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Interpreting the Evidence

Local Marine Has Recovered

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Era:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    World War I

  • Primary Source Types:

    Written Document

  • Regions:

    Western New York
    New York State
    United States

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load World War I "Local Marine Has Recovered," William Albert Sutton, Lockport, January 13, 1919 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
World War I era newspaper clipping from January 13 1919 about William Albert Sutton, a 25-year-old Marine from Lockport, NY. The article gives a brief overview of his service record and mentions that Sutton had been severely gassed, recovered at a base hospital in Allery, France and was to be returning to the U.S. soon.
Historical Context
Chemical weapons were first used in World War I. Gas warfare caused more than one million  casualties and killed an estimated 90,000 people. The German army was the first to use chlorine gas at the battle of Ypres, Belgium in 1915. The gas cleared large sections of soldiers from the front lines, who fled once exposed, and ultimately killed 5,000 opposing troops.

Chlorine gas causes a burning sensation in the throat and chest pains. Gas cylinders were placed along the front lines facing the enemy trenches. Once the wind seemed favorable, the cylinders were opened and the gas floated with the breeze, carrying death to the enemy. With chlorine gas the wind had to be just right. If the wind was blowing in the wrong direction it could end up killing the friendly soldiers and not the enemy. Later, gas was packed into artillery shells and shot behind enemy lines.

Chlorine and phosgene gases were used, and later in the war mustard gas. The Germans used mustard gas for the first time in the war in 1917. They outfitted artillery shells and grenades with mustard gas that they fired in the vicinity of the troop target. A respirator provided some defense against the chlorine and phosgene gases, but not so much with mustard gas.

Mustard gas attacked the skin - moist skin such as the eyes, armpits, and groin. It burned its way into its victim leaving blisters and inflicting pain. Mustard gas harmed and killed soldiers by the thousands and affected battle lines. Because of its effectiveness, mustard gas served as the most desirable chemical agent during World War I for both sides.
Essential Question
How does discovery of new scientific knowledge impact war strategies?
Check for Understanding
Summarize the main idea of the article and explain the impact of scientific knowledge on war strategies.
Historical Challenges
Write a research paper on the use of poison gas in World War I.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Art: Draw a sketch of a gas mask used during World War I.
English Language Arts: Write a play from a soldier’s perspective about his experiences during World War I.