In our October, 1971, issue we published an account of the little-publicized German air raid on the port of Bari, Italy, which took place on December 2, 1943, and the tragic consequences when ships carrying highly secret supplies of mustard gas exploded. A reader who was on the scene that day, Bertram M. Rothschild, of Long Beach, New York— then a soldier in the Air Corps— expressed amazement that military doctors were unaware of the lethal cargoes. As Mr. Rothschild tells it: After the raid I had fallen into an exhausted sleep in our billet over the U.S. Air Corps finance office on Victor Emmanuel Avenue when I was awakened about midnight and ordered to empty my barrack bag and report downstairs immediately with it and a gas mask as we had to evacuate. A ship containing mustard gas had been hit and was being towed outside the harbor by a destroyer.
We loaded the money into the bags and with gas masks over one shoulder, the sacks over the other, we carried the money to a technical school on the outskirts of the city.
If a T-5 in an Air Corps disbursing office knew about the mustard gas the same night as the raid, doesn’t it appear strange that nobody bothered to tell the medics about it?