Chemical Warfare in World War II Europe Remembered by Lieutenant James Enany

by Karla Enany

On May 15, 1942, when James Edward Enany was 22 years old, he was drafted into the United States Army. He was gone from home for 31 months. During this time, he was involved in five battles, received five battle stars, one bronze star and a victory medal. The battle stars he received were from the battles of Naples Foggia, Rome Arno, Southern France, Rhineland and Central Europe. (Enany, Oct. 25, 1992)

During his tour of duty, he spent time in Africa, Sicily, Italy, Southern France, the Rhine River, Alsace Lorraine, Munich, Manhine, Ogsburg, and Innsbruck, Austria. (Enany, Nov. 13, 1992)

Because Ed was in the automobile business, the army placed him in the Quartermaster Core (this was before they had the Transportation Core). He was being trained to work on vehicle's motors and transmissions and other mechanical equipment. The army gave all men a set of IQ tests, and because his IQ was so high they thought he would qualify for an officer. Just then, there was a case of Spinal Meningitis in his barracks; hence the men in his barracks were all quarantined and missed the trip to the officer training school. When the quarantine was lifted, Ed wandered over to his headquarters office and asked, "what's going on with me?". Almost all the troops by then were transferred out and he was about the only one left. An officer told him that they had just received an order for two men to go to Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, in the Chemical Warfare Department. Ed told the officer that he didn't know anything about chemicals and was never a druggist or a pharmacist. The officer assured him that the main thing was the IQ. An IQ of 135 or higher was really the only thing needed to qualify for the assignment. (Enany, Nov. 13, 1992)

The fact that Ed was trained and participated in chemical warfare during World War II is most unusual. It is also most interesting to know that this wasn't what comes to most everybody's mind when they think of chemical warfare; it wasn't just gassing the enemy as was practiced in World War I.

He was first sent to Edgewood, Maryland in August of 1942 and went through all phases of training in chemical warfare and learned about all the different weapons, most of which were just in the development phase. He also learned about various gases such as mustard and other killing gases. (Enany, Nov. 13, 1992)

He finally earned his Lieutenant officer bar in November of 1942 and the army asked him for his job preference. His first choice was working in the 4.2 smoke thrower mortar battalion. (Enany, Nov. 13, 1992) The 4.2-inch mortar was ideally suited to the style of mobile fighting and was the principal weapon of the chemical troops. They were light and speedy trucks and rubber-tired hand carts that whirled the mortars into position. In about two to five minutes more, they were set up and firing 25-pound projectiles containing smoke or other fillings. Dropping the 4.2-inch chemical shell into the barrel automatically explodes the propelling charge and sends it on its way, so that the mortar fires as fast as it can be fed with ammunition. (Staff p. 113)

Ed later found out that these 4.2 mortar battalions had the highest casualty rate of any other division, including the engineers and infantry. After finding this out, he was very happy that he wasn't assigned to that battalion even if it was his first choice. (Enany, Nov. 13, 1992)

After he was commissioned, he stayed on at Edgewood where he was assigned to proofing new equipment. He even fired the first flame thrower that was ever developed. They proofed the new weapons by taking 1% of all weapon production and putting them under surveillance of fuel conditions. Out of this 1%, half of them were tested. 4.2 mortars were fired and various guides were devised for figuring out where to shoot and where to lay the tables; they tested every device that was being used by the chemical warfare people. (Enany, Nov. 13, 1992)

To show the effect of smoke upon the accuracy of rifle fire the Army's Chemical Warfare School conducted a series of tests. Five to ten rounds at silhouette targets were fired under three different sets of conditions. The average number of hits scored when no smoke was used was 55 percent. When smoke was placed upon the targets the same shooters made an average of 12 percent of hits. But when smoke was placed upon the shooters, this average was reduced to three percent. From these tests it was clear that smoke on a defensive position will give an advantage to the attacker of more than four to one in relative fire efficiency. (Waitt p. 56)

While at Edgewood he spent time out in a field where there was a great big tank cut in half to resemble a gasoline storage tank with a little peep hole through it. They used walkie talkies to hear the shooters say when they were going to fire six rounds. Six rounds with many powder rings would then be shot. After the six rounds were fired, he would go out and stake the ground. This is how they devised the tables to know when they shot something off where it was going to land. (Enany, Nov. 13, 1992)

Gas Masks were worn whether the smoke was a harmless screen or a poison gas, for they must be accustomed to fighting and running with masks. (Williams p. 85)

One day he was out on the range, unaware that Edgewood and the Ordinance Outfit had fired some mustard gas a couple days before. From just being out in the area breathing in the fumes that were still present in the air, he received a severe bronchial burn and other minor burns on his arms. The very next day he was sent to Gravely Point (this was before the Pentagon was built). He boarded a train in Baltimore and went to the War Department in Washington (this is now known as the United States Army's Washington Headquarters). Ed was told that the army was having some problems over in Africa with some smoke generators and he was needed there to mend them. (Enany, Nov. 13, 1992)

He first was sent to Milwaukee to the Heil Manufacturing Company where smoke generators were being produced. Ed didn't have high enough priority to fly; therefore, he took a train to Milwaukee. It was on the train to Milwaukee where he became extremely ill. By this time he was really blistered down in his bronchial tube, and he just kept coughing and coughing. Even though his coughing was getting worse, he still managed to report to the Heil Company the next day. The Heil company sent him to their doctors in downtown Milwaukee where they put him under a fluoroscope and asked him if he had been around any acids lately. Ed originally told them no because he didn't even think of being out on the range just two days before. Then it dawned on him, and he told them he might have been. The doctors told him that he was very blistered on his bronchial going into his lungs and his lungs were filling up with water. Because of the terrible effects of mustard gas and the fact that their was an unknown cure, Ed was sick for a total of two weeks and to this day still has scars on his bronchial and lungs. (Enany, Nov. 13, 1992)

Needless to say, he did recuperate and received all the training necessary on the smoke generators; furthermore, on May 26, 1943, Ed set out for Africa along with a bunch of equipment that he was trained on at Heil. The problem with the generators was that they had three tanks that were oblong standing on end; one with oil, one with SGF oil and one with water. As they were moving the bulky generators from position to position, the fluid had sloshed back and forth and had split the seems of the tanks. Part of the job was to put baffles inside the tanks and some angle irons to help the corners and edges of the tanks. Heil's engineers also trained him for some valve and plumbing changes that had to be made so they could cut down the use of the SGF oil. (Enany, Nov. 13, 1992)

Boarded as the only passenger on a cargo ship, he traveled across the ocean for 56 days until reaching the port in Africa where they unloaded the equipment. Due to the fact that ships were being bombed left and right, they traveled down past the Equator, through the straight, past the Rock of Gibraltar, back up the coast of Africa, and into the Mediterranean Sea. (Enany, Oct. 25, 1992)

After being repaired, the smoke generators were used at first to screen ports while American fleets were there. Whenever the German soldiers were flying over to attack, they would be picked up on a radar screen in an operating room, and because Ed's battalion was hooked up to the anti-aircraft communications system, they would get either a yellow or a red alert. The generators were stationed around the perimeter of the port, and would be fired up to create a complete cloud of smoke to cover all the ships in the port. (Enany, November 13, 1992)

Low-grade fuel oil burned in these generators giving off large quantities of dark-gray smoke. The cloud formed may have little value during the day, but at night was very effective. Observed from the air after dark, the screen sometimes has the appearance of a large body of water. It may lead the bombardier entirely astray in calculating the location of his target with trouble making a direct hit because of such deception. Dark smoke is better than white smoke since it absorbs the light and blends in with ground objects. (Waitt p. 57)

They screened the ports of Algiers, Oran and Bizerti in Africa. After he was sent to Europe, he screened the ports of Palermo, Italy, and Sicily. In Naples they had a screen that extended from Mount Vesuvius through the city of Naples all the way up to Bagnola. This was a 20-mile screen that included five companies. The five companies were the 69th, 78th, 168th, and two black companies, the 163rd and 164th with seven or ten generators in each company. (Enany, Nov. 13, 1992)

Experience has proved that smoke very sharply reduces the effectiveness of aimed gunfire, to the greatest extent when the gunners actually are enveloped in smoke because then they lose to a large extent the ability to maintain direction, elevation, and control while firing. The next best move is to place the smoke over or around the target. Tests have shown that only one-fourth as many hits are registered on a smoke-covered target as on a target fully visible.(Williams p. 85)

When Ed was through with his assignment with the American companies he was sent over to the British 8th Army where he trained their troops for about six months. (Enany, Nov. 13, 1992

British officers of tank units agree that smoke is an absolute necessity for successful tank operations. They needed troops carefully trained in the technique of blinding the enemy.' s artillery and antitank guns by well-placed smoke. Not only does a well-placed smoke screen cause the tank to reduce speed, but when it emerges from the screen it presents a perfect target for the antitank gunner as it is outlined against the white background of the smoke. (Waitt p. 55)

Unlike the United States Army, the British had white and black troops together. The black troops were from the southern part of Swahili, Africa. Before he went back with American troops, Ed went over to the other coast of Italy near Bari, Manfredonia and Barletta where more British troops were, and he spent some time with a different group of desegregated soldiers. (Enany, November 13, 1992)

Upon completion of his duties, his orders were to return to the Zone of Interior (the United States), but they kept him over in Europe to form a chemical battalion. Ed was put in the battalion headquarters as the battalion adjutant (a staff officer who helps a commanding officer with administrative affairs) with a very small contingent of enlisted men to which he was their commander. After his battalion was formed, they assigned five companies to him. German soldiers still tried to attack, but not as frequent as they did in Africa because the German Air Force was pretty much destroyed by then. When they did attack, they always flew at night time and never during the day, and Ed's battalion was still suffering occasional casualties. He had a line of companies that stretched from Pompeii through Naples and clear to Pozzuli. When they received the alert, they would fire up the generators and blanket the area so the Germans couldn't find what they wanted. (Enany, Nov. 13, 1992)

After a while, since Germans didn't attack as often, they started using the smoke not to screen anything, just to confuse the enemy and also to screen river crossings. (Enany, Nov. 13, 1992) Smoke was used as a means of slowing up, causing loss of direction, and paralyzing tank movement momentarily. Under these conditions the attacker can no longer see the enemy, but knows his approximate position. The enemy, however, enveloped in smoke has lost his bearing and is completely disoriented. Whenever desired, smoke can be lifted to provide a better target of approaching tanks since they would be silhouetted against the smoke background. (Williams p. 84)

Ed and his men screened the Corigliano river one night when he lost three or four men. On that night Ed sent two truckloads of four to six men with some supplies up the river to the 79th company. When they tried to cross a little bridge, some Germans jumped up on the running boards of these big trucks, held guns to their heads, and made them drive away with the supplies. That was the last he ever saw of those men. (Enany, Nov. 13, 1992)

Whenever they arrived in a new location, they would have to set up headquarters, which included all their equipment such as a line of communications and tie in with the phones. This was set up in either a tent, house, farmhouse, mansion, barn or schoolhouse. Because they had the cranking field phones, they were never out of communications with whomever they were assigned to; however, they were never allowed to work on their own because they were always under orders. If they didn't meet their time table and a division was delayed while trying to move up into line, they were in trouble. (Enany, Nov. 13, 1992)

One particular time Ed remembers he couldn't get enough troops to man the equipment. At this location they had set up some of their generators at a champagne factory. He and his Colonel had to get a bulldozer to bulldoze all the champagne because they couldn't stop the men from drinking it; they were always drunk. (Enany, Nov. 13, 1992)

The last two weeks of the war didn't have much going on except for American troops turning the Germans around and sending them back up towards the Russians. Even though there was still some fighting and still some men getting killed, the war had pretty much disintegrated. As much as 10 - 15 miles could be covered each day without much problem. Compared to covering only a couple of miles each day or not being able to move at all when the war was going much stronger. They were stuck at Corigliano for a whole season, at Monte Casino for seven or eight months, and they didn't break out of Anzio for six months. (Enany, Nov. 13, 1992)

When his battalion finally met up with the Russians, he was amazed to see how things were going. They had 65 year old men, some women, and some 12-year-old boys. He had never seen anything like these soldiers before; they were like animals. Even though the Russians were our allies, they would kill an American soldier for his wrist watch. The biggest fear the German soldiers had was to be captured by the Russians because they were savages. The Germans knew that if they came our way, they would be treated like humans and if they went the other way to the Russian soldiers, their life wouldn't be worth a dime; however, this doesn't mean all the Russians were this way. Many of them died and were very brave people. (Enany, Nov. 13, 1992)

The United States Army was really afraid that the Germans would use their poisonous mustard gas, especially at Normandy, but they didn't; on the contrary, American troops did fire ten rounds of mustard gas in Sicily by mistake. The soldiers didn't carry mustard gas with them, but it was carried and stored at all the various ammunition depots. We also fired white phosphorus many times at enemy lines. (Enany, November 13, 1992) This is a chemical that smells like burning matches and explodes with burning pieces that adhere to skin and clothing. This eats through skin with acid without any known protection available. Phosphorus burns on the skin are painful and slow to heal. The tactical uses for white phosphorus was to screen advancing troops, cause incendiary effects, cause losses, and to harass enemy observers. (Waitt p. 55)

When the war ended, Ed was in Innsbruck, Austria, near the Alps. After this, they pulled them into the largest chemical warfare plant in the world located in Germany where they made mustard gas. They found great big tanks of it stored up that hadn't ever been used. At this time Ed was promoted to Captain, which was his status when left the service. (Enany, Nov. 13, 1992)

Bibliography

Enany, Ed. (San Jose, California, 25 October 1992)

Enany, Ed. (San Jose, California, 13 November 1992)

Staff. "Army's Smoke Throwers Screen Troop Movements," Popular Science (December 1941), p. 113-115

Waitt, Alden H. "Smoke--A Weapon For Attack As Well As Defense," Popular Science (September 1942), p. 55-58

Williams, J. H. "Smoke Gets In Their Eyes," Popular Mechanics (October 1942), p. 82-85