United States Army in World War II: The Technical Services

The Chemical Warfare Service: Chemicals in Combat

by Brooks E. Kleber and Dale Birdsell


... to Those Who Served

Table of Contents



Chapter 1: Origins of the Chemical Warfare Service

World War I—The CWS Between the Wars

Chapter 2: The CWS in the European Theater

Planning and Organization: 1940–43—Planning and Organization: 1944–45—Summary

Chapter 3: CWS Administration and Supply: Mediterranean

Chemical Supply—The Beachhead Phase—Chemical Supply—Theater Organization Phase—Theater Chemical Supply Problems

Chapter 4: Theater Supply: Europe

Evolving the Theater CWS Supply System—Air Chemical Supply—Ground Chemical Supply—On the Continent

Chapter 5: CWS Administration: Pacific

The CWS in the West and Southwest Pacific, 1941–42—The Principal Mission-1943—CWS, Southwest Pacific Area, 1944–45—Organizing the CWS, Hawaiian Department—The Offensive Period in the Central Pacific

Chapter 6: Theater Supply: Pacific

Foundation of Chemical Supply in Australia—The Tyranny of Climate and Distance—Chemical Warfare Tactical Supply, Southwest Pacific Are.—The Theater Supply System, Central Pacific—Chemical Warfare Tactical Supply, Central Pacific

Chapter 7: Chemical Warfare Service Units

The Chemical Laboratory Company—The Chemical Maintenance Company—The Chemical Depot Company—The Chemical Decontamination Company—The Chemical Processing Company—The Chemical Service Company—Chemical Air Service Companies

Chapter 8: Large Area Smoke Screens in the MTO

Background of Large Area Screening—Initial Operations: The Northwest African Ports—Perfecting the Technique: The Italian Ports—The Changing Mission: Smoke in Amphibious and Beachhead Operations—Smoke in Normal Forward Area Operations

Chapter 9: Large Area Smoke Screens in the ETO

The Invasion of Normandy—The Generators, Units, and Missions—The Use of Smoke at River Crossings—Summary

Chapter 10: Large Area Smoke Screens in the Pacific

Early Attempts To Introduce Area Screening in SWPA—A Question of Mission—Renewed Interest in Smoke—The Navy’s Use of Smoke—Screens for Airborne Operations

Chapter 11: The 4.2-inch Mortar in the MTO

The Authorization of the High Explosive Mission—Activation of Chemical Mortar Units—Sicily—The Salerno Landings—From the Volturno to the Winter Line—The Gustav Line—The Anzio Beachhead—Cassino—The Drive on Rome—The Invasion of Southern France—The Fighting Ends in Italy

Chapter 12: The Chemical Mortar in the ETO

Preparations for OVERLORD—The Normandy Campaign—Operational Problems—The Drive Toward Germany—Mortar Parts and Their Maintenance—The German Winter Offensive—Mortar Shell Malfunctions—The Final Drive

Chapter 13: The Chemical Mortar in the Pacific

South Pacific Area—Southwest Pacific Area—Central Pacific Area—Amphibious Employment of the 4.2-Inch Chemical Mortar

Chapter 14: The Flame Thrower in the Pacific: Guadalcanal to the Marshall Islands

The Portable Flame Thrower in the South Pacific—The Southwest Pacific: The First Years—Introduction of the Portable Flame Thrower in the Central—Pacific Area

Chapter 15: The Flame Thrower in the Pacific: Marianas to Okinawa

The Need for a Mechanized Flame Thrower—The Marianas—Peleliu—The Philippines—Iwo Jima—Okinawa—Preparations for the Invasion of Japan

Chapter 16: The Flame Thrower in the War against Germany

The Portable Flame Thrower in the MTO—The Portable Flame Thrower in the ETO—The Mechanized Flame Thrower

Chapter 17: Fire From the Air

The Incendiary Bomb: The Strategic Weapon—The Fire Bomb: The Tactical Weapon

Chapter 18: CWS Overseas—An Evaluation

Administration and Manpower—Logistics—The Weapons—Readiness for Gas Warfare—Why Gas Was Not Used

Bibliographical Note

List of Abbreviations

Code Names



1. Organization of Chemical Warfare Service, American Expeditionary Forces, 13 July 1918

2. Suggested Organization of Offices of Chemical Officers, Theater of Operations

3. Planned Distribution of Staff and Service Agencies, Chemical Warfare Service, Theater of Operations

4. Organization of Chemical Warfare Service Section, Headquarters, European Theater of Operations, U.S. Army, January 1944

5. Actual Distribution of Service Agencies and Combat Units, Chemical Warfare Service, European Theater of Operations, 1944-1945

6. Organization of Chemical Warfare Section, Allied Force Headquarters, and Headquarters, North African Theater of Operations, U.S. Army, November 1943

7. Organization of Chemical Section, Headquarters, United States Army Services of Supply, Southwest Pacific Area, 1 June 1944

8. Organization of Chemical Office, Headquarters, U.S. Army Forces, Pacific Ocean Areas, 1 April 1945


1. Theaters of Operations, 1943

2. Pacific Ocean Areas, 1 August 1942

3. Smoke at Naples, December 1943

4. Smoke at Anzio, 18 March 1944

5. Smoke Along the Garigliano, April 1944

6. Smoke Generator Operations, 10-15 September 1944

7. Nadzab Smoke Curtains, 5 September 1943


Maj. Gen. William N. Porter—General Porter and Top-Ranking Officers in London, 1943—Col. Maurice E. Barker—Col. Charles S. Shadle and Staff in Algiers, 1943—Decontamination Unit Functioning as a Shower—Chemical Warfare Depot, Loton Deer Park, England—Conferring Somewhere in England Before D-day—“I see Comp’ny E got th’ new style gas masks, Joe”—Annex Building, Chemical Warfare School, Brisbane—Col. Harold Riegelman—Col. Carl L. Marriott Examining Japanese Gas Mask—Col. William A. Copthorne and Brig. Gen. Alden. H. Waitt—Chemical Warfare Officers at Oro Bay, 1944—Col. George F. Unmacht—Repairing Gas Masks for Civilian Use—Capua Arsenal, as the Germans Left It—Plant of 105th Chemical Processing Company, Brisbane—Testing Flame Thrower Fuels, New Guinea—A Chemical Service Company Laboratory, New Guinea—Loading Liquid Smoke Into an M10 Smoke Tank—Smoke Screen Shields Unloading Operations, Salerno—“My God! There we wuz an’ here they wuz”—Effect of Smoke Curtain, Italy—Carrying Smoke Pots Into Position, Rapido River—Smoke Screen Conceals Movements Along Highway—M2 Smoke Generator—Smoke Screen Begins To Form on the Moselle River—Smoke Generator in a Dukw, Milne Bay—Smoke Shields a Paratroop Drop, New Guinea—4.2-Inch Mortar Crew, Italy—Pulling a 4.2-Inch Mortar Cart Over Rugged Terrain—Smoke Screen, OMAHA Beach—Chemical Mortars, UTAH Beach—Preparing a 4.2-Inch Mortar Shell for Firing—Roer River Bridge Behind a Smoke Screen—Artificial Haze on Rhine River—4.2-Inch Chemical Mortars on LST—Marines Using CWS Flame Thrower, Tarawa—Flame Thrower on an Amphibious Tractor—Neutralizing a Cave, Iwo Jima—Flame-Throwing Tank, Okinawa—Men Training With Flame Thrower—British Crocodile with Fuel Trailer—Loading Magnesium Bombs Into a B-24—Tokyo, After Incendiary Bombing—Attaching Fire Bomb Tank to a P-47

All illustrations are from the files of the Department of Defense except for the cartoons by Bill Mauldin on page 176 and page 341 and the photograph supplied by Col. Thomas H. Magness, Jr., on page 607.