gas-attack

September 24, 1916 - Brusilov Offensive Ends

Pictured - Dead Russian soldiers hang on barbed wire after a failed attack.

Advancing in the aftermath of a gas attack in late September, Imperial Russian soldiers were surprised to hear through their gasmasks that enemy troops were speaking Turkish. The Ottoman soldiers, recently arrived to shore up crumbling Austrian defenses, beat back the Russian soldiers after a fierce fight.  After months of incredible success on the Eastern Front, the Brusilov Offensive was all but run out of steam.

Since June, the Russian Army’s Southwestern Front, brilliantly commanded by General Alexei Brusilov, had reconquered hundreds of miles of lost territory and captured thousands of enemy prisoners.  Historians rightly consider the Brusilov Offensive one of the Triple Entente’s finest victories of the war. Brusilov improved Russian tactics, ditching crude frontal assaults for advanced coordination between infantry and artillery, fire-and-move, small unit tactics.  He had also pioneered the use of storm troopers who sneaked into enemy lines ahead of an assault, an invention later used (and claimed) by the Germans.

Unfortunately, for all its tactical brilliance, the Brusilov Offensive left Russia drained and weary.  Its production of artillery shells could not keep up with demand, and by the end of September Russian soldiers were once again going into battle without proper support. Their assaults had been daring and brave, but also costly in human lives, and reinforcements were trickling in at barely a snail’s pace. 

The Russian Army had certainly given much better than it got - inflicting a staggering 1,350,000 casualties on the Central Powers, including 408,000 Austro-Hungarian prisoners - but its own losses of half a million men were casualties that the Russian Empire could no longer replace.  For all its success, the Brusilov Offensives losses would play apart in the collapse of the Russian Empire the next year.

encryptionnoitpyrcne  asked:

Do you see the recent use of chemical agents by ISIS expanding in use in Mosul?

I believe you are referring to a mustard gas attack they launched two days ago against US troops near Mosul. The coalition has been trying to destroy their reserves and manufacturing facilities in Mosul for months, but they have moved them underground and in residential areas. 

More generally, ISIS has been using chemical weapons sporadically, without much success as they only possess basic knowledge on how to produce them. 

“Daesh have used chemical weapons. They have a rudimentary capability and we have reports of their use on a number of occasions around Iraq and Syria,” Colonel John Dorrian said.”

“IS has used chlorine and mustard gas about 20 times, he said, causing up to 15 deaths and hundreds of injuries. He speculated that the stockpile might amount to 150 tonnes, though the quality of the mustard gas appeared low.”

There is a consensus that they will use them during the coming battle. 

“Islamic State will try to turn the looming operation to take Mosul into a chemical battlefield, experts have warned, amid evidence that the group has a stockpile of the banned weapons.”

“Asked if there were concerns that IS would strike at forces attacking Mosul with mustard gas, [Colonel John Dorrian] replied: “There is the possibility of that. We have conducted training with Iraqi security forces to prepare them.”

Since they will fight to the bitter end, I believe they will use any mean necessary to keep the city. So yes I see them deploying the entirety of their chemical arsenal. 

What matters, then, is how extensive it is: 

“The coalition has been trying to write down the Isis chemical weapon programme for the past 18 months,” said Mr de Bretton-Gordon, who is a former commander of British chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear defence forces. “We know Isis will use everything they have to defend Mosul. They have been building a stockpile for some time.”

He added that some reports suggested that IS might have obtained nerve agents - sarin and VX gas - after capturing chemicals from the Assad government stockpile.”

You can add their locally made mustard gas to this list, now. In the end, everything depends on what they have. They will just delay the inevitable but it could have limited or extensive consequences. I’m inclined towards the former.

The only other potentially major chemical threat I see for the coming battle, is how they have rigged one of the country’s biggest chemical plant:

“An explosion at Misraq, which is thought to hold thousands of tonnes of sulphur and hydrogen sulphide, would be a major concern for ground forces as they advance towards Mosul, held by Isil since the summer of 2014.

According to calculations made by Col de Bretton Gordon, who recently returned from the battlefield, the fallout of such an explosion could have a radius of six-10 miles - meaning Iraqi, and any supporting US, forces would be at risk.

Burning of pure sulphur produces corrosive and toxic sulphur dioxide, which when combined with the high concentrations of gas generated by fire presents as an aerosol, forming acid rain.

A fire at the plant in 2003 burned for a month before it could be extinguished. The blaze released half a million tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the air, damaging the ozone layer, hospitalising hundreds with breathing problems and killing all vegetation for miles.

It is described as one of the worst man-made disasters in history.”

I’ve quoted extensively these two articles [x] [x].

I suggest reading this post about the health hazards posed by chemical weapons during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, very informative. 

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Ulceration of the trachea by mustard gas.

When the mucous membrane of the trachea and bronchi is exposed to mustard gas, it reacts much the same way as the skin, with intense inflammation followed by sloughing of the necrotic tissue. The dead epithelium combined with the exuded fibrin and pus creates an ideal environment for microorganisms to flourish, and infection can be difficult to prevent, especially since a fair proportion of the debris ends up gathering at the bottom of the lungs.

Should a patient be able to avoid infection and fatal bleeding from ulcers, the raw bronchi underneath the sloughed layer often remains intensely painful upon movement for at least a week, leading to dysphagia (resistance to eating - the esophagus pushes against the trachea when food is swallowed). A nutritive liquid formula should be provided if available. 

An Atlas of Gas Poisoning. Medical Research Council, 1918.

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