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The Last GaspThe Rise and Fall of the American Gas Chamber$
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Scott Christianson

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780520255623

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520255623.001.0001

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Devising “Constructive Peacetime Uses”

Devising “Constructive Peacetime Uses”

(p.53) Chapter 3 Devising “Constructive Peacetime Uses”
The Last Gasp

Scott Christianson

University of California Press

When World War I ended, the United States shut down its poison gas plants for a time. But General Amos Fries and the chemical industry vowed to fight the dismantling of the precious apparatus they had worked so hard to build. Due to their efforts, despite overwhelming public opinion against gas warfare and strong political opposition from his own commanders, Fries and his allies somehow succeeded in gaining passage of the National Defense Act of 1920, which not only saved the Chemical Warfare Service (CWS) from extinction, but also turned it into a permanent part of the army. Under Fries's leadership, the CWS publicly turned its attention to undertaking cooperative enterprises with various government departments to harness the fruits of wartime gas research in constructive, peaceful ways. A fierce industrial and political battle ensued over one of the world's deadliest and more useful poisons: cyanide. The mining industry relied on cyanide's ability to separate silver, gold, copper, lead, and other ores. Fries and his allies lobbied against America's support for the Geneva Protocol, which sought to outlaw chemical warfare.

Keywords:   United States, Amos Fries, chemical industry, chemical warfare, National Defense Act, Chemical Warfare Service, cyanide, mining industry, Geneva Protocol, poison gas

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