America's Struggle with Chemical-Biological Warfare

By Albert J. Mauroni | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
The Chemical Corps Enters
the Cold War

Major General William Porter was appointed to the position of Chief Chemical Officer in mid-1941. At the time, the Chemical Warfare Service (CWS) was still a very small part of the U.S. Army. The War Department was busy with its Louisiana Maneuvers, testing concepts for tank, airplane, and paratroop employment that had been demonstrated so successfully in Europe. There was no foreshadowing of chemical warfare in U.S. military doctrinal development. The War Department had first made the decision to limit the CWS to laboratory and decontamination companies, but with some impassioned arguments, the CWS could keep its few chemical mortar units. It took a direct request to General George Marshall, the Chief of Staff of the Army, to approve the activation of new chemical mortar units armed with the new 4.2-inch chemical mortar. It would not be until after December 1941, combined with the fact that the Axis nations had been building up their chemical and biological warfare capability, that Major General Porter got the authorization to build up the offensive and defensive capabilities of the Army. 1

As the war started, the War Department and Congress realized that the United States faced enemies on both shores--enemies that had stockpiles of chemical and perhaps biological weapons. Because the military's readiness was so low, there had to be immediate preparations to rebuild an offensive, and later a defensive, capability in chemical and biological warfare. Congress authorized special appropriations of over $27 million for construction and repair at Edgewood Arsenal, to include rounding out and adding chemical plants, depot construction, a cantonment hospital, and an incendiary bomb pilot plant. Another $41 million went toward a new chemical agent arsenal at Huntsville, Alabama, and $18.5 million for the building of an incendiary bomb filling plant at Pine Bluff, Arkansas (later to grow into Pine Bluff Arsenal). The CWS had received the incendiary mission based on prewar studies of aerial attacks on cities using high explosives, gas, and incendiaries, as well as reports of the destruction caused by the Battle of

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