They are slimy, squishy, and slow-moving creatures with long bodies with no legs, pretty much like homeless snails. Slugs are land-dwelling mollusks that are considered garden pests: Hiding during the day but crawling out at night to slide across your garden pathway and onto the leaves, chewing off your beloved daffodils before retreating and leaving behind their unmistakable trail of silvery mucous. It’s safe to say that many of us are not fans of slugs. However, during World War I, these mollusks actually played a totally different role when they became some sort of life-saving, organically-powered, costless life-savers.

Gas Uses During WWI

World War I was an era of gas warfare. When the Germans first used the deadly chemical weapon in 1917, the troops were basically unprepared for the kind of attack. They had trouble detecting whether or not an area was contaminated. During World War I, the production of different dangerous chemicals started.

Tear gas was among the first gasses used. The chemical causes irritation, coughing, and burning sensations in the eyes, mouths, and nose, thus making you tear up. It was not lethal enough to kill people, so chlorine gas followed. Chlorine was deadly and could damage the tissues of the eyes, throat, and lungs after contact. The chemical could cause fluid to form in the lungs and basically drown people from the inside. The disadvantage of using chlorine gas was that it has a yellow-green color that screams its grand entrance, so the victims could immediately tell if they were being attacked.

There was also phosgene gas, which as opposed to chlorine, was colorless. The French first used the highly toxic chemical in 1915, which could also cause the lungs to fill with a liquid called pulmonary edema. Around 85,000 soldiers fell victim to this chemical. Then there was mustard gas that could soak up the troops’ clothes and cause severe blistering upon skin contact. Mustard gas is not easy to detect either until the victims start to itch and then, later on, develop large blisters.