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Sarin or GB (O-Isopropyl methylphosphonofluoridate) is a nerve agent accidentally discovered by German scientists in 1938 while researching organophosphate pesticides. The name is an acronym of the discoverers. Sarin was produced by Nazi Germany during World War II but was never used.


Sarin was discovered in 1938 in Wuppertal-Elberfeld in the Ruhr valley of Germany. The compound, which followed the previous discovery of Tabun, was named in honor of its discoverers: Schrader, Ambros, Rudriger and Van der Linde. In mid-1939, the formula for the agent was passed to the Chemical Warfare section of the German Army Weapons Office, which ordered that it be brought into mass-production for wartime use.

A number of pilot plants were built, and a high-production facility was under construction, but was not finished by the end of World War II. Estimates for total Sarin production by Nazi Germany range from 500 kg to 10 tons.

Though Sarin, Tabun and Soman were incorporated into artillery shells, Germany ultimately decided not to use nerve agents against allied targets. German intelligence was unaware that the Allies had not developed similar compounds, and they were concerned that the Allies' ability to reach German targets would prove devastating in a chemical war.

Following the war, both Russia and the United States produced Sarin for military purposes. Regular production ceased in the US by 1956.

Recent history

In 1970, according to a report by CNN and Time Magazine in 1999, a covert US operation called Operation Tailwind included the deliberate gassing of US troops in Laos who had defected. The report caused a scandal, and The Pentagon launched a purportedly independent study which found that no gassing of US soldiers took place. After an internal investigation, both CNN and Time Magazine retracted the story and fired the reporters responsible for it.

In 1988, Iraq used Sarin against the Kurds and in 1995, Sarin was used in a subway attack in Tokyo by Aum Shinrikyo.