Poison Gas kills hundreds
2nd December 1943: The secret cargo of Mustard Gas carried by the SS John Harvey causes widespread casualties - and leads to a cover up
On the afternoon of 2nd December 1943 a German reconnaissance aircraft discovered that the port of Bari, on the Adriatic coast of Italy was 'full' of Allied shipping. A bombing raid was quickly organised - and the Luftwaffe hit the port in the early evening. It was remarkably successful - hitting a large number of ships1 in a surprise attack.
The effects were amplified because two ammunition ships were hit, causing shattering explosions that broke windows seven miles away. A petrol pipeline in the harbour was hit, spilling large quantities of burning fuel into the harbour area. Most seriously the Liberty ship SS John Harvey - carrying a secret cargo of 2,000 mustard gas bombs - was hit.
Then it began to rain. The heavy downpour went on for several minutes only to finish as suddenly as it began.