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What are WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction)?

Updated on October 31, 2012
WMD Map | Source

Weapons of mass destruction are weapons capable of destroying a vast number of structures, people, and other life. The term has evolved over time and is primarily used to describe nuclear, biological, chemical or other unconventional weaponry. The use of weapons of mass destruction has been deemed necessary during some time periods while in recent years many developed countries have progressed toward disarmament of such weaponry. In some cases such as with the fall of the Soviet Union some nations have large stockpiles of such weapons but have difficulty maintaining them. This article will examine different types WMD and instances where they've been used.

Nuclear Weapons

This form of warfare has been developed since the 1940s during World War II. Nuclear weapons are often added as part of missiles and can effectively destroy entire cities. Below are some instances of their use.

  • This technology was being developed by NAZI Germany during World War II. Many believe had it not been for soldiers destroying facilities that the Germans were using that the first atomic bomb might have been made in Germany.
  • As many know the first atomic bombs to be dropped on a living population was in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which effectively ended the second world war.
  • After World War II the Soviet Union and the United States engaged in an arms race stockpiling massive amounts of nuclear weapons in what was believed would eventually become a possible nuclear war.
  • With the fall of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, both Russia and the United states have scaled back the nuclear weapons they maintain.
  • In recent years as money problems in Russia has been an issue so to has it been an issue of their nuclear technology falling into terrorist hands. This type of technology in the wrong hands could one day mean the death of millions if not safe guarded.

Chemical Weapons

Chemical weapons today include things like lethal gases and nerve toxins.

  • The first uses of chemical warfare began long ago in the form of poison tipped spears and arrows which was adopted by many cultures.
  • Evidence suggests throughout ancient and medieval times many cultures used foul smelling smoke and gases as a deterrent and to cause death to enemies. The delivery system primarily relied on wind however in some instances these gases were pumped into tunnels, caves, etc.
  • Beginning in the early 19th century different types of nerve gases were developed and used throughout World War I and World War II.
  • Today many countries have huge stockpiles of these nerve gases.

Biological Weapons

Biological weapons today are very complex and are often engineered in laboratories as opposed to how they originally came about. Also known as germ warfare it involves using viruses, bacteria, fungal and other types of infectious substances to infect an enemy population. This might be to disable them long enough to allow a take over or simply to eradicate them. Below are some instances of this type of warfare being used from ancient times to present.

  • During the period of Turkish and Mongol incursions into Europe diseased animal remains were used by them to poison the water of their enemies. The Mongols also employed the rather disturbing habit of catapulting diseased human remains into cities that were under siege.
  • During the colonial period in North America at least once but possibly many times blankets and other objects tainted with small pox were given to natives.
  • During World War I the German armies began to use Anthrax to poison opposing forces.
  • In the 20th century many countries signed treaties in what was supposed to abolish the use of biological weapons. However it has been proven that some countries despite signing such agreements continue to develop and even use these weapons.


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    • terrektwo profile image

      Candle Hour 4 years ago from North America

      somethgblue - In terms of research I would only cite or acknowledge references I consider to be credible. So I could as you say completely ignore documented history and turn to conspiracy theory but I simply don't find conspiracy theory credible. I respect ability to have an alternative view, I simply don't share it, sorry.

    • somethgblue profile image

      somethgblue 5 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      and who exactly do you think it is that writes your history books, ever done any research into that topic?

    • terrektwo profile image

      Candle Hour 5 years ago from North America

      Lipnancy - it would be good if we could, not sure if its in the cards but here's to hoping :)

    • terrektwo profile image

      Candle Hour 5 years ago from North America

      somethgblue 2 - sorry I'm not convinced by hearsay and conjecture. Thanks for commenting though.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 5 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      I think the people of the world can think of other ways to solve their disputes other than weapons of mass destruction. Why can't we all just be friends?

    • somethgblue profile image

      somethgblue 5 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      Yeah . . . it wasn't a surface explosion because it was under water and of course there was radiation left behind even seventy years later.

      Exactly who do you think the American Government would share it with you, the local library, maybe write it into our history books, hmmm?

      Deformities in babies isn't exactly a popular topic and your welcome . . .

      I must say this is a pretty popular story judging by all the folks that have commented on it maybe you could pay some folks to come pay it a visit and leave some comments surely you have some family you could bribe?

    • terrektwo profile image

      Candle Hour 5 years ago from North America

      somethgblue - I have read about the Vogel theory. Of course it isn't really shared by many as having truth to it primarily because nuclear explosions cause not just destruction but also radiation poisoning and even deformation in unborn children. None of this happened after the port of Chicago explosion, also as it was a surface explosion there would be traces of nuclear radiation at the site of the explosion even today and of course there are not. I think your a bit stuck on conspiracy theories, but thanks for commenting :)

    • somethgblue profile image

      somethgblue 5 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      Interesting that your conclusion that the first atomic weapons used on a human population was in Japan.

      Obviously you have never heard of the Port of Chicago, surely one would want to know if their weapon works first?

      The first atomic weapons were first tested on American soldiers in the American southwest . . . of course America doesn't put that in their history books.