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The FReeper Foxhole - Tragedy at Bari, Italy on December 2, 1943 - April 15th, 2008
see educational sources | various

Posted on 04/15/2008 5:47:52 PM PDT by snippy_about_it


Keep our Troops forever in Your care

Give them victory over the enemy...

Grant them a safe and swift return...

Bless those who mourn the lost.

FReepers from the Foxhole join in prayer
for all those serving their country at this time.

...................................................................................... ...........................................

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Tragedy at Bari

Disaster in the Italian Campaign

Bari was an old city dating back to the Middle Ages, and located on the Adriatic with a population of about 200,000. It had become the main supply base for Montgomery's Eighth Army, plus the new Headquarters for the US 15th. Air Force.

On the 2nd. of December 1943, the port was crowded with 30 Allied ships. One of these, the Liberty ship John Harvey, carried a secret load of 100 tons of mustard gas bombs, a precaution in case Hitler decided to invoke the use of chemical warfare. The seeds of the ensuing disaster were planted, merely waiting to germinate.

Chaos at the port of Bari. The German raid closed the port for three weeks

The Port of Bari, all hustle and bustle.

Absorbed with the task of bringing the US 15th. Air Force into reality, with Major General James Doolittle in command, the Allies gave little thought to a German air raid on the bustling port of Bari. The harbour was crammed with shipping, stuffed with supplies, including aviation fuel for the US bombers crowding the Foggia air base 75 miles away.

Come sunset, on the evening of the 2nd. of December in 1943, with the urgent need to hasten the unloading of ships filling the port, the harbour was brilliantly lit so that cargo might be unloaded thoughout the night.


German reconnaissance flight during the afternoon of the 2nd. of December 1943.

1st. Lieutenant Werner Hahn had flown his Messerschmidt ME-210 over Bari at 23,000 feet on the afternoon of the 2nd. of December 1943. Unmolested by any AA fire, he made a second pass of the port, and turned North for home, to report that the proposed target was crowded with unloading ships, perhaps 30 plus.

Field Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen, in command of Luftflotte 2, had suggested to his boss, Field Marshal Kesselring, that an attack on Bari could slow down the advancing 8th. Army, and retard attacks from the newly arrived US 15th. Air Force.

He thought he might manage to gather 150 JU 88's for the attack, in the event, 105 was all he could muster. His aircraft were ordered to fly east to the Adriatic, then turn and approach Bari to the west, the Allies no doubt would anticipate any German air raids to come in from the North. The aircraft would drop Duppel, thin strips of tin foil to confuse the defensive Radar. Parachute flares would be dropped to light up the targets in the harbour at about 1930 ( 7.30 PM , ) then the JU 88's, would attack at a low altitude, hoping to avoid Allied Radar installations.

Mustard gas in Liberty Ship SS John Harvey.

The Captain of John Harvey was not officially informed that his ship would carry a load of lethal mustard gas bombs. These were 4 feet long, 8 inches in diameter, and each held 60/70 pounds of the chemical.

Mustard gas forms blisters, irritates the respiratory system, leaving the skin burnt, with raw ulcers.

Post WW2, in the Royal Australian Navy, I was undertaking an Atomic, Biological, Chemical, Damage Control course at a Sydney NavalEstablishment, during which I was instructed how to combat the effects of mustard gas. Some of this deadly chemical was introduced onto the back of my hands, I was certainly pleased I had paid attention on how to nullify it working, as I diligently scrubbed it off my hands to negate any ill effects of this awful weapon of war. Fortunately I was successful.

On board John Harvey, 1st. Lieutenant Howard D. Beckstrom and his six man team from the 701st. Chemical Maintenance Company were on hand in case of trouble from this deadly cargo. The ship had crossed the Atlantic Ocean without running into any U-Boat problems, then had stopped at Oran in Algeria, thence to Augusta in Sicily, until it made it into Bari on the 26th. of November. Her cargo including 2,000 M47A1 gas bombs filled with mustard gas, which remained a secret, meant she was not given any priority to unload, she must wait her turn.

A flight of German JU 88's in the raid on Bari, December 1943

The German air attack.

Arriving on schedule at Bari, Flight Lieutenant Gustav Teuber, leading in the first wave of bombers could not believe his eyes, the scene below, brilliantly lit, cranes busily lifting cargo from ship's holds, the east jetty crowded with ships.

The attack was a complete suprise, Liberty Ship Joseph Wheeler exploded from a direct hit, John Motley was hit in No. 5 hold, John Bascom next to her, shattered by a rain of bombs, was abandoned.

John Harvey on fire, suddenly blew up, disappearing in a mighty fireball, casting pieces of ship and her deadly cargo of mustard gas all over the harbour. Mustard gas gives off a garlic odour, and now it combined with oil in the harbour, a deadly and volatile mixture. People were noticing a smell of garlic in the air, already doing its deadly work.

Another Liberty ship, Samuel Tilden was sunk.

In all, 17 ships were lost, 5 American, 5 British, 2 Italian, 3 Norwegian, and 2 Polish, another 7 were heavily damaged. Here is a list of the 17 ship losses and those damaged in the raid.


John Harvey (US Liberty, 7177 gt)
John L. Motley (US Liberty, 7176 gt)
John Bascom (US Liberty, 7176 gt)
Joseph Wheeler (US Liberty, 7176 gt)
Samuel J. Tilden (US Liberty, 7176 gt)
Fort Athabasca (British, 7132 gt)
Fort Lajoie ( British, 7134 gt )
Testbank (British, 5083 gt) ***
Lars Kruse (British, 1897 gt)
Devon Coast (British, 646 gt)
Bollsta (Norwegian, 1832 gt)
Norlom (Norwegian, 6412 gt)
Lom (Norwegian, 1268 gt)
Lwow (Polish, 1409 gt)
Puck (Polish, 1065 gt)
Frosinone (Italian, 5202 gt)
Barletta (Italian, 1975 gt)

*** SS Testbank collided with SS Ceramic off the coast of South West Africa, ( now Namibia ) on the 11th. of August in 1940, forcing Ceramic to seek repairs at Walvis Bay. Ceramic herself was later sunk by U-Boat U-515, in the Atlantic on the 7th. of December 1942, and now Testbank is sunk in this raid on Bari, indeed two ill fated ships.

Heavily damaged ship list.

Grace Abbott (American, 7191gt)
John M. Schoefield (American, 7191gt)
Crista (British, 2590 gt)
Brittanny Coast (British, 1389 gt)
Vest (Norwegian, 5074 gt)
Cassala (Italian, 1797 gt)
Odysseus (Dutch, 1057 gt)


There were over 1,000 military and merchant marine casualties, some 800 were admitted to local hospitals. 628 suffered from the mustard gas, of whom, 69 died within two weeks.

The port was closed for three weeks, it had been rendered into rubble.

Secrecy about the mustard gas.

Although US records did mention mustard gas, Winston Churchill insisted all British Medical records were purged and mustard gas deaths were merely listed as the result of: " Burns due to enemy action."

No doubt his insistence of secrecy could have caused more deaths, as victims, especially Italian civilians might have sought proper treatment for their injuries, had they known the real cause.


This Bari raid was a disaster on two fronts. It was a Second Pearl Harbor, with 17 ships totalling 75,936 tons sunk, and another 7 ships with a tonnage of 27,289 tons heavily damaged by this sneak air attack by German aircraft, one of the Luftwaffe's success stories.
The Bari raid produced the only poison gas incident associated with WW2, made worse by the perceived need for secrecy in wartime.

FReeper Foxhole Armed Services Links

KEYWORDS: freeperfoxhole; history; italiancampaign; italy; veterans; wwii
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To: snippy_about_it
"....we have lives now. Even if it is just sitting around on the back porch after work watching the birds and the dogs. :-)"

That's such a nice life. The back porch and birds and dogs. Vey nice. :-)

So, maybe this is the time to mention that I am not married, but I've been working on having a life now too. Those plant children I mentioned in a previous post are nice, but there's a significant man in my life now.

41 posted on 04/17/2008 6:05:48 PM PDT by Wneighbor
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To: Wneighbor

Hey stranger!

Msdrby says hi as well.

42 posted on 04/17/2008 7:16:50 PM PDT by Professional Engineer (
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To: PAR35

We got real internet access but didn’t get any real time with that. Darn!!

43 posted on 04/18/2008 3:30:39 AM PDT by SAMWolf (Huckabee & McCain say -- Those are my principles. If you don't like them I have others.)
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To: Humal

Thanks Humal, nice to see people like Bert are around.

44 posted on 04/18/2008 3:32:13 AM PDT by SAMWolf (Huckabee & McCain say -- Those are my principles. If you don't like them I have others.)
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To: Professional Engineer

Thanks PE. Good to see the Flag-o-gram again.

45 posted on 04/18/2008 3:32:52 AM PDT by SAMWolf (Huckabee & McCain say -- Those are my principles. If you don't like them I have others.)
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To: Wneighbor
I’m living my dream life nowdays.

I'm about 98% there now, just wish I had more time to do things I'd like to do.

46 posted on 04/18/2008 3:34:51 AM PDT by SAMWolf (Huckabee & McCain say -- Those are my principles. If you don't like them I have others.)
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To: Professional Engineer; msdrby

Howdy to both ya’ll and the younguns too. Big younguns by now. LOL

Ya’ll still in the same place? I wuz up in Ft. Worth for the day yesterday. Don’t get there all that often but usually think about ya’ll when we make it up there.

47 posted on 04/18/2008 9:10:32 AM PDT by Wneighbor
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To: SAMWolf

Gosh Sam, 98% of your dreams is purdy darned good if ya ask me. :-D I’m thinkin’ you’re an extremely lucky man. Aren’t ya glad we live in the only country in the world where a body can come this close to dreams?

48 posted on 04/18/2008 9:24:02 AM PDT by Wneighbor
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To: Wneighbor

So good to hear from you Wneighbor. It is a good life. Now you’ve got to get some internet!

49 posted on 04/18/2008 2:37:15 PM PDT by snippy_about_it (The FReeper Foxhole. America's history, America's soul.)
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To: Wneighbor

Ft Worth is a bad taste right now, LOL.

I was over there last week (twice). On the way back the second time, my car burst into flames.

Body shop says it’s prolly a goner this time.

50 posted on 04/18/2008 3:05:29 PM PDT by Professional Engineer (
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To: SAMWolf

Indeed it is. I miss seeing the Foxhole every day.

Gonna have to do a thread some time to show off the trailer Spiderboy and I are building.

51 posted on 04/18/2008 3:06:50 PM PDT by Professional Engineer (
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To: Samwise; SAMWolf; snippy_about_it; alfa6; Wneighbor; radu; All
Guide to Engineers.
52 posted on 04/19/2008 6:50:09 PM PDT by Professional Engineer (
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To: Professional Engineer



alfa6 ;>}

53 posted on 04/19/2008 6:57:40 PM PDT by alfa6 (One mans magic is another mans engineering... L.L.)
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To: Professional Engineer

I could barely stay awake during that presentation. LOL.

54 posted on 04/19/2008 7:22:24 PM PDT by snippy_about_it (The FReeper Foxhole. America's history, America's soul.)
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To: snippy_about_it

Howdy there Snippy! I’m so glad to hear ya’ll are settled in fat and happy. :-) I’ll have internet at home in 2 or 3 months I think. Currently the “significant other” in my life and I are shopping for a house in the country sitting on some acres. Until then we’re living in a “borrowed” house and renting an additional duplex to use as office space. Internet is at the office duplex for business needs but I don’t come here every day. I’m counting on having a little freep time in the mornings with my tea when we get that country spot though. Ya’ll will see me more then. ;-)

55 posted on 04/21/2008 9:08:32 AM PDT by Wneighbor
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To: Professional Engineer

oh oh....

New car time whether you want it or not.

Judging from your experience it’s been bad juju month for vehicles in this vicinity.

Bout 2 weeks ago I borrowed the boyfriend’s pickup to go on an errand across the county. Battery was dead when I started to come home. Got a jump start from my uncle and we got a new battery next morning. He also decided to throw in new spark plugs for good measure. (I didn’t know them new-fangled spark plugs was worth their weight in gold till that day.)

Two days after that, we started across town for breakfast the man’s truck sputtered all the way from the house to the stop sign down the block. He hardheadedly drove across town to breakfast and eventually it got a little better. Did that to him about 3 more mornings before he took it to the shop. Fuel filter and fuel regulator later we get the truck back and drive nicely for 3 or 4 days.

Headed up to Wichita Falls Saturday before last and the truck started it’s chokin’ and pukin’ thing again about 10 miles from the halfway point. Found a local shade tree mechanic in Lipan who recommended we get a fuel pump. (Didja know that on the new Chevy’s those things are located on TOP of the gas tank so’s you have to either remove the gas tank OR the bed of the truck to get to ‘em? AND guess what? There are 2 different fuel pumps they put in them trucks. And they don’t want to give you any clues by VIN number or manual or any other method as to what fuel pump the Chevy lottery gave ya... you gots to take off the gas tank OR the bed and look at the number on top of the fuel pump. Talk about your engineering nightmares designed to sell Mr. Goodwrench hours!!!)

So, we buy 2 fuel pumps in Mineral Wells and high tail it (at record speeds of 2 to 43 MPH) on to Henrietta where I got friends and the man o’ the house is mechanically inclined enough to help with that bed-o-the-truck removal and pump replacement. Made it from Mineral Wells to Henrietta (bout 90 miles) in 4 1/2 hours. LOL

The guys changed the fuel pump, we visited, hadn’t planned it but spent the night cause the day was just too long to drive back to Bosque county. Had a nice weekend visit with friends, started back late Sunday afternoon. Returned the unused fuel pump to the nice men at O’Reilly in Mineral Wells, resumed trip, started up a hill about 5 miles north of where the Saturday trouble started and the truck really didn’t want to climb the hill.... or any of the other 5 million and 98 hills on the highway between there and here. So, took us another 2 1/2 hours to make it back to home base in Bosque county LATE Sunday night.

Ain’t believin’ this right?

So, next morning take truck back to shop. Computer whizzo gadget says we either got O2 sensors out or catalytic converters. Replaced O2 sensors, still got check engine light... you guess it... 2 catalytic converters needed. So, in central Bosque county that was gonna cost us $860... but in calling around - they did it over in north Ft. Worth for $330. LOL The guy in the shop here drilled out the converters so we could drive to Ft. Worth and THAT’S WHAT I WAS DOIN’ IN FT. WORTH LAST THURSDAY!!!

Please, let the PE and WN households both be clear of the curse-o-the vehicles for the rest of our lives? Last year it was floods - this year we gots vehicle plagues?

56 posted on 04/21/2008 9:30:13 AM PDT by Wneighbor
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To: Wneighbor
New car time whether you want it or not.

Durn thing is only a year old. I may get a pickup this time. We'll see.

In other news, Spiderboy (& Bittygirl) and I are building a teardrop trailer for camping. You can see our "build" gallery here.

Right now the Compass Rose looks like this:

When we're done, this is what we're aiming for:

57 posted on 04/21/2008 10:40:00 AM PDT by Professional Engineer (
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To: Wneighbor

We lucked out here and at least have DSL out in the sticks. We didn’t have that in Georgia.

Hope your new rural home has something to offer besides dial up.

58 posted on 04/21/2008 3:13:35 PM PDT by snippy_about_it (The FReeper Foxhole. America's history, America's soul.)
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To: snippy_about_it; SAMWolf; alfa6; Soaring Feather; Samwise; Wneighbor; All
It's Dead Jim...




59 posted on 04/23/2008 6:16:43 PM PDT by Professional Engineer (
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To: Professional Engineer

Good grief, it is done. Toast.

60 posted on 04/23/2008 6:49:21 PM PDT by Soaring Feather (I soar- 'cause I can...Tom pushed me off my perch, I had to Soar!)
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