In modern fiction, as in modern warfare, there tends to be a kind of taboo against using Weapons of Mass Destruction. Because of legal proscriptions, fears of retaliation, or moral or ethical distress.
Although, as with almost anything, there are exceptions. There are a number of fictional examples where nuclear weapons have been used by the “good guys” to save the day, or at least with justification.
But the thing is, I’m having a hard time thinking of examples of chemical or biological weapons being used in the same way. I had a couple, mentioned below, but that’s about it. So, I thought I’d outsource the question, and pick some other brains on the subject.
To avoid overly cluttering the issue, the “rules” are:
The weapons had to have been used in a military context (i.e., not for an assassination or a murder).
The weapons weren’t stolen from and/or turned back against a bad guy who’d used or planned on using them first.
“Knock out gas” doesn’t count.
Uses by “anti-heroes,” even for arguably dubious causes, are fine.
Right now, I can think of…
•The Wild Geese (1978), a group of mercenary commandos use cyanide (both gas, and poisoned crossbow bolts (!) ) when taking down a remote African fort. Probably at the bare minimum of the “military operation” definition, though.
• In the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic, a bacteriological weapon is employed against invading Martians.
•I think I read that in one or more of Turtledove’s Worldwar books, chemical weapons are employed against the alien Lizards, but I’m not certain.
But, like I said, after that my tank runs dry. Can anyone else weigh in?
One of the chapters in *World War Z *has the Russians (I think) use chemical weapons against groups of refugees as a ‘blunt object’ way of determining which ones had been infected with the zombie virus as a way to try to prevent the spread.
Basically: kill 'em all and the ones that get back up are zombies - which you can then deal with.
Yes, the British use mustard gas against the lizard during the invasion of England. Subsequently the other human powers deploy gas.
In Heinlein’s Starship Troopers the Mobile Infantry uses nerve gas on the bugs. They toss gas bombs down the holes that serve as entrances to the bug’s hive and then use high explosives to seal the hole.
In the mid-80s mini-series “V” and “V: The Final Battle” the good guys deploy a bacteriological weapon against the Visitors with great effect, driving them from the surface of Earth and forcing them to activate their Doomsday Device. Elizabeth breaks it.
You’d probably want a rule about using it against (nominally) human(-like) opponents. In Aliens, they mention using nerve gas on the xenomorphs but decide against it only because they don’t know if it’ll be effective against their alien physiology. Still, even if they had gone ahead with it, I doubt it’s what you’re looking for.
After that idea, of course, they decide on just nuking the site from orbit.
It’s about an enigmatic space trader who finds an abandoned biological warfare ship, and uses its considerable capabilities to help planets in trouble - often in ways they don’t foresee, or like. It’s a good book, and with much less sex & violence than you’d expect from Martin.
In Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, the protagonists use a plague to kill the mind-controlling Slugs.
In the Lords of Dus series, peasants killed a dragon that had killed multiple champions and destroyed armies by the simple expedient of feeding it poisoned sheep.
In the backstory of Tuf Voyaging, humanity used biological warfare on a planetary scale against its enemies; thus the “seedship” which is an integral part of the plot. Tuf himself does so, including secretly seeding a warlike overpopulated planet with sterility-inducing plants. And the alien “mud pots” waged war against humans with their own biological weapons, since the humans in question kept eating them.
In Dean Koontz’s Lightning, the good guys use some kind of chemical weapon on the bad guys.
Further plot spoilers The bad guys are WWII-era Nazis with a time machine going forward to get knowledge/tech from the future to win the war. The good guys are a former WWII-era Nazi who realizes he was on the side of evil and a woman who he falls in love with (and makes multiple jumps forward to save her from terrible fates). At some point, he goes back to WWII with nerve gas to kill the other Nazis and destroy the time machine project.
In the book Ringworld and its sequels, it’s revealed that one of the main puppeteer characters is responsible for seeding the Ringworld with a biological agent that destroys superconductors, causing civilization to crash.
And in the book Protector, the Brennan-monster uses a chemical agent (water) on the Martians and another human protector deliberately infects the planet Home with a virus that kills most of the inhabitants.
In Battlestar Galactica, the heroes attempt to use a biological weapon against the Cylons, but that act is not itself portrayed as heroic, and one of them sabotages the attack, and is portrayed as heroic for doing so.
At least, I think that’s the way it went down-- It’s been a while, so I might be misremembering.