Australian Chemical Weapons Unit(s)

Discussion in 'World War 2' started by Kyt, Jan 20, 2008.

  1. Kyt

    Kyt Άρης

    Deadly chemicals hidden in war cache - National -

  2. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    A disgrace.
  3. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    A national disgrace, in fact.
  4. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    A national disgrace indeed!

    Bad enough the testing took place on human beings however denial of the events has made these guys carry a donkey on their back for over 60 years.
  5. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    Ah yes, but the conscience of those in power was fine!
  6. chemical.nasties

    chemical.nasties New Member

  7. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    Putting two and two together and no doubt coming up with 54, are you the author?

    Huge book. It would be interesting to discover the research materials that were available. I would have thought the cloak of secrecy of the imports might have made things difficult.
  8. Kyt

    Kyt Άρης

    Welcome CN. The book looks interesting.

    Considering the Australian openness, in comparison to the other Commonwealth countries, access to documents etc must have been easier, but not easy.
  9. chemical.nasties

    chemical.nasties New Member

    C'est Moi

    I wasn't trying to hard to hide. Yes I am I. I've thrown a basic website together;

    99% of the archival material was sitting in National Archives (principally Canberra and Melbourne) and also the Australian War Memorial. Melbourne because RAAF and Army HQ were based there in WWII. RAAF chemical warfare HQ was Arm6 in the Armament Directorate. The other primary source was those who were involved. In 2005 I traveled around the country with an Army film crew and recorded the testimonies of about 20 ex chemical warfare staff. They were the RAAF chemical warfare armourers, the head of the Army 2/1 mobile chemical warfare laboratory and 2 Army ammunition inspectors (IOO). As much is not recorded in written form this testimony was crucial and it was transcribed and put verbatim into the book. The youngest of these is about 83. Before they died I was also able to interview the heads of the chemical warfare HQ sections. The armourers also illegally took many photos (court marshal offence) which I used.

    As to the imports (1,000,000) they were top secret but were generally recorded in the war diaries of the depot units. The difficulty of the data is that no one had put the story together so one is starting from scratch and there are thousands of files that have some relationship to the subject matter (type 'gas' in NAA record search and you get over 8000 hits). The other issues are a necessary understanding of the history of the RAAF and Army units involved as well as all the chemical warfare codes (both UK and US). This was off course for secrecy reasons - one needs to know what Y3, Y5, Y4a stands for. The sixteen types of mustard gas we had here are referred to in this way.

    Happy for any emails:

  10. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    Thank you, Chemical Nasty

    Thanks for bringing an obscure yet important topic to light. After all, it is only through understanding that propr course of action can be reasoned out.

    The topic is timely in that the USA is currently involved in a nasty occupation in Iraq brought about because of the misinformation regarding "Weapons of Mass Destruction" (WMDs) that were alleged to exist in Iraq. Now you inform us of the former existence of WMDs in Australia.
  11. digger

    digger Guest

    Regarding this I have a mate that served in the RAAF before during and after Vietnam and he told me he went to New Guinea to see where his dad (RAAF) had served in WW2 and he and his offsider found a pile of 200 litre(44 gallon) drums rusting away near a village and when they looked they contained some sort of chemical. After they made some enquiries he found it was WW2 vintage and if the Aussies couldn't take Shaggy Ridge by conventional methods then this concoction was to be used against the Japs holding the ridge. He did take some pics which I'll have to see about copying. The drums had just been left and the villagers were using them as seats and drums.
  12. chemical.nasties

    chemical.nasties New Member

    US Involvement

    Many thanks. What is interesting in the Australian experience is the heavy involvement of the US. MacArthur had ultimate sway on their use here under the South Pacific Chemical Warfare Plan. The US imported their own manufactured stocks and keep them at 6 US supervised depots. The Australians had little involvement with these sites aside from a knowledge of the types and numbers of weapons they held.

    Best, Geoff.
  13. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    Wow, the plot, for want of a better word, thickens! So, not only did we import our own stocks but the US also had stores here. Did they take the material with them when they left?

    It certainly looks as though you've produced an historically valuable book, Geoff. Well done on the effort of travelling around the country to speak to the veterans. Recording their experiences is just as valuable as uncovering an obscure piece of Australian military history.

    Re the chemicals in PNG, Digger, it's a good thing we took Shaggy Ridge "conventionally"!
  14. chemical.nasties

    chemical.nasties New Member

    They dumped the bulk of it off Brisbane;

    Australian Hydrographic Service - Chemical Warfare Agent Sea Dumping off Australia
  15. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    Dear Mr Chemical N,

    Do you know of any instance of the deployment of CW in the SWPac area?

    I know of an instance of Unintended CW casualties in the ETO. It happened at the port city of BARI, in Italy. An American ship loaded with W munitions was one of several ships bombed by a Luftwaffe raid originating from somewhere across the Adriatic Sea. The only person aware fully of what was carried aboard the cargo ship was the captain, who was killed in the raid.

    Some of the toxins bleed out, mixed with bunker oil, and contaminated persons in the water during the raid. That they were not timely decontaminated lead to some deaths.

    I read about this years ago in a book called "Disaster at Bari".

    I also learned that there was a "Chemical Warfare" incident in Normandy sometime after the invasion. I learned this from a local acquintance who was a WWII veteran, a Airborne Engineer officer (rare bird), but he only alludes to the incident but is not forthcoming with details. I am not sure if this is because of some secrecy restriction or for another reason -- he says he hopes to publish an artical about the incident.
  16. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

  17. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    Interestingly, another book but written by a former RN gunlayer who was on one of the escorting destroyers for the convoy that was bombed at Bari. Poisonous Inferno: George Southern: Books

    Recent publication too so perhaps privy to further details?
  18. chemical.nasties

    chemical.nasties New Member

    Ah, silence for 65 years and now its going off. Great stuff. Bari turns up in the Australian archival material but it was too secret to mention by location. They refer to it as a disaster 'somewhere in Europe'. The context was the safety of this material in ships and especially at ports. It is given as an example as to why the port authorities should know there are chemical weapons in their harbours (this did not happen at Bari).

    The RAAF were especially sensitive to this as we had our own disaster in January 1943. A drum of mustard leaked and lost about 100 pounds in transit to Melbourne and Sydney. When wharf labourers were unloading commercial cargo in the hold they were gassed and many were blinded. They ended up at Royal Prince Alfred. One, Andrew Williams, on his fourth day in hospital climbed out the 3rd floor window and fell to his death. It was deemed 'accidental'. Another of the wharfies died of tuberculosis 'aggravated by mustard gas'.

    As to CW in the SWPA (South West Pacific Area) outside of Australia the answer is yes eg; I have this a footnote (page 499) - In May 1944 the US 5th Air Force (based at Charters Towers) and the US 13th Air Force (located on a number of Islands on the Pacific) held 11,419 M10; 6,430 M33; 400,864 H or HN M47A2. These figures included the entire SWPA theatre and thus other countries in addition to Australia. M10 and M33 were spray tanks and the M47A2 was a hundred pounder.

    I've put the first 30 pages of the book (intro etc) up on the website.
  19. spidge

    spidge Active Member

  20. ABMM

    ABMM New Member

    Hi Geoff and everyone else.

    Does anyone have photos of CWA bulk containers?

    Reason; I was up at the former Iron Range RAAF/USAAF Bomber base late last year doing some radar surveys of suspect sites in the jungle when I came across a bunch of badly rusted out and strange looking 44 gal drums sitting in a creek bed.

    We have information which suggests that the USAAF had a chem depot at Iron Range just like the ones they had at Charters Towers and Nadzab in PNG, but there are no publicly available records to confirm or refute the claim which I have seen. All I have is a bunch of 44 gallon drums with very thick bands around them rusting away in a creek bed with the bungs still in place situated directly downhill from the site of an underground ARMCO magazine in a former US ordnance depot. (Gotta love Iron Range :alien: )

    Any assistance appreciated.


Share This Page