Hellfire Boys: The Birth of the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service

Theo Emery

Linda Hall Library

Tuesday, September 13, 2022 7:00 pm EDT

National WWI Museum and Memorial
2 Memorial Drive
Kansas City, MO, 64108

Presented in partnership with the National WWI Museum and Memorial. 
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Largely forgotten in the confines of history, the development of the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service in 1917 left an indelible imprint on World War I. This small yet powerful division, along with the burgeoning Bureau of Mines, assembled research and military units devoted solely to chemical weaponry, outfitting regiments with hastily made gas-resistant uniforms and recruiting scientists and engineers from around the world into the fight.
As the threat of new gases and more destructive chemicals grew stronger, the chemists’ secret work in the laboratories transformed into an explosive fusion of steel, science, and gas on the battlefield. Drawing from years of research, Theo Emery brilliantly shows how World War I quickly spiraled into a chemists’ war, one led by the companies of young American engineers-turned-soldiers who would soon become known as the “Hellfire Boys.” As gas attacks began to mark the heaviest and most devastating battles, these brave and brilliant men were on the front lines, racing against the clock — and the Germans — to protect, develop, and unleash the latest weapons of mass destruction.
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This program will be presented in-person at the National WWI Museum and Memorial.