How a WWII Disaster—and Cover-up—Led to a Cancer Treatment Breakthrough

On the night of December 2, 1943, the Germans bombed a key Allied port in Bari, Italy, sinking 17 ships and killing more than 1,000 US and British servicemen and hundreds of civilians. Caught in the surprise air raid of World War II was the John harvey, an American Liberty ship carrying a secret cargo of 2,000 mustard bombs to be used in retaliation if Hitler resorted to gas warfare.

The Luftwaffe’s lucky strike, which released a poisonous cloud of sulfur mustard vapor over the harbor – and liquid mustard in the water – prompted the Allies to cover up the chemical weapons disaster. But it also led to the fortuitous discovery by an Army doctor of a new cancer treatment.

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