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Germany had an interesting approach to gas protection in WWII. Germany, the Soviet Union, and Britain all had large stockpiles of chemical munitions- the Germans had a slight edge in having the first nerve gases [Tabun since 1936, Sarin since 1939, and Soman in 1944, all of which were discovered by scientists within the Third Reich after a search for better pesticides lead to the discover of nerve agents], but knew better than to push chemical warfare into the mix. Having learned from the chemical warfare of WWI, however, Germany wanted to keep its army protected against chemical warfare. Every soldier was issued a gas mask, which was kept in a metal canister. Some were also issued with a rubberized 'gas cape', which was a chemical-resistant sheet that one was supposed to throw over themselves should blister agents be deployed. Decontamination kits were also issued, in two types.

The Canister

The German gas mask carrier during WWII was a metal canister. The canister was waterproof when closed, and protected the mask from being jostled, bumped, and smashed due to its sturdy metal construction. The cleaning cloth was officially kept at the bottom of the canister, and was held down by a spring system designed for the carrier. The inside of the canister lid had a small container for gas mask antifog lens inserts, which in an emergency could also be used to replace broken gas mask lenses. The straps allowed it to be carried at the small of the back, which limited the potential unwieldy nature of the canister, keeping it out of the way for the soldier to use his weapon, go prone, and whatever else was necessary. Some canisters had a lining of aluminum sheet metal. The gas cape was often strapped to the side of the canister for ease of use.

The Decontamination Kit

The first issue decontamination kit was a Bakelite container that held Losantin [essentially a different form of bleach in terms of function] tablets. The soldier was supposed to crush the tablet into a powder, and then add water to turn it into a paste. The paste was then spread on any skin exposed to blister agents using a gauze pad. This process was cumbersome and time-consuming, both heavily undesirable factors when considering that immediate treatment of blister agent exposure is necessary to significantly counteract the effects of the agent. Realizing this, the Wehrmacht designed a new system and began issuing it in 1941. This system used a plastic bottle of pre-mixed decontamination ointment with gauze pads to apply it. Losantin decontamination kits were still used until the end of the war.


A great article on this topic can be found at mp44.nl, a comprehensive website filled with very complete information on the topic. The article was written by Robert Halvorsen based upon previous knowledge, but details were fact-checked against the mp44.nl.

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