Hellfire Boys

Hellfire Boys

The Birth of the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service and the Race for the World's Deadliest Weapons

Book - 2018
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In 1915, when German forces executed the first successful gas attack of World War I, the world watched in horror as the boundaries of warfare were forever changed. Cries of barbarianism rang throughout Europe, yet Allied nations immediately jumped into the fray, kickstarting an arms race that would redefine a war already steeped in unimaginable horror. Largely forgotten in the confines of history, the development of the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service in 1917 left an indelible imprint on World War I. This small yet powerful division, along with the burgeoning Bureau of Mines, assembled research and military unites devoted solely to chemical weaponry, outfitting regiments with hastily made gas-resistant uniforms and recruiting scientists and engineers from around the world into the fight. As the threat of new gases and more destructive chemicals grew stronger, the chemists' secret work in the laboratories transformed into an explosive fusion of steel, science, and gas on the battlefield. Drawing from years of research, Theo Emery brilliantly shows how World War I quickly spiraled into a chemists' war, one led by the companies of young American engineers-turned-soldiers who would soon become known as the "Hellfire Boys." As gas attacks began to mark the heaviest and most devastating battles, these brave and brilliant men were on the front lines, racing against the clock-and the Germans-to protect, develop, and unleash the latest weapons of mass destruction.
Publisher: New York, New York :, Back Bay Books/Little, Brown and Company,, 2018.
Edition: First Back Bay paperback edition.
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9780316264082
Characteristics: xxi, 535 pages, :,illustrations, portraits ;,22 cm.


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Jul 14, 2018

Book conceived by accident on 1993 after excavator uncovered 144 rusted cover WWI tubes in residential neighborhood that formerly owned by American University leased to US army.
US corp of engineers were embarrassed to confirm second burial site including under South Korean Embassy.
Author pieced together the US Chemical warfare service born when United States declared war against Germany from key character's relatives, old newspapers & freedom of information requests. The list of character & brief description of each make it less confusing.
A lot of staid to colorful characters (German citizen that made chemical bomb that sabotage ships, con artist businessman to patriots) that alternated from turf war home front (how to produce chemical weapons, improved gas mask, should chemical weapons dropped from planes) to front lines (get samples from German dud weapons) to get Chemical section within US army in hurry up & wait situation.
Chemical weapons were the weapon of mass destruction bogeyman in WWI & WWII because it was relatively easy to made, relatively cheap & the REMFs thought it was humane weapon.
It certainly gave an economic boost to the chemical industry & a dry run for the Manhattan project because some of the former were assigned to the latter.

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