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Publisher's Summary

On the night of December 2, 1943, the Luftwaffe bombed a critical Allied port in Bari, Italy, sinking 17 ships and killing more than a thousand servicemen and hundreds of civilians. Caught in the surprise air raid was the John Harvey, an American Liberty ship carrying a top-secret cargo of 2,000 mustard bombs to be used in retaliation if the Germans resorted to gas warfare. 

When one young sailor after another began suddenly dying of mysterious symptoms, Lieutenant Colonel Stewart Alexander, a doctor and chemical weapons expert, was dispatched to investigate. He quickly diagnosed mustard gas exposure, but was overruled by British officials determined to cover up the presence of poison gas in the devastating naval disaster, which the press dubbed "little Pearl Harbor". Prime Minister Winston Churchill and General Dwight D. Eisenhower acted in concert to suppress the truth, insisting the censorship was necessitated by military security. 

Alexander defied British port officials and heroically persevered in his investigation. His final report on the Bari casualties was immediately classified, but not before his breakthrough observations about the toxic effects of mustard on white blood cells caught the attention of Colonel Cornelius P. Rhoads - a pioneering physician and research scientist as brilliant as he was arrogant and self-destructive - who recognized that the poison was both a killer and a cure and ushered in a new era of cancer research led by the Sloan Kettering Institute. Meanwhile, the Bari incident remained cloaked in military secrecy, resulting in lost records, misinformation, and considerable confusion about how a deadly chemical weapon came to be tamed for medical use. 

Deeply researched and beautifully written, The Great Secret is the remarkable story of how horrific tragedy gave birth to medical triumph.

©2020 Jennet Conant (P)2020 Recorded Books

What listeners say about The Great Secret

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From Poison to Cure, history revealed!

Not an easy book to listen too, but the story is told by one of my favorite authors, Jennet Conant. I have read or purchased 3 of her books and each one has a specific story to tell. When it comes to war, nothing is easy to talk about. Secrets are quickly classified and the general public knows very little of the truth. There are many hero's in this story. The truth is that on December 2nd 1943 an incident which could have been completely avoided occurred with the bombing of the British controlled harbor of Bari Italy. This become know as the "Little Peral Harbor, as 17 ships were destroyed by the German air attack of 105 JU 88 bombers. The key to the story is in the cargo hold of the American ship, John Harvey.

I highly recommend this book as it tells of the many attempts to find a cure for Cancer through the use of the science of Chemotherapy developed from the effects of the Mustard gas explosions that fateful night. Since the early 1940's the hunt for a single cure for Cancer has endured. What you will learn is that Cancer is a complicated process, and that even today the secrets that were classified are still in use. The best approach is not a single one, but a recipe of chemicals used for different types of Cancer treatments. It's hard to imagine that a poison as lethal as mustard gas could be the first agent to be used in the fight against Cancer. Listen carefully to Jennet's message, the narrator, John Kroft is perfect in his reading and makes the entire book entirely understandable.

War like Cancer seems to part of our lives. There is hope though through the dedication of the doctors, nurses & researchers that someday Cancer will just be another word left in the dictionary as solved. Maybe even the word war will join it too.

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Not worth the read

First half is about the War not the discovery as title suggests.

Tons of irrelevant data unrelated to topic of discovery of chemotherapy.

About 25% of book on topic.

Writing overly melodramatic.