The U.S. first began using the gas mask when a scientist made his own version after an alleged chlorine gas attack on British soldiers during World War I. The British also invented what was called the Hypo Helmet to protect its soldiers from chlorine attacks. It consisted of a cloth soaked in a chemical that would absorb the chlorine.
The gas mask became more sophisticated as years went on for use in World War II and the Cold War era. Soon, full clothing was required to protect soldiers from biological
weapons as the gasses used became more advanced (nerve gas, etc.) — these gasses would penetrate skin.
The gas mask as most people think of it — a half-mask — uses a filter to get rid of any harmful toxins its wearer may breathe in. This is the type of mask the superhero Sandman from the Justice Society of America uses to protect himself from the chemicals he uses against his enemies. Many chemical weapons are only harmful if they are exposed to the eyes or inhaled through the mouth or nose. With this design, the wearer must breathe air himself through the filter. A full-face gas mask that may be a part of a full suit will often blow filtered air directly into the mask — the wearer doesn’t need to suck the air through the mask. These are used for chemicals that can go through the skin.
Almost any gas mask available to civilians today is a half-faced gas mask. You can get one from Amazon at a pretty good price. My hope, though, is that we never have to use them on our home soil.
Written by Craig Kent, member of the Best Military Surplus team.