Glauche, Richard Burton

Richard Burton Glauche

Richard Burton Glauche
Born: April 7, 1924
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Class: 1944
Service: Merchant Marine
Position / Rank: Deck Cadet
Date / Place of death: December 2, 1943 / Bari, Italy
Date / Place of burial: December 2, 1943 / Bari, Italy
/ Lost At Sea
Age: 19



Richard B. Glauche signed on aboard the Liberty ship SS John Harvey as Deck Cadet
on October 5, 1943 at Baltimore, MD. Three other Kings Point cadets also signed on
aboard the John Harvey; Marvin W. Brodie (Engine), James L. Cahill (Deck), and Alvin
H. Justis (Engine). According to a report filed by Cadet-Midshipman Cahill, the ship
sailed to Norfolk, VA to finish loading and joined a convoy that sailed for Oran, North
Africa on October 15. Unbeknownst to most of the crew, part of the ship’s cargo was
2,000 M47A1 mustard gas bombs. The bombs had been loaded at Baltimore between
September 30 and October 8 under the supervision of a seven man detail of Chemical
Warfare specialists from the Army’s Eastern Chemical Warfare Depot. The seven men
remained aboard the John Harvey to monitor the condition of the bombs while at sea
and supervise their discharge. The bombs were being sent to the Mediterranean as a
precaution so that American forces could retaliate if the Germans resorted to chemical

The John Harvey arrived in Oran on November 2, discharged its other cargo than the mustard gas bombs and then loaded a cargo of ammunition. A convoy of about forty ships, including the John Harvey, sailed from Oran for Augusta, Sicily on November 19,
arriving there on November 25. The John Harvey sailed the next day in a convoy of
thirty ships bound for the ports of Taranto and Bari on the Italian mainland with the Bari
bound ships arriving there on November 28. The port facilities at Bari were unable to
keep up with the number of ships in the port, resulting in days-long delays in
discharging ships anchored in the port. Because of the high level of secrecy
surrounding its cargo, the John Harvey was held in port for several days awaiting
discharge, moored alongside other ships loaded with ammunition and gasoline,
including the Liberty Ships John L. Motley, the John Bascom, and the Samuel J. Tilden.

Because of its distance from German airfields an air attack on Bari was not considered
likely so the port was not protected by the normal air defenses. As a result, a German
attack force of more than 100 Ju88 was able to completely surprise the few defenders
of Bari on the evening of December 2, 1943. Due to the lights left on the bombers were
able to accurately bomb the ships in the port and port facilities with only the loss of a single
aircraft. They left behind 28 ships sunk, twelve more damaged, over 1,000 merchant
mariners and military personnel killed, and a port so badly damaged that it took three weeks to resume discharging ships.

According to the few surviving eye witnesses, the John L. Motley and the Samuel J.
Tilden were among the first ships to be hit by the bombers. However, after the second
wave of aircraft finished their attack the John Harvey was in flames from stem to stern
with its crew desperately fighting to save the ship despite its condition, and because of its
ammunition cargo. The damaged John L. Motley had broken free from its mooring lines
and, completely engulfed in flames, was drifting towards the John Harvey. Suddenly,
the John Motley exploded destroying the ship and detonating the John Harvey’s cargo.
The John Harvey disintegrated sending the contents of its cargo of mustard gas bombs
into the air and water throughout the port area.

Thirty-six of the ship’s crew, all 28 members of its Armed Guard and the Army Chemical
Warfare specialists perished instantly, including Cadet-Midshipmen Richard B.
Glauche, Marvin H. Brodie and Alvin H. Justis. The only survivors from the John
Harvey were Cadet-Midshipman James L. Cahill and one of the ship’s Able Bodied
Seaman who were ashore when the attack began. One of the major factors in the high number of casualties from the attack is that doctors and other medical personnel attending to the wounded did not diagnose their signs and symptoms as those of mustard gas poisoning since no mustard gas was believed to be in the area.

Photo of Explosion of either SS John Harvey or SS John L. Motley at Bari, Italy

Cadet-Midshipman Richard B. Glauche was posthumously awarded Mariners Medal,Combat Bar, Atlantic War Zone Bar, Mediterranean-Middle East War Zone Bar, the Victory Medal, and the Presidential Testimonial Letter. According to the Chicago Daily Tribune, Richard Glauche continued firing his anti-aircraft gun until the John Harvey exploded.

Richard Glauche was the only son of Fred R. and Edna Snyder Glauche. According to
the 1930 and 1940 Census Fred Glauche was a Postal Clerk. Richard graduated from
William J. Onahan school and went on to attend Schurz High School and graduate from
William H. Taft High School. He was attending Maine Township Junior College when
he was accepted for Kings Point on his nineteenth birthday.

Known as “Dick” to his friends, Richard was remembered by his Kings Point classmate
Juel Hansen as a quiet, conservative young man with a subtle sense of humor. He was
extremely neat in his clothing and personal habits and was a disciplined student, and
was a member of the swim team. Juel Hansen recalled that Dick never lost his temper
or engaged in heated arguments. He always considered Dick to be a gentle,
well-mannered, and intelligent friend.

A memorial service for Richard Glauche was held on what would have been his 21st
birthday at the Onahan School. The centerpiece of the memorial was the creation of
the Richard B. Glauche Memorial in the school’s Library. The money for the memorial
was raised by William V. Jackson, a boy hood friend of Richard’s. The initial memorial
consisted of 60 books and a 15 drawer card catalog with subsequent additions by
Jackson and others who knew Richard Glauche and were dedicated to keeping his
memory alive.

3 thoughts on “Glauche, Richard Burton

  1. On 1/23/13 George Ryan spoke to William Sigler, California, a section mate of Glauche. He is remembered as a competitive swimmer. Sigler also remembers that his fellow cadet survived the raid because he was ashore.

  2. I have the photos and medals of Richard B. Glauche in my classroom. I found these in an antique mall in Chicago a few years ago. A true World War II Hero.

    • As I look at e-bay for many items, I have seen that many WWII medals are available for sale; I am not surprised some are found at antique malls. I will be at the Merchant Marine Academy for the opening of the Museum section honoring the 142 CADET-MIDSHIPMEN who died in WWII. Should you be willing to part with this wonderful artifact let me know. I would be willing to purchase it if we can agree upon a price and gift it to the museum or you could do that yourself. I could provide you with the info. Also I could give you a WW II Merchant Marine Victory medal that I have acquired that is not attributed to the any specific person to whom it was awarded. Look forward to your reply. Thank you. George Ryan

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