Nerve gas

Dear Editor:

The talk about chemical weapons takes me back 60 years to the beginning of the cold war. I did my hitch at the U.S. Army Chemical Warfare Center at Edgewood Md. The Cold War was heating up there was a great concern at the time about chemical weapons, specifically nerve gas. There were several thousand civilian and military personnel at Edgewood Arsenal during that time. Nerve gas had been discovered by the Germans but never used militarily during the war. There was great concern that the Russians might, however.

I worked on the improvement of protective masks and clothing — probably a waste of time. As little as one milligram of some nerve gases is quite likely lethal. A baby aspirin is 80 milligrams. Nerve gases disrupt the nervous system leading to a messy, horrible death.

Fast forward to the second Iraq war. It was a given that Iraq not only had chemical weapons, (specifically nerve gas) but was prepared to use them. In an attempt to counter the threat of nerve gas, the reaction of the U.S. military was to administer Pyridostgmine Bromide (PB) as a preventative. Of course, no one knew the longterm effects nor were the troops informed. Washington had resorted to a similar action when he had the Continental Army inoculated for smallpox.

My niece’s son, Capt. Ross Boyce, U.S. Army, at the time wrote a review article published in the Journal of Military Ethics entitled “Wavier of Consent …” during the Persian Gulf war. Of course, it was not possible for Ross, or anyone else, to establish a cause and effect relation between PB and the large number of post-traumatic stress disorders among the Iraq veterans,

Ross is now a second-year medical intern at Massachusetts General where he deals mostly with veterans and drug addicts. The Iraq veterans will confide only with other veterans. Ross served two tours in Iraq and many of his exploits are described in the book, “The Devil’s Sand Box,” by John R. Bruning, one of the better books I have read on the Iraq war. The only thing that keeps me from writing “the Younger generation is going to hell” letters is Ross and many young folks like him.

Bob Dungan


This story was posted on September 26, 2013.

One Response to Nerve gas

  1. Jim Milstein

    October 3, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    And the point of your letter is . . . we should all be like George Washington? No. I give up.

    Wait! The point is to start telling a war story and then digress.

    Now, did I ever tell you the one about? . . .