On December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise attack on a key Allied port in Bari, Italy, sinking more than 20 Allied merchant ships and killing more than 1,000 American and British servicemen and hundreds of civilians. Among the ships sunk was the SS John Harvey, an American Liberty ship carrying a secret cargo of mustard gas bombs. The deadly attack, which came to be dubbed as “the Little Pearl Harbor”, released a toxic cloud of sulphur mustard vapor over the city and liquid mustard into the water, prompting an Allied coverup of the chemical weapons disaster. But it also led to an army doctor’s serendipitous discovery of a new treatment for cancer.
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Allied ships burn during the German attack on Bari.