A Little Pearl Harbor: The Bombing and the Cancer Treatment Breakthrough

a rescue boat searches for survivors in Bari Harbor after the December 1943 attack. Fuel from damaged freighters and a ruptured pipeline flooded the harbor. (George Kaye / Alexander Turnbull Library / National Library of New Zealand; U.S. Army Signal Corps / National Archives)


Health Editor’s Note: Does this sound familiar? Imagine a cover-up. Who would do that?  It took almost 30 years from the time of this German air attack on British and U.S. ships , in the harbor of Bari, Italy, to learn the truth about the military disaster that took place and how this disaster make an impact on the lives of Americans with cancer. Soldiers rescued from the air attack, started to develop huge blisters on their skin, extreme thirst, pain, cardio-circulatory failure, and they died. After much denial it was discovered that an allied ship, the John Harvey, was carrying mustard gas for a chemical stockpile at Foggia, 75 miles from Bari, to improve U.S.’s chances to retaliate against a German chemical attack. 

Failing to admit there was mustard gas in the area and that quite probably that mustard had escaped into the environment harmed and killed many soldiers before treatment could begin to save some of them. When looking at blood samples Then it was discovered that the nitrogen mustard gas attacked and killed the white blood cells, really wiped them out. 

It was postulated that if it killed white cells and blood forming organs with such abandon, that perhaps it could be used to control leukemia, a cancer of the blood which produces too many white cells, which is the most common type of cancer in children. During 1943, and during the war, it was decided that research into this promising therapy would have to wait. Sulfur mustard toxicity, which, when mixed with the oil dumped into Bari Harbor,  produced a more potent toxic soup, experimental nitrogen mustard compounds. 

Investigation into the toxin’s effects on the human body was able to be studied due to the chance exposure to nitrogen mustard compounds, by the poor soldiers on the bombed ships, of which one contained the mustard gas. This type of research would have normally not been completed because usual research on living volunteers would have been impossible.  

The idea was to turn this incident, with its results, into something that would be helpful. But bottom line was the mention of mustard gas was expunged from all medical records. Alexander’s preliminary report of his 10 day investigation of the Bari Harbor catastrophe was classified. No one wanted Hitler to use this mustard gas incident as an excuse for a gas offensive.  But guess what! The Germans knew that the source of the mustard gas was the harbor. and they had sent down their own diver, Italian Fascist frogman, who found the M47 bomb casing which proved the chemical weapons were American. 

The military research into this poison gas was used to find a chemical that would selectively kill cancer cells.  The precursor of chemotherapy was discovered. On August 7, 1945, the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, the plans for the Sloan Kettering Institute for Cancer Research was launched…..Carol 






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  1. Mustard Gas was somehow the predecessor of DU.

    Young Germany intended to have a conference about north afrika, like the Kongo conference, but Spain and France preferred just to take parts of Northwest Afrika. But people lived there and they didn’t welcome the new colonists of ‘spanish marocco’. Spain could get this area only under control with very brutal generals like Franco and with barrels of mustard gas from a factory built by german engineers. Till taday there are regions in Marocco with significant high Cancer rates.

    DU is still bringing cancer to Libya and to all the countries on Tigris and Euphrates, where the real desert storm is spreading it.

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