Poison gas came into use during The Great War, as World War I was called in 1917. The Slater Area Historical Association now has on exhibit “The Great War — Slater and Story County in World War I.” SAHA’s exhibit is a comprehensive description of the war at home and “Over There,” using soldiers’ letters, mementos from Slater residents and newspaper clippings of the era to recount life at home with its tragedies and its patriotism.
Told in the exhibit is the story of hometown boy Lloyd Chader, who was gassed during the end of the war and actually passed away after the Armistice. A Red Cross nurse wrote a letter, published in the Slater News, describing Lloyd’s last Christmas in the hospital in France. Lloyd died early in January 1918. The exhibit displays Lloyd’s story and the letter.
Three types of gas were used by both sides of the conflict: phosgene, chlorine, and mustard gas. The skin of victims of mustard gas blistered, their eyes became very sore and they began to vomit. Mustard gas caused internal and external bleeding and attacked the bronchial tubes, all extremely painful. Fatally injured victims sometimes took four or five weeks to die of exposure. Many who survived were blinded.
Armies quickly produced gas masks that gave protection as long as sufficient warning was given. Civilians in Europe were also issued masks.
The Great War is on exhibit through 2017 and into 2018. Heritage Hall Museum is open 10-2 on Thursdays, and 6-8 on Wednesday evenings through summer and early fall. Or you can call 515-480-9789 or 515-228-3293 for an appointment to view. Docent tours are available. Heritage Hall Museum is at 318 First Ave., Slater.