Walter E. Grunden
Bowling Green State University
No Retaliation in Kind: Japanese Chemical Weapons Policy in China and the Pacific
This essay examines the chemical weapons policy of the Japanese military in the China and Pacific theaters of war 1931-1945. The essay argues that the use of chemical weapons in combat was determined primarily by the enemy’s capability to respond in kind. The Imperial Japanese Army, for example, used chemical weapons extensively throughout China against an enemy that had no capability to respond in kind, but did not use CW against Allied forces in the Pacific even when resources were available. The essay attempts to identify and examine additional factors informing CW policy, such as studies of World War I use, and various conditions of asymmetrical warfare and attrition in World War II. The essay also posits that the US was prepared to initiate CW use in the Pacific theater had the war continued, thus demonstrating that „retaliation in kind“ capability was a common determinant among military forces in the war, despite even Geneva convention protocols and restrictions.