ITEM: Quick, Herbert. What About Chemical Warfare? The Newspaper Enterprise Association (1921) 15pp. 7x5 inches. Fine condition. WorldCat locates 6 copies. RARE. $75
Herbert Quick did a fair amount of thinking about the military use of poison gas, and it winds up, in the final analysis, thinking that it was tolerable. What About Chemical Warfare? (published by the Newspaper Enterprises Association in 1921) is certainly a possible title for a Duck-and-Cover A-Bomb or You and Your Hormones kind of film. But Mr. Quick took the slow boat around his issue, thinking about it a little long and out loud, before coming to his final conclusion in the chapter titled "Gas Warfare Cheapest and Most Effective Arm of Defense".
He points out the enormous impact in the war effort that relatively small chemical corps played in WWI--something on the order of hundreths of one percent of all serving soldiers were employed in the combined chemical corps, saying "how small a body to produce such great results!" Which is true, assuming that by "great" he meant 'widespread', though it is unclear exactly what he was talking about.
Nr. Quick does make a case for poison gas being not so inhuman as presented by most civilized people, pointing out both its high quick-death rate and survivability/recovery rates, which seems to be giving/taking at the same time. No matter: "But woe to the army or nation that does not keep up with the times. The Angel of Death will breathe in their faces" he writes.
The author also warns that though Germany was "stripped" of her war-making capacities, he thought it was not so of the industries necessary to produce poison gas. He points out that Germany can produce these munitions in secret, and that if any "militaristic nation conquers the world in the future", it will be through the use of the poison gas it developed in secret.
Defense was also important: "in the absence of efficient defense worked out beforehand, our great cities might be wiped out with gas bombs dropped from aircraft". Mr. Quick believes that protecting cities is possible, writing simply "preparation will prevent such a crisis". Indeed. Unfortunately no ideas about this defensive posture were forthcoming, though he did bring himself around to writing about gas as a defensive tool. Against looters. And rioters. And snipers. "Gas puts the sniper in the power of his enemy" Quick writes, using the Marine action in Vera Cruz, Mexico, as a good example of where gas ("gas grenades") would have come in handy.
The bottom line is of course the bottom line, practically stating that poison gas as a weapon was indisputably more cost-conscious than anything else, by far, each dollar spent on chemical warfare being worth "from three to five hundred for the army". Poison gas services Quick says should be pursued, because "gas warfare cannot be stopped until all war is stopped".
Gas warfare "gives the educated, intelligent nations the advantages over the people of lower civilizations".
"When both sides are prepared it is much less inhumane than war with bullets and high explosives; but it means horrible annihilation to the army which is unprepared."
It is an interesting exercise to replace "poison gas" with other types of weapons, just to see how it reads.
Mr. Quick was up and down in his treatment of poison gas and war, though almost entirely down. One thing he didn't see, that no one saw, really, was the use of a particular gas that was used to destroy millions of people, and which was developed quite in the open in Germany for many years, used for killing rats. The Nazis simply used it instead on people. No one saw Zyklon-B coming, and no one could have, even when they did.