Are bio wea[pons in WW1 asb?

I had some thoughts about this when imagining semi appocoliptic scenarios?

How strong would be the moral resistence?

Was is possible to create a nasty and spread it with WW1 tech.

Is is possible that an attempt at such would cause mass depopulation in Europe and maybe North america
 
Bioweapons in WW1 are not ASB from the standpoint of being created - anthrax, plague, and many other nasty bacterial disease had been cultured and identified in the laboratory. Even using WW1 a/c or Zepps to spread aerosolized agent is not really technically impossible. The big problem with bioweapons in WW1 is preventing your own casualties. Many current vaccines were not available, there were a few but not for many potential weapons species, and the ones they had were not as good as more modern (even WW2) vaccines. Even more importantly - no antibiotics!

What all that means is that preventing a serious disease from spilling over in to your troops or population, or in the case of animal diseases in to your stock, is not very doable. Ending up with an epidemic of your own as a result of your own weapons is not a good thing.Adding a serious risk to yourself to the other limitations of bioweapons means while doable in WW1 tech of that era does not work.

BTW anthrax naturally does infect horses (potentially), and also during WW1 knowledge of viral diseases was quite limited - in 1918 they were busily searching for the bacterium of influenza, which is a viral disease.
 
Throw plague-ridden corpses into the enemy's trenches?

That's the oldest trick in the book of biological warfare. Now get some plague-infested fleas and put them on the rats... that'll kill... pretty much both sides. Everyone's dead, and the war is over. :(
 
The big problem with bioweapons in general is preventing your own casualties.

Fixed that for you. The big issue with bioweapons is the control element, it's hard to deactivate them if they go in directions you didn't want them to. It might be possible to engineer in some sort of control measure - say, a limited lifespan after which they go inert, or an inability to reproduce outside carefully controlled circumstances. This is probably not possible for WW1, however, and is alarmingly prone to errors. Just look at that whole situation on Isla Nublar, for example.
 
Fixed that for you. The big issue with bioweapons is the control element, it's hard to deactivate them if they go in directions you didn't want them to. It might be possible to engineer in some sort of control measure - say, a limited lifespan after which they go inert, or an inability to reproduce outside carefully controlled circumstances. This is probably not possible for WW1, however, and is alarmingly prone to errors. Just look at that whole situation on Isla Nublar, for example.

The idea behind weaponized Anthrax was that it doesn't well spread from one person (or animal) to another, but is transferred through food/fodder, or on contact with primary weapon (aerosol). Anthrax acts rather like a very persistent chemical weapon than like a classical bio weapon. Nevertheless, it's area denial ability is useless in a war of movement (except to kill off unprotected civilians which was already in WW1 considered a major war crime), but it could be used to create a kind of minefield - an area which is (as known to the enemy) not accessible to the enemy forces will channel said forces into your fire.

However, at some point the war is over and you still have those dead spots in your country. And if you lose the war... :eek:
 
I could see Anthrax being useful on the Western Front, what with that being the very opposite of a war of movement. The big problem would be exploiting any gaps you could create in the enemy lines. After all, the side getting hit with Anthrax would just withdraw to their secondary trenches, and then the attacking army would be stuck having to move over the territory they infected.

Anthrax ould be useful for certain limited applications though, like cutting off a salient or forcing a withdrawal from a strategically important location. I suppose you could also use it as a bluff; launch a few real Anthrax attacks, then fake one, and hit the enemy over what they think would be impassibly contaminated ground. Obviously, that would be tricky as hell to pull off though.

If Antrax gets used on the Western Front, it's probably the Germans doing it; France would be very hesitant to inflict that kind of environmental damage on their own territory, while the Germans won't be nearly so bothered by that issue.
 

Cook

Banned
Anthrax takes from 1 to 7 days from infection to symptoms occurring; there is not going to be a sudden shock value akin to intense artillery bombardment that would destroy a part of the enemy front. You just aren’t going to be able to use it to create a break through.
 
I could see Anthrax being useful on the Western Front, what with that being the very opposite of a war of movement.

However, if you look at the development of the war, any single invention/introduction had a goal to make the Western Front into the war of movement again. Gas, artillery bombardments, etc. were all designed to break the stalemate, and all failed. Only Entente armored attacks using concentrated tanks were able to finally break the stalemate, and this was probably only a smashing success because Germany was on the edge of breakdown anyway.
 

whitecrow

Banned
Could smallpox be used as a bioweapon at the time or was the vaccine to common by then?

Also I heard Japanese in WW2 bombed China with canisters containing plague-carring flees. That seems to me an option in WW1 too.
 
I thought the British used primitive bio weapons (blankets with smallpox spores I think) against the Boers in the 2nd Boer war pre WW1.
 
However, if you look at the development of the war, any single invention/introduction had a goal to make the Western Front into the war of movement again. Gas, artillery bombardments, etc. were all designed to break the stalemate, and all failed. Only Entente armored attacks using concentrated tanks were able to finally break the stalemate, and this was probably only a smashing success because Germany was on the edge of breakdown anyway.

True; by it's very nature Anthrax can't create the much sought-after breakthrough on it's own. It could still be a useful tool within its limited role though, especially if it's at one of the times where breakthrough was not the number 1 priority, like Verdun.
 
Attrition and interdiction

True; by it's very nature Anthrax can't create the much sought-after breakthrough on it's own. It could still be a useful tool within its limited role though, especially if it's at one of the times where breakthrough was not the number 1 priority, like Verdun.

Precisely the point that I was going to make. Anthrax might be an excellent choice if your goal was to attrit the enemy force as part of a long-term strategy not necessarily oriented towards an immediate breakthrough. The (relatively) long incubation period for Anthrax means that it will have spread (at least somewhat) through the enemy's forces before it is clear what is happening, which should increase the potential impact of the weapon in this context. For an operation against a fixed target (Verdun comes immediately to mind), Anthrax would work nicely, as it would make the defended positions dangerous for the defenders as well as the attackers.

As for interdiction, Anthrax is somewhat persistent, attacks the prime movers (horses) used for logistical trains (some of the tactical ones, anyway), and once again, can do a nice job of making the defended positions persistently unpleasant, even dangerous, for the defenders themselves. Given that the attackers, by the very nature of the operation, can choose their time and place for concentration and attack, this sort of weapon offers some mid/long term advantages for the attacker that are not easily replicated for the defender.

Cook is quite right that there is no real way to use Anthrax as a 'breakthrough' weapon (not the nature of biologicals in any form), but it would be a dandy way to enhance the attrition factor of much of the trench warfare in WWI.

As a side thought, if these weapons were used in the way that has been described (and we can throw in some Zeppelin-delivered biologicals on Entente population/industrial targets as well....), what would the effect be on medicine? Any 'low-hanging fruit' in reasearch that we might accelerate?
 
Blankets used by smallpox victims were given by the British to Indian tribes in N.A. during the 18th century. While the actual causative agent of smallpox was not known until very much later, the fact that clothing/bedclothes of the sick could transmit the disease was known (eg: smallpox virus from exfoliating crust containing viable virus on blankets etc). Beginning in the early 18th century the technique of "variolization" was introduced in the west using matter from a smallpox sore to induce a less serious (hopefully) case in a non-immune - this was imported from the east &/or Africa. Modern vaccination, using cowpox material rather than smallpox, was discovered by Dr Edward Jenner towards the end of the 18th century in England.

By WWI smallpox vaccination was essentially universal in all western militaries. while smallpox is a devastating disease - highly contagious airborne & contact, 30-35% mortality in those who have never been vaccinated, about 5% of survivors have serious permanent problems (lungs, blindness etc - ignoring scars) & the sick require a lot of attention, vaccination is straightforward, and almost always completely protective. The current discussions/fears about smallpox as a bioweapon are because no case has been seen since it was eradicated in the 1970s ( a human only disease) and the only known samples of the virus are frozen at CDC in Atlanta & Viron in Novosibersk under tight security so until after 9/11 and concerns about the possibility of some virus being loose out there in a rogue lab, nobody had been vaccinated. That has changed, and the USA (and several other countries) have enough vaccines in storage for their entire [populations should the need rise,,,,,
 
Strictly, no, bioweapons aren't ASB, although finding a worthwhile one will be difficult, both in it having the required lethality, and in ensuring that you don't get it as well.
 
Fixed that for you. The big issue with bioweapons is the control element, it's hard to deactivate them if they go in directions you didn't want them to. It might be possible to engineer in some sort of control measure - say, a limited lifespan after which they go inert, or an inability to reproduce outside carefully controlled circumstances. This is probably not possible for WW1, however, and is alarmingly prone to errors. Just look at that whole situation on Isla Nublar, for example.

Isla Nublar? Jurassic Park?
 
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