The perils of secrecy

A street in Bari

A street in Bari

Our recent trip around the eastern Mediterranean took us to a little heralded place above the heel of Italy, called Bari. This old picturesque southern port, with a long interesting history, had a very sad story to tell……… though this has not been fully confirmed by the powers-that-be.

During WW2, Bari had fallen into the hands of the Allies by 1943, but was still subject to the attentions of the German air force. Amidst a veil of secrecy, the Allies shipped in a cargo of mustard gas, some of which had been unloaded onto the port side, but most was kept on board a ship in port. The port was then unexpectedly bombed by German bombers (this attack was likened to a mini Pearl Harbour), destroying several ships but, more devastatingly, blowing up the entire stock of mustard gas.

Hundreds were killed as a result of the mustard gas. Local doctors did not know what they were treating and, unwittingly, gave treatment that hastened the death of many victims. Many of the doctors themselves were contaminated, and died as a result. Eventually an American specialistCIMG9520 flew in to help. He eventually worked out for himself that mustard gas had been the contaminant, but when he sought confirmation from the Allied authorities, he drew a complete blank.

And to this day, there has been no public declaration by any of the Allied governments about the nature of this incident. Even the plaque near the harbour commemorating the incident gives no clue. Does a ‘truth commission’ need to be set up for the truth to be finally revealed?


About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on December 9, 2013, in Eastern Mediterranean and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. There is so much left unsaid about war.

  2. What an incredible story. So many deaths as a cause of boats docking in the harbor. Dublin and Port Chicago (in California, oddly enough) are two others.

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