Bari



Disaster at Bari, Chapter 6







Aboard the Liberty ship John Bascom Captain Heitmann
had finished paying his crew from the two thousand dollars
he had drawn from the U.S. Army Finance Section, Sixtieth
Service Group, in Bari that afternoon and granted shore leave
to some of them. He was putting the remaining $1,268 in the
ship's safe just as Chief Engineer Dean M. Herriek started
down the gangplank followed by the seventeen other crew
members leaving for an evening in Bari. Glancing toward the
stern of the ship he saw some of Ensign Vesole's gun crew
frowning and he knew the reason. None of them were
permitted to go ashore because of an 8:00 P.M. curfew for
gun crews serving as armed guard units on the merchant
ships. In a way Heitmann felt sorry for them, knowing that it
had been a difficult and dangerous crossing the John Bascom
had just completed, but there was nothing he could do to
help. Military orders could not be changed by a captain of a
merchant ship.

Kay Vesole was also aware of the disappointment felt by
his twenty-eight gunners and two signalmen, but he knew
they would soon get over it. They were a fine crew, well-
disciplined, dedicated. Once the John Bascom was unloaded
he would see that they got shore leave, too. Vesole, thirty
years of age, was a former member of the Iowa State Guard,
but had been in the U.S. Navy since 1942. Born in Poland, he
was brought to the United States when he was seven years
old, graduated from the University of Iowa, and was an
attorney prior to entering the U.S. Navy. He was considered
one of the best gunnery officers in the service and had the
complete confidence of his men. Heitmann, not a skipper to
lavish praise on a man very often, thought Vesole was the best
ensign he had ever known. The feeling was mutual.

Otto Heitmann had begun his career on the sea as an ordinary
seaman in 1922 and was a veteran skipper for the 
Moore-McCormack Lines at the outbreak of World War II. 
In December of 1942, while en route from Trinidad to Rio de 
Janeiro, Brazil, as captain of tho S.S. West Maximus, Heitmann
had spotted what he first thought was an enemy submarine, 
but turned out to be an empty lifeboat. Checking further in
the submarine-infested waters, he discovered two small
boats carrying survivors from a British ship that had been
sunk by a torpedo. During the evening of December 2 at
Bari, as he stood on the deck of the John Bascom, he fingered 
the silver cigarette case that had been presented him for the
rescue. He knew without looking the words that were en-
scribed on the cover: "Presented to Captain Otto Heitmann,
Master of the American M.V. West Maximus, by the British
Community of Rio de Janeiro as a token of appreciation of the
services of himself, his officers and crew in rescuing at sea 41
survivors of the British M.V. Teesbank lost by enemy action.
December 1942."

"Flare! I see a flare!" The bellow jolted his reminiscing.

Heitmann rushed to the bridge of the John Bascom
when he heard the warning shouted by his second officer,
William Rudolph. He immediately spotted two steady white
lights suspended in the sky east of the harbor and knew at
once that they were parachute flares dropped from aircraft
There was no reason for Allied planes to use such flares over
the harbor of Bari. It had to be German aircraft. He glanced
at his watch. It was exactly 7:35 P.M.

"Battle stations!'

As soon as his order was relayed to the crew members
remaining on board the John Bascom, Heitmann searched
the sky for some sign of the German planes, but from his
position on the port wing of the bridge he could not see any.
Shore battery antiaircraft guns started firing and almost
simultaneously Vesole's gun crew on the John Bascom went
into action. The dark blue sky over the harbor was soon
covered with tracer bullets and the noise caused by
the gunfire made it impossible for the captain to hear any
enemy planes.

"Bomb hit on the starboard!"

The first explosion was off the harbor, in the city, and
flames were visible above the roofiops of the business build-
ings on Corso Cavour. He guessed that the bombs had hit on
either Via Abate Gimma or Via Sparano di Bari. Later he
discovered that both streets had been hit. Heitmann did not
have time to stand and watch the burning city, however, since
the German bombers had alroady discovered their error and
were "walking" the bombs out into the water straight toward
the line of ships anchored at the East Jetty. Yard by yard the
bombs came closer, working their way up the moored Liberty
ships one by one from south to north. The Joseph Wheeler
took a direct hit and burst into flames; moments later the
John L. Motley, anchored next to the John Bascom, took a
bomb on its number five hatch and the deck cargo on the
ship caught fire. Heitmann saw the crew of the John L.
Motley begin dousing the burning cargo with water from the
fire hoses.

"Rudolph! Collins! Get the fire hoses ready for use."

As Rudolph and Allen G. Collins, the third officer of the
John Bascom, supervised the unreeling of the fire hoses, the
captain studied the situation in the harbor. He knew that
unless he could move the John Bascom, it was going to be hit
by the attacking planes. He considered letting go of both
anchor cables, cutting the mooring lines, and steaming out of
the harbor. He soon realized, however, that this action was
impossible under the conditions that confronted him. The
wind was on the starboard side and with only about thirty
feet clearance between his ship and the John L. Motley, there
was no chance he could get the John Bascom away without a
collision. Since the John L. Motley was burning fiercely at
this time, there was a possibility that her cargo of bombs and
high-octane gas would explode. A collision with her would be
fatal to the John Bascom. Besides, about fifteen hundred feet
ahead of Heitmann was a ship at anchor, loaded with ammu-
nition, and to the north of that ship was another. Even if the
John Bascom cleared the flaming John L. Motley, he could
not avoid colliding with these two ships. There was no
escape.

At Pier Twenty-nine a small fire had started on board the
John Harvey!

On the bridge of the John Bascom, Heitmann shook his
head in frustration as the blazing merchant ships lighted up
the entire harbor. Beside him, staring at the havoc, were
Third Officer Collins, Purser William B. Lesesne, Second
Officer Rudolph, and First Assistant Nicholas Elin. For the
next few minutes there were no more bombs dropped and it
appeared that the air raid was over. Then, without warning, a
string of explosions ripped the John Bascom as the attacking
planes renewed the strike. The ship was bombed from aft to
forward. One bomb hit the forward end of number four
hatch; one bomb went through the top bridge and the radio
operator's room into the vessel; one bomb landed in number
three hatch; and one hit between numbers one and two
hatches. There was a flash of fire from number three hatch
when the bomb exploded and Heitmann was lifted completely
off his feet and slammed hard against the wheelhouse door.
The door broke off its hinges and both the captain and the
door hit the deck.

When Heitmann regained his senses and discovered
where he was, he got to his feet. The first person he saw was
Purser Lesesne lying on the deck of the wheelhouse moan-
ing. He helped him to his feet. A few feet away the captain
spotted Elin sprawled on the deck, blood seeping from a cut
across his temple. Both men were nearly nude, since the
force of the explosion had ripped their clothes and even their
shoes off. Heitmann's face and hands were bloody, but he
ignored the blood as soon as he discovered that he could still
walk, could still move his arms. Moving as fast as he could
through the debris littering the deck of the John Bascom, the
captain returned to the port wing of the bridge and surveyed
the damage to his ship. Half of the bridge was torn off and
the plates were hanging loosely; the forward deck was caved
in; all hatches were open and minus hatch beams; life rafts
were blown away; and the port side lifeboats were demolished.
From the starboard wing of the bridge, Heitmann noticed
that number one lifeboat was still usable but number three
lifeboat was completely destroyed.

"Rudolph, get number one lifeboat ready."

As soon as the second officer and his men lowered the
lifeboat even with the deck, the captain ordered Rudolph to
put the wounded in it. Those who were wounded, but still
able to walk, were ordered to line up on deck and wait for
further instructions. After Heitmann was certain that this
procedure was being followed and that there was no panic
among the crew, he and Lesesne returned to the wheelhouse
and examined the wounded Elin. After a close examination,
the captain found that the man was dead. Covering the body
with a half-burned blanket, he checked the other men in the
wheelhouse, Anthony J. Hughes, first mate, was obviously
badly hurt. His head was badly cut on top, his forehead skin
was lacerated, and his shoulder was broken. Heitmann and
Lesesne made their way down through the ship to the
medicine locker in the hospital below deck, passing many
crew members who were standing half-stunned, others who
were wounded. Heitmann directed those physically able to
help the wounded get to the lifeboat, discovering that as soon
as the shocked men were spoken to and given an order they
regained their confidence and self-control and carried on as
well as they were able.

Heitmann and Lesesne were startled to find that there
were clouds of dense steam in the hospital area and it was
difficult to breathe. Covering their faces with handkerchiefs,
the two men felt their way to the medicine locker and the
purser chopped it open with a fire ax. Using his flashlight,
Heitmann managed to find several rolls of adhesive tape and
cotton, but little else. Taking these with him he hurried back
to the bridge to find that the lifeboat was ready for use and
that the wounded were being loaded in it as he had directed.
Vesole, commander of the Armed Guard on the John Bascom,
reported that all his guns had been knocked out of action.
The captain stared at the ensign a moment and then ordered
him into the lifeboat.

"You're badly wounded yourself. Get in the boat."

Vesole said nothing, aware that his left shoulder and arm
were broken, but instead of going directly to the lifeboat he
went back to his gun crew and ordered them to line up on
deck with the survivors of the John Bascom crew.

After speaking with Vesole, Heitmann walked back to-
ward his quarters. Outside his damaged quarters he found
Cadet-Midshipman Leroy C. Heinse lying on the deck. The
twenty-three-year-old cadet was covered with blood and all
his clothes had been blown off. His stomach was covered with
lacerations. Heitmann washed the wounds with water from a
nearby bucket and then tried to pull the worst wounds
together with adhesive tape. As he did, he recalled that a
short time before the bombing he had seen Heinse at the
starboard forward top bridge gun reloading the magazines
and, since the cadet had not been lying in this spot when
Heitmann went to the hospital area earlier, he had apparently
gotten there by walking. He wondered how he had gotten
that far before he collapsed.

Down the line of ships anchored at the East Jetty, the
John Harvey was a mass of flames. It was 8:00 P.M.

Hughes, the first mate, was on the settee that still
remained intact in the chart room. Heitmann took another
piece of adhesive tape from the roll he was carrying and tried
to bandage the man's head. It was very difficult to get the
tape to stick since the captain's hand was very bloody and it
was then that Heitmann noticed the blood was still running
down his face in a steady stream. Also his left hand hurt
where a piece of shrapnel had pierced it. He finally managed
to get Hughes's head bandaged, however, and the wounded
man was helped to the lifeboat which was being loaded with
the seamen injured the most seriously. Collins and Heinse
were also assisted to the lifeboat. On his way topside, Heitmann
stopped once more to check Elin and assure himself that the
man was dead.

The scene at the lifeboat satisfied the captain when he
arrived on deck. Everyone was standing at attention in a
perfect line, awaiting orders, while the seriously injured were
already in the boat. The capacity of the lifeboat was thirty-
two men, and already Rudolph had loaded fifty-two men into
it. Heitmann decided it was time to get underway.

"Lower the boat into the water."

After the lifeboat was in the water beside the John
Bascom, Heitmann directed additional men on deck to climb
down the side of the ship and get into it. After a few minutes
Rudolph reported that the lifeboat was beginning to settle too
deeply into the water, that the gunwale was close to the
water's edge; The captain acknowledged the warning and
ordered all operations stopped immediately. It was a difficult
decision to make, because many of the men still standing on
deck beside him were injured and were unable to attempt
the long swim to the seawall or to land. The John L. Motley,
next to the John Bascom, was a raging inferno and, to
complicate the situation, the stern lines of the John Bascom
had burned away and the ship was drifting toward the John L.
Motley. He had to do something.

"Get into the water," he ordered "and hold onto the
floats at the gunwale of the lifeboat."

After making certain that no one was left aboard except
the body of Elin, Heitmann climbed into the lifeboat and
gave the orders to cast off. He told Rudolph to hold the tiller
and steer for the East Jetty while he helped a seaman in front
of him handle a broken oar. Fortunately the men on the port
side had a good oar to use. Even if there had been additional
oars, they could not have been used because of the overloading
of the lifeboat with the wounded. There were so many men
in the boat that it was hardly possible to move. Wounded
were lying between the thwarts and on makeshift stretchers
placed across the thwarts, using every inch of available space.
Since only one good oar and one broken oar were in use,
progress was slow as the crew of the John Bascom attempted
to move between their ship and the John L. Motley to the
jetty to which both ships had been moored. The surface of
the harbor was a sheet of flame as the oil from broken
petroleum lines, debris from the ships, gasoline, dunnage,
and other cargo dumped into the water by the bomb explo-
sions burned. This sheet of flame was gradually gaining on
the slowly moving lifeboat, threatening to catch it long before
the lifeboat reached the East Jetty.

As they got closer to the jetty, Heitmann saw that it was
impossible to get to the landing stairs because the stern lines
and cables of a nearby vessel were slack in the water and
blocked their path. By careful maneuvering, the captain
managed to guide the lifeboat alongside the smooth stone
wall of the jetty, but it was five-and-a-half feet straight up to
the top. Even ff some of the uninjured managed to climb up
the glass-smooth wall, the wounded were in too much pain to
consider passing them to those on top. Yet, there was no
other way, so Heitmann ordered the attempt made as the
flames on the surface of the water bore down on the lifeboat.
It was an agonizing job, since some of the wounded screamed
at the touch of a hand on their bodies, but finally, by using
makeshift stretchers made out of boards found on the jetty,
everyone was ashore.

It was now 8:20 P.M. and the John Harvey was beyond
saving. It was only a matter of time now until the flames
reached the mustard bombs stored in the holds.

As soon as Heitmann was certain that everyone was on
the top of the jetty wall he ordered them to head for the
lighthouse at the north end of the jetty. When they reached
the lighthouse area the men discovered two open shelters in
the seawall. The floor of the shelters were dirt and sand and
there was considerable debris in the openings, but the less-
injured men soon had the shelters cleaned out and the
wounded were placed inside on the floor. There were approx-
imately fifty other men already assembled near the lighthouse
and others climbed over the seawall from time to time. The
East Jetty was the only place the men [rom the ships in that
area could find refuge, since burning ships and the flaming
debris on the surface of the harbor cut off any escape toward
the unloading dock and the city. It was not an ideal refuge,
however, since the men trapped on the north end of the jetty
were approximately a mile out to sea and there was no way to
get around the flames blocking their path to land unless a
boat was sent to pick them up. Heitmann was quick to realize
that he and the others were trapped, but he said nothing.

Vesole gave the captain a package of hypodermic cap-
sules that he had in his pocket which Heitmann quickly used
on those in greatest pain. Since he was the only captain
among the group of survivors huddled on the north end of
the jetty, he took charge, detailing some to help the wounded
and others he ordered to make certain that everyone was in
one of the shelters. He expected several of the burning
ammunition ships in the harbor to explode at any second and
he knew the blast would have force enough to blow a man off
the jetty into the Adriatic Sea if he was in the open. It was
obvious also that not only the surface fires were coming closer
and closer to the East Jetty, but that several of the blazing
ammunition ships were drifting toward the men grouped near
the lighthouse. The most serious hazard was the John L.
Motley, since it was very close to Heitmann's men and, with
its mooring lines burned completely away, the ship was free
to drift with the wind and the wind was carrying it directly
toward the lighthouse.

"She's going to hit," Vesole yelled to Heitmann as the
burning ship neared the jetty wall.

The captain had only time to nod and throw himself flat
before the burning ship smashed hard against the seawall and
exploded. The force of the blast picked Heitmann up and
tossed him onto a pile of sand several feet away. Vesole and
two of his men were also injured by the explosion, even
though they had been lying prone. The ensign's head hit hard
against a rock lying on the jetty and he was knocked uncon-
scious. The entire harbor seemed to empty as the tidal wave
caused by the explosion of the John L. Motley washed over
the breakwater. Everyone on the seawall was thrown about
violently by the water as it hit them and several of the
merchant seamen were tossed back into the sea. Before
Heitmann's head cleared there was another violent explosion
followed a few minutes later by two lesser blasts. He realized
that other ships in the harbor were exploding.

The violent explosion that followed the blast of the John
L. Motley was the worst detonation Heitmann had ever
experienced. From the depths of the harbor leaped a vast
fountain of flame with multicolored jets streaming from its
rim. It rose more than a thousand feet into the air. The
blackness above it was slashed with streams of crimson, pink,
rose, orange, and green, and then, in the terrible concussion
that followed, he was knocked down again.

The John Harvey had blown up, taking with it Lieuten-
ant Richardson, Lieutenant Beckstrom, and his six chemical
warfare men, as well as the remainder of the crew on duty.
The only men who could warn the others present at Bari that
a large amount of deadly mustard had been released over the
harbor were now dead.

While Heitmann was unaware of the mustard that was
already at work, secretly, silently, he was worried about the
blazing fuel oil that covered the harbor. The flames were now
from forty to fifty feet high with the heavy, black smoke
covering the East Jetty making it difficult to breathe. He
would have been more worried ff he had known that the
mustard released from the ruptured bomb casings had bo-
come mixed with the oil on the water's surface and with the
billowing clouds of smoke. As the flaming mixture curled over
the top of the seawall the survivors of the John Bascom
huddled closer together, their small island of safety becoming
more minute each second. Heitmann and Rudolph watched
the approaching flames, then checked the portion of the jetty
that still remained clear. It was not much. They needed help.

"I'm going out to the lighthouse at the tip of the jetty,"
the captain said. "I'll try to signal a rescue ship."

While Heitmann was gone, Vesole recovered conscious-
ness. The heat was suffocating, especially to the ensign, who
was already badly injured. He tried to take a deep breath and
nearly choked. But he got enough air into his nostrils to make
a strange observation.

"I smell garlic," he muttered to Rudolph.

No one paid any attention to his remark because of the
other problems facing them. They were to remember it later,
however. What Vesole was smelling was the deadly mustard
which emitted a garlic odor!

Meanwhile, Heitmann was at the far end of the East
Jetty, the furthest point from the safety of the dock and city,
trying {o spot a ship in the area that he could signal for help.
There were no ships in sight. Walking to the seaward side of
the seawall, he looked down into the sea in hopes that there
would he jagged rocks along the water's edge as was the case
with most breakwater construction. If there was he intended
to lower as many men as possible on lines made from
blankets brought with the Wounded and order them to stand
on the rocks while the fire burned over the top of the seawall.
He was disappointed, however. The seawall dropped straight
to the sea. There was no place for the men to stand and allow
the fire to curl out to sea over their heads.

The only escape remaining was to swim out to sea and
hope to reach the Northeast Jetty. He knew that very few of
the men were in shape to attempt the swim in the cold water.
Even those who were strong enough to give it a try risked a
change of wind that would drive the blazing oil right into them
and burn them to death. Heitmann refused to give the order,
refused to condemn most of the men to death. He decided to
wait, hoping for some kind of a miracle. Rudolph reported
that he had discovered a flashlight in the pocket of one of the
wounded men and he was going to try and signal to shore for
help. Several signal men appeared and offered to assist in
trying to contact shore with the flashlight. After several
minutes of signaling there was still no indication that their
light had been observed, however.

The fire was closing in gradually until finally the entire
group on the East Jetty was forced to the very tip of it. They
could go no farther.., except to leap into the sea and start
swimming. Several of the men wanted to dive into the cold
water, hut Vesole and Heitmann talked them out of it for the
time being. Both men could tell by the spray that splashed
over the seawall and soaked them that the Adriatic Sea water
was paralyzing cold. Added to the frigid temperature of the
water was the covering of oil that would definitely hamper
swimming, even though this oil had not yet caught fire
adjacent to the tip of the East letty as it had in the harbor
area on the west side of the jetty. There was little chance that
any of the men could survive the half-mile swim to the
Northeast jetty. They did not know it, but the mustard mixed
with the oil made it near-suicide to try.

" A ship!"

At about 11:00 P.M. Heitmann saw a small Norwegian
coasting steamer approaching the breakwater to steam out to
sea. Rudolph quickly contacted the ship with the flashlight
and the vessel stopped and sent a lifeboat to the jetty.
Heitmann's joy was short-lived, however, when he was in-
formed that the ship could not take anyone unless they were
able to climb a Jacob's ladder, because the ship had lost many
of its crew and they had no means to carry the wounded
aboard from a lifeboat. Despite his disappointment, the cap-
tain ordered all the Scandinavian survivors from other ships
that had been sunk to take advantage of this chance to escape
the seawall. The lifeboat made two trips, taking approximate-
ly sixty men to the steamer before the Norwegian captain
informed Heitmann that he could not stay any longer, fearing
that his ship would drift into the minefields close by.

There was only silence as the Norwegian steamer pulled
away from the East Jetty leaving the trapped crew of the ]ohn
Bascom behind with the survivors from other ships. Approxi-
mately four hours had now elapsed since the first German
plane dropped its bombs on the ships in the harbor and the
merchant seamen were no closer to safety than they had been
when the German planes started bombing.

Oberleutnant Teuber and the other Luftwaffe pilots were
much closer to safety, however, than Heitmann and the
seamen. The surprise air strike had gone perfectly. The
Ju-88s had kept out to sea until they reached a point directly
east of Bari and then turned toward the city. Feich, flying on
Teuber's left wing, had tightened up his position as the
formation dropped to an altitude of forty-five meters, accord-
ing to the Kowalewski technique. Behind them, the oberleutnant
saw Glatt and Grabew nosing their planes down toward the
Adriatic Sea. Further back the other Ju-88s were strung out
in double and triple lines as they headed for the Allied ships
anchored in the harbor.

Since he was in the forefront of the formation, Teuber
anticipated that his plane would come under fire first. Shifting
his position until he was sitting as straight as possible in his
seat, the oberleutnant gripped the controls tightly. He was
aware that a near-miss of an antiaircraft shell could cause
enough turbulence to make him momentarily lose control of
the Ju-88 and, at an altitude of forty-five meters, there was a
possibility the plane could nose into the water before he
could regain control of it. He had to be ready for instant
action.

"Lights!"

Richthofen had told them at the briefing that the Allies
at Bari were not blacking out the harbor at night because of
the large number of ships to be unloaded, but Teuber was
skeptical of the statement until, as he approached the city
from the Adriatic Sea, he saw the lights with his own eyes. 
He saw the dock cranes moving back and forth between the
piers and the ships, a light on top of each crane. There was a
beam of light at the lighthouse on the seaward side of one of
the jetties, many lights along the dock bordering the city, and
scattered lights along Molo Foraneo and Molo Pizzoli. Fur-
ther north, on Molo San Cataldo, where the main petroleum 
line was located, there were more lights. Accustomed to 
wartime blackouts, Bari harbor looked like Berlin's Unter den
Linden on a New Year's eve to Teuber as he roared in from
the sea at 200 mph. "There go the flares!"

He heard the bombardier's warning just as he banked
the Ju-88 north. At that same moment he saw the ships lined
up along the East Jetty. It was unbelievablel He did not have
time to count them, hut he guessed there were at least
eighteen or twenty merchant ships anchored in a neat row,
their hulls nearly touching, along the length of the jetty. The
parachute flares that had been dropped by a pair of higher-
flying Luftwaffe aircraft illuminated the row of ships just as
though it was daylight and Teuher could see the gunners
racing for the gun positions on board several of the vessels,
could see some men on the jetty running toward the docks.
He knew that they would never make it.

"Prepare to drop bombs!"

He had never flown a better mission. Keeping the
airspeed needle on the 200 mph mark, the altimeter as close
to forty-five meters as possible, the oberleutnant lined up a
course that would take his aircraft directly over the row of
ships from south to north. Just as he reached the first ship an
antiaircraft gun on his left opened fire and he felt the Ju-88
rock violently as the shells exploded overhead. Despite this
defensive fire Teuber kept his eyes on his instruments until
he heard the bombardier's yell.

"Bombs away!"

Teuber, hearing the message, tried to turn right toward
the water, knowing that the concussion of the bombs explod-
ing underneath him would endanger his aircraft, but discovered
that Lothar Lintow had his path blocked. There was not
enough room to fly his Ju-88 between Lothar and the other
Ju-88s strung out behind him, so the oberleutnant had no
choice but to continue straight ahead. He had just braced
himself for the blast when the plane was lifted skyward and
tossed on its left wing like a toy being mishandled by a young
boy. Fighting with all his strength to regain control of the
Ju-88 before it slid off on the left wing and hit the water that
now seemed so close he could reach out and touch it, Teuber
cut the throttles and kicked right rudder. For a moment the
plane refused to respond, just kept sliding through the sky to
its left, barely missing several other Ju-88s that were also
either out of control or just partially under control. Finally,
however, the controls responded, the right wing dropped
level, and at twenty feet over the water in a clear spot
between the ships anchored on the East Jetty and those
moored along Molo San Cataldo to the north, he slammed
the throttles open and headed for the sea. Ground fire from the
antiaircraft installations along the shore and shells from the
gunners on the ships trailed him.

Circling out to the Adriatic Sea, Teuber looked back at
Bari harbor. It was a sight that he would never forget. Ships
were burning and exploding throughout the entire harbor
area. Flames were reaching upward as high as a hundred feet
in some spots. But it was the blasts that occurred periodically
that made the sight reminiscent of a giant fireworks display.
Red, yellow, green--every color that he had ever seen---was
visible as the ammunition ships exploded and, even at a
distance of several miles out over the sea, the oberleutnant
could feel the violence of the blasts as they rocked his Ju-88.

As the last of the Ju-88s dropped their bombs, they, too,
flew out over the Adriatic Sea and the entire Luftwaffe strike
force headed for their home bases in the north. The ground
fire had been relatively light and not one Allied fighter plane
had appeared in the sky over Bari harbor to attack them. Two
Ju-88s had gone down into the sea. Teuber had seen them
crash into the water, but it was impossible for him to deter-
mine whether it had been antiaircraft fire or fire from the
ships that had hit the Ju-88s. Now, as he headed northward,
he was happy to be alive, amazed that there had been so little
opposition. Looking toward the harbor one more time, he
saw a tanker anchored near Molo San Cataldo and wished he
had one more bomb with which to attack it. Oberleutnant
Teuber felt, and rightly so, that the Luftwaffe controlled the
skies over Bari harbor that night.

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