Bari Revisited. Remaining Unanswered Questions Related to the German Air Raid at Bari (Storia)

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Università: M.S. Texas A&M University Kingsville
Materia: Storia
Bari Revisited. Remaining Unanswered Questions Related to the German Air Raid at Bari

Curtis B. Maynard, B.A.A.S., M.S. Texas A&M University Kingsville (May 2003)

Il tratto di mare del basso Adriatico, fra la Puglia e l’Albania, la Croazia e il Montenegro, rappresenta un’area ad alto tasso d’inquinamento di prodotti chimici ad… orologeria. Si tratta delle conseguenze del bombardamento del 2 dicembre 1943 da parte dell’aviazione tedesca contro diciassette navi americane che erano ancorate nel porto di Bari. Fra queste c’era la «John Harvey» che conteneva bombe all’iprite. Il disastro fu grande, con oltre un migliaio di morti e un numero imprecisato di feriti se si vogliono considerare i danni che nel tempo ha prodotto questo prodotto chimico.
La situazione è lontana dal considerarsi risolta perché l’area non è stata mai bonificata radicalmente e anzi si è aggravata con altre sostanze dopo i recenti bombardamenti dell’ex Jugoslavia a causa della guerra serbo-croata. Infatti i bombardieri hanno rilasciato in mare una serie imprecisata di ordigni.
E senza considerare vecchie carrette del mare lasciate affondare di proposito con il loro carico velenoso.
Sull’episodio del bombardamento del porto di Bari un giovane storico americano, Curtis B. Maynard, ci ha inviato i primi capitoli di una sua recente ricerca tendente ad approfondire gli aspetti militari della segretezza e delle guerre chimiche in generale. Il lavoro porta nuovi dati e ipotesi storiche su quell’episodio ancora poco chiaro per molti aspetti e che la gran parte degli americani ignora.

It has been posited in this study that much of what we have come to learn about the shrouded history surrounding the infamous air raid on the Italian coastal city of Bari is not accurate. The air raid left seventeen Allied ships on the bottom of the harbor in the second worst disaster to ever befall the American navy, yet it is almost unheard of for one reason, one of those Allied ships carried a poison gas that affected hundreds and killed dozens. In order to cover this embarrassing fact up the Allies went to great lengths, including the surreptitious editing of one high ranking Nazis memoirs in an effort to prevent disclosing to the public the full details. But there may have been another more insidious reason for the lengths gone to in order to close the lid on Bari, the United States Military may have been trying to hide the fact that they had introduced a toxic agent into the European Theatre of Operation that had never been used before in Europe, even during the First World War, when nearly every horrible gas conceived of had been released in hellish clouds designed for no other purpose than to kill anyone who breathed its fumes or came into contact with its droplets. This thesis seeks to answer many of the questions left unanswered after nearly sixty years of relative obscurity.

CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION

This thesis will delve into unanswered questions related to an event that occurred in Bari, Italy during World War II involving the release of a toxic vesicant agent said to be mustard gas from an American merchant marine vessel anchored in the city’s harbor. The event itself occurred on 2 December 1943 when one hundred German bomber aircraft surprised the Allies in an attack that ultimately left more than fifteen merchant marine vessels at the bottom of the harbor. This incident represented the second worst naval disaster suffered by America during the war, superceded only by the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. Despite this, many Americans remain completely unaware of it to this very day. This may be due in some part to the fact that the American military leadership under General Dwight D. Eisenhower covered the incident up for more than a decade, primarily because of the controversial nature of the cargo carried on the merchant marine vessel John Harvey.
This cargo reportedly consisted of more than one hundred tons of mustard gas, a lethal vesicant also known by its chemical name dichloroethyl sulfide. Mustard gas was first used in combat during World War I, when in July 1917 the Germans unleashed it on the battlefield in France. As a vesicant it not only attacks the respiratory system, but also the skin. The French referred to this agent as Yperite, as it was first used at Ypers, France; the Germans referred to it as either Lost or Gelb Kreuz, the former a derivation of the names of the two scientists that first developed it, and the latter meaning yellow cross, in reference to the painted markers on the outside of the shell casing identifying it as mustard gas. Mustard is an oily brownish liquid that evaporates slowly, giving off a vapor five times heavier than air. It is almost odorless in field concentrations, but smells of garlic or mustard in high concentrations, hence the name. The liquid is incredibly persistent and has been known to cause burns after more than twenty years under certain circumstances. It was this agent that the American military transported to the European Theatre of Operations (ETO) via the merchant marine. Unbeknownst to the Allies Bari would fall prey to a German Luftwaffe attack on 2 December 1943, resulting in a horrific accident that inevitably caused the deaths of at least sixty-nine men, and the exposure to mustard of another six hundred and twenty-eight. It is an accepted fact today that the true death toll will never be known for several reasons, among them the fact that many Italians, including physicians at local hospitals, were never informed that mustard gas had been released over the city, and that the pernicious and persistent nature of mustard would affect the region over the decades to come. Mustard is a carcinogen, or cancer-causing agent, and it is thought that many Italians may have succumbed to its effects years after the fact.
This incident is extremely significant for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it has not been thoroughly researched by historians, and is nearly unknown to the majority of American citizens. Many Americans are of the opinion that gas or toxic agents were not used during World War II, which is true for the most part, but these agents were available for use, should it have been determined that they would be necessary. The Germans possessed gas weapons, including three particularly terrible nerve agents known as Tabun, Sarin, and Soman. These nerve agents were far more potent than anything the Allies had, including mustard and Lewisite, but fortunately were never used.
The nerve agents were an entirely new concept completely unknown to the Allies until after the war. They were never used in combat by the Germans in an about face from their aggressive use of other gas agents during World War I; some believe this to be because Hitler abhorred gas as a result of being gassed himself during World War I. For whatever reason, the Nazis chose not to use these highly efficient chemical munitions during the war.
The incident at Bari also represents how history can be distorted in times of war. The incident happened, yet it was suppressed by order of General Eisenhower for years after the fact. At the time, it could be argued a certain level of secrecy was necessary for security purposes. It would not have been beneficial for the Allies to provoke a German response with their own gas should it have been discovered that the Allies were stockpiling chemical munitions in Italy. Additionally it was thought that the Nazi propaganda ministry might be able effectively to use this incident against the Allies, and perhaps sway world opinion against them. It was for these reasons that Winston Churchill and General Eisenhower acted in concert to bury the truth. Perhaps it was uncomfortable facts like what happened at Bari that motivated Churchill to once say, ?In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.?
Unfortunately the details surrounding Bari were never fully divulged following the war, possibly for political purposes, or to avoid embarrassment, or a combination of the two. In any case the facts were buried and were not released until many years later.
The concept that embarrassment may have played a role is not without some merit. Captain Harry C. Butcher, Eisenhower’s Naval Aide stated in his memoirs that the professional public relations people might be causing the public to lose confidence in the military for several reasons including the ?Bari incident.? At no point in his memoirs however, does Butcher mention mustard gas in connection with Bari. According to Glenn B. Infield in his book about the incident, Disaster at Bari, he mentioned that Axis Sally, a Nazi radio propagandist, sarcastically stated soon after 2 December, ?I see you boys are getting gassed by your own poison gas.? This would seem to indicate that the Nazis were already aware of the fact that the Americans had transported gas to Italy, and after 2 December, were dying of exposure to it.
When events associated with Bari are closely scrutinized, many perplexing questions arise. Why, for example, was something as simple as the origin of the mustard gas so difficult to discern? Why were there irregularities or inconsistencies in the wounds suffered from the exposure to mustard gas at Bari? The wounds were generally of a more serious nature than those formerly known to be associated with mustard gas exposure and the mortality rate was considerably higher at Bari than in any known cases of mustard gas exposure during World War I. What was not investigated in Infield’s Disaster at Bari was the possibility that sulfur mustard was not the culprit, or agent responsible for the casualties, but something else altogether.
The thesis is divided into six chapters, each considered necessary for a better understanding of chemical weapons and how they then relate to Bari. The introduction devotes itself to laying out the military background associated with Bari as well as the possible reasons behind the secrecy attached to the incident. Chapter II explores the military events leading up to the Italian campaign and the importance of the port of Bari. Chapter III provides a relatively brief overview of the history of chemical weapons and the American Chemical Warfare Service. Chapter IV describes the actual German attack on Bari and its immediate aftermath. Chapter V investigates the numerous potential reasons behind the cover-up and why it is likely that the purported explanation is erroneous. Chapter VI follows up on some of the information derived from the Bari incident and how that actually helped advance medical science in the areas of oncology and chemotherapy. Chapter VII concludes the thesis and posits that the true reason for the cover-up was not related to public opinion, administrative embarrassment or fear of a retaliatory German gas attack as much as it was an inherent and consistent cult of secrecy within the Chemical Warfare Service and the United States government in relation to chemical weapons in general, and specifically the introduction of a chemical warfare agent that had never before been used by any of the belligerents in Europe even during World War I.
Numerous sources will be employed in this thesis. These sources include the autobiographical accounts of Dwight D. Eisenhower himself, who stated that Bari was the single greatest loss from air action inflicted on the U.S. during the entire period of Allied campaigning in the Mediterranean and in Europe. The memoirs of Harry C. Butcher, Eisenhower’s naval aide will be closely examined, as well as government documents provided by the National Archives and specifically related to Bari. Former major, Air Force pilot, and author Glenn B. Infield’s book Disaster at Bari is possibly the most definitive study of the incident at Bari to date, and will act as a foundation in some respects for this thesis. Government documents provided by the Chemical Warfare Service, and recorded by the Office of the Chief of Military History, as well as documents provided by the U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command will additionally complement this work. Government documents out of the Department of the Army’s Biological Chemical Command in Aberdeen, Maryland are revealing in that they divulge more than one thousand one hundred and fifty-five individual transfers of chemical warfare agents between associated facilities in the years between 1946 and 1986. Various other sources including the autobiographical accounts of Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Reich minister of Propaganda and Enlightenment, and William Shirer, the American journalist who wrote The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, will also be utilized.
The government documents obtained through the National Archives on the incident at Bari are extensive and provide enough information for an informative paper on the issue, but in order to put some of the points into their proper context, this author feels that the incorporation of other sources will be necessary for a detailed analysis. All of the documents directly related to the aftermath of the air raid at Bari and received from the National Archives were stamped secret or most secret indicating that they were shared with the British who exercise the latter terminology to indicate the level of security prescribed to a document.
It is expected that this thesis will augment known historical facts associated with the incident at Bari on 2 December 1943. Additionally, it is this author’s hope that this thesis and the information provided within will enlighten the reader to the fact that the United States Government developed chemical weapons in the past, transported them to Europe, and made preparations to use them against human beings in combat, and in direct violation of the chemical weapons exclusions provided for within the Geneva Gas Protocols of 1925. It is this author’s belief that this uncomfortable fact should be better understood by the American public as it may encourage us to learn even more, and perhaps one day eliminate these agents altogether.
Many people are under the false impression that America never developed chemical weapons after World War I, despite the fact that America only recently ratified the Chemical Weapon Treaty in the last decade of the twentieth century. In 1994 the U.S. military still maintained 30,000 tons of chemical munitions.

CHAPTER II PRELUDE TO BARI

In 1942 the National Socialists dominated Europe, and with the Italian Fascists in firm control of Italy itself, the Mediterranean was at great risk. The German Afrika Korps, in combination with Italian troops, was a force to be reckoned with in North Africa. Should the German-Italian African front progress as far as the Suez Canal, there was a distinct possibility that the sympathetic Arabs might join the Axis, and therefore put a great deal of Arab oil, the lifeblood of war, in the hands of Germany. Stalin was on the advance in Asia, but the Wehrmacht was anything but defeated, and the Soviet Union was desperate for relief. Stalin believed that if the United States and Great Britain were to open a second front in the west, the Soviet Union could regroup, and continue the offensive drive into Central Europe. The second front concept was accepted by the Allies, but instead of a direct invasion of Europe as envisioned by Stalin, they preferred a steppingstone approach beginning in West Africa and proceeding into Italy by way of Sicily. This waffling on the Allied part infuriated Stalin, but there was little he could do about it, other than wait. The defeat of the German sixth army at Stalingrad early in 1943 provided the Soviet Army with some respite until Field Marshall von Manstein stabilized the front, inflicting huge losses on the Red Army and putting the Soviets once again on the defensive. At this point Stalin was frantic, and requested that the Anglo-Americans open a second front immediately in Europe. This second front was envisioned as a landing in France, but for lack of landing craft it could not begin before May 1944.
The first step began on 8 November 1942, with the invasions of Casablanca on the Moroccan coast, and Oran and Algiers on the Algerian coast. Despite Vichy French resistance, the landings went well for the most part. Through a variety of strategic maneuvers the Allies were able to get the Vichy French to surrender, and cease their fighting against the Anglo-Americans. Confusion was the rule following the French capitulation, and ?in this state of doubt and indecision, the Germans began to make landings in the Tunisia area. The first German contingent reached the area by air on the afternoon of 9 November.?
Despite a number of military setbacks, the Anglo-Americans eventually drove the Axis forces east, and forced them to surrender in May 1943, a victory in which the Allies took 240,000 prisoners. Comparatively, the loss was every bit as bad as that suffered by the Germans at Stalingrad earlier that year. The Allied invasion of North Africa was known as Operation Torch, the subsequent invasion of Sicily and Italy became known as Operation Husky.
Operation Husky had one significant advantage, especially considering its timing. Nazi Germany had committed itself on 4 July to a huge offensive in the Soviet Union, operation Citadel, or the battle of Kursk. For two weeks the Germans struggled to close a Soviet salient and trap a significant portion of the Soviet Army in a pincer movement. The offensive petered out, and resulted in the ?turning point on the Eastern-Front as the German Army was never able again to take more than a local initiative.?
On 10 July 1943 the first airborne units parachuted onto the island of Sicily, directly across from the Italian mainland, separated only by a narrow strip of water known as the Strait of Messina. The Supreme Allied Commander had this to say about the savagery of combat encountered by the Anglo-Americans in Sicily: By the end of July the Italian garrison, except for a few small elements under the direct domination of their German overlords, had entirely quit, but along the great saw-toothed ridge of which the center was Mount Etna the German garrison was fighting skillfully and savagely. Panzer and paratroop elements were among the best we encountered in the war, and each position won was gained only through the complete destruction of the defending elements.
The Italians realized the futility of continuing the war against the Allies, but desired to protect themselves from the excesses expected of the Germans should their European ally capitulate to the Anglo-Americans. The Italians therefore conducted secret negotiations with the Allies, and conspired to allow an uncontested landing of Allied troops on the Italian mainland.
On 3 September 1943, two divisions of Allied troops were transported across the Strait of Messina, and meeting no resistance the Allied invasion of Italy had begun. The big push came on 9 September, when the Allies landed in force at Salerno, Taranto, and Reggio Calabria. By 1 October 1943 General Mark Clark’s troops had captured Naples, an important port utterly destroyed by the retreating Germans, but quickly rebuilt by the Allies. The stubborn resistance of the Wehrmacht frequently stalled the Allied advance north. Eisenhower observed when inspecting the front that ?operations in Italy would be accompanied by the utmost hardship and difficulty.? From the German perspective, the loss of Sicily and the presence of Anglo-American troops on the Italian mainland was an unmitigated disaster. The Allies would soon be able to launch serious air strikes against the Reich from airfields in southern Italy. The Reichsminister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels was well aware of this fact, and bitterly remarked in late September 1943, ?The Americans and British are making a lot of fuss about the capture of the southern Italian airport of Foggia. They hope to use it as a jumping off place for targets in southern Germany.? The real danger in Allied control of the Foggia airbase was not so much that they could hit southern Germany, but that they could endlessly bombard the Reich’s primary source of petroleum at Ploesti in Rumania, ?the only source of natural oil for the German armies.? After the fall of the Italian Fascist Regime under Benito Mussolini in July 1943, and the subsequent capitulation of the Italian military, developments quickly worsened for the Nazis in the Balkans as well as in Italy.
The diary entries of Joseph Goebbels covering the periods of October and November 1943 are rife with examples of what effect the Allied airbases in Italy were having on the overall war situation in Germany. The loss of the Italian airfields in southern Italy was creating havoc in the Fatherland and the German satellites, and there did not appear to be a reprieve in sight.
The Germans eventually formed a defensive line in northern Italy known as the Gustav Line. At this point the Germans were able to somewhat stabilize their defensive situation, and bring up reinforcements. Fighting followed that was some of the bitterest, and most violent of the entire war. Ernie Pyle, a well-known American war correspondent, described the fighting in his book entitled Brave Men. Pyle depicts the American soldier as a conglomeration of human beings with a single collective goal, the destruction of Nazi Germany. ?We had a couple of slightly wounded Puerto Ricans… There were full-blooded Indians, and Negroes, and New York Italians, and plain American ranch hands, and Spanish Americans from down Mexico way.? In short, Pyle illustrates the fact that the American fighting man came from many diverse backgrounds.
By January of 1944 the Germans were essentially reduced to defending the Gustav line in northern Italy. During the entire offensive, beginning in Africa, the Allied commanders were always acutely aware of the fact that poison gas could potentially be introduced into the equation at any time. This situation was somewhat moderated by the fact that the Anglo-Americans had broken the German code, and had acquired an Enigma machine from a German submarine unbeknownst to the German Navy, and thus were able to decipher German intentions, often before German field commanders could. The Enigma box, or the machine itself was essentially a tool used to encrypt and decipher encoded messages, and was incredibly complicated for a piece of equipment built in the 1930s. The progress of Operations Torch and Husky, the invasion of Italy, were dependent upon many variables, including air supremacy and supply. Supply was an integral part of United States military operations, and absolutely essential for Allied victory in the European Theatre of Operations. It was in this context that the use of the port at Bari was vital to Allied commanders, and for the same reason, the port attracted the attention of the German Luftwaffe.
After the successful completions of Operations Avalanche and Baytown, the capture of the ports of Naples, Bari and Taranto, and the important air centers at Naples and Foggia, the Allies were in the enviable position of being better able to attack the Germans in Italy, than were the Germans in being able to defend against or expel the Allies. By occupying these ports, the Allies were able to bring in 200,000 troops, 100,000 tons of material supply, and 30,000 vehicles in the earliest stages of the Italian operations. The ports supplied the entire Allied war machine including the vital airfields. The airfields were incredibly important because they were within range of the entire German ?communication, industrial, and economic? centers. Forty-four percent of Germany’s crude oil production capacity was within a 600-mile range of the Foggia airbase. In order to understand the significance of the port at Bari, one must consider that four of the most important German military leaders in the Italian operation in 1943 concurred that the port of Bari was possibly the key to stalling the Allied advance.
In short, the harbor at Bari was strategically significant, and attracted the attention of German Field Marshals like Kesselring and Freiherr von Richtofen because of the fact that it could supply the Allies, and the very survival of the German war effort depended on taking away this Allied advantage. Eisenhower’s aide Captain Butcher illustrated the significance of Bari, and how it related to air operations by commenting that the loss of material aboard the ships sunk at Bari ?will slow the development of Foggia and perhaps the advance of the Eighth Army.? Eisenhower himself described the loss of material at Bari as a ?serious blow.?

CHAPTER III HISTORY OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS

The history of chemical weapons is not exclusively limited to the twentieth century; in fact they were used more than two thousand four hundred years ago during the Peloponnesian War when Greek soldiers added certain chemicals, primarily sulfur, to fire in order to create fumes that asphyxiated their enemies. It is said that around A.D. 660 a Greek engineer by the name of Callinicus developed ?Greek Fire,? a highly flammable mixture of unknown composition that was successfully used to repel the Saracens and Rus from the city port of Constantinople. According to legend, whatever liquid was thrown on the fire in an attempt to put it out only caused it to burn that much more fiercely.
It is likely that many variations of chemical weapons were used throughout history in one way or another, but for the most part today’s modern chemical weapons are a product of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Edwin Stanton, secretary of war for the Union is said to have considered the use of chlorine gas during the Civil War, but rejected the idea. The British used artillery shells loaded with picric acid during the Boer War (1899), but abandoned the practice when it was determined that the results were ineffective.
Modern chemical weapons truly saw their introduction, and thus far zenith, during the World War I. On the afternoon of 22 April 1915 the German Army introduced an agent onto the battlefield that shocked the Allies, and caused massive confusion all along the front. After a tremendous artillery barrage near the Belgian village of Ypres, troops noticed a yellowish-green haze drifting across the landscape in front of them, and quickly rolling into their positions. Being entirely unprepared for a poison gas attack, the Allied troops fell into a state of panic, and many died from inhaling lethal chlorine gas.
According to the Office of the Chief of Military History, the ?gas enveloped a French colonial regiment. Some soldiers emerged from the cloud blinded, choking, and coughing, but other soldiers, incapacitated, dying, or dead from the effects of the gas were left in the trenches. German gas breached the Allied lines for four miles, and the German soldiers captured fifty French guns.?
With that, the era of modern chemical warfare had begun. The gas used at Ypres was liquid chlorine, and had been released not from artillery shells, chemical mortars, Levin’s projectors, or bombs, but instead from what appeared to be relatively benign cylinders. The cylinders had been filled with liquid chlorine under pressure behind enemy lines, and then brought up to the front and buried under the trenches of the German soldiers. When wind conditions were deemed to be appropriate, the valves of the cylinders were opened, and out poured their deadly contents. Chlorine gas forms a highly toxic vapor that ?attacks the lungs and bronchial tubes, stripping them of their linings and producing large amounts of fluids to block the windpipe. The effect was to virtually drown the victims in their own fluids.? The effects of chlorine gas are truly horrific, and the terror created by exposure to it may be best summed up by the words of an English poet-soldier that fought in the trenches during the Great War, and died on Armistice Day: Gas! Gas! Quick boys! An ecstasy of fumbling. Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time, but someone still was yelling out and stumbling. And floundering like a man in fire or lime. Dim through the misty panes and thick green light. As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. In all my dreams before my helpless sight he plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
Gas is an incredibly horrible weapon, dedicated in an almost inhumane manner to asphyxiating its victim. Chlorine gas was neither the first nor the last chemical weapon used against men in battle, but it was the first chemical used in combat during World War I, and its effects were encouraging, at least in the beginning, against unprotected soldiers. ?The German gas attack on 22 April took the Allied forces by complete surprise, and, what is more astonishing, its success was a surprise to the Germans.? The Germans failed to exploit their advantage created by the gas attack, and ?instead of achieving a major victory, the Germans had to settle for merely straightening their line.? The Germans estimated that the French suffered 15,000 casualties, including 5,000 deaths on 22 April, an incredible number considering the static nature of trench warfare, and certainly encouraging for the Germans.
Since mustard gas is a primary focus of this work a short explanation of what it is may be necessary. In July 1917 the Germans developed a new poison, mustard gas, with the Chemical Warfare Service (CWS) symbol, H. This new and extremely lethal agent was a vesicant, or an agent that caused severe chemical burns in both the respiratory system and the skin. It quickly became the ?king of battle gases,? and was particularly effective early on, in that it would penetrate the gas masks employed by the Allies. The agent itself, a mixture of approximately 70 percent dichloroethyl sulfide and 30 percent of sulphur and other sulphur compounds, is a viscous brown liquid that evaporates slowly releasing a vapor five times heavier than air. It is essentially odorless in concentrations that would typically be used in wartime, but has a strong odor of garlic or mustard in high concentrations, especially in its impure form. It is an irritant and poisons body cells, and generally first manifests signs and symptoms several hours post exposure. Distilled mustard, or the same agent in a more concentrated form, has the Chemical Warfare Service designation of HD.
According to the Chemical Warfare Service, a branch of the United States Military devoted to toxic gas and biological agent research and development, mustard gas had some advantages in combat. The Chemical Warfare Service was an organization that saw its birth in the trenches of World War I. In the beginning, the United States Military had to be sold on the idea that chemical weapons would benefit them if they were used offensively. ?The United States was a latecomer to World War I and did not declare war on Germany until April 1917. By September 1917, a ?Gas Service? had been established as a separate branch of the American Expeditionary Force in France, but it was not until June 1918 that the Gas Service became the newly formed US Army Chemical Warfare Service, or CWS. Because of the risk inherent with poison gas as far as the inability to control which way the wind blows the toxins and the fact that using chemical weapons drew a disproportionate amount of enemy attention, U.S. Army officers resisted engaging in gas warfare. Major General William L. Sibert, the first commanding general of the CWS, stated in effect that the CWS actually had to go out and sell gas to the Army. In essence, the CWS had to convince the Army that gas warfare was more beneficial than detrimental.
The CWS was originally given the responsibility of advising the military on matters related to poison gas. It had no authority of its own, and could not issue orders, or directly affect policy. Major General Sibert then proceeded to organize the service, so that President Wilson approved the service’s induction into the National Army. It was not until after the First World War that a clear definition emerged of what the role and responsibilities of the CWS would be. After a great deal of debate it was decided in 1922 that the service would concentrate on defensive measures related to gas warfare, the development of superior gas masks, antidotes and countermeasures. During a war in which chemical weapons were used however, the role of the CWS would dramatically change, as it was assigned the responsibility of research, development, production, transportation, and assignment of chemical weapons in all theatres of war. Fortunately, gas was never used during World War II, and the CWS never realized its full war powers.
Mustard gas’s strategic significance lay within the agent’s ability to provide countermeasures for preventing a concerted enemy advance or retreat. This is an important point because it will later support a couple of assertions established in the introduction.
Since mustard evaporated slowly and thus remained effective from several hours to several days, depending on the weather and terrain, its use was indicated on strategic targets or on enemy positions that would not be taken immediately by American troops. Thus it could be used to ?seal off? an enemy area into which American troops were advancing, and to hamper enemy lines of communication, airfields, landing beaches, artillery emplacements, and observation points. In withdrawals it could be used to contaminate the routes of enemy advance.
The preceding information is also crucial for understanding the true purposes of a vesicant agent like mustard gas. It cannot be used to strike at enemy soldiers on the front lines. It could theoretically be used, but in application, friendly troops would undoubtedly fall victim to the toxin as well. Mustard gas is best used on ?strategic targets,? or in other words, the enemy’s rear. The best way to do this is by dropping bombs containing mustard on various targets. In some cases, even during World War II spray tanks were considered for spraying the toxin on troop concentrations. In fact the United States Military had procured 92,337 M10 30 gallon airplane spray tanks for exactly this purpose. An airplane flying at an altitude of 100 feet and carrying four of these tanks could spray mustard over an area 75 to 80 yards wide and 600 to 800 yards long. One can see the advantages mustard gas could potentially exploit.
In addition, the Chemical Warfare Service procured over 1,100,000 chemical bombs including the M70 and M70A1 115-pound bombs and the M47A1 and M47A2 100-pound bombs. The bombs aboard the John Harvey were M47A1s according to Infield’s meticulous research. And there were 2000 of them. According to the Chemical Warfare Service the M47A1 was ?slightly over 4 feet long, and 8 inches in diameter, and contained a cylindrical burster. The bombs held from 60 to 70 pounds of mustard, and when dropped contaminated an area of from 15 to 40 yards in diameter, depending upon the altitude of the plane, hardness of the ground, thickness of the vegetation, and so on.?
The original M47 bomb was thin-walled, and it was soon found that the walls would occasionally rupture in transport. The redesigned M47A1 doubled the thickness of the bomb casing, and increased the strength of the welds, thus preventing ruptures related to the buildup of pressure inherent in mustard filled bombs.
At this point a short history of some of the other chemical agents developed by the Chemical Warfare Service is worth investigating. In 1943 the Chemical Warfare Service had chemical munitions with the following chemical agents inside. A short description of the agent is included. · Phosgene (CWS symbol, CG) is a colorless liquid, slightly denser than water. The vapor dissipates in air quickly and for this reason is known as a non-persistent agent. ?If a large amount is inhaled, the air cells (alveoli) become flooded and the patient dies from lack of oxygen.? The effects of the gas are generally not noticed until several hours after the exposure. The Chemical Warfare Service had thousands of tons of phosgene on hand and employed it in everything from mortars, mines, and shells to large 1000-pound bombs, containing more than 400 pounds of phosgene.
Hydrogen Cyanide (CWS symbol, AC) also known as prussic acid and Zyklon B, is a colorless liquid which evaporates quickly at room temperature. It boils at 78 F. The toxin interferes with normal cellular processes, particularly in the respiratory system, and if present in more than a certain small concentration quickly causes death. Despite some drawbacks Hydrogen Cyanide is cheap, available, and has the desirable effect of a chemical agent. After the United States entered World War II the CWS expanded its mission and tested AC bombs ranging in size from, 100, 115, 1000, and 2000-pounds. The 1000-pound bomb, holding approximately 200 pounds of hydrogen cyanide, proved especially effective in tests. Unlike mustard, Hydrogen Cyanide was a non-persistent agent and would have been advantageous to an attacking force, rather than as a means to prevent advance or retreat by saturating and area in the enemy’s rear.
Cyanogen Chloride (CWS symbol, CK) is a colorless liquid, denser than water. It boils at 55 F, giving off a vapor which is twice as dense as air and irritates the mucus membranes of the eyes and nasal passages. When air saturated with the vapor is inhaled the compound quickly paralyzes the nervous system and causes death. The toxicity is cumulative, meaning that if low, sub-lethal concentrations are consistently encountered the effect will be the same: death. Nearly all of the twenty-five million pounds of CK produced by the CWS went into 33,347 M78 500-pound bombs, each holding 165-pounds of agent, and 55,851 M79 1000-pound bombs, each containing 332-pounds. Cyanogen Chloride’s chief advantage was that it could easily pass through the filter of the enemy’s gas masks.
Other agents produced in relatively insignificant amounts included Nitrogen Mustard (CWS symbol, HN), Chloroacetophenon (CWS symbol, CN) and Adamsite (CWS symbol, DA). CN is better known as tear gas, and the other two agents were never produced in significant amounts, or seriously considered as an agent to be used during the Second World War.
In addition to chemical agents, the United States Military produced biological weapons during World War II. The secrecy behind the Army’s biological weapons program can best understood when one takes into consideration that much of the information associated with this is still classified. The CWS was responsible for the biological weapons programs as well. What information does exist is essentially limited to a history of the development of a biological weapons program more than a detailed inventory of what biological agents were researched, let alone developed. The CWS considered biological weapons within its sphere of influence ever since the Geneva Gas Protocol of 1925 linked chemical, biological, and incendiary warfare together as related problems.
Briefly, the CWS was directly responsible for the military application of biological warfare, and constructed the biological warfare center at Camp Detrick in Maryland. The CWS’s production of biological weapons is a well-known fact today, and represents a sad chapter in American history. This history reflects a great deal of lies and deception on the part of the American government, that includes testing biological agents on unsuspecting Americans in order to determine saturation levels, contamination of the environment, and other devious activities.
Eric Croddy, a chemical and biological weapons expert and author employed by the Center for Non-Proliferation Studies provides a detailed picture of what the ?bugs and gas? community was up to in 1944. According to Croddy, by 1944 the biological agents being studied and in all likelihood produced included, Anthrax, Psittacosis, Plague, Cholera, Typhus, Yellow Fever, Coccidioidomycosis, Typhoid, Tularemia, Brucellosis, Glanders, Melioidosis and Parathyroid. Additionally agents were being developed at Camp Detrick that were adept at killing animals including rinderpest, foot and mouth disease, and fowl plague. Various anti-crop diseases were also being researched that would destroy a variety of agricultural products like rice and wheat resulting in the starvation of the target population. The importance of familiarizing oneself with these agents is imperative, as the implications associated with their use cannot be described as anything else but horrific, even apocalyptic.
Croddy states why chemical agents are advantageous under certain circumstances. ?They come at a relatively low cost considering the size of their ?footprint.? When compared to the cost of conventional modern weapons, and especially when compared to the investment required for nuclear war, chemical weapons are cheap, and biological weapons are even cheaper.? This idea is further reinforced by the noted scientist Michael Osterholm in his book Living Terrors: ?One government analyst some years ago determined that $1,500 of nuclear killing power would set an anthrax assailant back by only a penny.? Additionally Leonard Cole supports this also by citing expert information provided to the United Nations in 1969 stating that a square kilometer of ground costs approximately $2000 to take with conventional weapons, $800 with nuclear, $600 with nerve agent, and a single dollar with biological agents. When this fact is taken into consideration one can see why governments pursued research and development of chemical and biological agents.
In the beginning, the United States Military had to be sold on the idea that chemical weapons would benefit them if they were used offensively. There was a great deal of apprehension about using gas after World War I. However a mere twenty-six years later this was no longer the case. The Army had developed a new perspective, as had the American people, who until the Japanese threat had materialized, abhorred the idea of gas warfare. In fact, that abhorrence had extended all the way to the Executive Branch.
In June 1943 Franklin D. Roosevelt categorically stated, ?We shall under no circumstances resort to the use of such weapons unless they are first used by our enemies.? This statement generally reflected public opinion concerning gas warfare at the time, however by 1945 public mood had shifted somewhat. In 1945, forty percent of those polled favored the use of chemicals against the Japanese when just a year before the number had been twenty-three percent. The shift in opinion was partially the result of difficult battles in the Pacific, which had caused tremendous American casualties, as well as some knowledge that the Japanese had used gas against the Chinese in Manchuria. Possibly influenced by the change in public opinion and the realization that the war in the Pacific was anything but over, General ?Vinegar Joe? Stilwell and General George C. Marshal suggested the use of gas against the Japanese. In the end, chemical weapons were not used during World War II; instead two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Evolution of both the technology associated with chemical weapons and the psychological aversion towards them are abundantly evident between the wars. One time Chief of Military History, Major General R.W. Stephens comments on this decades later, and concludes: General employment of toxic munitions in World War I made it necessary for the United States as a belligerent to protect its soldiers against gas attack. The post war revulsion against the use of gas in no way guaranteed that it would not be used in another war; and to maintain readiness for gas warfare, Congress therefore authorized the retention of the Chemical Warfare Service as a small but important part of the Army organization.
When considering the Major General’s words one must remember that the United States was the only belligerent after World War I that did not sign on to the specific Geneva protocols banning chemical weapons. This was not the first time the United States had rejected participation in treaties banning the use of chemical weapons. An International Conference initiated by the Russians and held at The Hague in 1899, sought to ban their use: The proposal offered for consideration at the meeting would have bound the contracting powers to agree to abstain from the use of projectiles, the sole object of which is the diffusion of asphyxiating or deleterious gases.
The United States however chose not to commit itself to the proposal. The dubious likelihood of full commitment by other nations was given as the primary reason, which in fact was supported when Germany released chlorine gas from cylinders rather than ?projectiles? during World War I, thus both conforming to the agreement and at the same time treating the spirit of it with contempt. The horrific results of gas warfare turned world opinion against it however. After the war there was widespread reaction against the use of chemical agents in future wars. The peace treaties signed by the Central Powers all contained the clause, ?the use of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases and all analogous liquids, materials or devices being prohibited.? Despite this seemingly clear definition, some believed the wording applied only to the defeated nations. It was felt that subsequent agreements between the Allies and other powers were needed to insure the future universal prohibition of gas warfare.
The proposition for the outlawing of gas warfare was revived again at a conference held in 1925 in Geneva Switzerland. Here the United States introduced and obtained general agreement on what has since become known as the Geneva Gas Protocol. Despite the fact that the United States introduced the proposition, the Senate never ratified it. According to the Office of the Chief of Military History, veterans groups were one of the stronger opponents of ratification of the Geneva Gas Protocol, which is almost unbelievable, considering the terrible casualties they sustained in the Great War.
Immediately after the First World War the number of personnel involved in the Chemical Warfare Service dropped from 1,680 officers to 328, and from 20,518 enlisted men to 261. There the numbers were basically maintained for a period of nearly twenty years. During this period the CWS was left to fend for itself, and the service was suffering from neglect. The production of all chemical agents came to a halt, and storage was limited to Edgewood Arsenal, and facilities in Hawaii. The mission of the CWS was essentially limited to production of gas masks.
By September 1939, immediately following the Nazi invasion of Poland, personnel levels jumped from 742 officers in 1938 to 1,102. Enlisted ranks swelled as well, jumping by approximately 40% in the same period. Despite the public’s aversion to chemical weapons, the CWS engaged more than 66,000 officers and enlisted men by June 1944. At the same time the CWS employed more than 25,000 civilian personnel. When the Germans invaded Poland, Franklin D. Roosevelt lost no time in getting the apparatus up and functioning again, with the emphasis being placed on an ?Industrial mobilization program,? which meant simply getting the plants up and operating so that toxic gas could be produced again as quickly as possible. By June 1940, Congress had passed the first of five supplemental appropriation acts for the fiscal year 1941. Congress appropriated over fifty-seven million dollars for the Chemical Warfare Service, of which over fifty-three million was for procurement and supply. By 1940 the pariah of the United States military community had resurfaced with financial backing behind it.

CHAPTER IV THE INCIDENT

The attack on Bari was contingent on intelligence gathered during a reconnaissance flight piloted by Werner Hahn, a German ME-210 pilot. He had flown over Bari Harbor on the afternoon of 2 December 1943 in order to gather what information he could that would assist the Luftwaffe in the anticipated attack on the harbor scheduled for dusk that evening. Hahn found that there were a considerable number of Allied ships berthed along the docks, without any significant protection. Among the unprotected behemoths were the Merchant Marine vessels, SS Lyman Abbot, SS Joseph Wheeler, SS John L. Motley, SS John Harvey, SS John Bascom, SS Samuel J. Tilden, SS Grace Abbot, SS John Schofield, SS Louis Hennepin, as well as the tankers Aroostock, and Pumper, and British ships the HMS Zetland, HMS Bicester, Devon Coast, Fort Athabaska, Testbank, and the Lars Kruse. Most of the aforementioned vessels were to see the bottom of Bari Harbor later that evening. On his way back to the northern Italian airfields still in German hands Hahn spotted two Allied P-38 Lightnings that gave chase. After much maneuvering he successfully evaded their guns and made for home.
Upon Hahn’s landing, the pilots were briefed and they set out from many different airfields for a single target, Bari. The method of bombing to be employed was referred to as the ?Swedish Turnip.? The technique required a pilot to fly at a constant 200 miles per hour, forty-five or so feet above the waves, and essentially estimate bomb release time. The airplane chosen by the Germans for the raid was the JU-88 an airplane with a solid history behind it. The ?Swedish Turnip? technique and the choice of airplane was an excellent combination, as according to the Captain of the Louis Hennepin, one of the ships present that day, ?hardly a bomb was wasted.?
At 1920 on 2 December 1943 approximately one hundred JU-88s approached the unsuspecting harbor with a relatively new innovation known as Duppel. Originally developed by the British, it was strips of aluminum foil cut to certain lengths and widths designed to fool radar. In an example of technology being used against its inventors, the German use of Duppel proved extremely effective, fooling Allied radar stations along the Adriatic, and providing the Germans with the initiative they needed for a successful raid.
Unloading of the many vessels at Bari was proving slow and laborious. Many of the ships had been there for days awaiting their opportunity to berth and discharge their cargo. All of the ships were carrying war material, most of which was volatile in nature. The SS John Wheeler was carrying ammunition, the SS John Bascom was carrying 8,300 tons of desperately needed food stuff along with ?high test gasoline and acid,? the SS Samuel J. Tilden was loaded with 6,000 gallons of high octane fuel and over 100 tons of ammunition, the SS Lyman Abbott was laden with explosives and chemicals, the SS John Harvey, which of course was loaded with an apparently disputed amount of mustard gas, and many other ships that also met their fate at the bottom of the harbor.
According to a British Most Secret report: The air raid started at 1920 hours on 2 Dec. Owing to a number of circumstances… practically no advance warning was given. The attacking force consisted of 30 plus aircraft and the raid was severe.
In the early stages, the oil pipe on the petrol quay was hit by a bomb and the consequent flow of petrol ignited. Ammunition and petrol ships in the harbour were hit and blew up setting fire to several other vessels and covering a large expanse of water with burning oil and petrol.
The John Harvey was hit early and it is almost certain that the ammunition on board exploded. The gas bombs were not fused, but their casings were very thin and the explosion threw some thirty casings on to the mole where a large patch of mustard gas was subsequently found.?
The raid was over by 1950 hours. Numerous fires were left burning; many ships were hit and sank, in several cases where they had drifted away from their moorings. It was therefore very difficult at the time to identify particular vessels… The Port Commandant (British) saw NOIC [Naval Operations Intelligence Center] about 2000 hours on 2 Dec. and informed him that certain ships were dangerous and that one had mustard on board and should be scuttled.
The JU-88’s came in low, and the pilots were not entirely surprised to see that the harbor had not maintained any blackout precautions. They had been briefed that even the smallest precautions against an air raid were not being implemented at Bari. Some of the pilots had been skeptical about this until they actually saw with their own eyes the lights of the harbor bright as a beacon when they came in low over the Adriatic. They could see the cranes and other dock equipment moving back and forth between the docks and ships. One pilot noted that, ?Bari harbor looked like Berlin’s Unter den Linden on New Year’s Eve.?
Otto Heitmann, skipper of the SS John Bascom, who glanced at his watch the moment he first heard the warning of flares being dropped over the harbor by aircraft, noted that it was exactly 7:35 P.M. Shore anti-aircraft batteries immediately opened up, followed by gun crews on the John Bascom. The first bombs fell on the city itself. The Germans bombers quickly headed for the harbor, and began carpeting it with bombs from the south to the north. The Bascom crew noted that the Joseph Wheeler was hit and burst into flames, immediately followed by the John L. Motley. A few minutes of anxious indecision followed as Heitmann contemplated his limited options. Suddenly, the SS John Bascom was hit by several bombs, knocking Heitmann momentarily unconscious. When he awoke, he immediately sized up the situation and ordered his crew to abandon ship. After making sure that all survivors were aboard the lifeboat, Heitmann stepped in, and ordered that the crew steer for the east jetty. Fortunately they made it to the jetty where they were able to get out of the water. From their new position, the crew of the John Bascom watched in horror as several of the ships in the harbor violently exploded. The explosive concussion caused a tidal wave that enveloped the crew and even bowled some over into the harbor.
Minutes later, an odd odor wafted over some of the survivors. The ambient temperature was incredibly hot related to the burning oil and ships in the harbor. The smell of garlic was prevalent, and breathing became somewhat difficult.
The raid had gone perfectly. The JU-88’s had performed a textbook version of the ?Swedish Turnip? technique. They came in low, so low in fact that the concussion of their exploding bombs often created enough turbulence to cause them to momentarily lose control of their aircraft. The only thing that prevented them from taking a nosedive into the harbor was the skill that they had developed in many other theatres over the preceding fours years of air combat. The raid lasted approximately thirty minutes, and ended at 1950 according to a British report. One German pilot participating in the raid, Oberleutnent Teuber, swung out into the Adriatic and looked back on the harbor. ?It was a sight that he would never forget. Ships were burning and exploding throughout the entire harbor area. Flames were reaching upward as high as a hundred feet in some spots…Even at a distance of several miles out over the sea, the Oberleutnent could feel the violence of blasts as they rocked his Ju-88.?
Out of the one hundred bombers participating in the attack, only two were lost. Not a single Allied fighter had appeared in the skies to protect the harbor. The antiaircraft guns were not much of a threat and the flak was considered relatively light. The Luftwaffe dominated the skies over Bari on the evening of 2 December 1943.
As devastating as the actual attack was, it was the resulting explosions of the John Harvey, Joseph Wheeler and the John L. Motley, carrying high explosives, cyanide, and gasoline, which caused so much damage. The John L. Motley was loosed from its berthing during the attack, and drifted away from its moorings. Eventually it drifted into the jetty and exploded on contact. ?The entire harbor seemed to empty as the tidal wave caused by the explosion of the John L. Motley washed over the breakwater.? Everyone aboard the ship was instantaneously vaporized. ?The ammunition ship, SS John Motley, was only about fifty feet away from the SS John Bascom when she blew up. The resultant concussion caved in the Bascom’s entire port side, sinking her immediately.?
When the Joseph Wheeler exploded, it caused another freighter, the Fort Athabaska, to catch fire and sink within five minutes. The Athabaska was carrying two ?highly prized? German one-thousand pound rocket bombs, and these may too have exploded as a result of the tremendous heat and fire emitting from the Wheeler.
When the John Harvey caught fire, there is no doubt that the mustard bombs aboard were compromised. The Harvey was loosed from its berth as well and began drifting towards the U.S.S. Pumper, a tanker carrying 10,000 gallons of fuel for the Fifteenth Air Force. In the words of the men aboard the U.S.S. Pumper ?the world seemed to stand still for several moments when the merchant ship blew up. There was a whispering sound as the air around the tanker was sucked toward the center of the blast and a fraction of a moment of silence. Suddenly the violence of the explosion ripped the area. The initial crack of the sound threatened the eardrums of every man in the vicinity and seemed to vibrate every bone in a person’s body until even those that were not knocked off their feet found it difficult to keep their balance.?
The explosion of the John Harvey also caused the deaths of a number of Italian civilians that had run from the city in an effort to avoid the fires there and sought refuge near the harbor. Although ambulances came and went throughout the night carrying Allied personnel to the hospitals, the citizens of Bari, for the most part, were ignored.
It was not the explosive concussion of the John Harvey that caused the greatest damage however, it was her cargo, filling the air and saturating the oil slicks on top of the water. The mustard bombs in her hold exploded along with the Harvey itself and released vast quantities of toxin into the environment. It was the mustard that alerted the olfactory senses of the John L. Motley sailors when they noted the odor of garlic.
It was the mustard gas aboard the John Harvey that most concerned the British Harbor Master, and caused him to inform military officials of its presence, despite the secrecy attached to it within hours of the attack. It was the mustard gas mixed with dark dense smoke that eyewitnesses saw drift over the old city, and that Eisenhower stated had instead drifted out to sea. It was the mustard gas that led directly to the deaths of at least sixty-nine individuals, and hundreds of wounded, although this figure is outrageously low, and does not include any civilians. It was the mustard gas that caused at least six hundred twenty-eight casualties that Churchill insisted were victims of dermatitis. Above all, it was the mustard gas present that day that caused the Allies to place a lid of secrecy over the entire incident. Reminick states, ?The loss of life was appalling. More than one thousand Allied servicemen and more than a thousand civilians were killed. The total number of deaths will never be known. Yet, to this day, few have heard of the disaster at Bari.?
Gladys May Rees Aikens, a nurse serving with the Q.A Reserve (Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve) noted: Only a few hours after dawn following the raid we began to realize that most of our patients had been contaminated by something beyond our imagination. I first noticed it when one or two of my patients went to the sink looking for a drink of water. This was odd, because the drinks had already been taken around as usual after supper. Suddenly there were more looking for water and we could hardly control them. They were complaining of intense heat and began stripping their clothes off. Patients confined to bed were trying desperately to rip their dressings and bandages off. With what little knowledge we had, our first thought was that these boys were suffering from mustard gas burns. There were blisters as big as balloons and heavy with fluid on these young bodies.
Nurse Aikens also emphasizes the fact that fluid was drained and sent for testing, but the medical staff was ?never informed of the results.? Aikens also stated something extremely relevant concerning the lid of secrecy that had almost certainly already been initiated. ?The Medical Officers tried to get through to the War Office in London for information, advice and an antidote, but none was forthcoming. We were all furious. And yet, if the War Office couldn’t release the information, it must be a military secret, and if that was the case, we were certain we were witnessing the effects of a poisonous gas. Although we didn’t know it at the time, there was indeed the very worst kind of poison involved.?
Probably the two most definitive books written on the incident at Bari are Gerald Reminick’s, Nightmare In Bari and Glenn Infield’s, Disaster at Bari. Both authors stress the fact that the true number of deaths will never be absolutely known. The Italian civilians suffered seriously from both the bombing, the resulting secondary explosions in the harbor and the gas itself. Mustard gas is extremely mutagenic, i.e. it induces mutation on the genetic level. It has been used in the past to treat certain types of cancer. Medical personnel using it have always taken great care not to expose themselves to even minute and diluted amounts of the vesicant. One can see how soaking in it for hours, as in the case of the sailors waiting to be picked up from the harbor waters, can cause serious medical problems. The true effects of the mustard gas will never be fully known, but it does not take a lot to surmise that perhaps many more deaths may be attributed to the results of exposure to mustard after the war. According to Cheryl Harris a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine specializing in oncology, the effects upon one’s DNA are more serious than the effects of the vesicant upon the integument, or skin.
Alice Spinelli, an oncology nurse specialist, concurs with Dr. Harris on her description of what a vesicant is, and how it acts physiologically on the body. Additionally she describes how an arsenic agent with the trade name of Trisenox is currently being used to treat multiple myeloma, a disease effecting the blood and bone marrow. Lewisite too, is an arsenic compound, with vesicant properties that manifest themselves in the same way as other vesicants. Spinelli describes the care taken to administer vesicants in the treatment of various cancers as being tremendously significant. If the oncological agent infiltrates, or is released outside of the vein, then tissue necrosis, or destruction of tissue results. Vesicants can only be given intravenously for that very reason. Once they are infused into the blood stream they immediately become diluted, thus are less likely to have this necrotic effect on the skin, but retain their ability to destroy cancer on a cellular level.
Dr. Kevin Hahn, another DVM that works for the Gulf Coast Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging and Oncology clinic in Houston, Texas, acknowledges that vesicants including Nitrogen Mustard are used to treat cancer. Like Harris, he identifies Vincristine and Adriamycin as two contemporary vesicant agents used in chemotherapy.
Considering the words of the above professionals involved in oncology and the use of vesicants, one can easily see how even minute amounts of vesicants can have serious ramifications. Dr. Harris emphasized that she was more concerned about what even minute amounts of vesicants would do to her DNA, than what its vesicant properties might do to her skin. The victims at Bari literally bathed in a toxic body of water for hours in some cases. Harris mentions that a chemotherapy hood is implemented while handling the drug so as not to aerosolize it, risking inhalation of the particles. This suggests that medical professionals take vesicants very seriously, and strive not to expose themselves to even the smallest amounts. Therefore, once again, it does seem highly likely that many more deaths may have resulted from the effects of the mustard released on December 2 1943. The medical aspects of the mustard family will be more closely scrutinized later.