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A closer look at WWI’s chemical warfare and the secret groups who created the ultimate WMD




German machine gunners wearing gas masks during a WWI gas attack.
German machine gunners wearing gas masks during a WWI gas attack.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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The 1993 discovery of a chemical weapons dump next to American University stunned Washington, D.C. residents, but decades of ongoing cleanup still offered little details of the facility that left it there.

It was known that the grounds had been leased during World War I for testing by the research division of the army’s Chemical Weapons Service, but journalist Theo Emery went on to research the American University Experiment Station, encountering terrifying accounts of the young soldiers, chemists and engineers who secretly experimented and trained with toxic gasses in the first wartime use of chemical weapons.

Emery’s years of research and hundreds of interviews have now been published in his new book, “Hellfire Boys: The Birth of the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service and the Race for the World’s Deadliest Weapons.”

Host Larry Mantle speaks to Emery about his findings and how they revolutionize our understanding of WWI and the destructiveness of man’s ingenuity.

Guest:

Theo Emery, longtime journalist of many publications; his latest book is “Hellfire Boys: The Birth of the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service and the Race for the World’s Deadliest Weapons” (Little, Brown and Company, 2017); he tweets @temery