Chemical Warfare Agents in World War I

Learning Goal: I’m working on a physics writing question and need support to help me learn.

Your assignment is to write an essay addressing the comments and questions posed by the topic of discussion below. Think about the questions and express only your opinions. Substantiate those opinions with facts you have gathered primarily from research on the Internet. You may also use to a lesser extent the scientific literature found in books and journals. You must include a bibliography citing all sources utilized. This exercise will serve in flexing and expanding your critical thinking abilities. There are no “right” or ‘Wrong” answers.

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Topic of Discussion

Less than 1% of the nine million deaths in World War I were caused by chemical warfare agents. These casualties were primarily military. For comparison, more civilians lost their lives in a single night’s bombing of both Hamburg and Tokyo during World War ll. Fire bombing was a strategy developed by the Allies. An initial wave of bombers used high explosives to demolish buildings and homes, which spread readily igniting debris. A wave of incendiary bombs was then dropped which created a firestorm. Hurricane force winds were produced as the hot air rose causing fresh air to race in at ground level and fan the flames. In “The Making of the Atomic Bomb”, author Richard Rhodes recounted the story by a 19-year-old survivor of the fire-bombing of Hamburg:

“We got to the Löschplatz (park) all right but I couldn’t go on across the Eiffestrasse because the asphalt had melted. There were people on the roadway, some already dead, some still lying alive but stuck in the asphalt. They must have rushed onto the roadway without thinking. Their feet had got stuck and then they had put out their hands to try to get out again. They were on their hands and knees screaming.”

Some argue that treaties which ban chemical weapons are humane gestures that make war more civilized. Others contend that chemical weapons are no less brutal than the other techniques used in war.


In order to convey the stance of your nation on the effects of chemical weapons on people and the environment, you are tasked with preparing a detailed report of an investigation into this matter. Your report must clearly convey to a broad audience the nature of chemical weapons, your stance on their use and development, active and potential government sanctions, and the prospectus of eliminating them. Note, that nuclear weapons are not classified as chemical weapons and thus should not be discussed in your report.

Consider addressing the following questions in your report:

– Do treaties to ban chemical weapons detract attention from the central issue?

– What is your view on treaties that selectively ban certain chemical weapons?

– Do you think they help deter war or make war a more palatable option?

  • File Type: Microsoft Word document or PDF
  • Length: minimum of three (3) pages of written text (does not include title page or references)
  • Font: Times New Roman
  • Font Size: 12pt font
  • Spacing: Single-spaced
  • Margins: 1” margins
  • Style: Use APA 6th ed. for all references
  • Do not use Wikipedia or an encyclopedia as your primary source of information!
  • Absolutely no quotations allowed.