It occurred on 2 December 1943 during World War II. In the attack, 105 German Junkers Ju 88 bombers of Luftflotte 2 bombed ships from the Allied Italian campaign. They sunk 27 cargo and transport ships and a schooner in Bari harbour.
The attack, which lasted one hour, destroyed the port. Not It was not fixed until February 1944. The attack was called the "Little Pearl Harbor".
The release of mustard gas from one of the cargo ships added to the deaths. The British and American governments hid the news about mustard gas and its effects on victims.
Background[change | change source]
In 1943, during the Italian campaign, the port of Bari in southern Italy was important for Allied forces. Ammunition, supplies, and provisions were unloaded from ships at the port, then moved to Allied forces.
The Allies did not think the Germans could bomb Bari. They thought that the Luftwaffe in Italy could not do a major attack.
Thirty ships of American, British, Polish, Norwegian and Dutch registry were in Bari Harbour on 2 December. The port was lit on the night of the raid to help the unloading of supplies. 
Raid[change | change source]
The Germans thought that destroying the port might slow the advance of the British Eighth Army. Only 105 Ju 88 bombers were available.
The attack started at 19:25, when two or three German aircraft circled the harbour at 10,000 ft (3,000 m). They dropped Düppel (foil strips) to confuse Allied radar.
The German bomber force surprised the Allies. They bombed the harbour and its ships and many of the bombs hit targets. Two ammunition ships were bombed. A petrol pipeline was cut and the fuel caught fire. The fire spread to many of the ships.
Twenty-eight merchant ships with more than 34,000 short tons (31,000 t) of cargo were sunk or destroyed. Twelve more ships were damaged. The port was closed for three weeks. It was reopened in February 1944.
|Ardito||3,732 gross register tons (GRT).|
|Aube||Cargo ship||1,055 GRT.|
|Barletta||Cargo ship.||1,975 GRT. Forty-four crew killed. Raised in 1948-1949 and repaired.|
|Bollsta||Cargo ship||1,832 GRT. Raised in 1948, repaired and returned to service as Stefano M.|
|Cassala||Cargo ship||1,797 GRT. Declared a constructive total loss.|
|Corfu||Cargo ship||1,409 GRT. Declared a constructive total loss.|
|MV Devon Coast||Coaster||646 GRT.|
|Fort Athabasca||Fort ship||7,132 GRT.|
|Fort Lajoie||Fort ship||7,134 GRT.|
|Frosinone||Cargo ship||5,202 GRT.|
|Genespesca II||Cargo ship||1,628 GRT.|
|Goggiam||Cargo ship||1,934 GRT. Declared a constructive total loss.|
|John Bascom||Liberty ship||7,172 GRT. Ten crew killed.|
|John Harvey||Liberty ship||7,176 GRT. Cargo of mustard gas bombs.|
|John L. Motley||Liberty ship||7,176 GRT. Cargo of ammunition. Thirty crew killed.|
|Joseph Wheeler||Liberty ship||7,176 GRT. Forty-one crew killed.|
|Lars Kruse||Cargo ship||1,807 GRT. Nineteen crew killed.|
|Lom||Cargo ship||1,268 GRT. Four crew killed.|
|Luciano Orlando||Cargo ship||Unknown GRT.|
|Lwów||Cargo ship||1,409 GRT.|
|MB 10||Armed motor boat||13 tons displacement|
|Norlom||Design 1105 cargo ship||6,412 GRT. Six crew killed. Refloated November 1946, scrapped 1947.|
|Porto Pisano||Coaster||226 GRT|
|Puck||Cargo ship.||1,065 GRT.|
|Samuel J. Tilden||Liberty ship||7,176 GRT.|
|Testbank||Cargo ship||5,083 GRT. Seventy crew killed.|
|Volodda||Cargo ship||4,673 GRT.|
|Bicester||Cargo ship||1,050 GRT.|
|Brittany Coast||Cargo ship||1,389 GRT.|
|Crista||Cargo ship||1,389 GRT.|
|Dagö||Cargo ship||1,996 GRT.|
|Grace Abbott||Liberty ship||7,191 GRT.|
|John M. Schofield||Liberty ship||7,181 GRT.|
|Lyman Abbott||Liberty ship||7,176 GRT.|
|Odysseus||Cargo ship||1,057 GRT.|
|Vest||Cargo ship||5,074 GRT.|
|Vienna||Cargo ship||4,227 GRT.|
|HMS Zetland||Hunt-class destroyer||1,050 t displ.|
John Harvey[change | change source]
One of the destroyed vessels—the U.S. Liberty ship John Harvey—had been carrying a secret cargo of 2000 M47A1 mustard gas bombs. Each held 60–70 lb (27–32 kg) of the chemical. According to Royal Navy historian Stephen Roskill, the Mustard Gas had been sent to Europe to use if Germany used chemical warfare in Italy.
The destruction of John Harvey caused liquid sulfur mustard from the bombs to spill into waters. The many sailors who had jumped into the water became covered with the chemical.
Within a day, symptoms of mustard poisoning had appeared in 628 patients and medical staff. Symptoms included blindness and chemical burns.
Hundreds of Italian civilians also seeking treatment, who had been poisoned by sulfur mustard gas. By the end of the month, 83 of the 628 hospitalized military victims had died.
Cover-up[change | change source]
The Allies tried to hide the disaster. There were too many witnesses to keep the secret. In February 1944, the U.S. admitted to the accident. They said they did not plan to use chemical weapons unless Germany used them first.
References[change | change source]
- Atkinson (2007), pp. 275–276.
- Orange, p. 175.
- Saunders, p. 36.
- Faguet, Guy B. (2005). The War on Cancer. Springer. p. 71. ISBN 1-4020-3618-3.
- Orange, p. 176.
- "D/S Bollsta". Warsailors. Retrieved 25 January 2012.
- "Barletta (+ 1943)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- "Barletta". What Ship Are You?. Archived from the original on 8 February 2016. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
- "Bollsta (+ 1943)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- "Devon Coast (+ 1943)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- "Fort Athabasca (+ 1943)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- "Fort Lajoie (+ 1943)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- "Frosinone (+ 1943)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- "Inaffondabile (+ 1943)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- "John Bascom (+ 1943)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- "John L. Motley (+ 1943)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- "Joseph Wheeler (+ 1943)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- "Lars Kruse (+ 1943)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- "Lom (+ 1943)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- "Lwow (+ 1943)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- "Puck (+ 1943)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- "Lloyds's Register, Navires a Vapeur et a Moteurs" (PDF). Plimsoll Ship Data. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 June 2012. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- "Samuel J. Tilden (+ 1943)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- "Testbank (+ 1943)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
- Orange, p. 176, citing Roskill.
- Hoenig, Steven L. (2002). Handbook of Chemical Warfare and Terrorism. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 14. ISBN 0-313-32407-7.
Bibliography[change | change source]
- Atkinson, Rick (2007). The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943–1944. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 978-0-8050-6289-2.
- Orange, Vincent (1992) [1st pub. London: Methuen 1990]. Coningham: a biography of Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham. Washington: Center for Air Force History. ISBN 0-413-14580-8.
- Saunders, D.M., Capt. USN (September 1967). "The Bari Incident". United States Naval Institute Proceedings. Annapolis: United States Naval Institute.