Physical Effects
The Future


Chemical Warfare has been around for centuries but the development of chemical warfare nerve agents in the earlier half of this century has added many new facets to the topic of chemicals in human warfare. In the 1930's an innovative German scientist named Gerhard Schrader began research on the development and use of chemical pesticides for the company IG Farben. By chance, Schrader synthesized the nerve agent Tabun. Sarin and Soman were produced by him soon after. Schrader, who had originally been looking for a panacea to the problems of insects and crops had stumbled upon a solution to an even larger possible nuisance, humans. The world would never be the same after.

With the onset of World War II less than a decade later the Germans now possessed an extremely efficient killer. The Soman, Tabun, and Sarin that Gerhard had synthesized were some of the most toxic substances known to humankind. Fortunately, Adolf Hitler never used these weapons during the war. The reason why he made this decision is still a subject of controversy for modern historians. The most popular explanation for Hitler's apathy stems back to the previous World War where toxic gases were used in combat. Hitler had been victimized by these chemical agents and was unwilling to introduce new and more toxic agents. There is also evidence that suggests that Hitler was advised against using the agents and even stopped their production. Hitler's Minister of Production, Albert Speer, said after the war, "All sensible army people turned gas warfare down as being utterly insane, since, in view of America's superiority in the air, it would not be long before it would bring the most terrible catastrophe upon German cities."

A famous contemporary incident of use was in the Iran-Iraq war (1984-1988). In this conflict the UN confirmed that Iraq used the nerve agent Tabun and other organophosphorous nerve agents against Iran.

Another contemporary incident of nerve agent use occurred in Japan. The Aum Shinrikyo Cult was reported to have used the nerve agent Sarin in a Tokyo subway. This incident of use gives some clue as to the new roles that nerve agents play, as tools of terrorists instead of powerful nations.