Britain considered a chemical attack on Tokyo


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LONDON (AFP) — Britain considered attacking Tokyo with chemical weapons almost a year before the US bombardments that ended World War II in Asia, declassified records revealed on Friday.The records at the National Archives, which have remained hidden from public view for 65 years, revealed clear proposals to use gas on civilians in 1944.
Although the plan was never put into operation, a detailed memorandum laid out measures to ensure any attack would have the most devastating impact possible.
A Chemical Board note marked "secret" and signed by E.E. Haddon, Secretary, stated: "In his report on his discussions in America... Major General Goldnoy suggested that it might be worthwhile attempting to assess the probable effects of a C.W. (chemical weapons) bombing attack on Tokyo.
"Particulars of the population and layout and photographs of typical buildings and areas in Tokyo were kindly provided by the Director of Military Intelligence, War Office and those have now been studied by Professor Brunt."
Blunt, in a memorandum attached to the document, suggested the initial bombardments should take place in areas of densely packed buildings, using incendiaries "sufficient to set the large areas involved on fire."
Once the inflammable buildings of the Japanese capital have been destroyed, he suggested, a gas attack on the "more modern type of streets" could begin.
However, Blunt warned the military planners that the city's layout could present obstacles to chemical warfare.
"In the densely built areas of Japanese-type buildings, where the streets are narrow, the flow of a gas cloud would be hindered by the narrowness of the streets," he wrote.
The memorandum recommended attacking during the summer season because it said a cold winter could reduce the impact of mustard gas, although heavy rainfall was also highlighted as possibly leading to decontamination.
The memorandum concluded: "Persistent danger from mustard would only be achievable in the intervals between the summer rains."
The document also said "very large numbers of small bombs" would be necessary in densely populated parts of the city.
Phosgene, mustard and incendiaries are all put forward as possible options.
"If mustard were used and it produced the effect of driving the population away from the densely built areas, attack with incendiaries should follow a few days later," it said.
Mark Dunton, Contemporary History Specialist at the National Archives, said: "What is interesting about this file is that it shows we could have been ahead of America in our thinking.
"It seems shocking to modern eyes that the attempt to assess the effect of a chemical gas attack on civilians is described in such an objective way - the pressures of war brought their own terrible logic."
The United States dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, killing more than 210,000 people.
Less than a week after the Nagasaki attack, Japan surrendered, ending World War II.

Source: AFP: Britain considered Japan chemical attack: records

Always interesting when new information on WWII is made public. :)

I have always had a problem with the validity of bombings.. whether it is ethically justifiable to end so many 'innocent' human lives in order to achieve peace. Even if the British bombing had taken place, it would probably not have been gruesome enough to end the war. The only loss inflicted would be human lives :stare:

Here's one more:

British wanted poison darts for World War II

Long before Ian Fleming dreamed up James Bond, the British military was planning to develop poison darts, lethal weapons that would have pleased 007 and his gadget man, Q.Detailed proposals about the poison-laden darts, which were supposed to be dropped on enemy troops from Royal Air Force bombers, are contained in formerly top secret documents made public Friday by the National Archives.
The darts were seen by military planners as "a promising chemical weapon of a novel kind" that would have an effective kill rate against enemy forces in the open. Tests indicated that dropping them from planes would allow the darts to develop enough speed to penetrate clothing and inflict a fatal dose of concentrated poison.
Planning began in earnest just before Christmas in 1941 as Britain faced a possible Nazi invasion after the fall of France and much of mainland Europe.
The War Office file suggests the process began with a seemingly innocuous request from The Chemical Defense Research Department to the Singer Sewing Machine Company. The military sought, without explanation, large quantities of needles.
"From your remarks it would seem that the needles are required for some other purpose, other than sewing machines," came the Dec. 24, 1941 reply, which included a promise to help provide whatever was needed.
Singer executives did ask what the needles would be used for, but defense officials declined to provide the information.
The needles were intended to be part of the poison delivery system.
Military planners at the experimental biological warfare station at Porton, England, looked at several different types of poison, including synthetic urethane, and believed the darts would be able to kill victims within 30 minutes unless they were able to pluck out the dart's poison tip within 30 seconds.
Even then, the person hit by the dart would be disabled by the poison, planners said. And some believed the darts could not be safely removed because the knife-blade-shaped tip would remain embedded in the flesh.
"When released from bombs dropped from high altitudes (darts) will penetrate two layers of clothing and penetrate flesh for 6 inches or until stopped by bone," planners predicted in a top secret memo written on Jan. 25, 1945, the final year of the war.
Planners listed the gruesome symptoms victims would suffer before they died and said this would have a "demoralizing" effect on surviving enemy forces. Plans were developed to pack more than 30,000 darts into a single cluster bomb that could saturate a zone where enemy forces were exposed.
"To modern sensibilities it does seem a particularly vicious type of weapon," said Mark Dunton, contemporary history specialist at the National Archives. "But war brings its own imperatives. Given the monumental struggle, the allies had to consider every possible means of gaining an advantage in the battlefield."
The dart memos are contained in a file called "Research into the use of anthrax and other poisons for biological warfare." The file indicates the British were also studying ways to use anthrax bombs and other types of chemical weapons. Other files released Friday detail the pros and cons of using chemical weapons against urban targets in Tokyo.
Planners believed a concentrated poison dart attack could be used to "soften" enemy forces before an allied assault on a specific target and also be used against enemy troops at their bases and while they were in transit.
The poisoned darts were tested against sheep and goats at a biological weapons station in Canada, but were never used against humans for military purposes, said Dunton.
He said the file suggests similar research was under way in the United States but does not provide details.
Dunton said there were doubts about the cost-effectiveness of the darts, in part because helmets and other armor would keep many soldiers from being hurt.
But planners were convinced of their potential usefulness, even as the threat of invasion waned.
"Earnest consideration should be given to the possible utility of darts with a view to deciding whether development and exploration of this project should not be continued and intensified," said a senior official identified only as H.P.R.S.

Tss english people and their darts :urp:

For some reason the english war inventions have always seemed rather silly to me.. as if Charley Chaplin himself was doing the research. I guess this one is slightly less silly and more.. gruesome (poor sheep :shake:).

I also didn't know the army had anthrax back then and was considering using it. I thought only terrorists did. (and the US in 'nam?).


Endangered Species
I have always had a problem with the validity of bombings.. whether it is ethically justifiable to end so many 'innocent' human lives in order to achieve peace.
I know what you mean. Ive often wondered about the validity in the events of Dresden or Berlin. It is hard for us to even imagine the thoughts behind the circumstances that lead to such thoughts in the first place. I think the 2nd article sums it up well "war brings its own imperatives".