General Information/DiscussionsDead man's hand

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Sat Apr 07, 2018 7:22 am

The dead man hand can be traced back to Wild Bill Hickok who was alleged to be holding a dead man's hand consisting of aces & eights all black diamonds and spades when he was killed.

While combing through the thousands of missing aircrew reports I came across this tidbit:

The last B-17 shot down in WWII was # 42-31188 named "Dead Man's hand"

Or, how about this one?

Mustard disaster at Bari 1943 The actual report is quite long so I have have copied the one from Wikipedia.

The German airforce launched a raid on the port of Bari

"S.S. John Harvey

One of the destroyed vessels—the U.S. Liberty ship John Harvey—had been carrying a secret cargo of 2000 M47A1 mustard gas bombs, each holding 60–70 lb (27–32 kg) of the agent. According to Royal Navy historian Stephen Roskill, this cargo had been sent to Europe for potential retaliatory use if Germany carried out its threatened use of chemical warfare in Italy.[7] The destruction of John Harvey caused liquid sulfur mustard from the bombs to spill into waters already contaminated by oil from the other damaged vessels. The many sailors who had abandoned their ships into the water became covered with this oily mixture which provided an ideal solvent for the sulfur mustard. Some mustard evaporated and mingled with the clouds of smoke and flame.[4] The wounded were pulled from the water and sent to medical facilities whose personnel were unaware of the mustard gas. Medical staff focused on personnel with blast or fire injuries and little attention was given to those merely covered with oil.[25] Many injuries caused by prolonged exposure to low concentrations of mustard might have been reduced by bathing or a change of clothes.[26]

Within a day, the first symptoms of mustard poisoning had appeared in 628 patients and medical staff, with symptoms including blindness and chemical burns. This puzzling development was further complicated by the arrival of hundreds of Italian civilians also seeking treatment, who had been poisoned by a cloud of sulfur mustard vapor that had blown over the city when some of John Harvey's cargo exploded. As the medical crisis worsened, little information was available about what was causing these symptoms, as the U.S. military command wanted to keep the presence of chemical munitions secret from the Germans.[27] Nearly all crewmen of John Harvey had been killed, and were unavailable to explain the cause of the "garlic-like" odor noted by rescue personnel.[25]

Informed about the mysterious symptoms, Deputy Surgeon General Fred Blesse sent for Lieutenant Colonel Stewart Francis Alexander, an expert in chemical warfare. Carefully tallying the locations of the victims at the time of the attack, Alexander traced the epicenter to John Harvey, and confirmed mustard gas as the responsible agent when he located a fragment of the casing of a U.S. M47A1 bomb.[3]

By the end of the month, 83 of the 628 hospitalized military victims had died. The number of civilian casualties, thought to have been even greater, could not be accurately gauged since most had left the city to seek shelter with relatives.[3]

An additional cause of contamination with mustard is suggested by George Southern, the only survivor of the raid to have written about it. The huge explosion of John Harvey, possibly simultaneously with another ammunition ship, sent large amounts of oily water mixed with mustard into the air, which fell down like rain on men who were on deck at the time. This affected the crews of the Hunt-class destroyers HMS Zetland and HMS Bicester. Both ships were damaged by the force of the blast and had taken casualties. After moving the destroyers away from burning ships and towing the tanker La Drome away from the fires, the ships received orders to sail for Taranto. They threaded their way past burning wrecks, with the flotilla leader, Bicester having to follow Zetland as her navigation equipment was damaged. Some survivors were picked up from the water in the harbour entrance by Bicester. When dawn broke, it became clear that the magnetic and giro compasses had acquired large errors, requiring a large course correction. Symptoms of mustard gas poisoning then began to appear. By the time they reached Taranto, none of Bicester's officers could see well enough to navigate the ship into harbour and assistance had to be sought from the shore.[28]

A member of Allied Supreme Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower's medical staff, Dr. Stewart F. Alexander, was dispatched to Bari following the raid. Alexander had trained at the Army's Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland, and was familiar with some of the effects of mustard gas. Although he was not informed of the cargo carried by John Harvey, and most victims suffered atypical symptoms caused by exposure to mustard diluted in water and oil (as opposed to airborne), Alexander rapidly concluded that mustard gas was present. Although he could not get any acknowledgment from the chain of command, Alexander convinced medics to treat patients for mustard gas exposure and saved many lives as a result. He also preserved many tissue samples from autopsied victims at Bari. After World War II, these samples would result in the development of an early form of chemotherapy based on mustard, Mustine.[29]

From the start, Allied High Command tried to conceal the disaster, in case the Germans believed that the Allies were preparing to use chemical weapons, which might provoke them into preemptive use, but there were too many witnesses to keep the secret, and in February 1944, the U.S. Chiefs of Staff issued a statement admitting to the accident and emphasizing that the U.S. had no intention of using chemical weapons except in the case of retaliation.[30]

General Dwight D. Eisenhower approved Dr. Alexander's report. Winston Churchill, however, ordered all British documents to be purged. Mustard gas deaths were described as "burns due to enemy action".[3]

U.S. records of the attack were declassified in 1959, but the episode remained obscure until 1967 when author Glenn B. Infield published the book Disaster at Bari.[29] In 1986 the British government admitted to survivors of the Bari raid that they had been exposed to poison gas and amended their pension payments.[31] In 1988, through the efforts of Nick T. Spark, U.S. Senator Dennis DeConcini and U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, Dr. Alexander received recognition from the Surgeon General of the United States Army for his actions in the aftermath of the Bari disaster.[32]

In his autobiographical work Destroyer Captain published in 1975 by William Kimber & Co, Lieutenant Commander Roger Hill describes refuelling HMS Grenville in Bari shortly after the attack. He describes the damage done and details how a shipload of mustard gas came to be in the harbour because of intelligence reports which he viewed as "incredible".

On a side note: After both wars WWI & WWII, ships loaded with mustard gas were sunk of the east coast and fisherman have occasionally brought up live shells and were exposed to the agent.

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