Gas! First WWI Attack a Century Ago Spread Horror on Flanders Fields, Changed Warfare Forever

Chlorine gas — sent crawling in favorable winds over Flanders Fields from German positions — sowed terror and agony for the first time on April 22, 1915. The era of chemical weaponry had dawned. The weapon of mass slaughter came to symbolize the ruthlessness and, many say, futility of the 1914-1918 Great War. Piet Chielens, curator at the In Flander's Fields Museum, said "It is a new element in warfare. It is indiscriminate." And what's more, he said, "you create psychological terror." Foaming at the mouth, crazed and blinded, the French soldiers fled in all directions — sucking for oxygen, finding poison instead. The chlorine seeped into body fluids and ate away at eyes, throat and lungs. Some 1,200 French soldiers were killed in the chaos of that first 5-minute gas attack and the fighting that followed.