Thursday, December 19, 2013

Germany's Highly Successful WMD

The Weapon
Most people today believe nerve gas to be a weapon developed in modern times when in fact it was initially created by German scientists during the reign of Adolf Hitler. The first to discover the first class of G-Series agents was Dr. Gerhard Schrader in December of 1936 (three years after Hiter's ascension to German Chancellor) as an employee of IG Farben Company (makers of Bayer aspirin and the Zyklon B gas used in concentration camps during the Holocaust).
The Weapon

The first nerve gas, Tabun, followed and within a year the research was patented and then deemed classified by the Nazi government. Schrader then went on to develop the considerably more potent version of the gas which was named Sarin (codename T-144), the first formal gas weapon for intended use by the German Wehrmacht, in 1938. Soon after, Cyclosarin was developed and deemed too resource-intense to pursue. The most advanced and lethal form of WWII nerve gas was developed for the Wehrmacht by Nobel laureate Richard Kuhn in 1944. All three of these gas formulas are today classified as WMD's. 

To illustrate toxicity, nerve gas had to then be contained within double glass-lined chambers with a stream of pressurized air circulating between the walls during its final processing stage. Even under the best conditions, there were more than 300 accidents with fatalities occurring to workers wearing poly-layered rubber suits and masks. Consequently, masked were discarded and destroyed after only a brief usage period. Sarin, Tabun and Soman were eventually deployed as weapons in the form of artillery shells. Between 10,000 and 30,000 tons of Tabun were produced before capture by the Soviet Army at the end of the conflict. 

The Question

So, Why Didn't Nazi Germany Use the Weapon?

In Joseph Borkin's book "The Crime and Punishment of IG Farben" Hitler seemed to be discouraged from using the weapon when it was reported to him that knowledge of the nerve gas formulation was issued in scientific publications and easily accessible patent papers. Hitler and the German High Command simply concluded the Allies not only had knowledge but also possessed considerably greater resources to produce equal if not greater quantities. However, with today's understanding of Hitler's mindset during the final days in his Berlin bunker and the total disgust he then expressed for German's failure to push back the Eastern Front, it's hard to imagine he would have cared about retaliatory exchanges of nerve gas, especially since he was already resigned to personal suicide.

Still, Germany's most lethal stock pile of weapons was never used. And, at war's end, there remained enough nerve gas to wipe out all or most life forms across Europe at war's end. Only the Allies' Atomic Bomb (available for deployment only after Germany's defeat) could match the destructive power of Germany's nerve gas. 

So, why were these weapons never deployed at war's end? Was it because Hitler himself suffered significant injuries from mustard gas at the end of WWI? Perhaps Hitler issued the order to use the gas before his suicide but the order was never delivered or carried out? Was there a rogue German conspiracy in place to stop deployment? Did the Russians simply discover the cache of weapons before the Nazis could load and dispatch them? No definitive answers have come forward and perhaps never will. 

Ultimately, Nazi Germany's effort to create and deploy this highly destructive weapon into the field was completely successful. Luckily however, the extensive development, testing and subsequent German lives lost over that 9 year period only resulted in the weapon not being used by war's end.

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