Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bombing Bari

I tend to wrongly think that all the interesting World War 2 stories have already been told. In the Day of Battle, Rick Atkinson describes the German bombing raid on Bari which should get one of those wartime disasters treatments like the Curse of the Narrows or Halsey's Typhoon. The basic format of these books is that a combinations of mistakes, bad decisions and bad luck lead to horrific disaster and heroic response.

As this article describes, the Luftwaffe, considered a spent force in late 1943 Italy, managed a raid on the southern Italian port of Bari. Thanks in part to lax air defenses, the Germans bombed and sank a number of Liberty ships in the harbor. One of these ships was loaded with the chemical weapon mustard gas. The Allies wanted a retaliatory weapon in Italy in case the Germans went chemical. No one told local authorities so many died or suffered until the local medical crews understood what was happening. The port itself was flattened and many service- and merchantmen and civilians were killed or injured.

There is an out of print book on the subject, but this is a story that needs a new book.

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