America's Struggle with Chemical-Biological Warfare

By Albert J. Mauroni | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Regaining CB Defense
Capabilities

General William DePuy, the first commander of TRADOC, began a series of meetings and workshops intended to break the Army of their Vietnam malaise. He instituted new training at all levels of the Army, with the slogan, "An army must train as it fights." He took a personal, intense interest in the reform of tactics and training in line with the tactical lessons of the Arab-Israeli War in October 1973. The Middle East War had shown the new lethality of modern weaponry and suppressive fire, the use of terrain (even in the desert), camouflage, routes of advance, and combined arms coordination. In particular, the outstanding performance of tank guns, antitank and antiaircraft missiles, and the consequences of their use on combat operations had impressed him. General DePuy's intent was to rewrite the manuals (now sporting a camouflaged cover instead of the traditional tan color) to enable the Army to fight and win a European conflict against a larger Warsaw Pact force. 1

The Arab-Israeli War of 1973 was the first real test of American conventional weapon systems against their Soviet counterparts, although neither side was directly involved. While the Air Force had proven its tactics over Vietnam, theories of ground maneuver warfare were yet to be tested with new armored systems, antitank guided missiles, and supporting systems. No one had expected the Arab forces to use anything but conventional weapons, although there was evidence that Egypt might have nerve and blister agents (based on evidence from the Yemeni Civil War). The Soviet Union had continued its chemical warfare research during the period between 1967 and 1973, initiating production of persistent nerve agents (V-agents). Anwar Sadat had publicly boasted of the Soviet-backed chemical weapons capability. Prior to the conflict, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) had not taken these claims seriously and had little chemical defense training at the war's outbreak. During the 1973 war, however, the IDF captured large stocks of Egyptian and Syrian chemical defense gear, including protective masks and clothes, nerve agent antidotes, decontamination kits, and air filtration systems in the armored vehicles. One Israeli officer was quoted as saying

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