« If asked to say in a single sentence and as few words as possible what, apart from its incommensurable achievements in the arts, the 20th century introduced into the history of civilization by way of singular and incomparable features, the response would emerge with three criteria. Anybody wanting to grasp the
originality of the era has to consider: the practice of terrorism, the concept of product design, and environmental thinking. With the first, enemy interaction was established on a post-militaristic basis; with the second, functionalism was enabled to re-connect to the world of perception; and with the third, phenomena of life and knowledge became more profoundly linked than ever before. Taken together, all three mark an
acceleration in « explication. » In other words: the revealing-inclusion of the background givens underlying manifest operations.
If also asked to determine objectively when this century began, the response could be given to the very day. Using
the above as reference points, it can be shown that from the outset all three of this era’s key features were linked together in a common primal scene. The 20th century dawned in a spectacular revelation on April 22, 1915, when a specially formed German « gas regiment » launched the first, large-scale operation against French-Canadian troops in the northern Ypres Salient using chlorine gas as their means of combat. In the weeks leading up to the attack, German soldiers, unnoticed by the enemy, went about secretly installing thousands of gas cylinders along this section of the front to form a battery along the German trench line. At exactly 6 p.m., pioneers of
the new regiment, under the command of Colonel Max Peterson, opened 1600 large (40 kg) and 4130 small (20 kg)
chlorine-filled cylinders to a prevailing north-northeast wind. « Discharging » the liquefied substance released approximately 150 tons of chlorine into the air, billowing into a gas cloud nearly 6 kilometers wide and 600 to 900 meters
deep. An aerial photograph captured the first poison war cloud unfurling over the Ypres front. A favorable wind blew the cloud toward the French positions at a rate of two to three meters per second with a reported toxic concentration of about 0.5 percent-a concentration high enough to ensure severe damage to the lungs and respiratory tracts after long periods of exposure. »