Development of the World War II Gas Casualty Set, M-2
1944 Photo showing Gas Casualty Set, M-2 opened to show packing of the impermeable aprons and gloves inserts along with the Kit, Treatment, Gas Casualty and the instruction booklet.
The Gas Casualty Set, M-2 (Medical Department item No. 97756) was a revision of the Gas Casualty Set which was standard at the beginning of World War II. The original set, carried in a chest, was too heavy and unwieldy for field use. In response to reports from North Africa and other combat experience, the new, streamlined, light-weight Gas Casualty Set, M-2 was developed by the Medical Research Laboratory at Edgewood Arsenal, MD and was standardized by the Army Service Forces on 9 May 1944.
Description of the Gas Casualty Set, M-2
The Gas Casualty Set, M-2 weighed only 45 pounds, in contrast to the 160 pounds of the former gas casualty chest. It was made up of:
Kit, Treatment, Gas Casualty (Medical Department Item No. 97767)
Two inserts, containing three impermeable aprons and three pairs of impermeable gloves (Set, Gas Casualty, Aprons & Gloves, Medical Department Item No. 97758)
The Kit, Treatment, Gas Casualty was an expendable item, resembling a small suitcase weighing only 17 pounds. The contents of the kit were sufficient to care for the chemical casualties of one infantry battalion during 24 hours of active chemical warfare.
The Gas Casualty Set, M-2 had other advantages in addition to its light weight. The rubber gasket lining the seam between the lid and body made it waterproof. Inside the lid was a graphic representation showing the exact location of each item of the contents. A booklet, entitled "Notes on Treatment of Casualties From Chemical Agents," was provided listing the symptoms, pathological changes, and diagnostic points useful in the management of these injuries. All basic items were provided for the treatment of all varieties of gases likely to be encountered in modern chemical warfare.
The kit also included equipment for water testing with a book of directions. Small units were thus supplied with a simple device for screening out sources of water so contaminated with chemical agents that they could not be made potable by the usual methods of treatment in the field, such as chlorination in the Lyster bag.
History of the Distribution of Gas Casualty Set, M-2
Before the gas casualty treatment kit reached field units, however, a major change had to be made, which caused considerable consternation in the Technical Division, Operations Service, and in the Supply Service. All of the work on the kit, including its contents, had been carried out before March 1944, when Major Greenwood became chief of the Chemical Warfare Branch. Shortly after his arrival in the Surgical Consultants Division, he was summoned to the office of Col. (later Brig. Gen.) Fred W. Rankin, MC, Chief Surgical Consultant, to explain why a discrepancy existed between the policy of treating burns caused by chemical agents and that of treating those caused by more usual agents.
The gas casualty kit included a number of tubes of 5 percent sulfathiazole ointment, with instructions that the ointment be used in the treatment of both incendiary and vesicant burns. This policy, however, although it was in accordance with earlier instructions issued by the Office of the Surgeon General, had been changed because of certain toxic effects caused by the absorption of sulfathiazole when it was used in burns involving large body surfaces. The current policy eliminated the ointment and directed the use of pressure dressings over petrolatum-impregnated dressings. There was no reason, as Colonel Rankin pointed out, why the same policy should not be used in the treatment of gas casualties, it being a well-established fact that burns sustained by vesicant agents did not differ from other burns in any respect, including therapy.
Major Greenwood, who had just come to the Chemical Warfare Branch in the Surgical Consultants Division from a field unit, could not explain why the changes in therapeutic policies had not been reflected in the components of the gas casualty treatment kits. Fortunately, although the kits had already been manufactured, they were still in warehouses and had not been distributed to field units, so petrolatum could be substituted for sulfathiazole ointment.
On Colonel Rankin's instructions, printing was also stopped on a revision of TM8-285, War Department Technical Manual, Treatment of Casualties From Chemical Agents, until the directions in the manual for the treatment of vesicant burns could also be altered.
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