SS John Harvey
|Name:||SS John Harvey|
|Builder:||North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, Wilmington, North Carolina|
|Laid down:||6 December 1942|
|Launched:||9 January 1943|
|Completed:||19 January 1943|
|Fate:||Bombed in Bari, 1943. Scrapped 1948.|
|Class and type:||Type EC2-S-C1 Liberty ship|
|Displacement:||14,245 long tons (14,474 t)|
|Length:||441 ft 6 in (134.57 m) o/a
417 ft 9 in (127.33 m) p/p
427 ft (130 m) w/l
|Beam:||57 ft (17 m)|
|Draft:||27 ft 9 in (8.46 m)|
|Propulsion:||Two oil-fired boilers
Triple-expansion steam engine
2,500 hp (1,900 kW)
|Speed:||11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph)|
|Range:||20,000 nmi (37,000 km; 23,000 mi)|
|Capacity:||10,856 t (10,685 long tons) deadweight (DWT)|
|Armament:||Stern-mounted 4 in (100 mm) deck gun for use against surfaced submarines, variety of anti-aircraft guns|
SS John Harvey was a U.S. World War II Liberty ship carrying a secret cargo of mustard gas, whose sinking by German aircraft in December 1943 at the port of Bari in south Italy caused the single (and unintentional) release of chemical weapons in the course of the war by the Allies.
The John Harvey was built by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company in Wilmington, North Carolina, and launched on 9 January 1943. Her Maritime Commission Hull Number was 878, and she was rated as capable of carrying 504 soldiers.
In August 1943, Roosevelt approved the shipment of chemical munitions containing mustard agent to the Mediterranean theater. On 18 November 1943 the John Harvey, commanded by Captain Elwin F. Knowles, sailed from Oran, Algeria, to Italy, carrying 2,000 M47A1 mustard gas bombs, each of which held 60–70 lb of sulfur mustard. After stopping for an inspection by an officer of the 7th Chemical Ordnance Company at Augusta, Sicily on 26 November, the John Harvey sailed through the Strait of Otranto to arrive at Bari.
Bari was packed with ships waiting to be unloaded, and the John Harvey had to wait for several days. Captain Knowles wanted to tell the British port commander about his deadly cargo and request it be unloaded as soon as possible, but secrecy prevented him doing so.
On 2 December 1943 German aircraft attacked Bari, killing over 1,000 people, and sinking 17 ships, including the John Harvey, which was destroyed in a huge explosion, causing liquid sulfur mustard to spill into the water and a cloud of sulfur mustard vapor to blow over the city.
628 military victims were hospitalized with mustard gas symptoms, and by the end of the month, 83 of them had died. The number of civilian casualties, thought to have been even greater, could not be accurately gauged since most had left the city to seek shelter with relatives.
Details of the attack were given in a 1967 article in the US Navy journal Proceedings, and in a 1976 book by Glenn B Infield, Disaster at Bari.
- Davies, James (2012). "Liberty Cargo Ships" (PDF). ww2ships.com. p. 23. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- "North Carolina Shipbuilding". shipbuildinghistory.com. 2011. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
- Pechura, Constance M.; David P. Rall (1993). Veterans at Risk: The Health Effects of Mustard Gas and Lewisite. National Academies Press. p. 43. ISBN 0-309-04832-X.
- Faguet, Guy B. (2005). The War on Cancer. Springer. p. 71. ISBN 1-4020-3618-3.
- New English Library Ltd, ISBN 978-0450026591
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