War is less costly than servitude. The choice is always between Verdun and Dachau.
—Jean Dutourd, preface of Alistair Horne's Price of Glory
Since its renaming in 1946, the US Army's Chemical Corps has had the responsibility of preparing the US armed forces to survive and sustain military operations in a nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC)-contaminated environment. From 1946 to 1969, the Chemical Corps's mission, organization and goals remained fairly consistent as those of a technical support branch of the Army. Most Chemical Corps officers had master's degrees and doctorates in chemistry, chemical engineering, and biology—and rightly so, given their positions at chemical depots, laboratories, and division and corps headquarters. These were the only positions for active duty chemical officers, as brigade and lower combat units still relied on officers who were not Chemical Corps branched to execute NBC defense programs as an additional duty. Virtually all combat positions were gone, since chemical mortar units, chemical defense companies and battalions had been inactivated and formed as reserve units after 1955. A successful career Chemical Corps officer relied on laboratory and depot positions at Edgewood Arsenal, Fort Detrick, Dugway Proving Ground, Rocky Mountain Arsenal, and similar noncombat positions to help him rise to the position of Chief Chemical Officer. This created a “white lab coat” image of the “Chemistry Corps, ” which persisted from prior to the Korean War into the late 1970s. 1
This technical bent may have been what eventually doomed the Chemical Corps. In October 1972, General Creighton Abrams, Army Chief of Staff, ordered the formation of a special study group, to determine how to disestablish the Chemical Corps, as part of the Army's restructuring plan after Vietnam. This group recommended putting a smaller Chemical Corps under the Ordnance Corps, as a special weapons branch. While Congress did not grant this disestablishment, General Abrams froze recruitment and career progression in the Chemical Corps.