THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM
This is the story of the fleet and campaign that won and held control of the South Atlantic during the most critical period of the war.
At a time when American communications with fighting zones all over the globe were precarious, when everything depended on convoys that must go through on schedule, the South Atlantic was as vital an area as any that existed. For a long period the Mediterranean was closed, or at least could be used only with the greatest risk. Yet Egypt had to be supplied at all costs, for an Axis break-through in the Near East would have been disastrous. Russia needed American and British supplies, and a large percentage of these must be sent around the Cape of Good Hope. With the Japs threatening both India and Australia, much of the aid that reached those countries had to go via the South Atlantic. Needless to say, the Axis did all in its power to disrupt the schedule, and its method was the employment of submarines. The American answer was the Fourth Fleet, commanded by Vice Admiral Jonas Howard Ingram, and the answer proved satisfactory.
Long before Pearl Harbor, military and diplomatic authorities in the United States knew that the South Atlantic in general, and Brazil in particular, would ultimately be of great importance. Although the problem was little known or understood by the public at home, a glance at the map was enough to reveal its basic nature.
Essentially there was nothing complicated about it; the thing was perfectly clear. The shortest distance between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres is the mileage separating Dakar, in French West Africa, from Natal on the shoulder of Brazil. In the Atlantic, a little west of Dakar, lie the Cape Verde Islands. They are owned by Portugal, a weak country ruled by Dictator Oliveira Salazar, who in the critical period of the war was considered highly undependable. Following the fall of France and the establishment of the Vichy government (June, 1940) the importance of Dakar became more evident than ever. Vichy lacked the physical force to resist the Germans should the latter choose to step into French Africa; moreover it was not certain that Vichy wanted to keep them out. Added to Dakar, there were the lesser problems furnished by other French colonies, such as Guiana, and Martinique and Guadalupe in the West Indies.
The important factor on the American side of the South Atlantic was Brazil, and there was no assurance as to where her sympathies lay. A huge, undeveloped country, larger than the Continental United States and containing a mixed population of between forty and fifty millions, Brazil spoke the Portuguese language, admired fallen France, generally disliked the British, and had a few definite ideas about the United States. Certainly it had been the Axis, not the Democracies, that in the years immediately before the war had done most of the propagandizing in Brazil. There were (and are) about 830,000 first or second generation Germans in the country, around 2,000,000 Italians, and some 200,000 Japanese. Of the Germans, many were known to be active agents of the Fatherland. They were organized into Bunds and Nazi Youth Movements, employing all the
familiar devices to win power and influence. They owned and controlled newspapers, sponsored radio programs, and tried to arouse Brazilian sentiment against the Jews. The Italians were less politically active, and after emigrating were more disposed to transfer their loyalty to Brazil, but Fascist influence was widespread among them. The Japanese suffered the handicap of being completely alien to the Brazilian population. They could not expect to gain the influence that the European Axis members could, but they nevertheless did much plotting and secret meeting, with a large amount of espionage to boot.
The Brazilian people themselves are hard to classify racially. The white portion consists of many European elements, with the Portuguese predominating. In the northern part of the country, the negro population is large, as slavery lasted in Brazil until 1888. Since color barriers hardly exist, intermarriage is gradually blending the white and black into some intermediate race; the exact outcome at this time being unpredictable. In parts of the country there is still a large aboriginal element, which also tends to go into the melting pot. It is not uncommon, in Recife for instance, to see in one individual traces of all three - European, Negro, Indian.
Brazil, since 1930, has been governed by President Getulio Vargas, a native of Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost of the twenty Brazilian states. Vargas started his political career as a radical. He became disgusted with the previous political situation, dominated largely by the politicians of the states of Sao Paulo and Minas Geraes. These had created a sort of self-perpetuating regime in which the presidency tossed back and forth between the two states. Vargas organized the Allianca Liberal (Liberal Alliance) which named him as
presidential candidate to oppose the old political group in the election of 1930. When the voting took place Vargas was beaten, due probably to unfair tactics on the part of the "ins" who controlled the pools and were able to count the ballots as they pleased. Claiming with good reason that the election was a fraud, Vargas appealed to arms. A large percentage of the Army went over to him, and a brief campaign in 1930 overthrew the government.
Vargas, on assuming power, began a program of widespread changes, which in their turn aroused opposition in many parts of his turbulent, unwieldly nation. To cope with this he became more arbitrary in his methods, and finally in October, 1937, declared the country a dictatorship, which it has been ever since. Brazil at present does not have elections, and there is no time set for Vargas' term of office to expire.
The President rules Brazil through the Army and a system of state governors, called Interventors, who are his personal appointees and whom he may remove at will. The Brazilian legislative body for the time being is suspended, though it is planned that at some future date it will resume operations.
It might be thought that such a regime would lead to the Axis rather than to the Democracies in time of war. Such fears were widely expresses in Washington and in the American press. Actually they proved to be exaggerated, as Vargas and the Brazilian leaders generally were not copies of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, or any European dictator. What they were trying to do was to govern a huge, loose-jointed country, suffering from poor transportation facilities and a dearth, in many places at least, of any strong national feeling. This does not
mean that Brazilians lack patriotism. In the North, however, poverty and ignorance are so widespread as to make a large percentage of the people indifferent to public and international questions. Their situation is such that they have to be chiefly concerned with getting together the few milreis a day necessary to sustain life.
Whether Brazil originally desired it or not, the progress of World War II placed her in an important strategic position. Great Britain, backed by the still neutral United States, was determined to keep German commerce off the ocean. The Royal Navy attempted to patrol the seas, but had to be spread very thinly over the globe. The patrol it could maintain was far from perfect, especially after Italy came into the war, and after the ports of Scandinavia and France could be freely used by German shipping.
A succession of incidents that occurred in the first part of 1941 is worth mentioning here. On March 3, the German freighter Lechsailed into the harbor of Rio de Janeiro, to be followed six days later by Hermes, also German. The Lech remained in port until April 28, when she made for the North, was intercepted by U. K. ships, and was scuttled. The Hermes stayed on at Rio, where she was joined by a third German freighter, the Frankfurt, on June 4. On the 27th the two ships left together, heading for the North. The Hermes got as far as Lat. 40° N., Long. 35° W., before she was intercepted by British warships and also scuttled. The fate of the Frankfurt is less certain. It is believed that she too was intercepted and scuttled, but there was some question of identification. As late as June, 1944, the British routing liaison officer at Rio was not prepared to say definitely that the ship was destroyed.
The case of these freighters is mentioned to illustrate the fact that in 1941 the Royal Navy's control of the Atlantic was not secure. The ships reached Rio without detection, and only after the inevitable revelation of their position were the British able to take effective steps.
It is no longer a secret that throughout 1941 a de facto state of war prevailed in the Atlantic between Germany and the United States. The neutrality patrol conducted by the American Navy in that year gave rise to a number of incidents. Most of these took place in the North Atlantic but the South Atlantic was affected as well. The beginnings of the South Atlantic campaign can be dated from these pre-Pearl Harbor events. During the same months there were taken the preliminary steps that led eventually to the basing of the Fleet on Brazilian ports.
At the beginning of World War II, the United States had two naval contacts with Brazil, both in the city of Rio. The first was the Office of Naval Attache, which is part of the Embassy. This, in ordinary times, is a routine post and performs the duties generally associated with an Attache's assignment. The second contact existed through the U. S. Naval Mission to Brazil, created years ago by contract between the two governments. The Mission functions under the Brazilian Minister of Marine, and consists of several United States officers who work in the Ministerio da Marinha, which is housed in a sumptuous building near the water-front at Rio. Its work is chiefly advisory, and in the words of one of its members, Captain Harold Dodd, the Mission might be described as a form of "consulting engineers." While it cooperated with the Naval Attache's Office in pre-war times, no organizational link connected the two.
The existence of these American Naval activities proved extremely valuable when the time came for setting up in Brazil on a much larger scale. However, they were both in Rio, whereas the geographical factors and the actual progress of the war dictated that the North should be most important from a Naval point of view. Hence the Navy first encountered the part of Brazil least prepared to receive it, and all the work there had to be started from bed rock.
THE FIRST RECIFE CONTACT
During the early part of 1941, the United States began the policy of sending Naval Observers to various key Brazilian spots. First to arrive was Lieutenant Commander, later Captain, W.A. Hodgman, USN, Retired. He reached Recife on February 26, under orders from the Office of Naval Intelligence. The Observer had a staff originally consisting of one Chief Yeoman. He obtained office space, first in the American Consulate, and later, on the third floor of the Bank of London Building, on Rua do Bom Jesus. The latter is close to the Recife waterfront, and form his office the Observer could overlook the harbor, watch ship movements, and, by this proximity, keep an eye on port activities in general. In other respects the location was not a good one, for Rua Bom Jesus is in the least desirable part of the city. It is on the island called the "Barrio de Recife," connected by three bridges with the main part of the city, to which it gives its name. No sailor who has had liberty or shore duty in Recife will be likely to forget the "Island." Though shore headquarters were later moved, it is safe to say the "Bomb Jesus Street" will also be long remembered by visitors there.
THE ADMIRAL'S FIRST VISIT
Between the arrival of Lieutenant Commander Hodgman at Recife, and the first call paid by Admiral Ingram, only one U. S. warship entered the port. This was the Cruiser Vincennes, which arrived on March 17, 1941, remaining three days before leaving for Capetown. The Vincennes did not belong to the Admiral's force and never came again. Her visit was pure routine and had no bearing on subsequent developments.
Meanwhile, warships were preparing to visit Brazil in connection with the world emergency. On January 11, 1941, Rear Admiral, later Vice Admiral, Jonas A. Ingram hoisted his flag on the U. S. S. Memphis at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as Commander Cruiser Division Two, being also designated Commander Task Force Three, with additional duty as Commander of the Caribbean Patrol. This Patrol, made up of 36 seaplanes based on San Juan and Guantanamo, had reconnaissance duty extending from Key West to Trinidad, with the additional responsibility of keeping under surveillance the Vichy French Naval Forces, then based at Martinique. Cruiser Division Two consisted of the Memphis (Flag), Cincinnati and Milwaukee, all Light Cruisers, to which the Omaha, also a CL, was later added. Admiral Ingram soon saw the advisability of turning over the Caribbean Patrol to the Commandant of Naval District Ten at San Juan, who at the time was Admiral Spruance. He suggested this to the Commander-in-Chief, who approved the idea, and the transfer took place at once. Release from this responsibility gave the Admiral a freer hand for operations in the South Atlantic, to which he was soon assigned. In March he went to the United States, and on the
24th had a conference with the Commander-in-Chief, Admiral King. The instructions he received then were to go to the South Atlantic with Cruiser Division Two, on neutrality patrol. The division should be based on San Juan and Guantanamo, while Recife and Bahia, in Brazil, should be used as replenishing ports. The area for patrol included the triangle formed by Trinidad, the Cape Verde Islands and the hump of Brazil. The USS Patoka, an Auxiliary Oiler, was assigned as "triple threat" station ship, ad would serve as tanker, tender, and supply vessel for the force. Both Admirals, King and Ingram, had doubts concerning Brazil and the reception American warships would receive there. Admiral King stressed the fact that the Commander Cruiser Division Two must use plenty of initiative and would need to shift for himself in he South Atlantic. The only arrangement it had been possible to make in advance was with the oil companies who would provide the ships with fuel. "My reply," says Admiral Ingram, "was that so long as there were ships coming out of the Argentine with plenty of foodstuffs, my crews would never starve." "King's reply was that he always knew I was a pirate."
The Memphis and Cincinnati were the only members of Cruiser Division Two immediately available. Since it was deemed necessary to get a patrol into the assigned area at once, the Admiral left Newport with these on April 25, 1941. They made their sweep as follows. On May 4, they reached the point designated as "A", Lat. 20° N., Long. 30° W., which lies not far from the Cape Verde Islands, though a little to the northwest. They next followed a course due south to Point "B", Lat. 0°, Long. 30° W., off the São Paulo (St. Paul) Rocks, belonging to Brazil. This they reached on May 8, and on May 10th the Admiral, in the Memphis accompanied by the Cincinnati steamed into Recife.
They made a short stay on this first visit and departed on the following day. In the time available, however, much groundwork was laid for the future development of U. S. Naval activity in Brazil. As the ships docked, Lieutenant Commander Hodgman called, to be followed by the American Consul, Mr. Walter J. Linthicum. Several Brazilian authorities likewise paid their respects at once. These included the Captain of the Port, the Aid to the State Interventor, and the Aid to the Military Commandant of the Region in which Recife is located. Following the prescribed courtesies for such occasions, the Admiral made return calls on the Interventor for Pernambuco, (then, as now, Senhor Agamenon de Kagalhaes); the Port Commander, Captain Washington Parry de Almeida; the Commander of the Federal troops, General Mascarenhas de Morais, later in charge of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force in Italy; the American Consul, and Senhor Novais Filho, Mayor of Recife.
Admiral Ingram hat not visited Brazil before, did not speak the Portuguese language, and knew of the country and people, only by reading and hearsay. On this brief preliminary visit he had to acquire all information possible about Recife, and also Bahia, though the latter city was not on the travel itinerary and had to be investigated at second hand.
Among the points of interest noted on this occasion, the following, perhaps, are outstanding. Recife was large, the third city of Brazil, with a population estimated at 400,000. The harbor, though provided with a fine breakwater, proved to be small and narrow, requiring both pilot and tug for docking and undocking. The dock space, however, was found good, though restricted to drafts of about twenty-five feet.
Ships could not enter the harbor at night, and unless moored headed out had to leave on the flood tide. Warehouses, which in Portuguese are called Armazens, (singularly, Armazem), were available for stores of all kinds. Fueling facilities proved excellent, but only limited fresh provisions could be had, chiefly fruits. Dry provisions were not to be bought.
The Americans observed with considerable interest that seven Italian Merchant-men had been moored inside the harbor, with crews aboard, since June, 1940. One had a cargo of coal, another was loaded with grain. The other five, although in good condition, were empty.
The temper and caliber of the Brazilian notables encountered could not be reliably estimated on so short acquaintance. The Interventor, Senhor Magalhaes, had formerly held the portfolio for Labor in President Vargas' Cabinet. A shrewd politician, he appeared friendly enough toward he United States. But his country was not at war, nor had it gone by any means as far in that direction as had the North Americans. Moreover, he was definitely anti-British, a sentiment which appeared to be rather common in Brazil. Captain Almeida, the Port Commander, also seemed friendly but did not appear overly energetic. The Brazilian Commanding General of the Region, Mascarenhas de Morais, was cordial but not very communicative. The Mayor had little to say, and the Customs Officials seemed likely to present a big problem, as their attitude was officious.
At that time, most Brazilian Officials, both Civil and Military, would no doubt have preferred an Allied to a German victory. But this Allied triumph then seemed very far away indeed. Hitler had just
overrun Jugoslavia and Greece in his fanciest blitzkrieg style, and his position looked more invulnerable than ever. Since the powerful United States clung desperately to a non-intervention policy, Brazil, by no means a first class power, had every reason for avoiding steps that would put her in the bad graces of a possibly victorious Germany.
Among Brazilians not in public life, the wealthy and influential ones appeared favorable to the United States. The bulk of Pernanbucanos, as all residents of the state, including those of Recife City, are called, were so poor and ignorant as to be nearly a minus factor in the situation. The best informed American encountered by the Admiral during his first stay voiced the opinion that, if the United States entered the war, no real help could be expected from Brazil.
On the attitude of the Army a great deal would certainly depend. Poorly equipped as it was, it could not fight a first class opponent. Yet it could be, as it had been, so often in the past, the number one factor in the internal situation. At this time the Admiral got the impression that many higher officers were pro-Nazi; an impression that closer acquaintance with them dispelled. They were reserved in their dealings with the Americans it is true, but their strong Brazilian nationalism, not pro-German feelings, accounted for this.
The Navy, due partly perhaps to the established presence of he U. S. Naval Mission to Brazil in Rio, definitely leaned to the United States. Even in this circle, however, England suffered from unpopularity.
It should always be borne in mind that in the early part of 1941 the Americans came in the capacity of guests who seemed to have
invited themselves. They did not have the status of Allies, since both countries still clung to neutrality. By imagining the positions reversed, it is easy to understand why the Brazilians looked coolly on an intrusion which they soon began to refer to, though humorously as "A Invasão Americana" (The American Invasion).
The Admiral took the opportunity to learn as much as possible about Bahia, some 400 miles south of Recife. Lieutenant Commander Hodgman voiced the opinion that of the two it had much less to offer. Although Bahia, meaning "Ray" in Portuguese, has an excellent natural harbor compared to the meager one, supplemented by the breakwater, at Recife, it is situated a little too far below the shoulder of Brazil to be the best base for patrol work against Axis submarines. This preliminary observation was borne out by subsequent developments. Bahia soon had a Naval Observer of its own, and later became a U. S. Naval Facility; yet it remained always of secondary importance compared with Recife.
After a reception given by the Admiral for Brazilian officials aboard the Memphis on the morning of Sunday, May 11, the ships sailed for Port of Spain, Trinidad. They arrived there on the 18th, a day ahead of schedule, having been aided by a 2 knot per hour current from Cape São Roque. They had made the patrol alone, and at some sacrifice to safety. They had gone through an active submarine zone, with no destroyers or listening devices. Fortunately weather conditions permitted the use of planes in the vital sectors. The ships, while on patrol, had steamed at the economical speed of 12 knots, but in he danger areas full boiler power on short notice was always available at dawn.
At Trinidad, the customary formalities were gone through with the British authorities, military and civil, and with the U. S. Army and Naval officers already present and supervising the construction of the new base.
At Port of Spain, the Memphis and Cincinnati made rendezvous with other units of Cruiser Division Two. The Admiral now divided the ships at his disposal into Task Groups One and Two. The first consisted of the Cruisers Memphis and Cincinnati, and the Destroyers Davis and Warrington. Group Two contained the Milwaukee and Omaha, Cruisers, and the Somers and Jouett, Destroyers. The Omaha, Davis, and Warrington were not yet present, the former being temporarily unfit for work, because of a failure of her propulsive plant that kept her in the Navy Yard.
The ships on hand left Port of Spain on May 30. Group II, consisting of the Milwaukee, Somers, and Jouett, proceeded on patrol. Group I still comprising the original Memphis and Cincinnati, went to San Juan, P. R., by way of St. Lucia, purposely avoiding close contact with Vichy held Martinique. They reached their destination on May 23, having traveled 7093 miles since leaving Newport 28 days earlier.
Task Group II, in charge of Captain McGlasson, patrolled in conformity with Operation Order Number 2-41. It first sailed from Port of Spain to a point designated as XRay, located at Lat. 10° N., Long. 26° W., falling between Cape Verdes and Ascension Island. It then proceeded to Point Baker, a little east of São Paulo Rocks on the Equator. On June 1, the three ships of Task Group II, the Milwaukee, Jouett, and Somers, entered Recife. Since the Admiral did not accompany the Group, this visit was not as important as the one in May. Two days were spent in Recife, after which the ships returned to Port of Spain for refueling. Sailing again, the made Point XRay once
more, but this time proceeded to Point Afirm, a trifle south of the Cape Verdes Islands. The completion of their patrol took them westward to San Juan.
To avoid repetition which would involve a great deal of sameness, the ships continued to patrol in very much this manner until the time of Pearl Harbor. The Admiral, sailing in the Memphis, visited Recife again on July 3, and once more on August 15. The July stay lasted five days; the August visit only two. Local Recife newspapers had begun to attach importance to these frequent calls and often made them the subject of feature stories. For instance, the Diario de Pernambuco, the city's most widely read journal, in its Sunday edition, of September 7, 1941, carried a headline to the effect that two Units of the Neutrality Patrol, the Cruiser Milwaukee and the Destroyer Warrington, would arrive that day. The ships had both been there before, but for some reason had not previously attracted so much attention. The Diario announced that they would refuel and get supplies. It also carried descriptions of the ships and said that they would stay for 24 hours, though as a matter of fact they remained for three days. Soon after departing they were back for a brief stop. This time, the paper notes, the officers of the Milwaukee gave a cocktail party at the Grande, the number one hotel of the city, for their Captain, who had just been promoted to Admiral and was being transferred to a new assignment. Still later in this same notice appeared the statement that Admiral Ingram and other officers of the North American ships had been at the International Club and later entertained at the Country Club.
The Diario gave its first headline to Admiral Ingram on October 14, when it announced the presence in Recife of the "Chief of the
American Squadron in the South Atlantic." The Admiral came as usual aboard the Memphis, which had entered the port two days before. Senhor Novais Filho, the Mayor of Recife, was offering a luncheon to the distinguished visitor at the Escola Superior da Agricultura at Dois Irmaos. This was in return for the luncheon which the Admiral had earlier given to Senhores Magalhaes and Novais Filho and General Mascarenhas. After the luncheon, the industrialist, Felino de Miranda, was to give a cocktail party for the Admiral. Among those attending would be the Interventor, the General, the General's Chief of Staff, the U. S. Naval Observer, the Brazilian Secretary of Agriculture, the Port Captain, the American Consul and other dignitaries. The importance of these rounds of social events cannot be overlooked. They formed an essential preliminary to future cooperation and created an atmosphere of good will and mutual trust.
Meanwhile the Admiral did everything in his power to cultivate the key men of the district, beginning with the Interventor. Agamenon de Magalhaes had acquired a reputation as being a hard man to deal with, but, since he was the key to the situation, this obstacle had to be tackled. Following the official luncheon on board the Memphis, the Admiral arranged an appointment with the Interventor, where, as he says "all the cards were put on he table, face up." it was explained to the Brazilian Official exactly why the Force was in the South Atlantic. The Americans admittedly came through the sufferance of the Brazilian Government, but they could be a business asset as well as a political help if the situation were rightly handled. The Interventor might rest assured that the Admiral desired to cultivate friendly relations in every way. However, the Americans
expected fair treatment and normal cooperation from Brazil. The Admiral states that he expected to lean heavily on the Interventor for support and would deal with other Brazilians directly through him, the Commanding General of the Area, and the Naval Captain of the Port.
Senhor Magalhaes responded to this in a very satisfactory manner. Since the first big mater that had to be taken up was the foodstuffs the American Navy would buy, and their cost, the Interventor sent for his Secretary of Agriculture and gave him some important instructions. The Secretary should issue orders permitting the American Force to enjoy the wholesale Cooperative prices. Under no circumstances would there be any deviation from this practice. This marked the breaking of the ice. Not only was the Interventor extremely friendly thereafter, but he became in time strongly pro-American. With regards to Great Britain, his feelings of antagonism remained the same.
Even so, the time was not right for basing the ships on Recife, as there were still too many things lacking there. Plans in the meantime were made as fast as possible, not only for improving port facilities but for increasing the shore establishment as well. Pernambuco State is agricultural, which made Brazilian fresh fruits and green vegetables procurable in ample quantities, Armour and Company of Brazil would furnish fresh meats. The oil available was in very limited amounts, so limited in fact that ships often had to wait idly for some time before obtaining it. However, Recife had capacity for storing sufficient oil for the present needs of ships and so had Bahia. At that time no shore repair facilities existed in either place.
At Bahia, despite the fine natural harbor and excellent docks, conditions left even more to be desired at Recife. The population of the city is about 350,000. On the good side of the situation were the uncontested facts that Bahia possesses character, is well policed and clean. It is more picturesquely situated than is Recife and makes an excellent liberty port, being popular with the sailors. The authorities encountered were of high caliber and disposed to be friendly. The Federal Interventor of the State of Bahia1, Dr. Landulfo Alves, had the reputation of being somewhat pro-Axis, partly because of his German wife. He was, however, very conscientious, and seemed disposed, in personal relations at least, to be friendly. Coronel Renato Pinto Aleixo, whom the Admiral described as one of the finest soldiers in Brazil, was distinctly pro-American. Capitão de Fragata2 Luiz Bezerra Cavalcanti, who was Captain of the Port, likewise proved a valuable friend.
Yet the advantages of a first class officialdom did not rule out the unfavorable location ad the equally important scarcity of supplies. An example is the case of fuel. At Bahia the rate of delivery was very slow, it requiring twice the time to fuel a ship there that was need at Recife.
During 1941, progress was made in developing facilities in Brazil. Lieutenant Commander Hodgman, from time to time, was assigned specific work at points along the coast other than Recife. At Bahia and at Maceio, in the State of Alagoas just below Pernambuco, he laid the groundwork and obtained information necessary for the establishment, in the future, of Naval and Air bases.
Before the end of the year other Naval Observers arrived in Brazil. To Bahia came Lieutenant, later Lieutenant Commander and Commander, M. B. Saben, USN, Retired. The Diario de Pernambuco reports his arrival in Recife by air on September 30. The following day he reached Bahia and assumed the Naval Observer's duties which eventually were to be expanded to the command of the second largest Facility in Brazil. Natal's first Naval Observer was Lieut. Comdr. H. C. Frazer, USN, Retired, who arrived 14 October 1941. Lieut. Comdr. Edward Breed came to Belem, at the mouth of the Amazon, on 17 November 1941, to become Naval Observer there.
However, since Recife was designated to be ultimately the center of U. S. Naval Activity in the South Atlantic it was there that matters were pushed fastest. In August, Lieut. Comdr. Hodgman's first assistant arrived, Second Lieutenant D. J. Kendall of the Marine Corps Reserve. This help was rendered necessary by the increasing number of visits by ships of the Admiral's Force. Spaced over the entire year, the statistics show the following, leaving out the lone visit of
the Vincennes in March.
MONTH NUMBER OF VISITS May 2 (Memphis and Cincinnati) June 3 July 4 August 4 September 9 October 14 November 4 December 13 --------------- --------------- TOTAL 51
The ships using the port during that period of time were the Memphis, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Omaha, Cruisers; the Jouett, Somers, Warrington, Davis, Clemson, and Greene, Destroyers; the Laramie, Kaweah, and Patoka, Auxiliary Oilers; the Acadia, U. S. Army Transport; and the Thrush, Auxiliary Seaplane Tender.
The patrols, until the month of November, were as a rule rather monotonous. This was a period of training for personnel of the ships. Fairly frequent gunnery practices took place, including surprise practices using flares for the Anti-Aircraft Batteries and "dummy" periscope targets for broadside guns. Trade routes and foci were constantly observed and important changes were immediately reported. The Force received orders to board any suspicious merchant ships, especially if their replies to signals were unsatisfactory. Unfortunately, it was discovered, ships flying the American flag were among the worst offenders in answering identification at sea.
"Incidents," on the whole, were rare. The Memphis on September 23, sighted a periscope in Lat. 10° 20' N, Long. 54° 50' W. Accompanying destroyers dropped four depth charges, but no effect could be perceived. When the British Steamer I. C. White was torpedoed September 27, at 10° 26' N., 27° 30' W, a search was made for the submarine by Task Group 3.6, but nothing was found. On October 24, the Auxiliary Oiler Patoka reported a suspicious vessel in Lat. 06° 44' S, Long. 34° 26' W. Task Group 3.6 again made an unsuccessful search. Five days later Task Group 3.5 made a submarine sound contact in 15° 45' N, 30° 00' W, dropping three depth charges. Further search revealed nothing, so it was concluded that the sub had received no damage. About the same time the Milwaukee sighted a self-propelled tank lighter with landing ramp apparently in good condition, in Latitude 14° 00' N, 26° 26' W. No further report was heard on this.
Early in November the monotony of South Atlantic patrol work was relieved by the taking of a German ship. On the 6th of the month, Task Group 3.6 consisting of the Omaha and Somers, was traveling on course 288° en route to Recife. The ships had been o an unsuccessful search for a raider that had fired on the British SS Olwen. Daybreak came at 0430 that morning. At 0506 the Group sighted a darkened vessel, bearing 251° (T). Captain T. E. Chandler of the Omaha, Task Group Commander, ordered the course changed to intercept and investigate the stranger. Standard speed at this time was 14 knots, which in a few minutes was increased to 18, and a little later to 25. At this time the approximate position was Latitude 00° 14' N, Longitude 27° 44' W.
The strange ship received directions by searchlight to make her International Call, but gave no answer. Upon closing her, it could be seen hat she flew the United States flag, with American flags painted on both her sides, just below the bridge. From her signal halyard flew "K-I-G-F", the International Call of the U. S. Merchantman Willmoto of Philadelphia. On the stern was painted Willmoto-Philadelphia. At this time, a man on board the Somers noted that the stranger had the same hull design as a Germany Navy Survey Ship which he had seen earlier at Miami. Captain Chandler, through a megaphone, called, "Why don't you answer signals?" The question brought no reply and was repeated; again without result. Then questions were asked and answered as follows:
Q. Where are you from?
Q. Where are you bound?
A. New Orleans.
Q. Why don't you answer signals?
A. No answer.
Q. What is your cargo?
A. General cargo.
While this went on, the Omaha cruised around the suspicious vessel. Observers had already noticed that several of her characteristics did not coincide with those of the Willmoto, as given in "Merchant Ships of the World 1940." Also apparent was the fact that some of the men aboard her, were decidedly un-American in appearance. It was decided to send a boarding party from the Omaha, and a crew in charge of Lieutenant G. K. Carmichael, USN, left he ship immediately to search the stranger. As soon as the mystery ship's personnel saw the boat lowered into the water, they hoisted "Fox-Mike", meaning "I am sinking send boat for passengers and crew". At that same time they began abandoning ship, and the Somers signalled that they had been seen to throw overboard a large package. Here was positive proof that something was wrong. The boarding party reached the ship about 0645, and at that time two explosions were heard in her, apparently from the after part. As Lieutenant Carmichael came along the starboard side, two boats were already in the water, and sea ladders were rigged. The personnel had begun to get into the boats. However, Lt. Carmichael ordered them both back to the deck, and from the first officer learned that this was a German ship.
At 0648 the boarding officer sent this message back to the Omaha "This is a German Ship. Their crew is trying to leave the ship. They say it is sinking aft. I tried to get down there but smoke prevented. I am bringing the crew back aboard."
Lt. Carmichael had told the German officers they had better not let the ship sink. That if they tried any more sabotage the would have his armed guard fire on them. An attempt to locate the German Captain, whose name turned out to be Loers, revealed that he had already left in another boat. He soon returned, but at first would give no information, other than to state that his ship was sinking.
Meanwhile, aboard the Omaha, Captain Chandler, having established the German Nationality of the vessel, sent a secret despatch to the Chief of Naval Operations. He catapulted both the ship's planes, ordering them to maintain a vigilant watch for submarines and surface craft, and directed the Somers to keep a careful patrol around the Omaha. Instructions to the boarding officer were to do all he could to keep the German ship from sinking, with due regard for the American seamen aboard. Lt. Carmichael, having made a quick investigation soon signalled back that the captured ship was the German Odenwald.
All the German officers and crew, with the exception of the Captain and one other officer, were brought aboard the American Cruiser. The total number of persons taken into custody was 45. The Odenwald's radio officer stated to a member of the Omaha's boarding party that just prior to abandoning ship, he had sent a despatch to the German government, saying that they were being followed and overtaken by warships and that they were scuttling. Apparently he had not included the nationality of the pursuing ships in his report. All radio equipment aboard the Odenwald was found destroyed.
Efforts to save the ship were made at once and ultimately proved successful. The flooded areas were isolated and all available drain pumps put to work. The German chief engineer was sent back from the Omaha and twice taken into the engine room, in the hope that he would
help to get his ship going, but he would give no assistance. Each of the other German engineers was conducted to the engine room without the knowledge of the rest, but with one exception they refused any help in starting the engines. The exception was Wilhelm Seidl, Second Engineer, who at the point of a gun explained a point or two. Seidl remained aboard the Odenwald for the balance of the trip, and had quarters apart from the rest of the Germans. Knowledge on their part that he had cooperated slightly with the Americans made them consider him a traitor. Threats against his life were heard, and for Seidl's own safety he was kept in isolation. The truth was that his assistance had been trifling, but the Germans could not be induced to believe this.
It was a party of men from the Omaha's Engineering Division who finally got the Odenwald started. At 1740, one of the engines was in operation. At 1810, Task Group 3.6 plus the Oldenwald, got under way on base course 283° (T). The Somers patrolled ahead, maintaining listening watch, then came the captured ship, with the Omaha following astern. The original intent of the Task Group Commander had bee to proceed toward São Paulo Rocks, and, should the Odenwald be unable to proceed to port, to beach her there. But at 1955 the boarding officer signalled that the Oldenwald was going ahead on both engines, that flooding was under control, and that the list was only 2½°.
This called for new planning. There now seemed no point in going to São Paulo Rocks. The Task Group had originally been making for Recife, having nearly completed a patrol of 3,023 engine miles, much of it at high speed. The search for the Olwen's assailant had depleted oil, and
at the time of intercepting the Oldenwald, the Group was within 657 miles of Recife, its commanders deeming that they had scarcely enough fuel to make any other port. But it seemed highly desirable not to involve Brazil in the affair, and such an involvement could not be avoided should a captured ship be brought to Recife. Some refiguring showed that careful management, with no breakdowns or bad weather, could probably get the Group into Port of Spain, Trinidad; a much more desirable port under existing circumstances. So it was decided to take the risk. With all economies being practised, including the rigging of a sail on board the Somers, which is believed to have cut fuel consumption by 5 gallons an hour, Task Group 3.6 got to Trinidad with the captured ship.
The Oldenwald proved to have a cargo on board consisting chiefly of raw rubber (3857 metric tons). She carried smaller quantities of oats, peanuts, truck tires, brass, tannic acid, ad wool, and still lesser amounts of oatmeal, copper, dried fruits, wax, roots, hair, fish oil, nuts, and tea.
From conversations with the German officers, the Americans learned that the Oldenwald had been in Japan for about two years, and that during this time constant efforts had been made to take her out. She belonged to the Hamburg-America Line, but the crew was largely a pick-up affair. Even Captain Loers was not a Hamburg-America employee, having been in command of the ship only since August 18, when it had been turned over to him due to the illness of his predecessor. Several members of the crew had been in San Francisco, California, as late as June 1941. There they had undergone temporary internment by the Immigration authorities, who finally allowed them to sail for Japan in the Nitta Maru, on June 21.
They had obtained their cargo from various and sundry sources.
Most of the Germans did not mind being prisoners. However, they were of the opinion that they had almost reached safe waters when captured. They had been told if they got through the day of November 6, they would run little risk of interception. The crew had expected to be home in Germany to celebrate Christmas. Officers and men alike were sure Germany would win the war. They did not take the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis very seriously, and made fun of both the Italians and the Japanese.
From Trinidad, where the ships were refueled, Task Group 3.6 proceeded with the Oldenwald to San Juan, P.R., where, on November 19, custody of the German ship was transferred to a representative of the Commandant Tenth Naval District. There had been no properly qualified photographer with the Task Group, so no pictures of the Oldenwald could be taken until her arrival in San Juan.
The apprehension and seizure of this ship was considered a very satisfactory operation. The Task Group Commander commended the conduct of all personnel under his command. Though it had involved no fighting, the incident furnished good training experience to all hands, particularly those of the boarding and salvaging party, under conditions as closely as possible approaching those of actual war.
An interlude of only one month elapsed between this episode and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. For the intervening weeks there is not much to record from he operational side. On November 20, the Chief of Naval Operations reported a raider off São Paulo Rocks. The Cincinnati accordingly swept the area, but without success. A little
later, the Jouett made a submarine contact in latitude 02° N, Longitude 29° 15' W. The Destroyer dropped 8 depth charges, with no apparent effect. The Cincinnati, while south of the Azores, had a torpedo fired at her, which was scored as a near miss. The Destroyer Leader accompanying the Cincinnati at the time made an effort to locate the submarine, but could not do so. This was the extent of activity up to December 7.
BASING THE MARINES ASHORE
Meanwhile, as previously noted, considerable progress had been made in developing Recife, and the personnel there had increased somewhat. No physical plant as yet existed, and the Office of Naval Observer still consisted of Lieutenant Commander Hodgman, his Officer Assistant, and the Chief Yeoman. However the crew had been slightly augmented by men begged or borrowed from the ships using the port. American Shore Patrols became a familiar sight in the streets, and the local authorities learned to accept them.
On December 1, a Chief Storekeeper, O. A. Baribeault, later Lieutenant, reported with orders to establish a Supply Section under the Naval Observer's supervision. Hi main work would be to procure dry provisions, warehouse space, fresh provisions as the ships visited port and needed them, and also to obtain and pay for the supplies and services the ships required. Shortly after the beginning of 1942, Chief Baribeault's staff was increased by the assignment to it of six Storekeepers. Supply problems which hitherto had had to be met by the ships in any way possible, were now turned over to the new department. In the meantime, the Supply Chief also became the Acting Pay Clerk.
At Bahia, nothing had as yet been undertaken in the way of development. Lieutenant Saben had one officer to assist him and one Yeoman clerk. They maintained an office in a business building at the corner of Rua da Polonia and Avenida da Franca. Later, the navy rented 8 rooms, consisting of practically an entire floor, in this same building, but not
until the officer personnel had greatly increased. Much later, a signal tower was placed on top of the building for communicating with ships in the harbor and on a floating drydock that arrived early in 1944. In those early days the work was generally that of straight Naval Intelligence and he cultivation of good relations with local Brazilian authorities. Naval vessels then rarely entered Bahia harbor, because there were no repair facilities and facilities in general were inadequate.
Nor was there at first much doing at Natal. When Lieutenant Commander H. C. Frazer established the Office of Naval Observer there on October 14, 1941, his staff consisted of one officer and one enlisted man. He did not stay long, being relieved on October 28, by Lieutenant L. K. Winans, USNR, who remained until the following March. Originally the Observer occupied an office consisting of but one room. The work at first consisted mostly of Communications and liaison activities with local American and Brazilian officials. Miscellaneous duties resulted from the office's contact with the Task force, with a Squadron of Navy planes presently based at Natal, a contingent of Marines arriving in December, and the Seaplane Tenders for the Air Squadron. Though these operations accounted for a greater part of the activity of the Naval Observer's office, attention was give to providing a framework for foreseeable expansion and to forming a nucleus for the additional personnel expected. Around the end of the year, the Seaplane Tender Clemson, also designated as a Destroyer, reported to the Admiral at Natal as the first unit of the plane force destined to be based there.
Belem furnished nothing of consequence during this period, as the first Naval Observer, Lt. Comdr. Edward Breed, D-V(G) USNR, only reported on the 17th of November. He first had a room in the U. S. Consulate to serve as an office and did not even obtain a Yeoman until the end of the year.
Thus, Pearl Harbor found he force still based north of Brazil, except for such occasional use as the ships made of the port of Recife. On December 7, the Admiral was cruising in the Memphis off the Cape Verde Islands. At about 1700, while shaving, he received a flash stating that Pearl Harbor was being bombed by Japanese planes. The radio, which did not come over very satisfactorily, provided few details, though the Admiral did learn that the Oklahoma was on fire and sinking. This was news of a personal nature, since Ensign William Ingram, his son, was then serving aboard the Oklahoma. Few further details could be learned, for three weeks, though it was immediately obvious that the long awaited war with Japan had started.
A few days after Pearl Harbor, the steps were taken that led to the establishment of Shore based Marines in Brazil. A high-ranking U. S. Diplomatic personage, traveling through the country by air en route to his post in the Eastern Hemisphere, had reason to think that the Brazilian airfields did not have adequate security. He seems to have communicated directly with Washington through civilian channels, stating his views and making a recommendation. At any rate almost immediately despatches arrived for the naval Observers at Belem, Natal, and Recife stating that three companies of Marines were leaving Miami at once by plane, bound for these cities. On arrival, the Leathernecks would serve as guards for the local airfields.
Lt. Comdr. Hodgman, U. S. Naval Observer at Recife, at once got in touch with General Mascarenhas de Morais, Commanding the 7th Military Region of Brazil, as well as Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes, Commander Second Air Zone, in which Recife is located. These Brazilian Officers had learned something about the impending arrival, but their informant had erred to the extent of saying that a company of Technicians was on the way. Lt. Comdr. Hodgman's revelation of the truth upset them, since they had bargained for no such thing. Were the Marines armed, they demanded to know? Yes, presumably they were, since the purpose for which they were coming would be nullified if they arrived without weapons. Brigadeiro Gomes, who was and is the most powerful aviation officer in Brazil, flatly stated that he would have no armed foreigners at Ibura Field. Ibura, it might be added, is the airport of Recife, used for both civilian and military flying, and is located about six miles from the city.
A thought bestowed on the general nature of the situation will reveal that the Brazilians were more than within their rights here. The United States had become a belligerent; Brazil had not. The situation, far from having changed in the Americans' favor as a result of the declaration of war, had legally swung in the opposite direction. According to the strict terms of International Law, the Brazilian authorities now entitled, even required, to limit each U. S. warship entering their ports to a stay of 24 hours. They had not done so; revealing by this leniency their friendliness and desire to cooperate.
However, it was another thing to expect them to permit American Marines, bearing arms, to set up in Brazilian territory. Lieutenant Commander Hodgman thoroughly appreciated the correctness of their position,
yet was obligated to smooth over the situation and to secure as much of a concession as he could. Time was of the essence, since the Marines would enter Brazil in a day or two. Meanwhile, wires came from both the U. S. Naval Attache in Rio, Rear Admiral A. T. Beauregard, and from the Ambassador, Mr. Jefferson Caffery, both aware that there was something queer about the situation and both demanding to know details.
The facts were these. Three Provisional Companies of Marines, the 17th, 18th, and 19th, using seven planes, would arrive at Belem on December 19. The 17th was ordered to remain there for guard duty, while the other two flew to Natal. There the 18th Company would stay, while the 19th continued on to Recife, where it would be quartered.
Since the question of the arms was an important one, the Naval Observer arranged a compromise. Before entering Brazilian territory, the Marines should stop long enough to box their arms, which might then continue the journey with the men. The rifles would be placed aboard the Patoka, scheduled to be in Recife Harbor on December 18.
So it was settled. The Marines stopped long enough at Trinidad to crate the rifles, and entered Brazil in an inoffensive capacity. The 17th Company remained at Belem, the 18th at Natal, and the 19th went on to Recife, arriving there on December 20.
The subsequent history of the Marines at Recife is interesting. At first they lived on the Patoka with their boxed arms. The Brazilian officers feared that this new and unaccustomed American uniform would alarm the populace. To overcome local worries by degrees, the men were allowed liberty in installments. In a short time they became a familiar
sight in Recife, and the inhabitants accepted their presence as normal. Then, on January 6, 1942, the Patoka left port, and the question of what to do with the men and guns had to be faced again. The crowded Naval Observer's office provided temporary storage for the arms, and the Marines, numbering 3 officers and 46 men, were transferred to the Hotel Central, perhaps the third best hostelry in the city. There were still no barracks available, but at Boa Viagem, the principal suburb of the city, a beach residential section, there was a building called the "Casino" which was procurable. Accordingly the navy rented the Casino and quartered the Marines there with their firearms, though the understanding was that the rifles should not be taken outside the compound. Next the Marines were used as shore patrol in the downtown parts of the city, armed only with truncheons. Gradually the Brazilian citizens grew accustomed to them in this new capacity and they became an established part of the picture. After a time they were allowed to guard the U. S. planes at Ibura Field, armed, and could drill with their rifles, when not standing guard. Finally, in August 1942, when Brazil declared war on Germany and Italy, almost all the last restrictions were removed.
The Brazilian Generals then required that the Marines be used to aid in guarding Ibura. Moreover, the field was now undergoing rapid development, and the construction included the building of barracks, one of them for the Marines. As soon as possible they shifted to these and settled down for the remainder of their stay in Brazil, which lasted until April, 1944.
The Admiral sent a report to the Chief of Naval Operations on December 20. Its contents furnish a summary of the South Atlantic situation as it appeared at that time, so a condensation is in order at this point. Besides references to operations as previously given here, there were other matters important enough to emphasize.
One section of Squadron VP-52, consisting of seaplanes had arrived at Natal for duty. The Thrush, a small Auxiliary Seaplane Tender, which had already reported at Belem, was due at Natal on the 17th to serve VP-52.
The Force had been ordered to supply a Destroyer to embark Army Officers for an inspection of Ascension Island, Latitude 8° N, Longitude 34° W, where a base was being projected. As the Force was already down to three Destroyer Leaders, the Omaha Task Group had been ordered to take these officers to Ascension, while carrying on regular ocean patrol en route.
Since the entry of the United States into the war, the situation at Vichy held Martinique had grown steadily worse. A Task Group headed by the Cincinnati had been ordered to the vicinity, and had proceeded there on December 11. On the night of the 13th the Cincinnati had lost a plane in the darkness off Martinique.
Since then alterations had been made in the patrol arrangements. The Memphis Group had relieved the Cincinnati group and maintained vigilance until, on the afternoon of December 19, orders came to discontinue the Martinique operation and report to San Juan.
The report contained a good deal about conditions in Brazil.
Concerning the matter of the Marines, which had already arisen, the Admiral stated frankly that he did not think it advisable to send them as guards to Belem, Natal, and Recife. The facilities for quartering in those places were bad and it was doubtful whether the local authorities would take kindly to such an idea. As a alternative suggestion, the Admiral believed the Brazilians would cheerfully, and with great pride, assign their own troops to this same duty. As has been previously noted the Admiral's suggestion came too late. The Marines had been sent before the U. S. authorities could be dissuaded from the idea. Though they were ultimately put to use, it did not alter the fact that sending them in the first place was a mistake.
Difficulties had at first arisen with the Brazilians regarding the basing of American planes at Natal, but these had already been smoothed over. The Admiral had preceded the arrival of VP-52 by making contact with the State Governor (of Rio Grande do Norte), the Mayor of the City, the local Brazilian Army and Navy Commands, and the General in charge of the Area. He found them all ready to receive U. S. planes and willing to afford every help in accommodating them. Logistics could be provided at Natal and Recife, and the Pan-Air passenger line was certain to lend all assistance in its power.
The recently installed Commander of the planes at Natal had been directed by the Admiral to make a daily report to the Brazilian Regional Military Commander via the Naval Observer at Recife. Initiation of this policy had both pleased and impressed the Brazilian Military. Meanwhile,
the seaplanes had organized, had become established, and had started patrols. Their principal deficiency was in torpedoes, which the Admiral urged to be sent to Natal with all despatch, since he expected these to be his heaviest arm against any strong enemy opposition likely to be encountered.
It seemed possible. in those early days, that Recife would before long be the target of enemy air attacks. The danger would make it advisable to send ships of the Force to the better protected harbor of Bahia, whenever circumstances compelled them to spend the night in port. Recife lay so open to attack that a miniature Pearl Harbor there seemed a possibility, should the Germans ever be able to send over a surprise force of bombers. At the beginning of 1942, with Vichy in control of French West Africa, the danger had to be reckoned with seriously. Needless to say, it never materialized.
Ships of Task Force Three had all performed well, but due to being so much at sea, needed repairs. The Destroyers in particular required Navy yard availability. Machinery overhaul was imperative for all of the Groups.
Finally, as the Admiral could note with pleasure, personal contacts made in Brazil had really begun to pay dividends in the form of cooperation and support.
A brief appendage to this report, describing the Trinidad situation, spoke none to well of the immediate prospect there. The American Officers were insufficient in number. While the large British staff was willing to give cooperation, this could be no adequate substitute. Physical construction of the American Base did, however, proceed satisfactorily.
Everything in the situation clearly pointed to the need for setting up the Force to operate out of Brazilian ports, particularly Recife and Bahia.
WINNING OVER PRESIDENT VARGAS
The War swung into the early months of 1942. In some ways this was the most trying period of all for Task Force Three, which soon was changed in name and became Task Force Twenty Three of the Atlantic Fleet. A little later, Rear Admiral Ingram received the promotion which made him Vice Admiral. This raise in rank meant much in facilitating negotiations with Brazilians. Rank means everything in their country, where the title Rear Admiral was fairly common, despite the smallness of their Navy at that time. Vice Admiral is rarer, and Brazilian officials naturally felt pleasure at having an officer of such rank named to deal with them.
The area assigned the Admiral for coverage was the South Atlantic below 10° N, and west of the 20th Meridian. At this time the patrol arrangement with the British in West Africa had been worked out to a limited degree only. However, two of H. M. S., the Diomede and the Despatch, were presently assigned to work with the Task Force, and the Diomede reported for duty on January 31.
The presence of British ships aroused again the unpleasant issue of Brazil's hostility to England. Unofficially, at this time, the Admiral was told not to bring Royal Navy Vessels into Brazilian ports in the expectation that they would receive the privileges enjoyed by U. S. Ships of Task Force Twenty Three. Although the British authorities were considerably worried over the matter, the Admiral decided that it would be unwise to press the issue just then. Partly to remove a possible subject of contention, he sent the Diomede to do patrol work off the Uruguayan coast. She would use the port of Montevideo, where anti-British feeling
did not run so strongly. Since the Brazilian attitude toward the United States was better, if anything, then before Pearl Harbor, it seemed a mistake to jeopardize it.
The arrival of the seaplane detachment and tenders at Natal, and the extensive air and seaplane base construction that by this time was going on at Bahia, Recife, Maceio, and Natal, indicated the need of a personal inspection of these places by the Force Commander. For this purpose the Admiral shifted his flag temporarily to the Destroyer Winslow from the Memphis, while the latter with her Task Group went on the regular São Roque - Cape Verde area patrol.
During the inspection of the ports, the Pan-American Conference, designed to promote hemisphere solidarity was in session at Rio. On his trip the Admiral noted that the Brazilian officials were keenly aware of what was going on in their Capital, and seemed entirely disposed to support Brazil's national policy. This did not apply to the general public, which continued as apathetic as ever. So great, in fact, was the apparent popular indifference to the world situation that it required a direct German threat to stir things up. A Nazi broadcast, promising bombing retaliation on Northern Brazil for the aid and shelter given ships of the U. S. Navy, produced the only general sign of life and interest hitherto seen.
A tour of Natal, Maceio, and Bahia involved contacts with the Interventors and Officials of three additional Brazilian States - Rio Grande do Norte, Alagoas, and Bahia. For some time the Admiral had been cultivating these men, civilians and military alike, and at the conclusion of his tour he could truthfully declare himself satisfied with their cooperation.
Especially important here were Rear Admiral Dodsworth Martins and Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes.
Admiral Dodsworth Martins commanded all Brazilian Naval units operating between Rio and the Amazon River. His force consisted of an old Cruiser (the Baia) which served as his flagship, plus several armed patrol boats and coastal minelayers. Admiral Ingram arranged with him for the Brazilians to take over and organize inshore patrol. Radio men were assigned from Task Force Twenty Three to teach American procedure to the Brazilians and to organize communications. The Patroka built a depth charge rack on the stern of the Baia, and one hundred 300 lb. depth charges were turned over to the Brazilian Admiral. VP-52, the seaplane detachment, reported results of patrols to him and the U. S. Naval Observer also cooperated. Brazil, as it must be again strongly emphasized, was still a neutral in the war. But she had already taken one compromising step in affording facilities to the Americans, and therefore must be as alert as her limited Naval and Aviation facilities would permit. For this reason Admiral Dodsworth already acted partly as an ally.
General Gomes, the FAB (Força Aerea Brasieira) Commander for the Second Air Zone, was in charge of the most strategic Brazilian territory; that lying on the "hump". Gomes, in some ways was a difficult character to deal with. He was, and is, a national hero in Brazil, a "strongman" with prestige far in excess of his rank. Some opposition was frequently to be encountered from Gomes. Yet, as an extremely patriotic Brazilian, he appreciated the need for strengthening the "hump" against a very possible Axis aggression. It was satisfying to note that the Brazilians had stationed their finest Anti-Aircraft batteries at Natal. These consisted
of eight A. A. guns, recently made in Germany, with excellent Sperry Lights and control. Through Gomes' influence, the Admiral later obtained the use of the abandoned German Condor seaplane base at Natal for the personnel of VP-52 to use as living quarters. Gomes, moreover took the lead in urging that a squadron of American pursuit planes and bombers be assigned to Natal; an opinion in which the Admiral heartily concurred.
At Natal, on the inspection trip, several pertinent observations were made. Pan Airways had a seaplane base there, which was just what the Force needed and certainly far superior to anything else noted in the Caribbean or Brazil. Acquisition of the Condor properties nearby would set the seaplane detachment up well. The city of Natal itself was a poor liberty port, offering little in the way of amusements or quarters. It must be arranged therefore for the men to have their own living accommodations and recreational facilities.
The Admiral gave words of commendation for the VP-52 Commander and the American Consul at Natal, but was not satisfied with the Naval Observer, whose detachment he recommended. There was the additional suggestion that he be replaced by Lieutenant Commander C. B. Gary, Naval Observer at Maceio, who was doing well there, but who had not enough work to employ him fully. The substitution was made, as recommended, on March 23.
Maceio, it was found, would offer nothing to Task Force Twenty Three as a port. The shallow harbor prevented larger ships from docking. Supplies were scarce, protection was lacking, and the town was uninviting to liberty parties. The one potentially useful thing was the seaplane base, built on filled-in ground on a lagoon. Lacking were such important items
as security, drinking water, living quarters for personnel, communications, and storehouses. Yet the Admiral considered the location so good for seaplanes that he recommended the addition of the facilities needed.
Bahia had the same advantages and disadvantages that it had presented the previous year. An excellent harbor, it was nevertheless inconvenient for ships, being too far south of the vital area. The fuel shortage persisted, as did also the inadequate provision supply. Once again, in appraising the situation there, the Admiral made favorable comments about the Brazilian officials. He expressed the warmest approval of the Naval Observer, Lieutenant Saben. Mr. Castleman, the American Consul at Bahia, also received praise for his valuable cooperation.
Regarding the overall picture of the Naval situation in Brazil, problems continued to be numerous. The fuel situation, for example, had always been unsatisfactory to the country's own officials, so not much reliance could be placed on local supplies. U. S. Navy Tankers, especially the Patoka, had to make frequent runs between Trinidad and Brazilian ports to carry oil. The Patoka, being a Tender and Supply Ship as well, was too valuable to be away for any extended periods. The Admiral, therefore, stressed the need for a regular Tanker. He felt that as matters stood at the time, one trip every three months should be enough to replenish reserves.
Another difficulty concerned the limited quantity of aviation gas at Natal, where the Pan-American supply was inadequate and where the
storage space available sufficed for only about 40,000 gallons. At this time, reported the Admiral, negotiations were under way at Natal to increase gas reserve capacity to 100,000 gallons.
From February through May of 1942, five Task Groups of Task Force Twenty Three were operating in the assigned area, extending their surveys as far south as the Falkland Islands. Frequent necessity for escort duty and anti-submarine operations in the Caribbean disrupted the cruising planes again and again. During this time an Army expedition came from the United States to set up an Air Base on Ascension Island, colloquially known as "The Rock". The men and material arrived in the U. S. Army Transports Coamo and Luckenback. They were picked up by ships of Task Force Twenty Three in 15° North Latitude, and conveyed first to Recife. On March 27th, the Coamo left there for Ascension, followed the next day by the Luckenback. The Transports were escorted all or part of the way by the Memphis, Winslow, Jouett, Cincinnati, Somers, and Greene. During the delicate landing operations, when the danger of surprise enemy action was acutest, a Light Cruiser and two Destroyers kept constantly underway and on guard. No enemy appeared, but had one done so the ships would have been extremely vulnerable. Unloading the troops and material at Ascension proved difficult, due to trying weather conditions and inadequate shore handling facilities. The officers lack experience in operating under these conditions, the ships had been poorly loaded in the first place, and the C.I.O. members of the merchant crews proved a constant source of trouble. Probably the unloading could not have been accomplished without the initiative and resourcefulness of Naval personnel. The Army officers and men did their best to assist, but Navy boats, working parties, leading
men and winchmen played the important part. The C.I.O crews followed organized labor procedure at all times, refused duty out of hours and jeered at Naval personnel for exerting themselves. The latter naturally resented this attitude, and on one or two occasions a physical clash was narrowly prevented. Thus began the base at Ascension, which, when the inside history of the war is better known, will come in for its fair share of recognition.
Few contacts with enemy submarines were made during this period, yet the Force did record its first kills. U-boats began to strike, first in the Caribbean and later along the Brazilian coast. They came to Brazil at a very inopportune moment. Task Group One was pinned at Ascension, a second and third were too far distant to be of any immediate help, while the fourth was compelled to relieve the Ascension Group, regardless of the submarine situation. This at first left but one Group, supplemented by shore based planes, to deal with the subs. There was presently organized an anti-submarine striking force of two DLs, to work with the combined U.S. - Brazilian air arms.
On May 7, the Winslow was escorting the Patoka from Recife to Port of Spain. At Latitude 2° 25' N, Longitude 45° 55' W, while on base course 304°, this Destroyer located a submarine at 320°, relative bearing. Depth charges were dropped at ten second intervals. A snub nosed object broke the surface at an angle of 70°, rising to a height of 8 or 12 feet, and then dropped back, obscured when the Whorl of the next depth charge reached the surface. Personnel on the bridge, secondary conn and searchlight platform of the Winslow, were unanimous in describing the
object as the bow of a submarine exposed topside. This was reasonably taken as a kill, especially as no further contact could be made.
Two days after this, the Jouett, while on a sweep off the Dutch Guiana coast, made an attack on a surfaced submarine at night. Evidently the underwater craft was destroyed.
The total of enemy contacts made was not numerous. Even more important than the sinking of subs, however, was the need to keep the convoys moving, and the supplies reaching their destinations. The presence of the Force in the South Atlantic, by discouraging enemy submarine action, kept the traffic in motion. An illustration of this is furnished by the fact that the Atlantic Coast South American Countries decided to "freeze" their shipping when the first submarine scare broke. That they son reconsidered and released the ships was due to the presence of Task Force Twenty Three.
When the fear of German submarines caused the Brazilian Government to decide to freeze its shipping, the Admiral determined to take the matter up with the head of the firm, namely President Vargas. He left Recife in the Memphis on April 4, and the Cruiser first made a nine day voyage to Montevideo. There conferences were held with the American Minister, the U. S. Naval Attache, and various Uruguayan officials. All went extremely well. An Agreement resulted whereby the U. S. Navy could utilize the services of a British Radio Receiving Station at Montevideo, including participation in the special arrangements maintained between that station and the Falkland Islands. The Government of Uruguay was pleased at the visit, especially as the rank of Vice Admiral now belonged
to the Commander Task Force Twenty Three. It was plain that Uruguay would support the United States to the extent of allowing the use of her ports and airfields. Excellent provisions would be available in that beef and wheat raising country. Uruguay, unlike her neighbor Argentina, showed o tending toward Axis dealings.
From Montevideo the Memphis sailed to Rio, arriving on April 22. Here the Admiral met Ambassador Jefferson Caffery, whom he had not known before, and Captain Edward Brady, the Assistant Naval Attache, whom he knew well. Admiral and Ambassador got along famously, and the former, guided by the two American officials, made the round of courtesy calls on Brazilian officials. The rather overpowering personality of Oswaldo Aranha, Brazil's Foreign Minister, was impressive, and the Admiral also acted favorably to General Goes Monteiro. He was particularly struck with Admiral Mello, the Naval Chief of Staff, who seemed an excellent officer.
President Vargas himself was at this time at Pocos de Caldas, a resort spot in the southwestern part of Minas Geraes. On learning that the Admiral was in Rio, he at once asked to see him, and requested that he come with no one accompanying him save Captain Brady. With Commander E. J. Lanigan, later Commandant of the Base at Rio, piloting the plane, the small party flew to Pocos de Caldas.
The visit proved to be the diplomatic highlight of Admiral Ingram's experience in Brazil.
Captain Brady, whose Portuguese was fluent, acted as interpreter. The Admiral began by telling the president that he came to him the hard way, through provinces. The point of this remark was that for almost
a year much attention had been paid to cultivating good will with the Brazilian civil and military authorities of the Northeast. It could now be observed what excellent dividends this policy had paid, since President Vargas, fully informed of the reputation the Admiral enjoyed among his subordinates, proved cordial. No ice existed to be broken.
The President received a detailed account of the state of affairs. Included were such items as the effect upon Brazil of the submarine menace, the Admiral's proposed measures to protect neutral shipping, ad the needs of the American Forces. As Vargas learned the facts of the case, he asked many questions, all intelligent. Toward the close of the interview, the President expressed gratitude for the clearest synopsis of the situation he had ever been given. He then asked a final question; would Admiral Ingram assume responsibility for the protection of Brazilian shipping if it were "unfrozen"? The Admiral's answer was yes, with one reservation; he would not guarantee to be entirely successful. The risks were mutual and must be shared by all. Privately the Admiral realized that the United States would have to bear the blame for anything that went wrong. He therefore felt it best to assume full responsibility for the ships of Brazil. The sooner they were at sea again the better.
The qualified answer seemed to satisfy the President, who proclaimed the American Admiral his Sea Lord and asked him to serve as his Naval Advisor.
At the time this unofficial pact was made, the Force at the Admiral's disposal for conducting the fight against submarines in the South Atlantic consisted of the following. Cruiser Division Two still included the
Memphis, Milwaukee, Omaha, and Cincinnati, to which the Marblehead had subsequently been added. In addition there was now Destroyer Squadron Nine, made up of the Davis, Moffett, Somers, McDougal, Jouett, Winslow, and Green. The other ships of the Task Force Twenty Three were the Patoka, Auxiliary Oiler, the Thrush, Auxiliary Seaplane Tender, and the Nitro, Auxiliary Ammunition Ship. The planes of VP-83 had relieved those of VP-52 in the later part of April at Natal. Finally, there was the H. M. S. Diomede, still patrolling off Montevideo.
BRAZIL MOVES TOWARD WAR
The Admiral, aboard the Memphis, visited Recife again early in May. He at once had a conference with several Brazilian Generals, including the new Area Commander, General Leitão Carvalho, who had just succeeded Mascarenhas de Morais. His real business, however, was with General Gomes, Commander of the Air Zone. The latter was now thoroughly awake to the danger to Brazil by the German subs. Anxious to do all i his power to cooperate, Gomes offered the services of the Força Aeres Brasileira in the North. He was taken at his word, as the Admiral at one presented him with a combined Force Cooperation Plan for joint signature. After a momentary hesitation, Gomes signed his name. He was taking unusual initiative here, as ordinarily Brazilian officers were reticent about acting on their own.
The plan provided for dividing all available planes and Tenders into two Task Groups, Laranja (Orange) and Azul (Blue). Group Laranja consisted of U. S. Navy Patrol Planes plus Tenders assigned to Task Force Twenty Three. Group Azul included all FAB planes available in Northeast Brazil. Laranja would make semi-weekly patrols of the shipping lane from Belem to Rio, be prepared to scout any assigned area, maintain a reserve striking force, and base Tenders as directed. Azul would patrol the coasts, navigable rivers, and inlets, from Fortaleza to Maceio, and maintain a reserve striking group. On establishing submarine contact, the two groups should lend mutual aid in carrying out the primary mission, namely destruction of the enemy, and should maintain air coverage of the danger area until the
elimination of the menace. Where combined action might be required, the senior officer present should be the coordinator. Fuel for the operation of the Task Groups should be furnished by the Recife Naval Observer.
Having been successful with Brigadeiro Gomes, Admiral Ingram decided to try his luck with Admiral Dodsworth Martins. Here he encountered a somewhat more timid man. Dodsworth Martins personally favored the plan proposed to him, which provided for inshore patrol by five Task Groups. Two would consist of Brazilian ships, and one of American ships, with the other two furnished by Groups Laranja and Azul. Yet he would not accept it for operational purposes until he had consulted the Ministerio de Marinha in Rio, a matter which required some time. "Anyhow, I have them on the Jump," wrote the Admiral. "Everything they have will move subject to my recommendations."
By this time the Brazilians had agreed to four very important American requests. Any air field or seaplane base in their country, with all its utilities, was now available to Task Force Twenty Three. Land based personnel of the Force could have arms at either bases or air fields. Arsenals at Recife and Bahia had been made available for storage of bombs and ammunition. Construction necessary for the housing of U. S. personnel at Natal, Recife, Maceio, and Bahia had been approved.
As lesser concessions, the Brazilians had agreed to the setting up of a Base Hospital at Recife. This was the genesis of the famous Knox Dispensary at Boa Viagem, for which plans were made at once. Brazil, moreover, would accept the introduction of U. S. Army planes, with the proviso that the should operate under Admiral Ingram, the
one U. S. Commander in whom the Brazilians felt absolute confidence. American infantry had been suggested to guard airfields, but this was something the local authorities were not yet ready to allow, although in time they yielded even on this point.
As was previously noted, the Winslow and Jouett made submarine contacts on May 7 and 9 respectively, and probably destroyed the German underwater craft. For the rest of May no more decisive contacts occurred. On the 23rd, the ships of Task Group Baker attacked a submarine in Lat. 01° 51' S., Long. 36° 08' W., with probably negative results. Three days later, the planes of VP-83 attacked a sub, perhaps the same one, a little farther south, but there was no evidence of any damage inflicted.
A good part of he Force's strength was absent during much of May. The situation in the French West Indies had become temporarily critical. Early in the month, the Admiral ordered the Cincinnati, Somers, and Davis to report to the Commander Caribbean Sea Frontier for duty off Martinique in blocking the French in that area. The Memphis, Jouett, and Winslow soon followed, and all these ships were in the Martinique vicinity by the 12th. The Admiral accompanied them as Senior Officer Present took Command of Task Force Twenty Three units, plus Destroyers Blakely and Biddle. With these he established a blockade patrol off Fort de France. It did not last long, because on the 13th an ultimatum was issued to Admiral Robert, Commanding the French Naval Forces at Martinique, which provided that he make his ships unfit for war. Yet within the required time he yielded, and the Task Force Twenty Three units were free to go their way.
The Memphis and Winslow left for Miami, the Cincinnati for New
York, the Jouett sailed for Recife, and the Davis and Somers remained temporarily in the West Indies.
While the main strength of the Force was thus diffused, the report came of fresh German submarine activity in Brazilian waters. The victim this time was the Lloyd Brasileiro steamer, Commandante Lyra. This ship was torpedoed near São Roque by a German submarine on the evening of Monday May 18, but did not sink. The report was picked up by the Commander Task Group 23.6, and relayed to the Force. Groups 23.2 and 23.3, consisting of the Milwaukee and Moffett and Omaha and McDougal, respectively, at once turned toward the position of the Brazilian SOS to hunt and destroy the sub. Thought both Groups were returning from extended patrol and low in fuel, they proceeded at high speed. The situation was at first complicated by a despatch from Captain of the Port at Recife, giving an erroneous position for the Lyra, but the American ships resolutely proceeded toward the first location given. Late on Tuesday forenoon, the Milwaukee and Moffett, which had originally been 60 miles nearer the scene, arrived and found the Lyra burning so badly that boarding seemed impracticable. They set out in search of survivors and of the submarine which had made the attack. The Lyra had had four boats, one of which was not used. On of the others could not be found by the searching vessels, but managed to reach the coast with nine survivors. Task Force 23.2, meanwhile, picked up the other two boats, containing the Captain and 41 men. Planes had patrolled the area overhead constantly since the torpedoing; hence the boat parties had known they were sure to be rescued.
The Omaha and McDougal had reached the scene early in the afternoon,
just as several explosions occurred on board the Lyra. Despite the danger, a salvage party from the Omaha boarded the Brazilian ship, looked her over, and considered her salvable. However, she would have to be towed, and it would not do to immobilize a Cruiser for such an operation. Hurried calls for help went to Recife and Natal, and assistance was requested from the Brazilian Navy, via Naval Operations and the local Naval Observer. On Wednesday afternoon the Thrush arrived from Natal and took the Commandante Lyra in tow, bound for Forteleza. The American ships of Task Group 23.3 remained in the vicinity, to allow the Milwaukee and Moffett time to proceed to Recife for fuel. The plan was for these to return later and take over the escort, thus giving the Omaha and McDougal an opportunity to replenish their own supplies.
Meanwhile the survivors from the Commandante Lyra were being questioned. Several of them believed that the Spanish steamer Monte Gobea, which had passed them shortly before the torpedoing, had sent the submarine a message that revealed their position. The Monte Gobea had meanwhile gone on to Recife, and lay there at anchor when the Omaha had arrived, but nothing could be proved.
Friday night, May 22nd, the Brazilian tug Heitor Perdigão joined the Group and the tow and thereafter aided the Thrush. On Sunday, the refueled Milwaukee and Moffett rejoined and took part in the hunt for the submarine, which was known to be still nearby. Planes from VP-83 also entered the sub chase. The enemy craft was contacted several times and attacked. Probably the attacks were not fatal, but it is believed that the submarine was somewhat damaged. The fact that no other attacks on shipping in this area took place for some time, may
reasonably be attributed to the injury suffered by the German sub from the American air and surface craft.
Brazilian gratitude for the prompt American action in saving the Commandante Lyra was spontaneous. Ambassador Caffery received a letter of thanks for the Government. From the Lloyd Brasileiro Company, owners of the ship, came a check for $50,000 as a donation to the Navy Relief Society.
The month of June was a quiet one, being confined mostly to patrol and convoy. Two submarine contacts were made with negative results. On the 24th, a report came in saying that two enemy U-Boats had gone aground off the mouth of the Para River. The Admiral ordered the Jouett to look for them, and the Commander VP-83 instituted a day and night search, during which he based one division at Belem. Probably the report was erroneous in the first place, since after two days of combing, not a sign of a submarine could be observed and the hunt was called off.
A few minor changes in the composition of the Force took place in June. The Humboldt, a small auxiliary seaplane tender, arrived during the month and relieved the Greene as tender for VP-83, which now had two divisions present, both on Natal. HMS Diomede was released from Task Force 23 for refit in the United Kingdom, but did not leave the area until the following month.
July also proved to be a light month for combat activity. No submarine contact occurred, and the only addition to the Force was the Fuel Oil Barge Aurora, which was purchased from the Brazilians in Rio de Janeiro. The Admiral did not assume jurisdiction over her until early August, when she arrived in Recife and was refitted alongside
the Patoka. On August 9, as the YO 138, she became a part of Task Force Twenty Three.
In July, some significant steps were taken to better the liaison, both with the British and the Brazilians. Commander J. P. W. Furze, R. N., British Naval Attache in the Americas, visited Recife on the 11th in company with Mr. P. S. Schor, British Admiralty Assistant. There they conferred with Admiral Ingram, several members of his staff, the British and American Naval Attaches from Rio, the Recife Naval Observer, and Capitão de Corveta Archimedes Botelho Pires de Castro, of the Brazilian Navy. The subject of discussion was the arrangement of a communications system with the British Intelligence Staff. His Majesty's Officers at the conclusion, sent a recommendation to their Admiralty, which was accepted. It called attention to the fact that the Commander Task Force Twenty Three needed all information regarding ship movements in his area, as well as Naval Intelligence Reports of an operational nature. It was therefore recommended that Admiral Ingram receive from the Intelligence Officers at Montevideo, Kingston, Freetown, and Capetown the same information as British warships received. This was an important step in unifying the South Atlantic Campaign.
Though for obvious reasons the matter received no publicity at the time, July was notable in Recife for the passing through of Convoy AS 4, southward bound. It may be that, when the history of the entire war is written, AS 4 will be considered the most important group of freighters conducted from the United States to a foreign port. In June and July, 1942, Rommel had captured Tobruk, swept the British across Egypt, shattering their defenses at Mersah Matruh, and had pressed to El Alamein before being stopped. With a much shorter communication
line than that of the English, the German leader seemed to be poising for another and possibly fatal attack.
At this point, in response to pleas from Winston Churchill, Convoy AS 4 was prepared in New York. It numbered ten ships, loaded with 500 American Made tanks, complete with technical equipment and crews. AS 4 left New York on July 13, and when not far out of port lost one ship to a German submarine. The damage was made up immediately by loading another freighter with the same cargo as that lost and sending her to join the convoy. On July 21, these ships made their first MOMP (Navy designation for Mid-Ocean Meeting Point) where their escort was taken over by ships of Task Force Twenty Three. These consisted of the Omaha and Juneau, Cruisers and the Davis and Somers, Destroyers. The following day the Memphis and the Jouett joined the escort, though they dropped out after a certain danger zone had been passed. The original four ships brought the convoy into Base Fox (Recife) on July 23. Fueling was quickly attended to and departure took place within forty hours of arrival. On August 5, the convoy reached its second MOMP, where it was turned over to the British. The rest of the voyage was around the Cape of Good Hope and up the east coast of Africa to the Red Sea and Egypt. The tanks were unloaded and arrived at the front in time to be in the first Battle of El Alamein, in October, where Rommel attacked and Montgomery threw him back. A little later, the British took the offensive and their crushing victory paved the way for the liberation of North Africa. Prime Minister Churchill gave credit to these American tanks for having turned the tide. The fueling facilities at Recife had made possible their arrival on schedule.
At no time, at least until rounding the South African Cape, had
these ships been out of danger. German Intelligence was able to follow their progress, step by step. At the time the convoy was in Recife, a German radio broadcast in Portuguese, beamed at Brazil, stated where it was and threatened its destruction, which fortunately was diverted.
On the way home, having disposed of its valuable cargo, the convoy lost a ship, the Zandaam in the South Atlantic. A raft was picked up containing three survivors who had been afloat in it for over eighty days, and who were brought into Recife.
BRAZIL DECLARES WAR
August was the month that saw Brazil's entry into World War II. The country had been drifting towards it for months. Ever increasing cooperation with the Admiral's Force, exchange of supplies and vital information, as well as the Vargas' Government's willingness to cooperate in every plan of Western Hemisphere solidarity sponsored by Washington, had virtually put Brazil into the Allied camp long before the actual declaration came. But just as it took Pearl Harbor to make the American people realize the difference between armed neutrality and a shooting war, it required a somewhat comparable episode to cause Brazil to take the final step. The attack on the Commandante Lyra some months earlier had not sufficed, partly because the crew had been saved. But on August 15, German submarines began a promiscuous torpedoing of Brazilian ships off Bahia. The attacks went on for several days during which five ships were sunk. These were the Baependi, Araraquara, Itagiba, Acara, and Anibal Benevolo. The estimated loss of life in these sinkings was five hundred. As a result Brazilian popular resentment broke loose in the main cities of the country, and took he form of rioting, looting, and demonstrations against Axis subjects. German, Italian and Japanese business establishments were raided, some were destroyed, and there was constant parading through the streets of large cities, with excited crowds listening to inflammable speeches. The only thought in the minds of the hot tempered Brazilians seemed to be to wipe their country clean of all Axis personnel and to destroy every trace of their business influence.
To offer some examples in the case of Recife, the following instances are representative. On the morning of August 18, a noisy crowd of from 500 to 1000 people walked along the Rua do Bom Jesus, tearing down signs on several stores that were, or were believed to be, of Axis ownership. At first this seemed to satisfy the crowd, but as the morning progressed the people grew more violent and began breaking open and tearing up practically all stores with Axis names. The crowd collected around Herm Stoltz, a German business house, and threatened to destroy it. Police had by this time been called, but they did little. They lined up before the place with drawn revolvers and promised to fire of the rioters advanced. This did not stop the crowd, which merely pushed the officers aside, and the latter did not use their weapons. The windows of the store were smashed and the place was systematically wrecked. Of the furniture and machinery on exhibition, some was broken up, some taken to the scrap metal drive heap, and some removed to the nearby Apprentice Seaman School for safe-keeping. By a little past noon Herm Stoltz was dismantled, completely ransacked, and even the grillwork in front of the window had been removed.
A crowd assembled in front of the Grand Hotel and demanded the manager, who was German. Two Brazilian officers stood in the doorway, and though they made no move their presence seemed to awe the crowd, which eventually went away.
All over Recife and other cities in Brazil similar things went on. Germany had at last aroused the country. The newspapers stirred public sentiment to the boiling point; not that much stirring was needed. The following quotation from the August 18 issue of the
Journal Pequeno, a Recife afternoon paper, illustrates how the Brazilian press reacted to the provocation give by Germany:
"Truly monstrous are the acts which the Axis submarines have just perpetrated against helpless Brazilians. The torpedoing and sinking of five of our ships between Bahia and Sergipe, with the attendant loss of life, caused profound indignation throughout the country. And this wave of revolt shaking the Nation from North to South, is already reflected in all the American continent - each government seeking to manifest its solidarity with Brazil.
"At this moment in many Brazilian homes, there is sorrow and tears. But there is also with all of them, as throughout the country, absolute confidence in the government of the Republic. If Rome, Tokyo, and Berlin think that they can intimidate us by such savage acts, they are completely mistaken.
"Our pride will never be beaten down. We will now know how to confront the enemy - when and exactly how, with all the bravery that has always characterized this nation when its honor was affected."
Brazilian official action soon followed. On August 22, the Government of President Vargas recognized a state of belligerency with both Germany and Italy. Because of the remoteness of Japan, and the failure of any submarines of that power to appear in Brazilian waters, no formal declarations of war were exchanged with her. Japanese subjects were nevertheless interned, and Brazil for all practical purposes went to war with the entire Axis.
While this went on, the Commander Task Force Twenty Three began a course of action dictated by the new circumstances. On receiving word of the Brazilian ship sinkings, we sent the Jouett immediately from Base Fox, the code name for Recife, to commence anti-submarine
operations, in which she was joined by the Auxiliary Seaplane Tender Humboldt, from Natal. Together they made up Task Group 23.8, coordinating their anti-submarine efforts closely with those of VP-83, which lost no time in swinging into action.
It was a plane that made the first sub contact. On august 18, the Commander of VP-83 reported that plane 83P6 of his Command had encountered a German submarine on the surface, underway on its engines. The plane, piloted by Lieutenant (jg) John M. Lacey, USNR, sighted the sub dead ahead, about 20 miles away, on a north-westerly course. Weather conditions and visibility were perfect, with occasional white caps on the water. When about 15 miles distant the plane crew felt sure the object was a submarine and at eight miles they made certain. Fearing the sub would crash dive before he could get in attacking position, the pilot did not alter his course until the last minute. Then he maneuvered the plane violently and made his attack from about 100 feet. The starboard waist gunner commenced firing, and, as the plane came out of its turn, the port waist gunner put in a short burst. The pilot dropped four depth bombs through the intervalometer, and one exploded within fifteen feet of the enemy. The sub appeared to stop immediately after the blasts. Several men on board the plane distinctly saw it sink slowly, stern first, and roll over 90 degrees as it went under. Evidently the starboard gunner's firing produced some results, as one man in the sub's coning tower was seen to fall.
The plane's attack evidently surprised the Germans, as they had no time to get their deck gun, forward of the coning tower, into operation. There was some machine gun fire fro the submarine and tracers were seen going under the aft part of the plane. For three
hours after the enemy's disappearance, Lieutenant (jg) Lacey continued to circle the vicinity, and during this time his crew saw a lot of thick oil on the surface, and many air bubbles. From what little been seen of the sub no real attempt at identification would be made, but those in the plane believed it to be small, probably of the 517 ton class.
This submarine, which with reasonable certainty, could be marked off as a kill, had probably, on the previous day, accounted for two of the Brazilian ships mentioned above. At least their torpedoings had taken place within fifty miles of the point where the sub went down, which was in Latitude 13° 52' S, Longitude 38° 00' W., just off Bahia.
The destruction of this undersea raider received wide publicity in the newspapers of the United States as an accomplishment of the força Aerea Brasileira. The mistake evidently sprang from ignorance at home of the widespread activity of Task Force Twenty Three in the South Atlantic, amounting in many cases to ignorance of the Force's very existence.
The Admiral was a very busy man at this time. On August 19 he, with staff and personnel, shifted his flag and administration from the Memphis to the Patoka. The change, though regretted in some respects by the Admiral, had to be made. Now that Brazil had entered the war, the South Atlantic campaign would present new problems. An administration that did not have to impose radio silence necessitated the Admiral's presence in port most of the time. Headquarters on shore would be ultimately necessary, but pending their completion, the Patoka, which would be kept in the harbor, would serve the purpose, thus releasing
the Memphis for sea duty. Actually, the Patoka did not leave the port of Recife between August 5, 1942 and April 26, 1943. For the next few months, then, the Patoka, in addition to her original functions, served as flagship, administration center, and communications center for the Force, as well as the shore establishments.
At the time the Admiral changed ships, he was accompanied by Captain, later Commodore, Clinton E. Braine, former Commanding Officer of the Memphis. Captain Braine now became Chief of Staff, having previously been Flag Captain when in the Memphis. "This brilliant officer was a tower of strength to me," reports the Admiral, "in the organization of my new command." Among Captain Braine's strong points was his ability to get along with the Brazilians, a characteristic then indispensable in those holding high command in the South Atlantic.
LIAISON, AMERICAN - BRAZILIAN - BRITISH
Meanwhile, preparations continued for getting on with the war. On the 21st of August the Admiral, after extending his condolences to the Brazilian Minister of Marine, and to President Vargas, for the losses their people had suffered at German hands, held two important conferences.
He first met Admiral Neiva of the Brazilian Navy, and the two made tentative arrangements for combined operations and exchange of information.
The next conference was with General Walsh (Wooten) of the United States Army, which was already established in Brazil, Walsh (Wooten) being Ferry Commander. Arrangements here were also made for mutual cooperation and information exchange, in which operations at Ascension Island were included. The criticism sometimes heard of he failure of U. S. Army and Navy Commanders to cooperate never had the slightest application to Brazil and the South Atlantic. General Walsh (Wooten) realized that the Campaign was mainly a Navy enterprise in which the Army's role would necessarily be subordinate. No incident or friction ever marred the relationship between the Armed Services.
Brigadeiro Gomes, of the FAB, proved sometimes hard to handle at first. This interesting character and able officer inclined strongly for a while to keep his own council and to do what to him seemed best under the circumstances, regardless of other considerations. Part of the American progress in Brazil was progress in winning the esteem of
Gomes. Yet no difficulty ever arose with him over the fundamental issue, which was cooperation for the defense of Brazil.
Another element now came more strongly into the picture; the British. Unofficially at least, His Majesty's Government and subjects did not enjoy the highest esteem in Brazil. Yet the letter's declaration of war on Germany made them Allies, and opened the way for three-dimensional operations in the South Atlantic. On August 22, Admiral Ingram was informed by Admiral Pegram, R. N., who was RAWA (Rear Admiral West Africa), that he had obtained permission to fly from Freetown (Sierra Leone) to Brazil for a conference. The American Commander was requested to arrange details, and the meeting was scheduled for the first part of September; transportation to be provided by the U. S. Army Ferry Command.
Within the next few days arrangements were completed for unified Brazilian-American operations. Captain Dutra, B. N., Commanding Officer of the Brazilian Cruiser Division Flagship, Rio Grande do Sul, presented his compliments and stated that he had received with pleasure instructions from the Brazilian High Navy Command to operate jointly with Task Force Twenty Three. The Brazilian Army Commander in the Recife Area agreed that Naval Forces had paramount interests in Northern Brazil. Hence the Commander Task Force Twenty Three should take full responsibility for coastal and offshore operations, while the Brazilian General would look out for security measures ashore. The Admiral, for his part, ordered that one officer from VP-83 should report to Brigadeiro Gomes at Recife for operational liaison duty. The Commander of the 19th Provisional Marine Corps Company, still quartered at the Casino at Boa
Viagem, now received orders to report to the Brazilian Army Regional Pernambuco Commander for additional duty in connection with establishing security measures at Ibura Airfield. This came at the request of the Brazilians and marked the final step in overcoming their hostility to the idea of armed Americans on shore.
Admiral Pegram, the RAWA, arrived in Recife by plane from Freetown on September 3rd, and at once there began a series of staff conferences which went of for two days. These were attended by the American and British Naval Attaches from Rio. Chief among the subjects discussed between Admirals Pegram and Ingram were their mutual relations, respective missions, and the blocking of the Recife - Takoradi line. Takoradi, it might be added, is in the British Gold Coast Colony and lies a trifle under 5° N, and 2° W. The conversations were thorough and were engaged in by the responsible officers who had operated in the area for long periods of time.
The conferences adjourned, having come to the following definite conclusions:
The Commander in charge of the operations that Task Force Twenty Three must perform, would need administrative headquarters, plus a competent staff, at Recife. Until shore facilities were ready for occupancy, a non-combatant ship with adequate quarters, would be necessary, and the Patoka was already serving this purpose.
The headquarters in question should be the recipient of all shipping information and operations reports, which could be rapidly disseminated, as necessary, from there.
For operational reasons a radio station was required at Recife. All Allied Military, Naval, and Air Force Commanders operating in the vital strategic Fortaleza-Natal-Recife area must have their liaison officers at Command Headquarters in Recife. The Forces involved here numbered seven, and were the following:
- The Brazilian Navy
- The Brazilian Army
- The Brazilian Air Force
- The U. S. Army Ferry Command
- The British Intelligence Service
- An Information Center for Routing Officers
- The Administrative Staff of the Allied Commands
There seemed no reason for the maintenance of the British Communications and Routing Service for the area, so its discontinuance was advocated, with the additional recommendation that the functions of these agencies be incorporated into the Force Headquarters. Finally, the South Atlantic Commander should have freedom of action to proceed by plane to any critical point when necessary.
Definite arrangements for strategic cooperation also resulted. In future, in the event of a hostile unit being reported by either command, both Admirals should independently move their forces toward the reported enemy position. Coordinating authority would rest with the Admiral in whose command the report originated. For the consideration of the Admiralty and the Navy Department, the dividing line between the two commands was recommended for revision. Since the main forces of the RAWA were based at Freetown it would be better for Admiral Pegram's command to extend further west in that latitude. Similarly with Solantfor based at
Pernambuco, it was advisable for Admiral Ingram to have command farther east in that latitude, taking in Ascension Island, where American Air Forces were already based.
For tactical cooperation, the arrangement agreed on was to have the Senior Naval Officer Present, of either command, coordinate action whenever necessary. If the identity of such officer should not be apparent immediately, the Commander of whichever Force first perceived the necessity for tactical action should coordinate. However, Comsolantfor and RAWA would take steps to keep each other informed of the ranks and seniorities of officers most likely to be concerned.
No common tactical signal code had as yet been provided. Pending this, British and American Forces should operate independently in mutual support in accordance with general principles, ships coming into action avoiding interference with the fire of those already engaged.
Shortly after his return to Freetown, Admiral Pegram, now known as FOCWA (Flag Officer Commanding West Africa), wrote that he considered his visit eminently worthwhile. "That old stockage at 26° West no longer stands so grimly between us", read his concluding line.
As soon as the Anglo-American conferences ended, the Brazilians took the final step in perfecting their Naval cooperation with the United States. On September 12, the Naval Attache in Rio informed Admiral Ingram that the Minister of Marine of Brazil had been ordered by President Vargas to place his forces, meaning the Brazilian Navy, under the orders of the Commander South Atlantic Force. The latter was a new designation, made at this time by the president of the United States, who named Admiral Ingram
as the Commander South Atlantic Force. This abolished the name Task Force Twenty Three. There now remained but one more item of recognition to be received; the raising of the South Atlantic Force to Fleet status, which took part in the early part of 1943.
In order to put Brazilian warships to the most effective use, the Admiral issued Combined Operation Order No. 1-42. This primarily concerned the Force, Group, and Unit Assignments of the Brazilian Naval vessels operating in their own northern waters. The order created Task Force One, consisting of all the units serving under Captain (later Admiral) Dutra, who became Task Force Commander. The Force was next broken down into three Task Groups; Affirm, Baker, and Cast. Affirm consisted solely of Captain Dutra's own ship, the Rio Grande do Sul. Six smaller ships comprised Baker; the Caravelas, Carioca, Cananeia, Camocim, and Camaqua, under Capitão de Corveta (Lieutenant Commander) Maçedo Soares. Cast contained two PCs, formerly American, which had been turned over to the Brazilian Navy but a day before and renamed the Camorim and Corvina. They were commanded by Capitão de Fragata (Commander) Cox.
The order began by stating that submarines were already operating on Brazil's northeast coast and that surface raiders might be expected. Among other dangers to be anticipated were the mining of harbor approaches, landing of enemy agents, and even bombardment of shore establishments by enemy submarines. Task Force One had as its general obligation, in cooperation with the South Atlantic Force of the United States Atlantic Fleet, the protection of shipping from Rio to Trinidad. A further part of the assignment was to destroy enemy forces coming into the sea areas contiguous
to the coast within the area of operation. Then followed the duties of the individual Groups. The business of Task Group Affirm would be to escort shipping and to patrol sea lanes as directed. Baker and Cast would provide escort to convoys. Along with this went the general assignment of seeking out and destroying any enemy submarines and surface ships that might enter the area, and of protecting Brazilian coastal cities.
The Brazilian Commander must be responsible for the logistic support of his Task Force, though every aid from the United States Forces would be forthcoming on request. Administrative Command of the Brazilian ships should be entirely the business of their own officers, and whenever escorts consisted of units of both Navies the Senior Officer Present would command.
Admiral Ingram was well satisfied with his Brazilian subordinate, who cooperated loyally. He later referred to Dutra as having "grown up with me in the Northeast". This spirit of wholesome collaboration proved typical of the Brazilian Regional Commanders. As a result, their Navy, which had been capable of very little in August, 1942, gained steadily in strength and efficiency.
SOLVING THE FUEL PROBLEM
One of the pressing problems of the South Atlantic War continued to be that of fuel. This had been present from the first days, and had never been satisfactorily solved.
In the beginning, when the number of ships involved was small and when the visits made to Brazil were comparatively few, commercial companies handled the fueling. This peacetime arrangement, however, could not serve the purpose when demands increased.
The next step was to fuel the ships in Brazilian ports by means of the occasional runs of the Patoka from Trinidad to Recife. Other Tankers later engaged in this activity. But by the summer of 1942 the size of operations, and consequently the need for fuel, had greatly increased. The Force was working on inadequate margin. Fueling capacity in Recife which had been enough to meet the demands of 1941, was far outgrown a year later. The tanks, even when full, which they seldom were, could hold only enough for two weeks' normal operations at a time. Included in the inadequate facilities were two tanks belonging to the Recife Alcohol Institute, which were being temporarily utilized. Moreover, the area had only a limited number of Tankers assigned to it, and the loss of any one; a misfortune quite likely to occur; would cripple operations severely. Loss of the Patoka; an extremely vulnerable ship when at sea, would at one time have been almost ruinous.
A contract existed with the Caloric Oil Company, a subsidiary of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, whereby this firm would fuel or bunker
ships. It would also storage fuel on a through put arrangement; in other words the company was to receive payment by the barrel.
By the summer of 1942, Destroyers often had to be brought into Recife for a three hour "quick turnaround", meaning that they must be fueled, supplied, and ready for sea again within three hours. The Caloric pumps did not meet the situation. Their estimated capacity was 150 tons per hour, though 125 was considered good in actual practice.
At this point Lieutenant, later Lieutenant Commander C. C. Dunn came into the picture. He reported to the Recife Naval Observer on July 16, 1942, to act as Convoy Routing Officer. He had, however, a long experience in the oil industry, having been an official of the Texas Company, with executive experience, from 1932 to 1942. Seeing the inadequacy of existing facilities, Lieutenant Dunn suggested that the Navy at Recife build its own tanks and install pumps of its own. The Admiral approved the suggestion, and Dunn, working in conjunction with an engineer of the Caloric Company, laid out a tentative tank plan, which was to utilize the real estate controlled by Standard Oil of Brazil, Caloric, and the Anglo-Mexican Company. This property lay in the dock area of Recife. From the United States were ordered 10,000 barrel bolted tanks and six positive action fueling pumps. Washington instantly recognized the importance of this, and the need that existed. The pumps and the unassembled tanks were quickly sent, aboard the City of Birmingham. Between Trinidad and Recife this ship received a German torpedo and sank, pumps, tanks, and all.
The setback was serious. It closely coincided in time with the Admiral's removal of his flag from the Memphis to the Patoka, which meant
that the latter must now be kept in Recife. But although she could no longer make the runs to Trinidad she could act as a floating storage for oil. Duplicate orders for tanks and pumps, cabled to Washington, again received prompt attention, so the delay created by the loss of the City of Birmingham finally proved less grave than might have been the case. The material arrived safely this time, and the erection and placing in commission took place promptly. The needs of Recife having been filled, those of Bahia next received attention. The Force Civil Engineer erected there two 80,000 barrel tanks, and three with a 10,000 barrel capacity.
Assignment of an Area Petroleum Officer was the next step. Lieutenant Commander, later Commander, F. B. Risser, received tis appointment, with a jurisdiction including all Brazil. His business was to coordinate the estimated consumption for American Military, both Army and Navy; Brazilian Military, all branches included; and the American commercial activities in Brazil. He also had authority to make decisions regarding proposed Tanker layouts. Lieutenant Dunn became Assistant Area Petroleum Officer, with responsibility for the area from Bahia northward.
The system worked out well. As the Tankers sailed from Trinidad, Lieutenant Dunn had authority, acting through the Operations Officer, to divert them to whatever port most needed fuel, regardless of what their original destination in the area had been. Excellent coordination between Lieutenant Commander Risser and his Recife Assistant contributed to the result.
Lieutenant Dunn, for purposes of he oil needs of the South Atlantic Force, became an ex-offico member of Admiral Ingram's staff. By October,
1942, petroleum responsibilities had become so heavy that Ensign, later Lieutenant (jg) H. B. Luckett, who was already Lieutenant Dunn's assistant in convoy and routing, became his assistant in petroleum as well.
To anticipate slightly, and to diverge from strict chronological sequence, there was in addition to the oil products problem for the ships a serious tangle in the matter of 100 octane gasoline. This had to do with fueling the planes of both American Services and those of the Forç Aerea Brasileira. Each activity hitherto had been importing quantities of octane for its own requirements. This meant separate allocations, segregated storage, duplication in distribution, and in general an unhealthy overlapping. Admiral Ingram and General Walsh (Wooten), the Army Ferry Commander, were aware of the situation that existed. The former, as the senior U. S. Officer in the area, took the steps needed for correcting the situation. On November 12, 1942, he issued orders necessary for coordinating gasoline and lubricating oil in Brazil. He established a Board consisting of Lt. Dunn, senior member, Captain Thomas J. Hildt of the Army, and Tenente (Lieutenant) Colombo Guarda Filho, FAB, with Ensign Luckett as secretary. The Board should make decisions by itself on routine matters and recommendations to the Admiral on policy.
It could allocate aviation gas and oil to Brazilian ports and arrange for their shipment when necessary. Only in emergencies could fuel be issued to commercial companies, such as Condor or Pan Air.
The Board had scarcely started functioning when both Captain Hildt and Tenente Guardia Filho were detached and their services lost. There was no Brazilian replacement, but Colonel Harris of the Army substituted for Hildt. Thereafter Dunn and Harris worked as a two man team, with
Luckett continuing as secretary. Their most important decision and policy was the pooling of all 100 octane stocks in the custody of the U. S. Army.
During the year 1943, requirements fro 100 octane grew by leaps and bounds, for two reasons. First, there was an enormous increase in planes ferried trough Brazil, via Belem, Fortaleza, and Natal, to Africa, Europe, and India. Added to this was the great expansion of anti-submarine warfare in the area, which necessitated an increase in the Navy's plane force from one squadron in July 1942 to eight squadrons a year later. The planes, wherever they were based, had to be gassed and gassed immediately. They operated all the way from Amapa in the north, to Florianopolis in the south; even at times from Montevideo in Uruguay. Their needs taxed distribution facilities to the limit. The Coordination Board utilized every means available, and everything that would float, to carry gas where it was needed. In this hauling work, the old Fuel Oil Barge YO 138, previously the Brazilian Aurora, proved a Godsend. As far back as 1932, she had been condemned in Rio; now, ten years later, she was doing yeoman service, particularly in keeping the tanks of Natal supplied for their constant task of fueling planes bound across the Atlantic. Though her hull and tanks were in bad shape at first, refitting made her seaworthy again. At a time when Natal facilities were inadequate and the harbor undredged, the YO 138 could make three and a half to four knots against the tide, and six when the current was running astern.
It later became possible to put a tanker with 45,000 barrels of gas into Natal. This, however, was subsequent to dredging the harbor and
erecting proper installations. In earlier times, the maximum for Natal was 25,000. Reserves at Recife had to be shuttled there by all available means. Any empty tanker might be loaded to 25,000 barrels and sent to Natal to await her convoy there. By the use of every possible transportation, Natal was kept in a position to fuel the vital ferry ships, on their way to the battle lanes of the Old World.
The advent of lighter-than-air craft into Brazil, in the latter part of 1943, meant that another type fuel, 91 octane, had to be supplied. This also became the responsibility of the Coordination Board, which was frequently hard pressed. The blimps, however, were never grounded for lack of fuel.
By the summer of 1943, it was believed that Fortaleza would be the main jumping off place for four motored craft bound for Africa and points east. The Army and Navy, with help from Standard Oil of Brazil, erected additional bolted tanks at that Facility, to make possible bulk shipments there of both 91 and 100 octane.
The matter of fuel and its distribution has been completely managed in the South Atlantic since he beginning. Those handling it from the Navy side say that for every 100 octane and 120 lube oil the Army contingent did most of the work. Therefore, they acknowledge, to the Army should go the main credit for the continued flow, excellent distribution, and fine dispensing at the various fields.
SECRETARY KNOX'S FIRST VISIT
The Ericsson and Eberle, Destroyers, reported for duty to the Commander Task Force Twenty Three on September 10, while at Trinidad. The Ericsson came straight to Base Fox; the Eberle remained for awhile at Base Dog (Trinidad) to go submarine hunting with the Davis, also there at the tie. For this operation, the two ships acted temporarily under the Commander Caribbean Sea Frontier. While cruising together, the Davis and Eberle made several submarine contacts on September 16 and 17.
On the 15th they had proceeded out of the Gulf of Paria after a submarine, perhaps more than one, that was reported in the Trinidad - Tobago area. They cleared Boca de Navios and then traveled on course 300° for 32 miles, after which they went southeastward through the channel between Trinidad and the Tobagos. They spent the night hunting to the east and northeast of Trinidad. Just before noon the following day, a PBY plane reported to them of having seen and attacked a surfaced submarine in 11° 05' N, 60° 15' W. With all possible despatch the Davis ad Eberle proceeded to the area named, where they sighted the plane circling overhead. This was at about 1300. As they proceeded southward toward the PBY, the sub's coning tower could be seen dead ahead, about 16,000 yards distant. The enemy had submerged by the time the ships reached the vicinity, but the plane dropped a smoke float at the point of disappearance, and they commenced an unsuccessful sound search. At 1540 a retiring search was started, using an assumed submarine speed of 3 knots from the place of submergence. The Eberle then attempted unsuccessfully, to gain contact,
after which the Davis tried it again with failure. Another retiring search followed and was rewarded by another contact, made by the Davis at 1750. The ship attacked again, and then the Eberle, following which a line of air bubbles was seen leaving the depth charged area. A temporary injury to the Davis' sound gear delayed things, but a third attack was delivered at 1805. Nothing that could be observed gave reason to believe the submarine destroyed or badly damaged.
The following day, late in the evening, the Davis and Eberle, while forming part of a Hunting Group which included the Destroyers Quick, Beatty, and Mervine, made another submarine contact. This time, however, radar equipment was either in poor shape, or was not being used, as the first intimation of the sub was sighting by the deck officer of the Davis. The enemy craft lay about 500 yards directly ahead of the Eberle. The Davis reported its presence to the other ships and opened fire with the guns of her Ready mount. The Eberle, which was close on the submarine at the moment of sighting, passed the enemy and as she did so fired depth charges from the projectors. Other ships had meanwhile seized the opportunity to get in a few shots. Orders had been given to the Eberle to ram the sub, but due to circumstances impossible to ascertain at present, she did not do so. The submarine disappeared, and the opinion was that as a result of the gunnery and depth charges she could be scored a kill. Nevertheless there remained some doubt.
During the remainder of the month, several more attacks by the ships on submarines took place, all with results estimated as negative. On the 23rd, two Army planes from Ascension sighted a sub about fifteen
miles northwest of the island and attacked at once. The two 350 pound depth charges dropped landed close to the enemy, and the pilots stated that they believed damage to have been inflicted, though without claiming a kill.
In addition to the Ericsson, which was soon detached, and the Eberle, the ships reporting for duty in September, wee the two PCs, 544 and 547, and the Destroyers Belknap, George E. Badger, and Ellis. The PCs came merely for transfer to the Brazilian Navy, and on September 24, the ceremony took place at Natal. Presentation was made by the ships' American Commanders, Lieutenants A. G. Cook and S. P. Johnson. Rear Admiral Ary Parreiras, Chief of the Commission of the Naval Base of Natal, received them on behalf of Brazil. The Brazilian crews boarded immediately and raised their colors, while the American seamen were transferred to other ships for temporary duty except those needed in key positions to instruct he Brazilians. Needless to say, the ships were immediately renamed, the PC-544 becoming the Camorim, while the new name of the 547 was Corvina. The two ships in their altered status, continued to serve under the Admiral's command, as did the entire Brazilian Navy. The day following their transfer they became Task Group Cast, operating under Commander Cox, a Brazilian Officer with an Anglo-Saxon name.
On September 27, Admiral Ingram left Recife for Natal to meet the Secretary of the Navy, Colonel Frank Knox. The purpose was to escort him from there to Rio, for a conference with President Vargas and Brazilian officials. Secretary Knox arrived by plane on the 28th and spent the night in Natal in the very primitive accommodations the Naval Facilities could afford. The following day they went on to Rio, arriving late in the afternoon and meeting with a popular reception.
President Vargas sent for the Admiral at once and the interview on this occasion was almost as momentous as their first meeting at Pocos de Caldas in April. The president stated that his Armed Services were not capable of working in unison, and he therefore proposed to put all three branches under the American Admiral's operational control for the defense of Brazil. This would involve any operations, offensive or defensive, that might be necessary for the protection of the coast and coastal cities. It was a great responsibility to assume, but the Admiral accepted it and reported having done so to Colonel Knox that evening. The Secretary's reaction to this was violently unfavorable. No self respecting country, he said, could in sincerity take the step Brazil had taken; therefore the later cold not mean business. In accepting, the Admiral had made himself, as the Secretary put it, a "stooge". Some rather heated conversation followed, during which Admiral Ingram stated that if his actions were not approved he should be relieved of his command at once. This was necessary, he said, since a conference had already been held with the Chiefs of the three Brazilian Services and preliminary plans mapped out for joint operation. If the plans could not go through, then, in all fairness the Brazilians should be told that a change was in prospect. The Secretary did not propose to do anything so radical, but remained dissatisfied. Since it was necessary for the Admiral to return to his Recife Headquarters to get on with the war, he left the Secretary in Rio and flew back. The matter of appeasing Colonel Knox and of explaining the Brazilian viewpoint to him devolved to Ambassador Caffery. A few days later, the Secretary passed through Recife on his way home and seemed somewhat mollified.
THE ANNELIESE ESSBERGER
During October, the Destroyers Greene and Osmond Ingram, and the Cruiser Marblehead reported for duty with the South Atlantic Force, while the Roe and Eberle, both Destroyers, were detached and left.
Of great importance was the arrival of Rear Admiral O. M. Read, USN, to assume command of Cruiser Division Two. This, at the time, consisted of the Memphis, Marblehead, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and Omaha; Admiral Ingram's original command, save for the recently added Marblehead. The scope of operations and the size of the responsibility had grown so fast that the Commander South Atlantic Force could no longer advantageously exercise the command of Cruiser Division Two in person.
October was a light month as far as enemy raiders were concerned. No actual sub contacts were reported by ships of the South Atlantic Force, and both commerce and convoys moved freely. The Brazilian Navy and Air Force valiantly performed their allotted tasks, and each won the Admiral's congratulations for its effective work in convoy operations. Toward the end of the month, the Navy purchased the Brazilian tug Almirante Noronah. She was redesignated YT-362, but kept her Brazilian civilian crew, though under the operational supervision of the Admiral.
The month of November was noteworthy for the interception of the first surface blockade runner seen in South Atlantic waters since the Odenweld, a year previously. The Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and Somers departed from Recife on November 8, forming Task Group 23.2 with Admiral Read in person sailing in the Milwaukee. The purpose was to conduct a search to the south of the Equator, clear of Ascension Island, and eastward to twelve degrees west longitude. Four days later information came from the Commander-in-Chief
NOTE: The source document text quality on this page was very poor, making some sections very difficult to read. Every effort was made to accurately transcribe the content, but some inaccuracies are likely to exist. Text that was completely unreadable is flagged with the following notation: "[???]".
- HyperWar Editor
Atlantic Fleet (Admiral Ingersoll) regarding the possible appearance of the blockade runners Anneliese Essberger and Kota Nopan and the possible route of advance of others along a middle Atlantic route south of [???].
The Task Group made air searches for several days, maintaining a screening line for blockade runners from the north which might be advancing [???] units. All steps were taken to conserve fuel, in order to remain at sea as long as possible. [???] aviation gasoline was used sparingly. On November 16, word came from Admiral Ingram that the Anneliese Essberger and Kota Nopan might arrive in the Equatorial area around November 19. Later a despatch from the Commander-in-Chief U. S. Fleet (Admiral King) warned of the possible arrival from the south of a blockade runner with an accompanying submarine. The day at which these two might enter the Equatorial area was also estimated at about November 19. The [???] group, consisting of that ship plus the Marblehead and Jouett, was [???] the area, and Admiral Ingram sent instructions to search in [???] with Admiral Read's Command but with some scouting forces [???].
The morning of November 21 saw contact made. At 0516, Task Group 23.2 was in position Latitude [???], Longitude 22° 00' W. on base course [???], speed [???] knots. The ships were sailing toward the point of [???] the day's search, which was Latitude 01° 05' N, Longitude 23° 30' W. The Somers led, followed by the Milwaukee, with the Cincinnati in the rear.
At 0531 the Cincinnati reported a radar contact bearing 302° (T), distance [???] yards, and in a minute was able to state that the stranger was [???]. Five minutes later, the Milwaukee sighted the suspicious
vessel by high position lookout on bearing 309° (T), and went to general quarters. By 0545, fourteen minutes after the first contact, the distance had closed to 11,500 yards. Next the Task Group Commander ordered an emergency turn of all ships to the right to course 315° (T), and directed the Somers to investigate the stranger, while the Milwaukee and Cincinnati were maneuvered at a distance to cover the Destroyer's activities. As the Somers drew near she challenged, using the right blinker gun, and for an answer finally got the letters L-J-P-V, the international call sign of the steamship Skjelbred, a Norwegian freighter. The stranger, however, did not seem to make responses willingly, and an order to repeat her letters went unheeded. She could be seen clearly now, and proved to be a freighter of about 5,000 tons, painted medium gray with light gray superstructure. She carried two small cargo masts at the break of the forecastle deck, a heavy foremast, two large cargo masts just forward to the bridge superstructure, and a heavy mainmast. She had a boom rigged forward to a 40 or 50 foot motor boat, which by its appearance was believed to have been a small torpedo boat. A little later a four or five inch gun was seen aft. The stranger was then on a course of 145° (T), speed 15 knots.
By the time the Somers had closed to 4,000 yards astern, a Norwegian flag could be seen at the freighter's staff, and from the port yardarm flew the signal letters L-J-P-V. at 0640 the Somers drew alongside the starboard side of the stranger, while the latter turned sharply to port and stopped. She lowered two lifeboats from the starboard side, and, when a door on the bridge suddenly opened, flames could be seen enveloping the pilot house. The Somers repeatedly flashed the international signal
A-J, meaning "You Should Not Abandon You Ship" but this accomplished nothing. The Somers armed boat party was then ordered to go onboard, and the salvage party received orders to stand by to follow if necessary.
While the armed boat party, under Lieutenant R. H. White, traversed the distance between the two ships, three heavy explosions were heard in the stranger, one forward and two aft. These blew debris several hundred feet into the air and surrounding waters. Immediately after the blasts someone raised the German Merchant Swastika at the mainmast, and then lowered the Norwegian flag at the staff.
Evidently the explosions blew the bottom out of the German vessel, since before the boarding party could reach the ship she was sinking rapidly by the stern. Lieutenant White's armed boat party went alongside one of the survivors' boats, of which there were now four in the water, and took a German junior officer, the coxswain, back on board the injured ship. With him went two officers and six men of the armed boat party. Heat from the fire prevented any thorough search; nevertheless, Lieutenant (jg) C. H. Vale managed to reach the bulletin board to rip off the ship's Watch, Quarter, and Station Bill. He then went into the room of an officer, from which he retrieved a notebook and several propaganda booklets. The remainder of the boarding party scoured the parts of the ship they could reach, mainly the after part of the main deck, and picked up several items, including a swastika, a Norwegian flag, a machine gun with ammunition, and a four inch high explosion shell.
By 0714 the ship had settled astern to such a degree that the armed boat party got the order to leave. A few minutes later the Cincinnati reported sighting a periscope, which sent the Somers at 25 knots to take position for
an attack. Soon it was seen that the object was a piece of debris with the appearance of a periscope, so the Somers returned to pick up the boat party. In the meantime, at 0722, the German ship sank, position 00° 54' North, 22° 34' west. There was still a chance that submarines might lurk in the neighborhood; so the Somers went on with her search. The Milwaukee and Cincinnati drew off a little to launch aircraft and to carry on a hunt for another blockade runner thought to be in the vicinity. Neither surface ship not submarine was ever seen. On returning to the Somers, the armed boat party handed over the few objects retrieved and made several observations about the sunken vessel. The engine room had evidently been flooded with oil and ignited, and the after hold flooded by the explosion, perhaps also by the opening of the seacocks. The armament of the German Freighter consisted of one four inch double purpose gun on the fantail with excellent optics, and four light machine guns, all aft. Along the rail were stanchions for more machine guns, which, however, were not installed if they existed. There seemed to be a new interior communication system aboard the ship, including a loudspeaker announcing unit.
Fire had prevented a thorough inspection of the cargo, but what had been seen consisted of white powder, possibly lime, samples of medicine, made by Saberling and Company of Berlin, coils of two inch wire rope, drums and poxes of paint pigments, and rope made of cocoant fibre.
In addition to the armament already noted there was a motor torpedo boat rigged on a boom for instant lowering. The Watch, Quarter, and Station Bill, taken from the bulletin board, showed that one officer was in charge of a crew for manning the torpedo boat cutter.
The Somers, Milwaukee and Cincinnati spent most of the day in searching for a submarine. Toward evening they returned to the scene of the
where the Milwaukee took aboard the prisoners from the four German lifeboats. Altogether they numbered 62, including 12 Merchant Marine Officers, a Naval Doctor, a Naval Warrant Gunner, and 22 enlisted men. Task Group 23.2 soon departed from the operating area for Recife, as it had been at sea for nearly two weeks and was running short of fuel and aviation gasoline.
From the investigation conducted aboard the Milwaukee as soon as the prisoners arrived, there seemed no reasonable doubt that the scuttled ship was the Anneliese Essberger, belonging to the John T. Essberger Shipping Company. Only one dissenting voice was raised, that of Commander F. F. Feint, R. N. R., who was on board the Milwaukee, as liaison officer fro the staff of the Commander South Atlantic Force. A brief report submitted by him pointed out that among the effects of Adalbert Friesecke, fourth officer of the German ship, a copy of a store indent had been found, bearing the name S.S. Herstein and dated October 31, 1942. According to Commander Feint, the sketch of the Herstein in Talbot-Booth's Merchant Ships agreed with the appearance of the scuttled blockade runner. The last information concerning the Herstein reported her arrival in Rabaul in January 1942, a little before the Japanese occupied that port. "It may be assumed, therefore", wrote Commander Feint, "that she has been taken a prize, and I suggest that she may have been switched with the Anneliese Essberger in January.
The objection offered by the British Commander was evidently not valid. Friesecke himself, when confronted with the "indent" referred to, voluntarily explained it. He had been assigned to the S.S. Herstein prior to joining the Anneliese Essberger, and had only reported to the latter the
day before she sailed. The paper to which Commander Feint had attached so much importance had been used to line the sweatband of his cap. Another explanation of the Herstein label was that German authorities had selected a "Nom de Guerre" for the Essberger for security purposes and that the name was Herstein.
All in all, there never has been a satisfactory reason for thinking the German ship was other than what she seemed to be. The Essberger had had several adventures since the outbreak of the war in 1939. That first September she had been at Kobe, and there laid up while many of her crews returned to Germany via the Trans-Siberian Railway. In July, 1941, with a crew made up from several other German ships at Kobe, and loaded with several thousand tons of crude rubber, she had made the run to Bordeaux around Cape Horn, arriving in September after an uneventful cruise. Since then she had several times acted as a decoy for blockade runners, her appearance changing on each occasion.
For her last voyage, the Anneliese Essberger had slipped out of the Gironde at dusk on November 5, 2942, and she had been unmolested until her encounter with the South Atlantic Force ships. Wether she was intended to act as a supply ship for U-Boats or was bound again for Japan could hardly be decided. The fact that she carried a large amount of provisions and diesel oil, as well as hoses, indicated that the supplying of submarines was part of her mission. Even so, interrogators of the German prisoners believed that the main object of the ship was to run the Allied blockade. The Naval ratings on board had a low standard of efficiency, and there seemed no possibility of their being reserve crews for U-Boats.
The prisoners, on arrival at Recife, with all the personal effects they had brought off of their ship, were turned over to General Mascarenhas de Morais, the Brazilian Commander. They were all of German Nationality, though several had Polish or Czech names.
The officers in charge of this operation were well pleased with the way their officers and men handled themselves. Captain Wood of the Somers recommended Lieutenant Wite of the boarding party for the Navy Cross, and Lieutenant (jg) Vale, who accompanied White, for a Letter of Commendation from the Secretary of the Navy. Four men from the armed boat party were also recommended for Letters of Commendation from the Secretary. Admiral Read, from his own report, suggested modifications to a Secretary of the Navy Commendation for Lieutenant White, and a Commendation from Commander South Atlantic Force for Lieutenant (jg) Vale. The four enlisted men were recommended for Commander South Atlantic Force Commendations and promotions of one grade each.
Submarine contacts during November again were few. The most conspicuous action took place on the third of the month, when a plane of squadron VP-83 from Natal, piloted by Lieutenant (jg) G. E. Waugh, sighted a submarine fully surfaced in latitude 00° 47' S., Longitude 31° 36' W. No instruments were used, the radar being out of commission, and it was the white wake that attracted the attention of Lieutenant (jg) W. G. Taylor, the 2nd pilot. The submarine was cruising at a speed of 12 knots, on course 95° (T). The enemy lookouts were certainly not concentrating on aircraft, for they allowed the plane to approach to within a short distance before crash diving. Immediately on sighting, he pilot turned toward the sub and pushed over into a power glide, developing a
speed of about 140 knots. The enemy completed his submergence about five seconds before the plane reached the release point for bombs. The projectiles, once dropped, the pilot turned right to observe results. There was nothing further to be seen of the U-Boat. As for evidence of damage, slight oil slick could e seen five minutes after the bomb explosions, and in the same spot there were boiling air bubbles, continuing for a period of five minutes. The plane remained in the vicinity for about four hours and then went back to base because of low fuel. Other planes of the squadron had meanwhile reached the scene and continued the patrol for 36 hours without sighting anything else.
Though some damage may have been dealt the submarine, the observed evidence did not justify claiming a kill. From the brief glimpse of the sub-surface craft gained by the plane crew, there was some reason to think she might be Italian.
During November, steps were taken that led to an important organizational adjustment of all U. S. Naval activity in Brazil. As has already been explained, there were, prior to the war, two Naval agencies in the country; the Office of the Naval Attache connected with the Embassy at Rio, and the U. S. Naval Mission to Brazil, working in an advisory capacity to the Ministerio de Marinha. The Naval Attache in 1942 was Rear Admiral A. T. Beauregard, USN.
For one thing, the situation in Rio demanded modification. The Naval Attache's office had so much extra work thrown upon it that the normal functions of such an organization were being outgrown and the personnel needed augmenting. The Mission itself, though it was ordinarily a routine peacetime affair, needed a more adequate connection with the Commander South Atlantic Force now that war existed.
On November 5, the Commander-in-Chief informed Admiral Ingram that it was proposed to have the Naval Mission in Rio assume charge of operational functions under the Commander South Atlantic Force that were currently being performed by the Naval Attache's Office. These would include Supply, Communications, Shipping, and Aviation. To better this arrangement, Admiral Beauregard, would be detached as Attache and would become head of the Mission, his relief being the Officer immediately subordinate to him. Ambassador Caffery immediately came forth with a qualified objection to the plan, for he desired above all to maintain the prestige of the Attache's office. His stipulation was that the Admiral's successor should hold the Rank of Captain at least. Admiral Ingram followed up the Ambassador's objection with a
statement of his own to the Vice-Chief of Naval Operations and the Commander-in-Chief, to the effect that he strongly opposed expansion of the Naval Mission to Brazil, both for present and future political reasons.
Admiral King's reply, on November 12, instructed Admirals Ingram and Beauregard to confer and to work out some practical arrangement for coordinating U. S. Naval activities in Brazil, which should include the Naval observers.
Three days later Admiral Beauregard was in Recife for a conference with the Commander South Atlantic Force. The result of the interview, which terminated on November 16, was an agreement on several points, as follows:
Rio de Janeiro should become a U. S. Naval Operating Base, to include operational functions hitherto under the Naval Attache. Admiral Beauregard should shift from the Naval Attache's office and take over command of the Mission. He should, moreover have another set of orders for additional duty as Commanding Officer of the new NOB Rio.
All those officers who were serving as assistant Attaches should report to the new Chief of the Naval Mission for duty as his assistants, and also for operational duties in the new NOB organization.
Since this would involve some changes in the Mission contract with the Brazilian government, Admiral Beauregard should confer with the proper officials and secure their consent to the needed alterations.
There was no thought, of course, of any abandonment of the Naval Attache's Office. A suitable officer and subordinates would be provided for this duty.
The next point of the agreement was extremely important, since it provided that all Mission Officers should be assigned to extra duty on the Staff of the Commander South Atlantic Force.
All naval Observers on the East Coast of South America should henceforth come under the direct orders of the Commander South Atlantic Force. Moreover, in each of their offices there should be one or more Intelligence Officers, working directly under he Office of Naval Intelligence but also maintaining liaison with the Rio Naval Attache and the Commander South Atlantic Force.
Any additional Naval Activities established in Brazil or Uruguay, must come under the jurisdiction of Comsolantfor, who would also be advised of all personnel coming through the area for purposes of observation or survey of matters affecting Naval or Military activities.
The arrangements just concluded were understood as being substantially in effect from that moment; however, it was required that Washington make the agreement official, so that the chain of command might be understood and communications properly routed.
Two days after the Admiral's conference at Recife, the Brazilian Ministry of Marine gave its advance consent, verbally, to the only necessary change in the Naval Mission Contract. Washington was a little slower, but on the 25th word came from the Cominch that the organization proposed under the Recife agreement was approved and would become effective on December 1, 1942.
In this way a further unification of command was established, and, as per agreement, the new Rio Naval Operating Base was commissioned on December 1. It remained small in personnel, and from the operational standpoint was trivial compared with Recife, which did not advance beyond the technical status of a Facility. But in Rio de Janeiro, as the
Capital of Brazil, was entitled to some special consideration.
The subsequent history of NOB Rio may as well be briefly considered here. It had grown out of the Naval Attache's office and at first continued to occupy the same quarters, each being located in the Embassy. These two separate organizations continued to grow until their increased personnel imperatively demanded new quarters. They both moved to the Metropole Building, on Avenida Presidente Wilson, where each for a time occupied three half floors. By November, 1943, the NOB had again outgrown its accommodations, and once more a new location had to be found. The next move was to Avenida Rodrigues Alves, where the Base quarters were established in the top floors of a business building, which continued to be occupied at the present date writing. Admiral Beauregard held the command of both NOB and Mission until May 3, 1943, when he was relieved by Captain Harold Dodd for the Base and by Captain McCauley for the Mission. In June, 1944, Commander E. J. Lanigan became Commandant NOB Rio, relieving Captain Dodd who then took charge of the Mission.
SHORE ACTIVITY IN 1942
At this point it is time to mention the general progress on land that had taken place in 1942.
Recife, then, as always, was the center. As the year opened, the Naval Observer's staff consisted of a Chief Yeoman and a Chief Storekeeper; the later in charge of six Storekeepers and also acting as pay clerk. Occasionally temporary additions to the Staff might be borrowed from the ships in port. Storage facilities had been provided through the renting of Armazem number 3 from the Brazilians. Ships bound for Recife wired before arrival, stating what fresh provisions they needed. The Observer's Office straightway placed orders for these supplies, prepared public vouchers for payment, and delivered the provisions alongside the ships when they docked. Subsequently the procedure was extended to ordnance and other necessary services, so that it ultimately became possible for a ship to enter port, be refueled and supplied, and leave within an hour's time.
By February, the work of the Observer's Office increased to such an extent, that Lieutenant H. A. Richey, USNR, reported to Commander Hodgman (who had been promoted) to become Executive Officer and to handle Intelligence duties. This raised the complement to three, since Lieutenant Kendall of the Marines had arrived the previous August and was in charge of such items as delivery of mail to ships.
Soon the number of officers rose to four, as Ensign, later Lieutenant W. F. McLenna arrived in April. He became Assistant in Communications, Intelligence, and Ordnance, and later, when increased
personnel permitted, took over the Intelligence work entirely.
It might also be recalled that the 19th Provisional Company of Marines was in Recife, having been transferred from the Patoka to the Boa Viagem Casino early in January. The Marines served as Shore Patrol during the months from February through May, Lieutenants Waters and Parks being detailed to look after this duty. After Brazil's declaration of war, The Marines acted as guards at Ibura Field, and for the next few months details landed from ships in port did the Shore Patrol work. This situation continued until February, 1943, when a permanent Shore Patrol Office was established.
July saw the number of commissioned officers doubled. As previously noted, Lieutenant (later Lieutenant Commander) C. C. Dunn arrived during this month to take over merchant routing and shipping. He soon became Assistant Area Petroleum Officer and also succeeded Lieutenant Richey as Executive Officer. Next arrived Lieutenant H. A. Hunnicutt, to set up a separate department as Docking Officer. He coordinated the different activities involved in docking and undocking Naval vessels. Lieutenant Hunnicutt had the advantage of long previous residence in Brazil and a fluent knowledge of the Portuguese language; both invaluable assets in work which involved dealing largely with Brazilian personnel. When soon thereafter Commander Hodgman, the Naval Observer, was designated American Captain of the Port of Recife, Lieutenant Hunnicutt became his assistant in that capacity.
Ensigns E. T. Ross and R. E. Miller also reported in July. Mr. Ross was made Assistant Communications Officer, did some Intelligence work, and in October became the first Moving Picture Exchange Officer at Recife.
Ensign Miller had been sent especially to establish a Fleet Post
Office, and immediately relieved Lieutenant Kendall of his mail duties. Though possessing no particular experience of this kind, he had determination and the services of a Specialist First Class who had done such work in the Navy for twenty years. Admiral Ingram has the reputation of being the most "mail-minded" Admiral in the U. S. Navy, and took a personal interest in the Post Office. The northern end of Armazem 3, beside the docks, was set aside for the purpose. Work on it started at once, and even before its completion the Post Office began operations, on July 25.
At first, incoming mail usually arrived aboard a Pan American International Plane, four times a week. The Brazilian postal system delivered the correspondence to the Observer's office, which arranged the further distribution. Gradually, however, a larger percentage of mail came on board Army and Navy planes. Often Army bombers, arriving in Natal from Miami, and bound across the Atlantic, shifted the mail to PBYs, which shuttled it on to Recife. Outgoing mail sacks went by the same planes on their return trips, to the Fleet Post Office at Natal, also just established, which transferred them to the Army for transportation to Miami. Natal is only 150 miles north of Recife, and often squadron planes flew there to Ibura Field with little advance notice given. It was not uncommon for the PBYs to land before the Post Office had decoded the message announcing the flight. Since the planes seldom stayed over five hours at Ibura, outgoing mail had to be prepared, baled, pouched, manifested, and delivered to the plane side in that time.
Post Office policy was to have no ship dock at Recife without finding her mail waiting. This was adhered to do rigidly, that in the
space of two years, only once, in exceptional circumstances, did a ship have to wait.
The Postal Officer's domain also included Officer Messenger, Courier, and registered Guard Mail. Until the establishment of Fleet Post Offices at Felem and Natal, there could be no supervision over U. S. Mail at these division points, and it was considered unsafe to send or receive classified matter as U. S. Registered Mail. Everything classified was forwarded by Officer Messenger to San Juan, where the Fleet Post Office registered it. With the arrival of Navy Postal Officers at Natal (July) and Belem (August) the necessary security for safe keeping and loading division points was provided. Classified matter could then leave Recife safely as registered mail.
As yet no Military or Naval planes flew south of Recife. Mail addressed to the southern cities went by State Department Courier. There being but one courier a week, the volume of mail that could be carried was small. At first, no facilities existed for getting anything to ships at either Bahia or Rio, to be delivered to the Milwaukee, Somers, and Jouette. But this was the special plane that took Secretary Knox and Admiral Ingram to their conference with President Vargas. The circumstances were unlikely to occur again.
October saw the establishment of a regular Naval Air Transport (NATS) Plane schedule in Brazil, with Rio as the southern terminus. However, it was not known at first that these planes intended to leave mail at Recife. Ensign Miller was greatly surprised one day, early in the month, when he learned that a bundle of mail from a scarcely identified plane had been off-loaded for him at Ibura. This happened several times, until the Postal Officer finally made contact
with a NATS plane crew, and learned from them the facts of the case.
They would haul to Recife whatever was available at Natal, and if it should be mail they would stop just long enough to unload it. No advance notice could be given, and on the return northbound flight there would be no stop.
Mr. Miller reported this interview to Commander Hodgman, who agreed that both north and southbound mail stops were needed. The Commander then communicated with both the Chief of Naval Operations and the Naval Attache at Rio. The reply was affirmative, and thereafter planes landed daily at Ibura, going both ways.
Recife, being now the middle instead of the end of the line for mail, could undertake postal routing for the ships of the Force. Hitherto, Trinidad had handled that matter, sending mail to whatever Brazilian city a given ship would next visit. A communication to the New York Fleet Post Office stated that, thanks to NATS, Recife could now undertake this routing. New York thereafter despatched the Force's mail straight to Recife, thus by-passing Trinidad and saving valuable time. Mr. Miller and his staff, by making a daily check on ship movements with Operations, could send the correspondence to its destination.
By early 1943, the Navy mail service functioned smoothly in Brazil, through the Fleet Post Offices at Belem, Natal, Recife, Bahia, and Rio. For coordinating all this activity, Mr. Miller in April became District Postal Officer for the Fourth Fleet. Later, new post offices were added to the five originals. They existed at Amapa, Igurape Assu, São Luiz, Fortaleza, Fernando de Noronha, Maceio, Ipitanga, Carvelas, and Santa Cruz.
The establishment of the NATS schedule was so closely connected
with the postal situation that a few words about it are due here. Until past the middle of 1942, Naval Air Transport extended its service only as far as San Juan. Soon after mid-year t made the next jump; to Trinidad. In October it moved into Brazil, and its schedule of hops was Trinidad, Belem, Natal, Bahia (Ipitanga) for gas, and finally Rio. Though later on NATS had the Transport of Navy personnel as one of its important functions, this was not so at the outset. The planes operated for one main reason; to haul northward from Rio daily two tons of Quartz crystals, industrial diamonds, and tungsten concentrates. If space and schedules permitted they took mail, passengers, and freight. Usually they traveled southward without special loads, and hence might usually be loaded in northern Brazil with whatever cargo, human or otherwise, their pilots could be persuaded to haul.
Recife, or, to be exact, Ibura, got on the schedule as previously noted, when Commander Hodgran and Ensign (later Lieutenant) Miller arranged for daily mail stops. No manifests, except for mail, were prepared in the early days. The local NATS officer, Mr. Miller, who received this duty in conjunction with his postal ones, simply estimated the amount of space that would be available, loaded the corresponding weight in mail, cargo and passengers aboard a truck and headed for Ibura. A hurried conference with the pilot, on the latter's arrival, determined how much might be put aboard, and the plane accordingly was loaded.
A homemade priority rating called "Northbound - the Four M System; Meat, Mail, Men, and Material," was used. Meat, which was urgently needed at Natal, would spoil and hence came first. Mail, always important, ranked next. The men were usually Navy transfers
being hurried out because of orders and also because quarters for them did not exist in Recife. Material did not constitute a problem, since the newness of the establishment made most of it incoming, not outgoing.
The makeshift arrangement referred to northbound planes. Those headed south had little cargo and required no priority application to load. Many times articles that could as well have gone by sea made the trip by air simply as a ballast for the plane.
Gradually, as the thing matured, it became more systematized. Manifest forms were obtained and prepared for each flight. Passengers had to sign waivers of liability. Pilots no longer had the entire say in determining loads. Army and Navy work parties acted as loading crews. Late in January, 1943, Lieutenant (jg) R. Starkey reported for duty as NATS officer and relieved the overburdened Mr. Miller. Before long NATS carried an average of 300,000 pounds and 600 passengers out of Recife each month. Before each flight, messages came over Navy Radio which could be used in preparing manifests and load computations.
The second half of 1942 saw continued expansion at Recife, necessitating further increased personnel and greatly enlarged physical facilities. Hence it was a period of planning and construction. It saw work begun on barracks both in the dock area and at Ibura. At this time, also, the first magazine construction at Jiquia began. Previously the Navy had depended on the Brazilians for storage facilities for explosives. The latter had two warehouses in a Mounted Artillery encampment located between Clinda and Paulista. They allowed the Americans to use these, while excess material could be stored in the dock warehouses. As the anti-submarine campaign progressed, increased storage facilities became essential, and plans were drafted for the
Jiquia magazine. These lay approximately six kilometers from the city, at the Campo de Amarraçao, formerly used as a Zeppelin field.
The Brazilian declaration of war on Germany and Italy, in August, had a great effect on the Naval establishment in Recife. For one thing, it brought local cooperation to the work of establishing a major facility there. The removal of Admiral Ingram's flag from the Memphis to the Patoka meant that Recife definitely became the Naval Center of the South Atlantic. The Admiral had been directed to set up a G.H.Q. at Recife, comparable to a Sea Frontier Command. On the third of October he informed the Cominch and the Cinclant that he proposed to establish on shore in the city. A few days later he requested permission from the Brazilian Minister of Marine to build structures necessary for shore based headquarters. This received prompt approval, and the United States Navy Department appropriated the sum of $300,000 for the purpose.
Then a better possibility presented itself. In the center of Santa Antonio, the business district of Recife, stood a 10 story office building nearing completion, called the "Edificio dos Bancarios." This would serve the purpose well, and possibilities were investigated.
The Recife Naval Observer, who had been promoted and was now Captain Hodgman, made a trip to Rio for the purpose and succeeded in renting the structure. The yearly cost would be $24,000, with an additional $10,000 needed for some structural alterations and the installation of a telephone system. The deal went through and the Naval Observer and his staff moved in the day before Christmas; the officers of the flag following a little later.
The admiral himself, with the Senior Flag Officers, occupied the 7th deck. The Naval Observer and his staff took the 4th, with the rest of the building being apportioned variously. Operations had the first and second decks, while the third went to the Base Supply Department. The 5th and 6th went to the Offices of Flag Secretary and Fleet Civil Engineer. Later it accommodated Air Wing Headquarters, following their transfer from Natal. The 8th went to Communications and a Medical Dispensary for the building, and the 9th to the Radio Office, the Building Guard, and the Maintenance crew. Deck 10, with the Penthouse above it, became an Officers Club.
At the time of occupancy the building had not been fully completed. Because of the unreliability of local power and communications, a very haphazard telephone system, a poorly constructed switchboard in the building and uncertain elevators, constant annoying difficulties had to be encountered. Gradually, Navy-directed improvements and repairs raised the efficiency level.
The Medical Dispensary at Recife was established during 1942. The Admiral from the start had realized the need for adequate hospital facilities ashore, to care both for the personnel afloat and the men on duty in Brazil. Early in the year he requested that a 50 bed Dispensary be established in Recife. In response to this, six Navy Doctors and a Dentist reported on June 19, 1942. The physicians included specialists in internal medicine, surgery, x-ray, eye, ear, nose and throat, and psychiatry. Accompanying them on the transport that brought them were 13 quonset huts, complete with electrical installations, and 15½p tons of medical equipment and supplies.
Admiral Ingram and the Senior Medical Officer looked over a number of possible locations for the Dispensary and decided that the beach at Roa Viagem, seven miles south of the center of the city, was the most suitable place. A patriotic Brazilian, Senhor Antonio Luiz de Almeida Drennand, offered a good sized lot to the U. S. Navy at no cost for as long as it might be needed. The rear of the grounds had a well built house and garage. The house was converted later into a galley, and the garage became a storeroom.
Six Corpsmen reported in the latter part of May, and on August 6 Commander B. L. Malpass (MC) USN, arrived. The Commander was placed in charge of the Dispensary and ordered to take steps necessary for putting the unit in operation at once.
Late in August the Marines moved to Ibura, vacating their quarters at the Casino, located nearby. The structure was then used to provide temporary living facilities for the Corpsmen, though it later served for the showing of moving pictures for the staff and patients. By the end of August enough quonset huts had been erected to allow the unit to function, and on September 19 the first patient was admitted.
Secretary Knox visited the Dispensary during his visit to Brazil in October, and a little later Commander McGrath, from the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, made an inspection. It had previously been planned to call the unit a Hospital, but Commander McGrath explained that according to BuMed standards, it must be designated a Dispensary, which thereupon became its official title.
By the end of the year, 25 more Corpsmen had arrived, and the Dispensary was extremely busy.
Bahia progressed more slowly during 1942. The Naval Observer,
Lieutenant Saben, became a Lieutenant Commander in February. During this period Naval vessels rarely entered the port, due to the lack of repair facilities and generally inadequate means of operation. However, when, late in the year, the Naval Observer, like all others in Brazil was transferred to Comsolantfor, a new period began. Preliminary steps were taken for the construction of barracks, on which definite arrangements were made in January '43, and the Navy began renting of Armazens from the Brazilians.
An outstanding event at Bahia at this time was the arrival in November, 1942, of a British Troop Convoy, bound for the Cape of Good Hope. It first sailed from England to the United States, and thence down to Brazil. No other harbor in the country was capable of sheltering such a convoy, consisting of five large ships, carrying about 15,000 British soldiers. At Bahia the expedition needed fuel and water, and in supplying these requirements the Brazilian authorities cooperated well. They laid a six inch line to the dock area for water, and the local fire authorities loaned their pumps and engines. All the British ships were docked and undocked by Brazilian pilots, without the assistance of tugs. The Captain of the Empress of Scotland, the largest vessel ever to be docked at Bahia, said that the operation had never been better performed on his ships in any port.
Activity at Natal has been noted from time to time in the course of this narrative. Several instances of the progress made there in 1942 are worthy of mention. An important item was the establishment of the Fleet Post Office; organized by Ensign D. H. Ihrig, and taken over by Ensign J. F. O'Brien late in July. Another was the introduction
of NATS schedules in October. During the same month, the Natal personnel moved from tents into the newly constructed barracks. Most important of all was the gradual development which transformed the Naval Observer's Office into a Naval Facility.
Lieutenant Gary was detached as Naval Observer in November; his relief being Lieutenant Commander Cook. During the first part of the year the Observer's duties continued to consist mostly of Intelligence, Communications, and Liaison work. In the second half, especially after Brazil became a belligerent, business at Natal grew exceedingly. The number of ship sinkings increased, and this frequently meant arranging air transportation for survivors to the United States. Problems connected with NATS operations threw more work on the personnel, and the handling of strategic materials also became an item. Various outstanding officials, both American and foreign, visited Natal during the year. Their presence involved security arrangements and official receptions; work which had to be handled by the Naval Observer. Among the prominent visitors were Secretary of the Navy Knox, Admiral W. H. Standley, Ambassador Jefferson Caffery, and Wendell Wilkie.
At Belem, the U. S. Naval Observer, Lieutenant Commander Edward Breed, remained in charge all through 1942. He had begun his work shortly before Pearl Harbor, with an office in the U. S. Consulate. But, early in the year, the Observer moved to the newly completed Costa Leite Building, where he occupied an entire floor, consisting of seven room, with space sufficient to include the office of the British Shipping Advisor.
The period was primarily one of organization, during which liaison contacts were established and cordial relations instituted with local
Thorough inspections were made of the facilities available for U. S. Naval vessels visiting the port; also air fields and facilities for fuel and provisions storage. Sources of information included local police, port authorities, pilots, and experienced shipping agents. Data and statistics collected from these agencies were made available to all U. S. Naval and Air Forces in Brazil.
Part of the early work consisted of exploring the coastline, harbors, and estuaries in he Pará and Maranhão districts. U. S. Naval aircraft did this reconnaissance and collected necessary information relating to possible submarine "hideouts".
At the same time, the Army Air Corps and the U. S. Marine Company stationed at Belem conducted some exploration of the hinterland. The Marines, however, left in May.
The Observer's staff remained small, and my the middle of the year consisted of but two officers and two enlisted men. Additional personnel reported during the first half, but multiplying duties absorbed the newcomers as fast as they arrived. By the end of 1942 the size of the staff had increased to seven officers and six men.
When Brazil declared war, the picture changed as might be expected. The traffic of both transport and tactical planes headed overseas augmented considerably. Very often Belem served as an overnight stop for fliers en route. The activity of Naval Patrol Planes changed from sporadic to constant. Several aircraft of the Natal squadron from time to time operated out of Belem. In early September, ground clearing started for the building of Navy heavier-than-air facilities. When NATS began operation late in 1942,
it included Belem on the schedule, and the U. S. Army Air Base set up facilities for housing and feeding transient personnel.
Because of Axis submarine activity, approximately 250 survivors of torpedoed ships landed along the 1000 mile coastline assigned the Belem Naval Observer's office. Due to an almost complete lack of transportation facilities, it was often very hard to render prompt assistance to these survivors.
The Observer's office had no means of its own for fueling and repairing American government vessels; consequently, whenever necessary, arrangements had to be made in local commercial shipyards.
Belem got its Fleet Post Office a trifle later than Recife and Natal. Originally a small post office was maintained in the office of the Naval Observer. Ensign R. E. Hoover, USNR, reported in August, 1942, and at once became officer-in-charge. With one enlisted man to help him, he organized a postal service which, in addition to Belem, ultimately took care of São Luiz, Igarapé Assu, Amapá, following establishment of activities at those places.
Since the inception of the South Atlantic Campaign, the air arm had grown steadily more important. Fortunately, American military authorities had not been blind to the possible needs of the future. As far back as November 2, 1940, the United States Secretary of War entered into a contract with the Pan American Airports Corporation, for the purpose of creating certain land and seaplane bases in Brazil, and for improving existing ones. The Chief of Engineers, U. S. Army, was designated to supervise the contract. At that time, it was not advisable for the United States Army or Navy to work directly in Brazil. A construction subsidiary of Pan American Airways, known as
ADP, or Aviation Development Projects, undertook the actual developments. Unfortunately, the ADP acquired the reputation in Brazil of being an inefficient, over staffed organization, with many incompetent overpaid employees who did their work in a slow, costly manner. By 1942, however, the arrival of Major Eugenio Buitrago (C.E.C.) USA, in Recife had stepped up progress considerably. Major Buitrago, as Field Contract Officer, cleaned out deadwood and strengthened the ADP organization.
By the second half of 1942 it was apparent that for efficient patrol purposes Brazilian air facilities would have to be greatly expanded. In September, Captain C. A. Trexel, (C.E.C.) USN, received orders from the Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks to make an inspection trip to Trinidad and Brazil. While the mission was somewhat general in nature, art of the Captain's assignment was to investigate the existing airfields and the possibilities of establishing more. He left Washington by air on October 3, and was back in fifteen days, having visited all the places involved. Since his report furnishes a picture of the Brazilian aviation situation at the time, the facts as he gave them are of interest here.
The first Brazilian point visited by Captain Trexel was Belem. A landplane base existed there at Val de Cans, ten miles north of the city, then utilized for American military purposes almost entirely by the Army. Val de Cans had two stabilized sand runways completed and in use, though one was in the process of enlargement. Gasoline storage was inadequate, but was about to be augmented by three 13,500 barrel underground steel tanks, served by a 12 inch pipeline from the Miramar dock. Belem also had seaplane facilities located
adjacent to the Val de Cans field, but in October, 1942, these were unfinished.
São Luiz, for years a Pan-Air flighted stop, came next. Here the landplane base lies 8 kilometers southwest of the city. At this time there was one stabilized clay sand runway at São Luiz, but housing facilities were not usable, due to lack of beds, mattresses, and refrigerators.
Natal, of course, had its well known Parnamirim Field for landplanes, located 15 kilometers south of the city. Two stabilized clay runways existed, both 6000 feet long. At the moment, the Navy was being supplied gasoline by the Humboldt and the YO 138, which brought it from Recife. However, the construction of tanks was then well underway. Seaplane facilities existed, but there did not seem to be any immediate use for them. The situation changed before the end of the year.
At Recife, there was Ibura Field, located 16 kilometers from the city and roughly to the southwest. Two runways existed, one completed and the other nearing completion. The newer one was being surfaced with bituminous macadam. The only U. S. Naval personnel there at the time were the 50 members of the 19th Provisional Marine Company. Both Army and Navy barracks had been erected, though neither, as yet, was fully occupied.
Moving from Recife southward, the next air stop is Maceio. A landplane base existed 18 kilometers north of town, but no housing for Naval personnel had as yet been constructed. The seaplane facilities, located on Lagoa do Norte, had progressed since the Admiral's report concerning them early in the year. Barracks were nearly completed, but
but the base had not yet gone into operation.
Near Bahia there were two aviation sites; Ipitanga, suitable for landplanes, and Aratú, well adapted to seaplanes. Both lie a considerable distance from the city, approximately 35 kilometers. Ipitanga already had a considerable history as an airfield, having been used by the FAB and numerous commercial airlines, such as Air France, Pan American Airways, Cruzeiro do Sul, Panair do Brazil, as well as some privately owned planes. Yet it was in no way a satisfactory field at that time. Sand dunes surrounded it, only one runway existed, gasoline must be hauled from Bahia, to which no respectable road then existed, and the field's closeness to the ocean exposed it to potential shell fire. At Aratú, seaplane facilities were in process of construction. At that date it was not certain whether or not they would be used. Connected with the whole question of the suitability of Ipitanga and Aratú was the major matter of Bahia's shortage of oil and tankage facilities.
Rio de Janeiro did not figure greatly in the U. S. Naval picture at this time. Santos Dumont Airport is located on Guanabara Bay, directly in front of the city. There is also Santa Cruz, a considerable distance southwest of Rio, with its magnificent hangar built by a German commercial line prior to the war. Both of these would be utilized to some extent later on, together with a third base, constructed at Galeão on an island in Guanabara Bay, but these were later developments.
On his way back, Captain Trexel visited Fortaleza, between Natal and São Luiz. Not much existed there at the time, though there was an airfield with one runway and another under construction.
Despite some construction delays, it will be seen that there existed, up and down the coast of Brazil, a good number of airfields, conveniently spaced for patrol work, and capable of indefinite expansion. These proved indispensable on the arrival of Fleet Air Wing Sixteen, which early in 1943 was attached to the Command.
THE PRESIDENTIAL VISIT
In mid-December, during the Admiral's absence at a Washington conference, submarine activity suddenly increased. Planes of VP-83 made four contacts in three successive days; December 13-14-15; and attacked each time. In three cases no evidence of damage to the German U-Boats, serious or otherwise, could be observed. In the other instance, that of December 14, an enemy sub of 750 tons, probably German, is believed to have been damaged by a plane piloted by Lieutenant Commander B. J. Prueher, commanding officer of VP-83. The U-Boat submerged at once and surfaced again, her conning tower showing a 15° list.
While these attacks all took place within a limited area and were spaced over several days, descriptions of the submarines furnished by the plane crews did not coincide at all, giving reason to believe that several underseas craft were operating in the vicinity. As a result, Comsolantfor, on December 15, ordered an "Alert" from Recife to Fortaleza, requiring blackouts and the temporary freezing of independent shipping. This continued for five days, the "All Clear" being sounded on the 20th.
In the meantime there had been another sound contact, resulting in a probable kill. This occurred on the 17th. A plane piloted by Lieutenant (jg) G. Bradford encountered a submarine in the act of surfacing in Latitude 06° 36' S, Longitude 33° 40' W. The U-Boat was attacked and straddled with three depth bombs. It rocked out of the water on the first, and then was completely covered by the explosions of the second and third. Four patches appeared; next the bow came out at a 45° angle dead in the water, then disappeared. About half an hour later there appeared on the surface a patch of oil, perhaps a mile distant, and two patches of
discolored water a half mile away from the residue. Two Destroyers, the Davis and Humboldt, which were patrolling within reach, came up immediately and joined the search. Nothing more could be found or seen, and the general view taken was that the enemy had been destroyed.
The considerably increased submarine activity at this time caused the Admiral to request of the Cominch that an Attack Teacher, Sangamo type, be sent to Recife at the earliest possible date. He felt the need of giving officers and men more training in sound gear for anti-submarine work. He soon had the satisfaction of learning that the Attack Teacher would arrive via the supply ship Melville, scheduled to leave New York soon after the first of the year.
The Admiral's purpose in going to Washington was to confer with the Commander-in-Chief, U. S. Atlantic Fleet, and the Commander-in-Chief. The main subject of the interview was the convoy system operating between Trinidad and the Brazilian coastal areas. A new system of symbols to indicate planes and directions had been worked out. The importance of Bahia in the whole scheme of things are greatly enhanced. Shipping from Capetown and the south-east coast of South America would in the future be routed there for assembly, and ships bound for Capetown and the East would henceforth be dispersed from there. Escorts would be made available as follows: the Destroyers Borie, Barry, and Goff from the Pacific Sea Frontier; seven patrol vessels, either Gunboats or Yachts; ten Submarine Chasers from the Caribbean Sea Frontier; and five Destroyers from Task Force Twenty Three. This made a total of twenty five escorts; the plan being to divide them into five groups of four each, thus leaving a reserve strength of 25% as spares. It was also contemplated that Brazilian ships would be available for part of the convoy work, particularly on the
run between Recife and Bahia. If so, the American escorts could be based on Recife.
The Admiral, who knew the condition of the Brazilian ships, stated that only three of them had sound gear as yet. Therefore, whenever the submarine situation was bad south of Recife, American escorts should continue on with the run to Bahia. In view of the still limited facilities for supply and storage of fuel at the latter port, Admiral Ingram considered it best for Tankers to be included in the convoys. He could not give an optimistic report on he Bahia repair facilities, but estimated that the situation could somehow be handled.
As a matter of fact, the first Bahia-Trinidad Convoy (designated BT) assembled on January 12. For five months, subsequent ones continued to run out of Bahia, until the shifting of the assembly point to Rio in June.
The number of ships reporting to the South Atlantic Force in December was larger than usual. Newcomers and returning vessels included the Cruiser Savannah, the Destroyers Kearney, Boire, Ericsson, Livermore, and Goff, the Aircraft Carrier Escort Santee, the Gunboats Surprise, Tenacity, and Spry, the Yacht Carnelian, and three PCs, numbered 489, 564, and 610. Also reporting was the Seaplane Squadron VP-74, which was based along with VP-83 at Natal. The new squadron immediately had engine trouble. At first there was some thought of returning the seaplanes to Trinidad. At length, however, the decision was to retain them in their present duty. They were the Mariner Type planes and many squadrons of these had already been scheduled for this type of duty at advanced bases. In order to find out just what their efficiency might be, it seemed best to keep them at their assignment.
Nevertheless, the squadron's situation grew worse steadily, and early in February the Admiral had to forward a recommendation to Admiral Ingersoll that VP-74 be recalled to the United States and a replacement squadron of seaplanes be sent. It being impossible to comply with this request at once, the squadron remained at Natal for several months more.
At the beginning of 1943, then, we find the South Atlantic Force greatly augmented in strength, with permanent shore headquarters, and with several land bases and airfields, in various stages of completion. In organization there now existed a departmentalized administration, with seasoned officers heading the departments. Captain (later Commodore) Clinton E. Braine had been Chief-of-Staff for several months. Rear Admiral O. M. Read commanded Cruiser Division Two, while Destroyer Squadron Nine and Convoy Escorts were under Commander H. C. Robinson. Captain W. N. Thornton, Fleet Material Officer, had charge of repairs, Captain G. R. Will was Operations Officer, and Fleet Training came under Captain A. C. Converse.
When, a little later, Fleet Air Wing Sixteen was attached to the Admiral's command, Captain R. D. Lyon arrived as Wing Commander.
For January, the outstanding event by far was the visit of the President of the United States. On his way to the Casablanca Conference with Prime Minister Churchill and the French leaders, the President passed through Belem. Here he conferred with Admiral Ingram, displaying a keen interest in the Brazilian situation. He instructed the Admiral to arrange a meeting for him with President Vargas at Natal on his return from Africa, and added that he desired Ambassador Caffery to be there too.
Admiral Ingram made all of the arrangements. He had the Tender Humboldt and the Destroyer Leader Jouett at Natal to provide accommodations for the distinguished visitors. He flew to Rio in person to escort the Brazilian President and various members of his staff to the conference, arriving there on January 18. Nine days later the party left the Brazilian Capital, bound for Natal. Aboard the plane were the President of Brazil, Senhor Cetulio Vargas, Ambassador Jefferson Caffery, Vice Admiral J. H. Ingram, Rear Admiral A. T. Beauregard, Major Schultz, Captain Pomponi and Commander Cunha of the Brazilian Navy, Lieutenant Ingram, the Admiral's son, now serving as his Flag Lieutenant, Lieutenant Andrade of the Brazilian Navy, and Senhores Fortunato and Capuli. They reached Natal that evening, and President Vargas was quartered aboard the Jouett, where he was tendered a dinner by Admiral Ingram.
The following morning at 0800 two planes arrived, bearing the President and his party, which included Mr. Harry Hopkins, Rear Admiral R. McIntyre and Captain J. McCrea. This was the first time the two presidents had ever met, and they got along well together. The President of the United States was quartered aboard the Humboldt, where at noon he entertained President Vargas at lunch.
They spent the afternoon making inspections; first of the VP-74 seaplane base, and then Parnamarin Field, where Squadrons VP-83 and 94 were quartered. They concluded by visiting the Army and Brazilian Air Facilities. Accompanying the Presidential parties on their tours were the Interventor for the State of Rio Grande do Norte, the Admiral in command of the Naval Base at Natal, and Brigadeiro Gomes of the FAB. In the evening the President of Brazil dined aboard the Humboldt with the President of
the United States, and after diner the two had a conference.
Both left the following day. Before daylight the American President was taken from the Humboldt to Parnamarin Field, from which he and his party flew to Trinidad. A few hours later the Vargas group left the Jouett for the same field to depart for Rio, escorted by Admiral Ingram and General Walsh. At once the Humboldt and Jouett got under way to proceed on regular patrols. The Force had not enough ships at this time to spare them for long.
At the time of the Presidential visit, Admiral King was also in Brazil for a brief inspection tour, though he did not accompany the official party. He visited Recife alone and while there inspected all Naval activities at Base Fox. The Commander-in-Chief had very little time for social activity, though he did exchange a round of calls with Brazilian officials. He also talked with officers of several American ships in port and seemed favorably impressed with what he saw.
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1. In accuracy it should be observed that "Bahia" as applied to the city, is a popular mis-nomer. The real name of the place is São Salvador, and he state surrounding it is rightly Bahia. But in everyday language "São Salvador" is seldom heard, the state name having prevailed over the city's correct appellation. Much the same thing has been true of Recife, which, until a few years ago, was known generally as Pernambuco, at least to foreigners.
2. Brazilian vs. U.S. Ranks
Brazilian Naval Ranks Corresponding U.S. Ranks Aspirante Midshipman Segundo Tenente Ensign Primeiro Tenente Lieutenant (junior grade) Capitão Tenente Lieutenant Capitão de Corveta Lieutenant Commander Capitão de Fragata Commander Capitão de Mar e guerra Captain Commodoro Commodore Contra Almirante Rear Admiral Vice Almirante Vice Admiral Almirante Admiral