Warfare Service was organized in World War I as the vehicle for employing gas munitions and for defending against the use of gas by the enemy. It was thought that these would be the principal roles in World War II. But because gas was not used in the Second World War, the CWS men and units had to justify their presence by undertaking non-gas warfare missions. If there were two key words to describe the overseas CWS experience, they would be "preparedness" for the possible introduction of gas warfare and "improvisation" for the effective use of units in the absence of gas warfare. On top of all this the chemical service was operating in an Army that was not enamored with the traditional chemical mission, let alone the possibility of improvisation.

Had the Allied nations known with certainty what the intentions of the Axis powers were with regard to the use of gas warfare, the U.S. investment in time and materiel might not have been undertaken. On the other hand, had the Allies been any less prepared, one only can guess at what effect that a persistent agent might have had on the D-day landing or at Anzio. If the Japanese had not believed their home land vulnerable to gas they might have used mustard agents against the amphibious forces that slowly penetrated their vast defensive perimeter. The author argues that the U.S. preparedness from gas warfare was worth the effort. Like a "fleet in being," it countered a threat that could have been decisive to the Allied cause if gone unchallenged.

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