Bari



Disaster at Bari, Chapter 7







                         Chapter 7

              "THERE'S A LIGHT ON THE JETTY"

 The tanker that Teuber saw anchored near Molo San
Cataldo as he flew north over the Adriatic Sea was the U.S.S.
Pumper Y0-56 commanded by Captain E. A. McCammond.
As soon as he was notified by the watch on the bridge that a
flare had just been dropped over the harbor, McCammond
ordered his crew to battle stations and hurried to the bridge
himself. Sizing up the confusing situation, he decided that
the best defensive maneuver he could make was to order all
guns trained to the seaward side at maximum elevation and
begin firing.

  "Pour it up," he called as soon as the gunners were
ready.

  Neither McCammond, Ritter, his executive officer at
battle control number two, nor O. V. Darr, the engineering
officer, could see the enemy aircraft that were dropping the
bombs, but periodically they could hear one of the Ju-88s
roar overhead less than a hundred feet above the ship.
During the initial minutes of the raid the captain was con-
cerned about the U.S.S. Pumper being hit by one of the
bombs, but as the raid progressed and the line of ships along
the East Jetty began burning, his worry shifted to the danger
they presented. The gunfire from the tanker and from two
other tankers anchored near the U.S.S. Pumper was the
heaviest concentration of defensive firepower thrown up from
the harbor and the German planes picked easier targets,
staying away from the area where the tanker was riding in the
water. The burning merchant ships that were drifting free of
the East Jetty as their mooring lines parted made McCammond
nervous. He knew that many of these ships carried ammuni-
tion, bombs, aviation fuel, and other explosive items that
were more of a threat to the U.S.S. Pumper than the bombs
from the enemy planes. He saw the John Bascom catch fire
shortly after the John L. Motley began burning. On down the
jetty he saw the John Harvey was a mass of flames. He did
not, however, know about the lethal load of mustard gas:
bombs aboard the John Harvey. Very close to the U.S.S.
Pumper the Yug, a small Yugoslavian coastal vessel about
eighty feet long, was aflame, too, but McCammond ignored
her, concentrating on the ships carrying war cargo, especially
the John Harvey.

 The John Harvey, loose now from pier twenty-nine, was
drifting across the harbor directly toward the U.S.S. Pumper.
McCammond could see the men aboard the ship fighting to
douse the flames, saw a limping figure directing the battle
with the fire. This was Captain Knowles fighting desperately
to save his ship and his crew. Several of the crew members of
the tanker wondered why the seamen on the John Harvey
did not leap overboard, why they stayed and tried to keep the
flames from spreading, unaware that Beekstrom and his de-
tachment of the 701st Chemical Maintenance Company were
staying in a final effort to keep the chemical bombs intact.

 Radioman Carl M. "Pop" Keefe was in his general quar-
ters station on the bridge when the raid started, having just 
returned from liberty ashore. "Pop" Keefe was the oldest 
man aboard the U.S.S. Pumper at forty-nine years of age. He
had grown up on the Mississippi River, enlisted in the U.S.
Navy during World War I as a landsman for Electrician
(Radio) and, after attending a school at Groton, Connecticut,
became a qualified listener on a device known as a "C" tube
used for detecting submarines under the surface. He returned
to shore after World War I, but promptly enlisted when
World War II started and was assigned to the U.S.S. Pumper
in December, 1942. Now, as he watched the John Harvey
bearing down on the tanker, he wished he was back in
Wisconsin punching a telegrapher's key for the C&NW Rail-
road as he had done between wars. He knew that if the John
Harvey exploded, as it appeared likely she would, the U.S.S.
Pumper was in a precarious position.

 So did Coxswain A. M. Nikkila and Ship's Cook H. K.
Olsen who were standing on the bridge watching the mer-
chant ship moving closer and closer to the tanker. Momen-
tarily an explosion on the south end of the East Jetty distract-
ed the pair, but only for a minute. Stocky, quiet Nikkila shook
his head slowly and muttered, "Nothing going to stop her
from hitting us now."

 Nikkila was not entirely correct, although, at the mo-
ment, the odds favored his prediction. The burning merchant
ship bore down on the tanker as the ten-knot wind pushed
her along. Once the John Harvey half-turned to the east, but
slowly, inexorably the ship swung back on course for the
U.S.S. Pumper and began closing the gap between the two
ships. While she was still several hundred feet away, howev-
er, the flames reached the mustard bombs and the coura-
geous fight to save the ship by Captain Knowles, Lieutenant
Beckstrom, and the others on board the John Harvey ended
abruptly. The ship exploded.

 One moment the John Harvey was a huge mass of flames
moving across Bari harbor from east to north, the next she
was gone. To the men on the U.S.S. Pumper the world
seemed to stand still for several moments when the merchant
ship blew up. There was a whispering sound as the air around
the tanker was sucked toward the center of the blast and a
fraction of a moment of silence. Suddenly the violence of the
explosion ripped the area. The initial crack of sound threat-
ened the eardrums of every man in the vicinity and seemed
to vibrate every bone in a person's body until even those who
were not knocked off their feet found it difficult to keep their
balance. Bitter, the executive officer on the tanker, was lifted
completely off his feet at battle control two and tossed onto
the deck below. He was knocked unconscious by the force of
his fall and injured his back seriously. Shrapnel from the
mustard bomb casings smashed into crewman James Heeg's
mouth and a piece lodged in the buttocks of Coxswain Dale
Johnson. The tanker rolled about thirty-five degrees to port
from the concussion, throwing most of the crewmen of the
U.S.S. Pumper to the deck. The ship was literally showered
with nose fuses and small fragments of the John Harvey. One
piece of hull plating that was nine inches wide went through
a port on the bridge breaking out the glass and lodging inside
in the superstructure.

 Unbelievably, the closeness of the John Harvey to the
U.S.S. Pumper saved the tanker from more extensive damage
and prevented many deaths among the men aboard her. The
merchant ship blew up with such intensity that most of the
flying debris passed completely over the U.S.S. Pumper and
hit other ships further away. The small Yugoslavian coastal
vessel Yug simply disappeared, a victim of the explosion.
Another tanker further north was also badly damaged and
drifted toward the torpedo nets at the entrance to the harbor.
The U.S.S. Pumper, however, once she had recovered from
the initial blast and rolled back on an even keel, appeared in
good shape to Captain McCammond. He immediately or-
dered a complete check of the tanker made by the engineer-
ing officer and, within a few minutes, Darr reported every-
thing was under control and that the damage was not serious.
The captain had been worried about his ship being full of
aviation gasoline fumes, but, although the tanker was dented,
she had not opened up, so none of the fumes escaped.

The harbor, from the vantage point of the men aboard
the U.S.S. Pumper, was dotted with burning ships, flaming oil
and debris on the surface of the water, and hundreds of men 
in the water trying to reach safety before another ship
exploded, the surface flames caught them, or they became
exhausted and drowned. Since the tanker was on the opposite
side of the entrance to the harbor from the East Jetty,
McCammond had a perfect view of the holocaust and it made
him sick. Every few minutes there was another blast, not
nearly as violent as the explosion of the John Harvey, but stfil
dangerous, especially to those on board the ships along the
jetty. He could plainly see that the crews of those vessels
were trapped. The flaming oil, dunnage, and other material
lying on the harbor surface cut off any escape toward the
U.S.S. Pumper from the East Jetty. The only hope for the 
men was to climb onto the seawall of the jetty and await
rescue. The sailors on the ships nearer the dock or anchored 
in the center of the harbor had more opportunity to reach
shore alive since they were on the land side of the flaming
debris covering the water. If they were strong enough or
lucky enough, they could swim to Moio Pizzoli or Molo San
Cataldo.

About an hour after the John Harvey blew up, Coxswain
Nikkila asked for permission to launch the whaleboat in an
attempt to rescue some of the men struggling in the water.

"There seem to be more men swimming now than there
were an hour ago," he explained. "Some of them are in bad
shape."

McCammond quickly gave his permission to use the
whaleboat.

Nikkila, Heeg, and Quartermaster, Third Class, W. E.
"Bill" Olson manned the boat, launching it within a few
minutes after permission was granted by the captain. They
moved through the darkness very slowly, picking up survivors
as they went. Many of the men were in bad shape, so bad
that it was nearly impossible to get them into the boat. They
were burned so seriously that as Nikkila and his companions
tried to lift them into the motor launch flesh came off parts of
their body. The screams of the wounded could be heard
above the explosions. Others seemed to be having trouble
breathing and complained, as had Vesole and Rudolph on the
East Jetty, that they smelled garlic. They, too, were completely
unaware that they were breathing fumes from the mustard
which was now mixed with the oil. On their first trip the men
from the U.S.S. Pumper learned why there was so much oil
on the surface of the harbor. One of the German planes had
bombed the large petroleum line running along the north
side of the harbor and the oil was pouring out of the breaks.
This oil, added to the dunnage, the debris from the exploding
ships, and the mustard made the waters of Bari harbor nearly
impassable, especially for injured, exhausted, and shocked
seamen.

 The three men in the motor launch made three trips
back and forth between the dock and the open areas of the
harbor picking up survivors. As they prepared to make
another trip, Olson suddenly pointed toward the north tip of
the East Jetty.

 "Someone is signaling with a flashlight from the end of
the jetty," he said. "They must be trapped out by the
lighthouse."

 Nikkila looked toward the lighthouse and saw the blink-
ing light that Rudolph from the John Bascom was using to try
and get help for the men caught between the sea and the
flaming ships along the East Jetty. After watching the light for
a few moments, he looked at Olson.

"Think we can reach them?"

"We can give it a try."

 It was a hazardous, slow trip for the three men in the
motor launch as they made their way through the fires in the
harbor, past the exploding ships, along the broken petroleum
line that threatened to burst into flames at any minute,
dodging floating sections of damaged ships that appeared out
of the darkness without warning. The entire harbor area was
bathed in a red glow, giving the men in the water covered
with the black oil a hideous appearance. As they neared the
tip of the East Jetty, Nikkila saw black figures tinted with the
same reddish glow waving frantically toward him, afraid that
the motor launch was going to turn back and leave them
stranded on the seawall. To his right, the coxswain from the
U.S.S. Pumper noticed that the burning ships that had been
anchored along the jetty were free of their mooring lines now
and were drifting toward the lighthouse area where the
men were trapped. The safe area on the East Jetty was
getting smaller every minute.

 On the East Jetty Heitmann saw the motor launch
approaching and watched it closely. Turning to Rudolph, he
said, "Do you think they are coming for us?"

The second officer, his flashlight batteries now dead,
shrugged. "I'm not certain. I thought they saw my light, but
after it went out the boat seemed to turn further to the
northeast. They'll miss the jetty entirely if they don't turn
back soon."

The captain of the John Bascom heard several of the men
on the seawall yelling toward the motor launch that was now
moving almost parallel to the seawall, but he knew their
voices were drowned out by the crackling flames and the
intermittent explosions. There was nothing they could do
now but wait.., and hope.

While Heitmann, his crew, and the other seamen waited
on the tip of the East Jetty for rescue, crews and troops on
other ships in the harbor were fighting to survive also. On
board the merchant ship S.S. Louis Hennepin, Signalman
Robert Downey had been knocked down several times by
ships exploding nearby. Finally he decided to stay on the
deck temporarily in an effort to regain his strength and also
stay out of the path of the flying debris that was hitting the
Louis Hennepin from all directions. He had not seen even
one of the attacking planes, but that did not concern him as
he lay on the deck of the merchant ship trying to decide on
his next move. The two British warships that had been tied
up beside the Louis Hennepin were badly damaged and
burning. Downey knew that his best chance of escape would
be to try and get off the ship onto the dock. There was only
one trouble. The mooring lines of the Louis Hennepin had
burned away and the ship was swinging on the anchor chain.
Sometimes she was eight to ten feet away from the dock,
but at other times the ship drifted in and hit the dock
broadside. The ladder that had to be climbed to get onto the
dock from the water was between the hull of the Louis
Hennepin and the dock and there was a possibility of a man
getting crushed to death if he did not time the climb just
right. Downey watched the ship swing out and back several
times, trying to get a feel for the rhythm of the boat so he
could clamber up the ladder while the ship was on its
outward swing. The lifeless bodies of several seamen floating
in the water by the dock was evidence of what would happen
if he made a mistake.

 While he was still watching the bow of the boat moving,
Downey saw a man start up the ladder and knew immediately
that the seaman had timed it wrong. The merchant ship
started swinging toward the ladder before the man was
halfway up it. He did not have a chance. At that moment,
however, a British sailor standing on the dock grabbed a long
board and held it between the ship and the side of the dock.
Wedged in this position, the board withstood the pressure of
the ship's hull and kept an open space around the ladder. The
seaman climbed to safety, followed by many others. By this
time, Downey decided that the damage aboard the Louis
Hennepin was not as serious as he had first believed, so he
and several others stuck with the ship.

 The Samuel J. Tilden was not as fortunate as the Louis
Hennepin. Captain Blair and his crew had done everything
they could to save the bombed merchant ship, but it was not
enough. The Samuel J. Tilden had been anchored approxi-
mately two miles out in the harbor, since she had arrived
from Taranto, Italy, carrying U.S. and British military passen-
gers and loaded with supplies shortly before the German
bombers struck. Fly, the technical sergeant assigned to the
376th Bomb Group personnel being transported to Bari by
the Samuel J. Tilden, had been watching C-47s make their
landing approaches directly over the ship ever since they had
arrived in the harbor so it was quite a shock when the Ju-88s
began dropping bombs. He had thought the roar of their
engines indicated more C-47s heading for the Bari airport at
the outskirts of the city. So did most of the personnel of the
Twenty-six General Hospital who were aboard the ship.
Lieutenant John H. Adamson, Jr., heard the engines and
turned to Leo Kaczmarczyk.

"I can't understand why we couldn't get a seat on a
plane," he said. "It sure would have saved us a lot of traveling
time:'

Kaczmarczyk did not even have time to answer. Several
bombs suddenly exploded in the harbor west of the Samuel J.
Tilden and the blinding flares lighted the entire harbor.
Although the ship rocked violently, there was no damage
during the initial moments of the air strike. A short time
later, however, the Ju-88s made another pass over the Samuel
J. Tilden dropping incendiary bombs. One of these bombs hit
the ship immediately forward of the bridge. The explosion
destroyed all wooden bulkheads, bulged the metal bulk-
heads, buckled deck plates over the engine room and completely
destroyed the engine room skylight. Fire broke out immedi-
ately and spread forward to the bow and then aft.

Captain Blair was furious because a British Naval Con-
trol searchlight from the mole was still burning and illuminat-
ing the Samuel J. Tilden. When he had brought his ship
through the entrance of the harbor just prior to the raid, the
beam of the searchlight had focused on her to aid the harbor
pilot to board. Now, seven minutes after the first bombs had
been dropped, the light was still outlining the Samuel J.
Tilden, making her an excellent target for the Ju-88s. Blair
had never entered another port controlled by the British
where such a practice was used. In addition, as soon as the
air raid began, the shore batteries, also controlled by the
British, had opened fire with their 40 mm guns. Because of
misdirected fire or unsuitability of the guns for antiaircraft
defense, the Samuel J. Tilden and her crew were subjected to
a continuous rain of shells from these batteries, destroying
equipment, killing and wounding men, and rendering the
ship incapable of defending herself. Since it was impossible
for the gun crew to stay at their positions due to this shore
fire, they were ordered to take cover. Because of this shore
fire, the searchlight, and the Ju-88s that were now strafing
the decks of the Samuel J. Tilden, since the German pilots
could see so clearly by the beam of the searchlight, the
captain considered moving his ship to a new position. Finally
he decided that it was better to remain stationary than try to
maneuver in the unfamiliar, crowded harbor among the ex-
ploding ships. The fire spread throughout the vessel, and at
8:45 P.M. he gave the order to abandon ship. Blair immedi-
ately went to his quarters, put the secret codes in a perforat-
ed metal box, returned to the bridge and dropped the box
into the water. He then went to oversee the abandoning of
the ship, knowing that this was the first time at sea for many
of his 209 passengers.

 The men of the Twenty-six General Hospital were below
deck when the incendiary bomb hit the Samuel J. Tilden.
Lawrence H. Buys was knocked down by the blast, but
quickly regained his feet and rushed to aid some of the others
who had been injured. A huge icebox had been overturned,
pinning down several of the men who had been trying to
make their way to the deck. Buys, Adamson, Byron A. Bell,
Stephen Corey, and others put their shoulders to the icebox
and managed to lift it high enough for the pinned men to pull
themselves free. Once topside, the medical personnel of the
General Hospital joined the men of the 37th and
98th Bomb Groups lining up for the available lifeboats and
rafts. Number three lifeboat had been destroyed by the
attacking planes, but the remaining boats were in good
condition. Fifty-six men boarded the lifeboats while eighty
others got onto the rafts. One hundred and fifteen more of
the passengers and crew took to the water on floats.

Once off the ship the survivors of the Samuel J. Tilden
found the harbor a maelstrom of fire, blasts, screaming men,
and drifting ships. Some of the lifeboats were towed toward
shore by harbor motor launches, but the others found the
going very difficult because the surface of the water was thick
with oil. The rafts were at the mercy of the wind and
every time a ship in the harbor exploded, the rafts were
tossed in a different direction. The men in the lifeboats, rafts,
and on the floats were doused continually by the dirty water
that was stirred up by the explosions. It went into their eyes,
up their nostrils, down their throats. After awhile they felt
their skin burning and many of the men found it difficult to
breathe. The mustard was taking its toll.

The Joseph Wheeler and John L. Motley had disappeared.
There were no survivors except the men who had been
ashore. Chester B. Filewiez, Utility, aboard the John L.
Motley, was in Bari when he heard the ack-ack guns begin
firing. As soon as possible he and a companion, Osmond
Jackson, made their way to the harbor, but all they could see
when they arrived where the John L. Motley had been
moored was fire and smoke. The closest he could get to the
site was approximately two city blocks, but that was close
enough for FileWiez to be convinced that he no longer had a 
ship. Another member of the John L. Motley crew who was
on shore leave that evening, Deck Engineer Carl Smith,
arrived at the dock about the same time as Filewicz, saw that
his ship had blown up, and began searching among the
hundreds of wounded and exhausted men already on the
dock for survivors from the ship. The only one that he located
was Radio Operator Melvin H. Bloomberg who was severely
injured. Stopping a British soldier driving past in a jeep, he
loaded the injured radio operator on the vehicle and started
for the nearest hospital.

 Fred McCarthy from the Joseph Wheeler had just started
to spend the ten dollars he had borrowed from a friend
aboard ship. He had found a place to get a bottle of wine and
was negotiating the deal with the Italian operating the place
when the antiaircraft guns began firing nearby.

"What's going on?" he asked the Italian shopkeeper.

The man shrugged, "The British are practicing again."

When the firing continued, however, McCarthy decided
to investigate. As soon as he stepped into the street he knew
that it was no practice session. It was the real thing. Planes
were roaring overhead, bombs were exploding on Via Abate
Gimma, and shrapnel was slamming into the street all around
him. Running from doorway to doorway, McCarthy made his
way back to the dock where he was supposed to board the
motor launch for the trip back to the Joseph Wheeler. The
motor launch was not waiting. No one even stopped to
answer his question. The dock was in utter confusion with
men running in all directions, injured men lying everyplace,
shocked survivors walking around in circles talking to them-
selves. While he was still trying to decide on his next move,
there was a violent explosion out in the harbor and McCarthy
was knocked over backward. AS he lay stunned on the dock,
he suddenly wondered what had happened to his friend
"Bouncer" Ryan who had remained behind on the ship.
McCarthy did not know it, but Ryan was already dead.

 Chief Mate Roy J. Newkirk of the Joseph Wheeler had
gone ashore early on the morning of December 2 after being
relieved by the second mate. He, too, hurried toward the
deck as soon after the German air strike as possible, but it
was impossible to get out onto the East Jetty because of the
burning ships. The flames blocked his path completely. In-
stead of returning to the city, Newkirk helped pull survivors
out of the water and also cut one tanker loose from its
mooring lines so it could escape the inferno along the jetty.
Choking from the smoke and fumes in the area, the chief
mate then returned to the boat pool area.

The Hadley E Brown had reached dockside for unloading
prior to the air strike by the Luftwaffe, but Robert Kirchhoff
was still nervous thinking about the crowded harbor condi-
tions. He had been in many ports since the beginning of the
war, but he had never seen one as jammed as Bari harbor was
on the night of December 2. Nor had he ever seen one
lighted at night as this harbor was; he did not like it, did not
like it at all. He was in his quarters aboard the ship discussing
the situation when the general alarm suddenly sounded. His
first thought was that it was another drill, but within a few
seconds he heard a bomb explode along the East Jetty and
knew that it was no drill. Racing to his gun position, he 
completely ignored the port rule that the guns aboard ship
were to remain covered. Grabbing his machine gun, he
began firing at the flares hanging above the Hadley E Brown
and twice he got off a few shots at German aircraft that flew
over the ship at mast level. By the time the Ju-88s left the
area Kirchhoff had used all the available ammunition and was
hunting for more.

He had been so occupied with his gun that he had barely
paid any attention when a bomb hit the port bow of the
Hadley E Brown. Now that he had more time to look around,
he discovered that he and the remainder of the crew were in
a precarious situation. The hull was badly damaged and the 
gangplank that had been in use was completely smashed. Two
ships nearby along the dock had also been hit. One was an
ammunition ship, the other a tanker. Both were burning
furiously and the tanker, its hull ruptured, was spraying fuel
over the Hadley E Brown. Kirchhoff was still worrying about
the fuel saturating the deck of his ship when there was a
terrific explosion. The Hadley E Brown keeled over on its
starboard side, slammed into the dock, then rolled the oppo-
site direction. Bodies flew through the air mixed with a wide
assortment of debris and ship sections. Kirchhoff felt some-
thing hit his life jacket directly below his chin and reaching
down, picked out a two-inch, jagged piece of shrapnel. It was
his souvenir from the John Harvey. The shrapnel, fortunately,
did not hurt him, but the unseen mustard from the same ship
was moving toward him mixed with the smoke and fumes in
the sky, the oil on the surface of-the harbor.

Captain Hays of the U.S.S. Aroostook had tried to get
permission to move his tanker to the unloading area, but the
British port director was too busy to be concerned about one
more ship, even one loaded with nineteen thousand barrels
of hundred-octane gasoline. Hays was just leaving the Psy-
chological Warfare Board Headquarters in Bari to go to the
Petroleum Section of the Allied Force Headquarters to con-
tinue his efforts to get his tanker unloaded when the first
flares were dropped over the harbor by the Ju-88s. He
immediately ordered his driver to take him to the port area,
arriving there within eight minutes. Every effort by Hays to
get a motor launch to take him back to the U.S.S. Aroostook
failed, since the rescue of the men floundering in the flaming
harbor took priority. He decided to try and proceed to the
outer end of the fueling quay which would take him to within
a few hundred yards of his ship, but a direct bomb hit about
one-third of the way out the quay blocked him. The bomb
ruptured one of the main gasoline pipes and a raging fire
prevented Hays from going any further. After waiting a few
minutes, the determined captain lowered himself to the side
of the seawall opposite the fire and crawled past the flames.
Once he was beyond the fire, he climbed back onto the
fueling quay and hurried to the outer end of it where once
again he found himself trapped and unable to reach his ship.

 The sky was bright as day and Hays could see the men
aboard the U.S.S. Aroostook fighting to save the ship. While
he was not close enough to see the details of the damage
suffered by the ship, he knew that the German planes had hit
her. Actually the U.S.S. Aroostook had suffered considerable
damage, but was in no immediate danger of sinking. Both
Wellin lifeboats had been pierced by shrapnel; a hole had
been made in the deck amidships; all doors, officer's country,
passageway, and stateroom had been blown off; the six-inch
fueling hose was pierced by shrapnel; all windows in the
lower wheelhouse were blown out; and the starboard diesel
engine was damaged. Hays considered swimming to his ship
from the quay, but he gave up the idea because the fires on
the water were spreading rapidly. All he could do was stand
and watch his crew fight to save the U.S.S. Aroostook.

 Two ships anchored within four hundred yards of the
U.S.S. Aroostook sustained direct hits and immediately sank
in six fathoms of water, the upper decks and superstructure
still burning fiercely. Despite the nearness of the flaming
ships, however, the men of the U.S.S. Aroostook refused to
quit battling. Boatswain K. R. Groote remained at his station
in the completely exposed firing control tower, ducking the
burning debris and shrapnel flying through the air, and
directed the firing of the ship's guns. The effectiveness of the
barrage from the ship was evidenced by the fact that the
Ju-88 bombed nearby ships instead of risking another pass on
the U.S.S. Aroostook.

 Hays was still on the fueling quay when the John Harvey
exploded and was nearly blown into the sea by the force of
the blast. He suffered partial deafness from the blast and it
was several minutes before his head cleared. It was then that
he saw that the executive officer of the U.S.S. Aroostook,
John Umstead, Jr., had managed to get his ship underway.
He was maneuvering the ship through channels of burning oil
and gasoline on the waters and sunken ships in the harbor to
a safer anchorage further north. The captain, realizing that he
could not reach his ship at that time, turned and started back
the fueling quay toward the dock. Near the fire on the quay
he discovered that several of the men from the U.S.S.
Aroostook who had been on shore liberty and were unable to
get back aboard were assisting in removing wounded to
ambulances from boats that had picked them up from the
harbor waters. The wounded were in various states of shock
and exhaustion, but they all had one thing in common--they
were covered from head to foot with the oil slime that was
lying on the surface of the harbor.

None were aware that the deadly mustard was mixed
with this oil slime.

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