NBC Weapons: August 23, 2002

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The United States has more serious problems dealing with chemical and biological weapons and anyone in the U.S. government will admit, or perhaps is even aware of. Based on experience with chemical warfare during World War I, the U.S. Army established the Chemical Corps in 1920. This organization was to keep tabs on worldwide development of chemical (and later biological and nuclear) weapons and develop effective defenses for U.S. troops. The Chemical Corps would also develop chemical and biological weapons, to be used if someone else used them first. The Chemical Corps did all this until 1968, when an open air test of nerve gas in Utah went wrong and several thousand sheep were killed. Chemical weapons always had a large psychological effect, and this accident, added to the unrest over the Vietnam war, led to the dismantling of the Chemical Corps. . It's major bases were cut back (as at Fort Detrick) or shut down (as at fort McClellan). Other parts of the army took over Chemical Corps jobs (the Corps of Engineers took over decontamination, the Ordnance Corps took over protection from and detection of chemical, biological weapons, and the Corps of Artillery took over development of Chemical weapons. Between 1971 and 1977, no new officers entered the Chemical Corps. But in the mid-1970s, the U.S. became aware of the huge, and pretty secret, Soviet chemical and biological weapons program. So the Chemical Corps got a reprieve and most of it's duties were restored. Ignorance and blind fear, in this case, almost got a lot of U.S. troops killed. There is, to this day, reluctance to put much effort into research on chemical or biological weapons or defenses (the two tend to go together).


 


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