Magazine article Arms Control Today

A Higher Form of Killing: Six Weeks in World War I That Forever Changed the Nature of Warfare

Magazine article Arms Control Today

A Higher Form of Killing: Six Weeks in World War I That Forever Changed the Nature of Warfare

Article excerpt

Diana Preston, Bloomsbury Press, 2015, 352 pp.

In A Higher Form of Killing, historian Diana Preston examines the six-week period from late April to early June 1915 during which Germany deployed three new tactics in World War I and ushered in the dawn of the "age of weapons of mass destruction." Preston links the first use of lethal gas by Germany on the battlefield at Ypres, aerial bombardment of the English homeland by German zeppelins, and the practice of unrestricted submarine warfare, exemplified by the sinking of the Lusitania by the German submarine U-20. These developments, Preston argues, made soldiers and civilians vulnerable to injury or death regardless of how far they were from the front. For example, she cites German gas pioneer Fritz Haber's writing on the psychological effects of gas on soldiers; he claimed that the possibility of gas exposure caused soldiers anxiety at "[e]very change of sensation in the nose and the mouth," which in turn sapped their morale. …

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