Featherston, Harold J

Harold J. Featherston was born on March 30, 1921 to Harold and Lucy Featherston who lived in Paoli, Pennsylvania. He was the older of two children. His parents were from New York 

Harold attended the Tredyffrin–Easttown High School. He left school in his sophomore year to enlist in the Navy.

Harold served on aboard the Destroyer Trippe DD-403, for nearly two years as the destroyer served as convoy duty.

Harold was assigned to the Naval Armed Guard, Navy contingents which manned the guns on merchant ships, to protect them against air attack. 

He was assigned to serve on board the liberty ship SS John Harvey. The Harvey was built in Wilmington, North Carolina, - the 878th of over 2,700 Liberty Ships constructed during World War II. Liberty ships were designed for mass production, and to transport the massive amount of troops and supplies needed to defeat the axis powers.
The SS John Harvey sailed to the Mediterranean Sea arriving at Bari, Italy in December, 1943. Bari was a captured port in the southern part of Italy on the Adriatic Sea. The port was used to bring in supplies for Montgomery’s Eighth Army. British Air Vice Marshal Sir Arthur Cunningham claimed that the Germans would never dare launch an attack on the port of Beri. Because they felt safe, the port was ablaze with lights as the ships were unloaded throughout the night.

A German Reconnaissance flight discovered the port full of ships on December 2nd. The Luftwaffe (German Air Force) mounted a surprise attack with 105 Ju-88 Junker bombers the following day. In the ensuing disaster 17 ships were sunk (five American, five British, two Italian, three Norwegian, and two Polish) and seven were heavily damaged.

The SS John Harvey disappeared in a huge explosion. The ship had a secret cargo of Mustard Gas - 2,000 M47A1 gas bombs, which because of her secret, meant she was not given priority to unload. Because of the low priority, she sat for five days in port waiting to be unloaded. The Mustard Gas was shipped as a reserve for use only if Hitler used chemical weapons in his desperation.

There were over 1,000 casualties, nearly 800 were admitted to local hospitals. 628 suffered from the mustard gas, of whom 69 died within two weeks.

Seaman Second Class Harold J. Featherston was Killed In Action on December 3, 1944 on the German attack on Bari. His parents received a telegram on December 27th that their son was Missing in Action. The government later changed his designation as Killed In Action.


Research by Don Wambold, WCMSC