The U.S. Army confronted the widespread use of chemical weapons for the first time in its history on the battlefields of World War I. The British, French and Germans began using poison gas in 1915, and the advent of chemical warfare required new innovations. Accordingly, the U.S. Army established the Chemical Warfare Service (CWS) to coordinate military activities related to chemical weapons. There, trained chemists and engineers worked to address the technological challenges of gas warfare. They discovered methods of military gas production, ways to deploy gasses in combat, developed improved gas masks and researched medical treatments for gas injuries.
Peacetime left the CWS searching for a mission, and the domestic social and political upheavals that followed the war offered one. Racial animosities exploded into violent confrontations, particularly during the Red Summer of 1919. In 1921, White residents attacked Black residents and destroyed homes and businesses in Tulsa, in an