24 March 1941 to 7 December 1941
The administrative history South Atlantic Force began in March 1941, after Rear Admiral Jonas H. Ingram had turned over the Caribbean Patrol to Admiral Spruance at San Juan and received orders from CominCh to take his force to the South Atlantic on Neutrality Patrol.
Admiral Ingram then commanded Task Force Three, which consisted of the four CL's of Cruiser Division Two -- MEMPHIS (Flag), CINCINNATI, MILWAUKEE, and OMAHA. Later several destroyers and auxiliary ships joined the group, which operated in the South Atlantic for a year before its designation was changed to Task Force Twenty-Three.
ON 24 March 1941, Admiral Ingram visited Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief, United States Atlantic Fleet, in Washington. The conference resulted in orders for Task Force Three to patrol the triangle from Trinidad to the Cape Verde Islands to the bulge of Brazil, using San Juan and Guantanamo as bases and Brazilian ports as points of call for replenishments.
One month later, on 25 April, ComCruDiv2 in the MEMPHIS, with the CINCINNATI in company, sailed Newport on a 28-day cruise which covered 7,090 miles before the ships stood in to their home port, San Juan. The patrol extended to 20° N, 30° W, near the Cape Verdes, and included calls at Recife and Port of Spain.
The two cruisers arrived Recife on 10 May 941 and departed the next day. They were combat ships of a non-belligerent engaged in de facto warfare, and they visited neutral ports without any official preparation, but the Admiral was well received and met important [members] of the Brazilian Government and
Armed Forces, including the Interventor (Federal Governor) of the State of Pernambuco, the Commanding General of the local military district, the Mayor of Recife, and the Captain of the Port.
The American Naval Observer in Recife met the Admiral when the MEMPHIS arrived and was able to explain many things about the city and the country of Brazil, although he had been in Recife only since 26 February. The Observer was Lieutenant Commander William A. Hodgman, USN (Retired), who later as Commandant of Base Fox and Naval Operating Facility in Recife with the rank of Captain1. He was the first Alusnob to report to his station in Brazil, and because ComSoLant's staff eventually shared the Recife administration building with the Base organization, he and his personnel were intimately connected with SoLantFor and the Fourth fleet during the war.
The Naval Observers at Recife and all important Brazilian coastal ports originally were under the direct command of the Vice Chief of Naval Operations (Director of Naval intelligence). They arrived early in 1941 on orders from the Office of Naval Intelligence, and although they handled many details in connection with the visits of American warships, particularly at Recife, they worked independently of ComSoLant until after the Flag moved ashore in August 1942. On 1 December 1942 the Naval Observers began to function in the control of merchant shipping, in compliance with a CominCh order of 25 November which said "Naval Observers will be ordered to report to ComSoLant for additional duty with mership control
service and such other operational duties as may be designated by ComSoLant2.
By then the Commander South Atlantic Force was in command of all naval units in the Brazilian area. In two moves during 1943 he was given operational command of the Alusnobs and then administrative control as well.3
Long before the first visit of Admiral Ingram to Recife in May 1941, the United States Army, the Naval Mission4 to Brazil, and the Naval Attache's Office were developing the facilities later used by the South Atlantic Force and the Fourth Fleet. On 2 November 1940, the Secretary of War had made a contract with Pan-American Airports Corporation for the building of airfields in Brazil, the Chief of the U. S. Engineering Department had been designated to supervise the contract, and the Airport Development Program had been named to do the construction work. Plans and agreements were made during 1940 and 1941, and construction began early in 1941.
Development of shore facilities was well advanced by the time the first Force Civil Engineer reported to ComSoLant in October 1942.5 The first airports for American military use in Brazil were developed for the Army Transport Command, because of the important strategic location of Brazil. The foundations for the U. S. Naval establishment in Brazil were already laid when Task Force Three began to visit Recife.
Therefore, in general, the administrative history of the South Atlantic Force is a history of the tactical command during the war.
However, the personal contacts made by Admiral Ingram between May 1941 and December 1942 gained him the direct cooperation of the Brazilian Government and the commanders of the Armed Forces, prepared the way for satisfactory logistic support of the Fourth Fleet during wartime operations in 1943 and 1944, and resulted in the eventual agreement that made ComSoLant the commander of all forces in the South Atlantic in joint operations.6
The Administrative History of the Force before December 1942 is concerned chiefly with the organization of Task Force Three. At the end of the first SoLant Patrol, the MEMPHIS and CINCINNATI were joined at Trinidad by the MILWAUKEE and the destroyers SOMERS and JOUETT. Because the OMAHA and two more destroyers, DAVIS and WARRINGTON, were expected to report for duty soon after. CTF3 divided his ships into two task groups, TG 3.1 comprising the MEMPHIS, CINCINNATI, WARRINGTON, and DAVIS, and TG 3.2 comprising MILWAUKEE, OMAHA, SOMERS and JOUETT.
The task groups of Task Force Three conducted the South Atlantic patrol between the hump of Brazil and Africa, calling frequently at Brazilian ports. Admiral Ingram made four visits to Recife before the United States became a belligerent on 8 December, each time building greater understanding between himself and the Brazilian admirals and generals in the Northeastern area. During 1941, sixteen U. S. warships made a total of fifty-one calls at Recife. Besides the four light cruisers and four destroyers already mentioned, the following ships entered Recife harbor: Destroyers CLEMSON and GREENE; Navy oilers PATOKA, LARAMIE and KAWEAH; the USAT ACADIA, and the seaplane tender THRUSH.
The outstanding event of the 1941 ocean patrols was the capture of the German blockade runner ODENWALD on 6 November in 00° 14'N, 27° 44'W by TG 3.6, OMAHA and SOMERS. The German crew attempted to scuttle their ship, but the task groups boarding party got the ship underway and it was taken to San Juan via Trinidad, arriving 19 November. The long trip to an American was deemed necessary to protect Brazil's neutrality.
7 December 1941 to 22 August 1942
On 20 December 1941, Admiral Ingram reported to the Chief of Naval Operations on the activities of the South Atlantic Force. The report explained how negotiations with Brazilian officials at Natal had prepared the way for the Navy to base its first squadron of patrol planes there,7 discussed the vulnerability of the harbor of Recife to possible enemy air attack, argued against a plan to send U. S. Marines to Brazil to guard the airports,8 spoke of a general assignment of part of Task Force Three to patrol off Vichy-French Martinique, and said much of the friendly cooperation of Brazilian authorities.
TF 3 was doing a good job, but operating far from its base at San Juan. Developments indicated that it sooner or later would be advisable to have the fleet bases in Brazil at Recife and Bahia, and that Brazilians would accent the proposition.
Early in 1942 the designation of the Force was changed to Task Force Twenty-Three, and the Force Commander was promoted to Vice Admiral, a rank which gave him greater prestige in dealing with Brazilian officials.
In January 1942, two ships of the Royal Navy were assigned to work with Task Force Twenty-Three. The HMS DIOMEDE (the second ship, HMS DESPATCH was delayed in reporting) was given patrol off the Uruguayan coast, in the area where HMS AJAX, EXETER and ACHILLES had driven the German GRAF SPEE to cover on 13 December 1939, in the first successful action of the war against the enemy in the South Atlantic.
By January, work on airfields and seaplane bases was progressing at Natal, Ipitanga, and Maceio and construction was about to begin at Ibura (Recife) and other places along the coast of Brazil. On his first inspection tour of the area, Vice Admiral Ingram, traveling in the destroyer WINSLOW, not only visited the stations but met important Brazilian military and political officials and gained increased cooperation from them. In the states of Rio Grande do Norte (where Natal is located), Alagoas (port of Maceio) and Bahia (whose port is Sao Salvador, popularly called Bahia), he approached the Interventors and other officials. He made an agreement with Rear Admiral Dodsworth Martins, commander of all Brazilian Naval Forces north of Rio, for the Brazilians to organize an inshore patrol, and assigned U. S. Navy radiomen to instruct the Brazilians in communications procedure. The Admiral also approached Brigadeiro (General) Eduardo Gomes, Commander of the Second Air Zone, which includes Recife and Natal. The Brigadeiro, an influential nationalist, always was cautious of domination by the Americans or any other representatives of foreign powers, but he was glad to accept outside help that would strengthen Brazil. In early 1943 he helped the U. S. Navy obtain the use of the seaplane base at Natal abandoned by the German Condor Line, and urged that American Bombers and Fighters should be based at Natal.
TF 23 had five task groups to patrol the South Atlantic in the first half of 1942.9 In addition to patrol, the ships had frequent assignments to special convoys. They escorted Navy oilers like the PATOKA from Trinidad to bring the Force's scant supply of fuel, ad in March they took the Army
transports LUCKENBACK and COAMO to Ascension Island with personnel sent to set up an air base on "The Rock". Although the Force was inadequate to convoy all vulnerable shipping in the area, they protected the major movements.
German submarines, operating intensively along the North American coast and in the Caribbean since December, extended their operations into Brazilian coastal waters in April 1942. The American merchantman EUGENE V. R. THAYER was sunk 9 April, and in the next three days the Norwegian BALKIS, and the BEN BRUSH and STANVAC CALCUTTA of Panamanian registry were sunk. These and earlier sinkings in the Trinidad area influenced South American nations to freeze their shipping.
South America's first big sub scare and shipping crises provided opportunity for Admiral Ingram to take action to gain full confidence and support of Brazil. After a week's visit to Montevideo, where he arrived 13 April, conferred with Uruguayan officials and made an agreement for the use of a radio station, the Admiral steamed to Rio de Janeiro in the MEMPHIS to see President Getulio Vargas. He arrived 22 April. Met by Ambassador Jefferson Caffery and the Assistant Naval Attache, Captain Edward Brady, the Admiral called on high-ranking Brazilians including Foreign Minister Oswaldo Aranha, Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral A. V. deMello, and General Goes Monteiro.
After official calls in Rio, the Admiral went with Captain Brady to Pocos de Caldas to meet President Vargas, who had invited him to visit the resort. The Admiral told the Brazilian President of his dealing s with the admirals and generals in Northern Brazil, and President Vargas indicated that he knew of the local agreements in the North and respected Admiral Ingram's reputation. The Admiral stated his estimate of the submarine danger and stated his anti-submarine plans.
The President asked Admiral Ingram if he would take responsibility for the protection of Brazilian shipping if the Government allowed the ships to sail. The Admiral said that he could not guarantee the safety of every ship, that the risk must be mutual, but that he would undertake to protect shipping and would be willing to assume full responsibility. President Vargas accepted the answer, agreed to release the merchant ships, and announced that Admiral Ingram would be his "Sea Lord" and Naval Advisor.
From Rio the Admiral returned to Recife and made an agreement with Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes, Commander of the Second Air Zone, for the use of airplanes of the Forca Aerea Brasileiro in joint patrol and anti-submarine operations off the hump of Brazil. On the basis of this agreement, the Admiral and Brigadeiro Gomes prepared a plan for joint air operations which consisted of two groups, an Orange Group (Groupa Laranja) composed of U. S. Navy PBY's, and a Blue Group (Groupa Azul) comprising all FAB aircraft in the Second Air Zone, Northeastern Brazil. At Recife the Admiral also conferred with Admiral Dodsworth Martins, who made no definite commitments but promised to submit a recommendation for joint surface operations to the Minister of Marine in Rio de Janeiro.
In May of 1942 two basic agreements between the United States and Brazil were concluded by the State Departments of the two nations. On 7 May, a new Naval Mission contract was signed, and on 23 May the Political Military Agreement between the United States of Brazil and the United States of America was written. Both were based on the original most secret Political Military Agreement of 1 October 1941, and their purpose was to make the collaboration of the U. S. and Brazil more complete and effective.
The agreement of 23 May was made specific by a series of recommendations prepared after Brazil entered the war in August 1942.10
Task Force 23, in May 1942, was called upon to blockade Martinique, and six ships of the Force returned to the Caribbean, while two task groups consisting of one cruiser and one destroyer each continued ocean patrol in the South Atlantic. Before the end of the month the French Commander at Martinique, Admiral Robert, accepted an ultimatum and disarmed the Vichy warships at Fort-de-France, but meanwhile German submarines penetrated into Brazilian coastal waters and the merchantman COMMANDANTE LYRA became the first Brazilian casualty of the South Atlantic.
A torpedo struck the ship on 18 May off Cape Sao Roque. The crew escaped in boats and left the ship burning. American planes of VP-83 went out immediately to cover the area and locate survivors, and ships of TF 23 were ordered to the scene. A boarding party from the OMAHA examined the COMMANDANTE LYRA, decided she could be saved and asked for aid. The USS THRUSH, an AVP, and the Brazilian Navy tug HEITOR PERGIGAOtook the damaged ship in tow and hauled her to Fortaleza. The OMAHA task group picked up 41 survivors in two boats, and a third boat, with the rest of the crew, reached the coast independently.
No lives were lost in the COMANDANTE LYRA episode, and the successful rescue and salvage work by the U. S. Navy and good will.
On 11 July 1942 Admiral Ingram conferred with British and Brazilian officials at Recife to take definite steps toward the control of merchant shipping. On the recommendation of the British officers at the conference,
the Admiralty ordered British reporting centers to pass all information on ship movements to CTF 23. This was an early move toward the complete control of all shipping in the area by ComSoLant.
By August 1942 the U. S. ships were operating jointly with Brazilian forces, and all military and political foundations were laid for full-scale war operations. Vicious submarine attacks against Brazilian shipping in mid-August brought Brazil into the war, and the declaration of war made Brazil and the United States belligerent allies.
On 14 August, submarines sank the BAEPENDI and the ANIBAL BENEVOLO off the mouth of the Rio Real, between Recife and Bahia. The next day in the same locality a torpedo sank the ARARAQUARA. On the 17th the ITAGIBA and ACARA were torpedoed and sunk not far away. On the 19th a sixth vessel, only ninety tons but still a Brazilian national, was sunk off Bahia. Total loss of life in the sinkings was about 500. VP-83 sank one of the u-boats.
Public indignation around riots and violent demonstrations against Germans, Italians and Japanese residents of Brazil, and on 22 August the Government declared a state of war with Germany and Italy. Brazil interned many Japanese nations, but did not declare war on Japan until 6 June 1945, a month after V-E Day.
22 August 1942 - 15 March 1943
The declaration of war allowed Brazil to collaborate fully with the United States, and plans for combined operations were accelerated.
On 19 August 1942, three days before the actual declarations, it was obvious that Brazil would actively go to war that Admiral Ingram shifted his flag from the MEMPHIS to the PATOKA in Recife harbor. The flag plot, communications and all other departments of the administrative office were set up aboard the oiler, and the ship was the Admiral's headquarters until accommodations in the administration building ashore were ready five months later.11
Captain (later Commodore) Clinton E. Braine, Jr., who had been Commanding Officer of the Memphis, became the Admiral's Chief of Staff.
The Admiral conferred with the U. S. Army Commander, Brigadier (later Major) General Walsh, with Brazilian commanders and the senior British officer in West Africa to make plans for the prosecution of joint operations in the South Atlantic.
Meanwhile during the time that ComSoLant's administration was aboard the PATOKA, several important events took place. On 24 September 1942, two PC boats were turned over to the Brazilian Navy at Natal. They were the PC544 and the PC547, which the Brazilians designated CS-1 Camorim and CS-2, Corvina. Later they were renamed G-1 GUAPORE and G-2 GURUPI. These were two of a total of twenty-four escort ships supplied to Brazil by the United States. The Brazilian Navy already had eight submarine chasers, and the 544 and 547 were the first of eight PC-boats transferred by the end of 1943. In 1944 and 1945 eight destroyer escorts were transferred from the Fourth Fleet to the Brazilian Navy.
On 28 September 1942, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox arrived in Natal. Admiral Ingram met the Secretary there and accompanied him to Rio. In Rio, Admiral Ingram conferred with President Vargas and made an agreement that shocked Secretary Knox. President Vargas offered to give ComSoLant complete operational control of all branches of the defense of Brazil, and the Admiral accepted.
On 12 September the Brazilian Navy was placed under the command of the American Admiral by orders from President Vargas via the minister of Marine.
As a result of these arrangements, strengthened by the Admiral's momentous conference with President Vargas later in September, the Commander Task Force 23 emerged, in effect, as the commander of all forces in the South Atlantic.
The title of Commander South Atlantic Force was authorized about 5 September 1942. Notification was sent by BuPers dispatch 160638 of [?] September: "The President has designated Vice Admiral Jonas H. Ingram ComSoLantFor with the rank of Vice Admiral."
In late September Secretary Knox arrived in Natal and Admiral Ingram accompanied him to Rio. There ComSoLant again saw President Vargas and accepted Vargas' offer to take full control of all branches of the defense of Brazil, an agreement which shocked Secretary Knox.
In a recommendation for "the substantiation of present working understanding between the Brazilian Armed Forces and the Commander South Atlantic Force," the Joint Brazil-United States Defense Commission on 13 November put into writing the authority of ComSoLant in Brazil. The recommendation was not fully approved and put into effect until 9 June 1943, but the U. S. and Brazilian forces meanwhile operated under the "working understanding."
In October 1942, Rear Admiral O. M. Read arrived to relieve Admiral Ingram as Commander Cruiser Division Two. He began his work auspiciously by commanding TG 23.3, which on 21 November intercepted the southbound blockade runner ANNELIESE ESSBERGER in 01° N, 23° W. The Germans scuttled their ship before a boarding party could take control, but 62 prisoners were taken.
On 15 November, important readjustments of the relations of ComSoLant and the U. S. Naval Observers in Brazil was suggested by CTF 23 in a dispatch to CominCh. The plan was approved 25 November, to become effective 1 December. It was the order that placed the Alusnobs under the operational command of ComSoLant, already mentioned. It also set up the Naval operating Base at Rio de Janeiro, which was commissioned 1 December 1942. Rear Admiral A. T. Beauregard, who had been Naval Attache, became Chief of the Naval Mission with additional orders as Commandant of the Naval Operating Base at Rio.
Also in November 1942, ten communications officers reported aboard the PATOKA, and the Force Communications Center was set up.
In December, while the Force administration was being prepared to move into the Headquarters Building in Recife, work began on various Naval installations in and around the city. Construction started on Camp Ingram, the Destroyer Repair Base (DesRep 12), storage warehouses, the Naval Magazine at Jiquia and other projects. The first patient was admitted to the Naval Dispensary (popularly called Knox Hospital) on 19 December. The hospital had been built earlier, beginning in July.
By the time ComSoLant moved his administrative offices into the Edificio Bancarios, an eleven-story building on Santo Antonio Island, the main business district of Recife, he had full authority in all operational matters.
The headquarters building was occupied in December 1942 and January 1943. It was unfinished when the shift began, and the various departments of the administration moved into the building as the rooms were completed. The entire organization was installed in the new offices on 1 February 1943, the time of the biggest influx of new personnel for the Admiral's staff.
In January and February job lots of officers and men reported for duty in Operations, Communications and the other expanded departments. Because the building had been planned to have two lojas (shops) on the lower floors, each with a two-story front and mezzanine gallery, the first and second "decks" were adapted into an operations office. All entrances except the door on the second floor lobby, which gave access to the elevator and stairway, were bricked up. Against what had been the display windows of the shops two large charts were erected - photographic blow-ups of Hydrographic Office charts of the South Atlantic, mounted on
sheetmetal backing approximately twenty feet square. Sips, aircraft and convoy routes were indicated on the huge boards by magnetic pins, in the same style as the boards of ComGulf, which inspired the ComSoLant displays.
The galleries of the shops became "bridges", and watch officers had desks, telephones, Telespeakers and files on the bridge overlooking the boards and the plotting site. In addition, a pneumatic tube of Brazilian construction was used by Communications to deliver dispatches to Operations.
One plotting board was used for the warship and convoy plot, the other for independent mership movement. On these boards, in the course of more than two years, the routes and positions of friend and foe were indicated. Routed "pork" and "bacon" and the other standard routes for regular convoys between Brazil and Trinidad were shown with colored string; task group of TF 23, Fourth Fleet and TF 27 were shown by numbered symbols; plane coverage and sweeps were indicated; submarines were plotted into the area, and a swastika marked the position of each submarine sinking; a red cross indicated the position of a ship in distress, and a black cross marked the place of a mership sinking; CVE's crossed the board patrolling for submarines; special convoys carried the Force Expedicionaria Brasileira to Gibraltar, from whence the Brazilian soldiers went on to fight valiantly in Italy; the Gripsholm traveled back and forth on repatriation missions, lights ablaze; blockade runners failed to run the surface and air barrier and were sunk; the position of hundreds of tons of rubber left as flotsam and one sunken German ship was marked by an eraser glued to a magnetic pip;
floating docks were plotted slowly across the north coast of Brazil, as they were tediously towed by panting tugs; a British dock went from Montevideo to Freetown after a futile attempt to tow it across the rough seas between Monte and Cape Town; ships aground were indicated and the salvage ships were plotted to them; planes ditched at sea were shown, as were the rescue planes and ships which located and picked up survivors - although in many instances the survivors reached shore independently; a super-escort "Fleet unit" was plotted, which turned out to be the Battleship IOWA, on an excursion from Africa after escorting President Roosevelt on the first leg of his trip to Teheran; British, French and Italian warships, at various times, were plotted out from Freetown and Dakar on patrols; the last operation shown on the boards was the Air-Sea Rescue plan, under which Brazilian DE's, destroyers and cruisers manned stations on the AT air routes from Africa to aid transport planes carrying men home after VE Day.
Unfortunately for historical records, the secrecy of the ComSoLant Operations Office was complete, and no photographs were made of the plotting boards. The War Diary of the Fleet and reports of operations contain all details, however, and since this is not a history of action, detailed accounts of operations will not be included.
After the submarine attacks that brought Brazil into the war, the Boats continued their offensive in South Atlantic waters for more than a year. In late 1942 and early 1943 the submarines concentrated on the seas east of Trinidad, where ships bound for Africa and South America were easy prey; off the hump of Brazil, another spot where sea routes were
close together and traffic was heavy; and off Bahia, where all Brazilian merchantmen sooner or later appeared.
When the danger first arose, CTF 23 put a temporary convoy system into operation, using all types of ships in escorts. American destroyers and cruisers were teamed with Brazilian cruisers and converted mine vessels. It was a makeshift, but the best that could be done at the time, with the forces available.
In December 1942, after a visit to Washington by Admiral Ingram CominCh C & R (the convoy and routing section of the Commander in Chief, U. S. Fleet in Washington), set up a system of regular scheduled convoys for the Brazilian area, to mesh with the already established coastal convoys in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and the East Coast of the United States.
The South Atlantic convoys were designated BT and TB, because the terminals were Bahia and Trinidad. Ships in a BT formed at Bahia were escorted to Recife by a Brazilian escort group; off Recife, an American escort group relieved the Brazilian ships and took the convoy to merchantmen destined for U. S. ports would be sailed in a TAG (Trinidad-Aruba-Guantanamo) convoy; if the destination was New Orleans, Houston or another gulf port, a ship in a TAG would continue from Guantanamo on a GK (Guantanamo-Key West) convoy, and from there would continue in a KH (Key West-Houston) or a KP (Key West-Pilottown) convoy. For a destination north of Delaware Capes, a ship would leave Guantanamo in a GK and would be joined to a KN (Key West-New York) convoy off Florida. For New york to United Kingdom, the ship would depart Guantanamo in a GN (Guantanamo-New York) convoy. From New York a Europe bound ship would sail in a transocean convoy across the North Atlantic. Convoyed ships usually
entered Trinidad and New York for fuel, and sometimes had a layover of a day or two, but at Guantanamo and other ports the escorts were relieved at a specified rendezvous point while the merchantmen continued with delay.
The first regular South Atlantic convoy was TB-1, which departed Trinidad 3 January 1943, southbound to Bahia. The first northbound convoy, BT-1, sailed Bahia 9 January. The BT-TB system continued until the emergence of submarines south of Bahia made it imperative to extend the convoys to Rio de Janeiro in June 1943. BT-18 and TB-18 were the last to sail, and TB-18 was continued to Rio without redesignation. On 3 July 1943, TJ-1 sailed Trinidad for Rio, and JT-1 departed Rio 9 July.
The South Atlantic convoys sailed every ten days until December 1944, when the schedule was speeded up to a five-day cycle beginning with convoys JT-53 and TJ-54. The convoys were planned for a normal speed of eight knots. The strong westward current across the north coast of Brazil, however, usually made the speed of advance ten knots or more for BT's and JT's steaming toward Trinidad, and cut down the speed of TB's and TJ's to six or seven knots.
South Atlantic convoys sailed on standard routes prepared by the operations section of the command. They carried code names of foods - Route "Pork," "Beans," "Bacon," "Tomatoes," "Curry," etc. Northbound routes for BT convoys and later TJ's were outboard of the southbound routes for TB's and TJ's. Still further inshore, as close to the coast as safe navigation would permit, were straggler's routes for ships that for uncontrollable reasons could not keep pace with the convoys. The system of routes was the same as the plan already in use for coastal convoys in other areas.
Because of the ten-day interval between convoys, it often was necessary to escort important ships in a social "jackass" convoy. Social convoys were also formed when a ship requiring protection was very slow, when a ship's destination was some point like Fernando de Noronha that was not conveniently near a convoy route, or when movements were to be made to Ascension Island or some other distant point not ordinarily reached by convoy.
All convoys were sailed in accordance with the convoy instructions issued by the Navy Department, and sailings were routine.
The protection given to shipping by convoys was good. Of thirty-two ships sunk in the South Atlantic during 1943, five were in convoy when torpedoed. Most of the ships sunk were proceeding independently in areas where convoying was impracticable, for example between Cape Town and South American ports.
To handle the convoys ComSoLant requested and received the destroyers BORIE, BARRY, and GOFF, five patrol gunboats and two patrol yachts, along with a group of PC-boats which ultimately numbered eighteen. The PG's SURPRISE, SPRY, SAUCY, COURAGE and TENACITY, and the PY's SIREN and CARNELIAN, together with the PC's, were organized into escort groups by the Commander Destroyer Squadron Nine, who already had the destroyers of the force under his control. ComDesRon 9 handled the readiness, training and administrative details of all escorts until the destroyers were detached in early 1944. After that time the same office and personnel continued similar functions as Commander of Escorts, Fourth Fleet.
Shipping control - routing and reporting - was necessary to operate
convoys, protect independent merchant ships as much as possible, and to give information to warships of the Fleet that might encounter the merships at sea.
ComSoLant set up a complete and effective Mership plot, which throughout the war was under the direction of a British Officer, Commander Frederick F. Feint, RNR. The plot kept exact records of the movements of all ships entering the South Atlantic, based on reports received shipping authorities such as CominCh C&R, FOCWA, CINCSA (at Cape Town), other sea frontiers, NOB Trinidad, the Naval Attaches in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, and all of the Naval Observers (later NOB Rio and NOY's in the other important shipping centers).
When a ship was ready to sail, ComSoLant would receive notifications from the port of departure and arrange a rendezvous for the ship to join a convoy. In the event of serious delay to wait for a convoy, a special escort would be arranged. Usually the special convoys were escorted by Brazilian escort vessels, ranging from cruisers like JAVARI, JUTAI, JUNDIAI, etc.
Daily reports of all merships, with courses, speeds and call letters, were sent to all warships operating in the area and after the arrival of Fleet Air Wing 16, similar reports were sent to each air station, so that ships and planes would know what merships to expect on their patrols.
Shipping control was a detailed but simple business, operated under the definitive rules established for the routing and reporting of merchant ship movements.
Events moved rapidly in January 1943. The convoys began their scheduled trips between Bahia and Trinidad. Construction was going ahead at air fields and port facilities all along the Brazilian coast, and hundreds of officers and men were arriving for duty. Plans were made for the arrival of Fleet Air Wing Sixteen.
In January President Roosevelt visited Brazil twice, enroute to Casablanca and again on his return from the conference there. Admiral Ingram talked to the President at Belem during the first visit, and received instructions to invite President Vargas to meet President Roosevelt at Natal on his return. The Admiral went to Rio and accompanied Vargas to Natal, where Roosevelt arrived 28 January. Soon after, Admiral E. J. King visited ComSoLant Headquarters at Recife and inspected the installations.
In February 1943 the Headquarters Building, housing both ComSoLant's staff and attached personnel and the Naval Observer's Office was completed and fully occupied.
Fleet Air Wing Sixteen was commissioned 16 February in the United States, and prepared to arrive in the South Atlantic in April. On 23 February a survey board was appointed to select South Atlantic bases for airships. The board toured the area in March, reported its findings on April 9, and action was taken during May and June, with the result that Airship Wing Four was commissioned in Recife in August.
On 10 March 1943, planes from the USS SANTEE sighted the blockade runner KOTA NOPAN. A task group composed of the SAVANNAH and EBERLE intercepted her, and the EBERLE sent a party aboard. Eight of the boarding party were lost when a demolition charge exploded after they were on the German ship, and a ninth died later of wounds. But the heroic survivors procured enough papers to prove the identity of the ship.
Admiral Ingram, in early March, went to Montevideo in the MEMPHIS for the inauguration of the President of Uruguay, a good-will trip that helped to cement relations and insure the cooperation of Uruguay.
March 1943 to November 1944
When Task Force 23 became the Fourth Fleet on 15 March 1943, the surface units included five cruisers, eight destroyers, twenty-one small escort ships and several auxiliaries like the Oiler PATOKA, Seaplane Tender HUMBOLDT, Minesweepers FLICKER and LINNET, Supply Ship MELVILLE and assorted yard craft. The Escort Carrier SANTEE was still at Recife, but had been detached and sailed for the United States 17 March. Air units consisted of the seaplanes based at Natal, which were covering convoys and conducting anti-submarine warfare by sending detachments to stations throughout the northeast part of Brazil.
The Admiral's administrative staff was completed and installed in the Headquarters Building, except the officers of the heavier-than-air and lighter-than-air wings. Shore establishments were in operation from Belem to Florianopolis, with the largest bases at Recife, Bahia, and Rio de Janeiro. Naval Observers were conducting routing and reporting duties in the various ports. Neither Naval Operating Facilities nor Naval Air facilities had been established.
The Brazilian Navy and Air Force were operating jointly with the fleet, with fifteen surface ships and an assortment of aircraft.
Although no specific definition of the duties of the Fourth Fleet was put into writing until July 1943,12 the Fleet Operations Plan directed fleet units to function in the direction of the tasks ultimately set down,
which were general and quite obvious: (1) Direct operations of own and Allied Forces placed under Fourth Fleet command in accordance with approved agreements; (2) exercise control of the South Atlantic Sub Area; (3) Cooperate with the United States of Brazil in the defense of the coastal area of Brazil; (4) operate and protect trade convoys between Trinidad and Brazilian ports; (5) Intercept and destroy enemy raiders and blockade runners; (6) use available South American ports and Trinidad as advance bases; Guantanamo Bay and San Juan as home bases.
Actually, the Commander Fourth Fleet had been following this outline of assigned duties even before the Fleet came into existence.
The Fourth Fleet operated directly under the Commander in Chief, United States Atlantic Fleet in the chain of command, and within the South Atlantic organization the administration was set up like a sea frontier in the United States.
The Chief of Staff was Captain Elgin Braine, Jr., who later was promoted to Commodore. He served as Chief of Staff until February 1945, when he was relieved by Captain (later Commodore) Elliott Bodley Nixon. Commodore Braine left Recife with orders as Commanding Officer of the Naval Training Station, Newport, and Commandant, NOB Newport.
Admiral Ingram's first Assistant Chief of Staff was Captain Charles Will, who directed Operations, although Commander J. E. Goodwin was Operations Officer for a few months until Lieutenant Commander (later Commander) Henry Siegbert, USNR, relieved him. Commander Siegbert was Operations Officer during the most active part of the war, from early 1943 through 1944. Captain Will left the Fourth Fleet in 1944 to take command
of the Light Cruiser USS FLINT, and his duties were temporarily taken over by Commander O. D. Waters. The post was vacant when Vice Admiral Munroe assumed command of the Fleet in November 1944, but Captain Llewellyn J. Johns reported as Assistant Chief of Staff soon after. Captain Johns became "Roll-up Officer" in the first area to be dismantled by the Navy after V-E Day.
Admiral Ingram had three Flag Secretaries. The first was Lieutenant Commander John E. Fitzgibbon, who served for a year after the Fleet was organized, then departed to be the Navigator of the USS Wisconsin. The second, who relieved Commander Fitzgibbon (who received his promotion shortly before his departure) was Lieutenant Commander Charles C. Dunn, formerly Executive Officer of Base Fox and NOF Recife. When Lieutenant Commander Dunn departed in 1944 to take an assignment in Washington, he was relieved by Lieutenant A. Mason Harlow, who had reported as Flag Lieutenant. After he had been promoted to Lieutenant Commander, Harlow served as Personnel Officer under Admiral Munroe. The Flag Secretary brought to Brazil by Admiral Munroe was Lieutenant Carl H. Anderson, who served for the duration.
Fleet Gunnery and War Plans Officer at the beginning was Commander (soon Captain) Adelbert F. Converse. He was relieved in 1943 by Commander Waters, to take command of a destroyer killer group in the Mediterranean. Captain Converse also took part in the D-Day invasion before he reported for duty under Cinclant, who by that time was Admiral Ingram. After a short tour with CinCLant, Captain Converse was assigned an important post
in the Bureau of Naval Personnel.
Commander Otho P. Smoot was Fleet Aviation Officer, and because the liaison between Navy and Brazilian air forces was important, Colonel F. Edgar Cheatle, USA, and First Lieutenant Fausto Ruggiero, FAB, worked directly with the Aviation Officer. When Commander Smoot left in 1943 to become Commanding Officer of Sanford Field, Florida, the successive Commanders of Fleet Air Wing Sixteen were assigned additional duty as Fleet Aviation Officers. They were Captain Rossmore D. Lyon, Captain Frank Byron Schaede, and, briefly in 1945, Captain Thomas P. Wilson. Under the direction of CFAW16, various lieutenants occupied the Aviation Office and did the paperwork.
Captain Philip R. Kinney was the Fleet Communications Officer who set up the efficient system of Naval communications in the South Atlantic. He left the command in early 1944, and Lieutenant Commander Julius A. Loyall became Communications Officer for the rest of the South Atlantic Force's stay in Brazil.
Captain William N. Thorton was Fleet Material Officer during the time DesRep 12 was being built at Recife and DesRep 13 at Bahia, while the USS Melville, in Recife harbor, did machine-shop work for the ships of the Fleet. When Captain Thorton departed, a new department, Radio Material was combined with Material under the direction of Commander Peter J. Neimo.
Lieutenant Commander Wesley H. Randig was the Fleet Civil Engineer who directed the construction of air stations and naval stations throughout Brazil. He was promoted to Commander, and when he left in July 1944 Lieutenant Commander Robert B. Morris, who had been on duty in the FCE Office since the beginning, became Fleet Civil Engineer.
Captain John S. Harper was "Commanding Officer Radio Stations South America", which meant the command of supplementary direction-finder stations not under the control of the Fourth Fleet.
The first Intelligence Officer and Chief Censor was Lieutenant Commander (later Commander) Howard E. Moore, who was relieved in 1945 by Lieutenant Robert F. Beebe.
In March 1943, when the Fleet was established, the only Welfare and Recreation Officer was Lieutenant Paul S. Cleland, who was assigned to Base Fox. After the base came under the administrative control of Commander Fourth Fleet as NOF Recife, Lieutenant Cleland was made Fleet Welfare Officer. He was relieved in July 1943 by Lieutenant Commander Charles A. Paul, who procured the first large shipments of athletic gear for the Fleet. Before he arrived, almost all equipment, from pool tables and pianos to baseball bats and phonograph records, was furnished by the American Emergency Committee of Brazil, with headquarters in Rio and organizations of American civilians in Sao Paulo and Recife. Even after the Welfare Officer had requisitioned equipment from the United States, shipments were slow, some items were not available, and the American Committee continued to give generously. In all the Committee spent a sum of nearly $100,000 and won a letter of thanks from Secretary of the Navy Forrestal. At the request of Lieutenant Commander Paul, the Committee even gave substantial sums of money for the publication of South Atlantic News, the Fleet weekly newspaper edited by Lieutenant William S. Ricker. After the Air Wing arrived, another Welfare Officer reported for duty with that organization, and local Welfare Officers were
stationed at all Naval Air Facilities. Lieutenant Commander Alfred M. McCoy was the Wing Welfare Officer. In the middle of 1944 he took over the Fleet office, relieving Lieutenant Commander Paul, and thenceforth the two jobs were combined. In early 1945 Lieutenant Commander Gordon Ridings relieved Lieutenant Commander McCoy.
The first Fleet Supply Officer was Lieutenant (later Lieutenant Commander) Randolph Meade, Jr. The work increased in importance, and toward the end of 1943 Captain John M. Speissegger became Supply Officer. He was relieved early in 1945 by Captain Charles B. Leavitt.
Commander Harold E. Clark of the USS Melville was the first Fleet Medical Officer. He left with his ship in September 1943. The Fleet then had several doctors with the title of Venereal Disease Control Officer, for the incidence of venereal disease in the area was high. Lieutenant John F. Shronts was the first, and Lieutenant Commander B. L. Toothaker was the last. When Admiral Munroe's Staff arrived in late 1944, Commander Martin A. Quirk became Fleet Medical Officer.
Like the Medical Officer, the first Fleet Chaplain was an officer of the Melville. He was Lieutenant Commander Charles W. Nelson, an Episcopalian. After he left with his ship in September 1943, no Chaplain was specifically designated Fleet Chaplain for a time, but Lieutenant (later Lieutenant Commander) Thimas Joseph Conroy, a Catholic, performed the duties of the office. He was NOF Recife Chaplain then, and later was designated Fleet Chaplain.
Admiral Ingram's son, Lieutenant (later Lieutenant Commander) William T. Ingram, was the first Flag Lieutenant. Lieutenant P. Brown
served briefly in the job between the departure of Lieutenant Commander Ingram and the arrival of Admiral Munroe's Flag Lieutenant, Lieutenant William W. Gibbs.
Captain W. G. Roper, USN (Ret.), formerly the Naval Observer in Rio Grande do Sul, was on the original Fourth Fleet Staff, assigned "special duties". He helped to set up naval stations on Fernando de Moronha and other places. When the Navy acquired the use of the State of Pernambuco's new hospital building in Tejipio, near Recife, Captain Roper became Commanding Officer. The Tejipio establishment was a Receiving Ship and Recreation Center until it was returned to the State on 1 January 1945.
During the South Atlantic campaign the Fourth Fleet had several other departments. An insurance officer was assigned at one time, and War Bond Officers were on duty. By a tragic coincidence, the first two War Bond Officers assigned to the Fleet were killed in airplane crashes. Lieutenant Commander Harold E. Gilmore died 19 November 1943 in a NATS crash near Rio, and Lieutenant John W. Shoyer , who replaced him, was killed 10 May 1944 near Natal. Lieutenant Commander Eugene C. Lachman, from the Bond Issuing Office at San Juan, who was traveling with Lieutenant Commander Gilmore, also was killed. Another Bond Officer, Lieutenant (jg) James A. Thompson, was with Lieutenant Shoyer and lost his life.13
There was no Fleet Training Officer when the Fleet was established, although one Sangamo Attack Teacher was delivered by the Melville in early 1943 and immediately put to use to train both American and Brazilian escort crews in anti-submarine sound detection and attack procedure. The ship of
the Fleet, under direction of the Commander Destroyer Squadron Nine, also carried out as much practice as possible while at sea. However, in the beginning and until the main U-boat threat was beaten in July 1943, training was a secondary matter and there was no unified or comprehensive program in the South Atlantic. Individual ships and task groups carried out exercises as practicable, and there was no training center with any real equipment for instruction ashore.
In August 1943 the Fleet was approaching its maximum strength, yet the anti-submarine campaign of July had practically driven the enemy from area. There was opportunity to make training a primary activity of the Fleet, and training equipment was arriving in the area. Lieutenant Commander Marvin R. Robbins was appointed Fleet Training Officer on ComSoLant's Staff, to coordinate all training activities and maintain complete information on training by surface ships, shore-based personnel and aircraft squadrons.
ASW training was the first consideration, and plans were expedited for the use of Brazilian submarines in practice at sea, and for additional attack teachers. The TUPI, the first [unreadable] submarine, arrived at Recife in convoy from Rio on 27 August 1943. Frequent exercises with the submarine were scheduled for American and Brazilian surface ships and planes. During the next two years the [unreadable] submarine (four subs were utilized: TUPI, HUMAITA, TAMOIO and TIMBIRA) worked regularly with ships in port at Recife. In May 1944, a submarine sanctuary was established off Rio de Janeiro, and similar exercises were carried out there.
Facilities for study in classrooms ashore were extended and improved. At Recife, the BOQ of Camp Ingram was remodeled into a training school. It offered training patterned after the Boston and Key West Sound Schools, and ultimately included many advanced training aids, as outlined in ComFlt4 Confidential Letter 4-43 of 15 September 1943,14 and the Fleet Training Officer's report of activities.
Early in 1944, while the Cruisers of the Fleet were busily sinking blockade runners in mid-ocean, the training officer foresaw a future need of the ships for shore bombardment appeared fifteenth on the priority list for training activities, but steps were taken to establish a bombardment area. The Brazilian Army cooperated by designating a deserted area south of Maceio for the purpose, and American Navy men prepared the site, clearing the jungle and fixing target markers. By the time shore bombardment practice had been boosted to third place in training directives, the Maceio target area was ready and Fourth Fleet cruisers had begun practice. A few months later, when the cruisers successfully participated in the invasion of Southern France (under another command), their officers stated that the bombardment of the Brazilian coastal target had been invaluable preparation for their mission on the active front.
Recife was the training center for two years, but facilities were available at other Brazilian ports. At one time or another, nearly one hundred American and Brazilian ships received elementary and refresher training of all types, possibly a greater variety of training activities in one spot than anywhere else in the world. The activities included the
training of Brazilian officers and men to take over the eight DE's transferred to the Brazilian Navy, as well as an extensive training program for Brazilian aviators.
Because of its close proximity, almost indently, with the Fourth Fleet Headquarters, the Naval Operating Base, later NOF, Recife, always was important in the administration of the Headquarters. Captain William A. Hodgman was the Naval Observer when the Fleet gained its title in March 1943, and he was the Commanding Officer and Commandant of the Recife establishment until relieved by Captain J. G. Huntoon early in 1945. The NOF was in charge of all personnel ashore in matters of discipline, managed the Headquarters Building, took care of docking and fueling of ships and operated Camp Ingram, Knox Hospital and the various other shore installations.
After Task Force 23 became the Fourth Fleet in March 1943, reorganization of the forces was effected. The important operational forces, as set forth in Operations Plan 1-43 (put into effect after FAW16 reported in April), were: Task Force Forty-One, the ocean patrol force, commanded by Rear Admiral Rand. ComCruDiv 2; Task Force Forty-Two, the escort force, under Commander Horace C. Robison, ComDesRon 9, who was ably assisted by Lieutenant Commander (later Commander) R. H. Blair; Task Force Forty-Four, the operational command for aircraft, both HTA and LTA, and aircraft tenders, commanded by Captain R. D. Lyon, CFAW16; and Task Force Forty-Six, the Brazilian Naval force of the Northeast, commanded by Rear Admiral Soares Dutra, BN. The Op-Plan also listed TF 43, U. S. Army Forces South Atlantic
(aircraft and rescue boats only); TF 45, Brazilian Naval Forces of the South under Rear Admiral Goulart; TF 47, miscellaneous force including Flagships and auxiliaries; TF 48, shore-based including NOF's and NAF's; and TF 49, Brazilian Air Forces. All of these forces functioned, but none of them were ever addressed by their numerical designators or known by them.
In a letter addressed to the Fourth Fleet on 3 April,15 the Commander Fourth Fleet set forth the principles of anti-submarine warfare that had been stated by the Joint Chief of Staff at a conference a short time earlier. The strongest points were that the war against U-Boats must have top priority in the United Nations war effort; that it must be defensive warfare, protecting shipping rather than searching the area for submarines; the importance of air coverage for convoys, and the importance of training and material readiness. These principles were basic policy in the Fourth Fleet's successful war against submarines in 1943.
Fleet Air Wing Sixteen arrived for duty in April, and on 13 April set up headquarters at Panamirin Field, Natal. There were three squadrons of seaplanes in the area at the time: VP-83, Catalinas, at Natal; VP-94, Catalinas, Natal; and VP-74, Mariners, at Aratu. All had been under the administrative command of FAW 11 at San Juan, and their operational command of the Fourth Fleet. When the Commander Fleet Air Wing 16 arrived, administrative and operational control was transferred to the Wing. At the beginning, the Wing had administrative control of the new Naval Air Facilities, and carried those functions
until the NAF system was revised in August 1943.
The function of the Wing [was] to control all air operations and training of Navy squadrons and [other] aircraft assigned to the Fourth Fleet. In the course of that duty, the Wing trained Brazilian squadrons and coordinated operations so that the Brazilian fliers were working as part of the Wing.
Two days after the wing arrived, VP-83 sank a submarine in 03° 23' S, 30° 28' W. This patrol squadron had arrived in Brazil on 16 February 1943 and remained as a Catalina squadron until May. It then returned to Norfolk to exchange its PBY's for Liberators, and returned to Brazil 15 June 1943 as Bombing Squadron 107. It was the most colorful and most effective squadron in the area, and in the course of its career as VP-83 and VB-107 sank eight, probably nine, submarines and took a large part in the air-sea blockade that stopped three German runners in January 1944. VB-107 lost three planes by enemy action, one of them flown by Lieutenant Commander B. J. Prucher, squadron skipper, who was shot down by one of two U-Boats in mid-ocean when he attacked them both; one sub was forced to scuttle herself. The second plane was lost while participating in a successful attack on a submarine, and the third failed to return to her temporary base at Ascension Island after locating and holding a blockade runner for several hours; anti-aircraft fire caused damage which reduced the planes endurance, and she crashed at sea only fifty miles from home. Twelve officers and twenty ratings were lost in the three heroic episodes.
During the war, FAW16 had twelve squadrons in the area, with a peak of nine at one time. Of three Forca Aerea Brasileira squadrons operating at the end of the war, two were former Wing planes.
Details of the operations and the administrative functions of Fleet Air Wing Sixteen are fully explained, with documentation, in "History of Fleet Air Wing Sixteen" and its supplements.
In April and May, the development of the area progressed. Construction began at several new air stations, the USS PATOKA sailed from Recife on 26 April after being in port as Flagship and guard ship since 5 August 1942, and the tanker Livingstone Roe caught fire in Recife harbor.
On 7 May, because of the need for prompt supply of spare parts for escort craft, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations authorized the establishment of a Spare parts Distribution Center at Recife.
In June another important installation at Recife began to take shape, when machinery and men for DesRep 12 began to arrive.
On 1 June 1943, all Naval bases in Brazil, with the exception of NOB Rio de Janeiro, were redesignated as Naval Operating Facilities.
Operational events in June and July strongly influenced the administrative history of the Fleet. A sustained submarine blitzkrieg began at the end of June and continued through July. It was a two-way blitz, for eight, and possibly a ninth, submarines were sunk out of fifteen estimated in the Brazilian coastal area. The submarines sank fourteen merchant vessels and damaged four others. Two of the ships sunk were outside the Brazilian area, but were being escorted from Trinidad by the Fourth Fleet escort.
Because half the sinkings were south of Bahia, the southern convoy terminus, it became necessary to extend the convoy system to Rio, and the Brazilian Naval Command at Rio organized a convoy system south from there to Florianopolis. The longer convoy run called for more ships. CinCLant on 1 September 1943, in endorsing the Fourth Fleet's report on anti-submarine operations during July, wrote to CominCh" "The surface escorts available to the Commander Fourth Fleet are quite inadequate. Destroyer Division Fifty-Seven is being ordered to the South Atlantic early in September to augment present forces."16
DesDiv 57, composed of the USS WHIPPLE, ALDEN, JOHN D. EDWARDS AND JOHN D. FORD, four stacker veterans of the World War and the earlier battles of the Pacific war, duly reported. They strengthened the escort groups of the JT and TJ convoys, although they remained in the area only until the end of 1943, when the first destroyer escorts assigned to the Fourth Fleet began to arrive. Assignment of the four destroyers, however, began the build-up of the Fleet to its peak, which was reached in early 1944, when twelve DE's, eight PCE's and six AM's helped to make the total number of ships available greater than ever before, although all the destroyers of DesRon 9 were detached to prepare for the invasion of Europe and the cruisers similarly were absent on temporary duty elsewhere.
One disaster during the July submarine warfare caused some complications, but the difficulties were overcome. On 31 July, the SS BAGE, largest passenger-cargo vessel of the Brazilian merchant marine was torpedoed and sunk north of Bahia a short time after she was ordered to leave a convoy because she was smoking excessively. The Brazilian escort commander followed escort of convoy instructions in the interest of safeguarding the other ships in the convoy. The BAGE was barely out of sight of the convoy, making for the inshore straggler's route, when she was sunk. The Brazilian Navy Chief of Staff immediately sent word to ComSoLant, through Admiral Dutra, that "does not agree with the practice now used." Because most Brazilian ships were coal burners and often smoked considerably while at sea, arrangements were made for special escorts of important coal-burning ships, using escort ships of the Brazilian Navy.
In august 1943, just too late to take part in the submarine battles, Fleet Airship Wing Four was commissioned at Recife, with Captain W. Zimmerman as Commanding Officer. The first blimp did not arrive in Brazil until September, so it was not such a near miss as that.
Submarine activity practically died out in the South Atlantic area in August, and the Fleet turned to more and more intensive training, as already described above.
The most important administrative event in the summer of 1943 was the revision of the system of Naval Air Facilities. The revision
took place in August and details were promulgated by a directive from the Commander Fourth Fleet to CFAW16 and CFAW4 dated 30 August.17
The letter directed the establishment of NAF's under the administration of the Commander Fourth Fleet, with the purpose of providing an effective and responsible agency at each station from which to operate a detachment of aircraft, either HTA or LTA. In addition to the normal administration and organization of the Facility, the letter stated, each NAF would be responsible for maintenance, communications, medical services, supply and other general duties.
By this time the headquarters of Fleet Air Wing Sixteen had been transferred from Natal to the Fourth Fleet Headquarters Building in Recife. The move was made on 12 July 1943, and when the Airship Wing moved into the same building in August, all administrative officers of the U. S. Naval forces were in one location. The Edificio Bancarios was not big enough, of course, and entrances were cut through the party walls into the next-door Sul-a-Cap building. The seventh "deck" of the Fleet Headquarters Building joined up with the fifth floor of the Sul-a-Cap, where the ground floor was called "Terra," the mezzanine corresponded to the second deck of the Navy building, and the first floor corresponded to the third deck.
Because previously it had been necessary to pass all relevant operational radio traffic to ComFairWing16 at Natal, considerable traffic was saved by the move, although the load on Recife radio increased because all communications to squadrons of the Wing had to be sent from Recife.
September was a routine month administratively, but operations found slight renewed submarine activity. A plane of VP-74 attacked a surfaced U-Boat which replied with AA fire, and two of the plane's crew won the Purple Heart. The submarine, close inshore at 12° 30' S, 35° 30' W, was listed as possibly damaged.
USBATU (United States-Brazilian Aviation Training Unit) to instruct Brazilian pilots in Ventura flying - was established at Natal in 1943, and training began 4 October. This training job, which resulted in the stationing of the First Brazilian Air Group at Ibura in March 1944, was conducted by the Fleet Air Wing. Several months after the squadron went into operation at Ibura, an agreement was made with Commander Second Air Zone putting the Brazilian PV's under the direct operational control of CTF 44, the Wing's operational command.
In October the Fleet Air Wing was at its maximum strength, with nine squadrons operating along the coast of Brazil from Belem as far south as Florianopolis, although Florianopolis could be used only in emergencies, with an aircraft tender on the spot.
Secretary of the Navy Knox visited Brazil again in October 1943. He arrived at Recife on 4 October, on his trip home from England, Africa and Italy, where he watched the Salerno operations from a warship.
The blimps were arriving in the area. The first K-type airship to cross the Equator landed in Fortaleza in September, and others followed until a squadron of four ships were operational all along the north coast of Brazil. Later there were two squadrons in Fleet Airship Wing Four, and although they never saw a submarine, they carried hundreds of hours of routine patrols, bolstered the morale of the seamen who liked to see the blimps hovering near their convoys, performed many expert rescue missions to save fliers forced down in the jungle and to aid emergency medical cases on ships at sea. Eventually, after the Wing was decommissioned, four blimps of the AirshipWing operated as the Jungle Rescue Group of the Army-Navy Air-Sea Rescue Plan, which began in June 1945, when the Army was returning thousands of men by air from Europe via Natal.
On 4 November, ComSoLant Headquarters was constituted as the only merchant ship reporting center on the east coast of South America. Montevideo and Rio, previously also reporting centers, were discontinued, and like other ports simply forwarded their local shipping information to Recife, and the merships section of Operations forwarded the information be Merco messages to those needing to know.
The submarines had almost deserted the coast of Brazil in November, but several were known to be in transit between the North Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. Therefore Liberators of VB-107 were based at Ascension, and during the month they participated in two successful attacks. On 5 November the Navy B-24's plus Army B-25's, pressed home a five and a half hour battle with a U-Boat in 10° 09'S, 18° 00'W. The sub blew up on the tenth attack. On Thanksgiving Day of the same month, two VB-107 planes on patrol 550 miles east of Ascension spotted a surfaced submarine very close to the estimated position and sank it on the first attack.
In December, the Fourth Fleet's biggest single operation went into effect - a complete barrier of the South Atlantic between Natal and Ascension Island to intercept blockade runners expected to attempt to traverse the area. The plan required careful strategy and involved close collaboration with British forces under FOCWA, whose ships were to cover areas farther north. Task groups of cruisers and destroyers were deployed to cover the sea, and planes of VB-107 were shuttled back and forth between Natal and Ascension to seal the spaces between surface ships. Four German ships were believed to be in passage, and the first one was sighted by a plane on 8 December. It gave a call sign belonging to the British ship Prose, which was not in the area at the time. A confusion, however, resulted in the escape of the ship, which was almost surely identified as the German runner ORSONO.
When Admiral King arrived in Recife on 10 December, the Barrier Plan did not have much to show for its effectiveness. But during the next month, after CominCh returned to Washington, successful operations made it possible to report better results to him.
Ships and planes operating the barrier reported ships sighted, with description or proved identity. In the course of the barrier they sighted every ship that passed through the area, including the ORSONO. On 1 January 1944, a Liberator of VB-107 sighted a suspicious ship, which changed course, opened up with AA fire, and fled. It carried a nameplate of a British ship, but was later identified as the German WESERLAND. After a thirty-four hour chase, the USS SOMERS sank the ship. During the next two days, the task group composed of the OMAHA and JOUETT intercepted the runners RIO GRANDE and BURGENLAND after sighting by aircraft. It was the Fourth Fleet's much publicized "triple play," fully described in a mimeographed report in Appendix I-E.
The Destroyer SOMERS, which won all the glory for sinking the WESERLAND, had sailed from Recife on 30 December with the MEMPHIS as part of TG 41.5. However, soon after leaving port, the MEMPHIS was ordered to leave the barrier patrol and sail to Bahia. This order was in accordance with orders from Washington directing that a ship be available immediately to take Admiral Ingram to Montevideo on a special mission. Though the trip was postponed until later in the month, the MEMPHIS was out of the patrol area when the WESERLAND
was located, and the SOMERS was the only surface ship concerned in the action.
By the time the Montevideo cruise was made, the SOMERS had returned to port with survivors from the blockade runner, and she accompanied the MEMPHIS to Uruguay. They arrived on 15 January, at a time when there was political unrest in Buenos Aires, across the Plate Estuary. Argentina then was considered pro-Nazi, and continued to be unhelpful to the United Nations until shortly before V-E Day, when she declared war on Germany and Japan to win a seat at the San Francisco Conference.
American newspapers and magazines credited the Admiral's visit with frightening the Argentine's into showing a calmer front. The Admiral made a speech in Montevideo, which was reportedly "addressed to the people across the river," and Time Magazine spoke of the Admiral's "fleet" which visited Montevideo, composed of the MEMPHIS, SOMERS, and the Destroyer Escort CHRISTOPHER. The DE simply happened to be in Montevideo by coincidence, sent there to substitute for a Brazilian PC-boat is escorting the British cable ship CAMBRIA.
Another trip to Montevideo in March, with the Admiral traveling in the MEMPHIS escorted by the WINSLOW, was called off the day the ships were due, and they put in at Rio Grande do Sul.
In January 1944, the new escort ships of the Fourth Fleet were on duty or due to report. Destroyer Division 57 had been relieved by the first arrivals of twelve DE's, and the old PG's and PY's also had been relieved. Destroyer Escorts reporting were CANNON, CHRISTOPHER, ALGER, MARTS, PENNEWILL, MICKA, REYBOLD, HERZOG, McANN, TRUMPTER, STRAUB and GUSTAFSON. Eight of the twelve were transferred to the Brazilian Navy, and the other four returned to the United States late in 1944. The PC's for the Fleet were reporting one at a time, and finally eight were on duty. Six AM's also began to report in January. They were JUBILANT, KNAVE, LANCE, LOGIC, LUCID, and MAGNET. These escort vessels worked in the area until November 1944, when all except the ships assigned to Brazil were ordered back to the United States to be readied for duty in the Pacific.
In February 1944, the heavy forces of the Fleet were reduced until only two cruisers and two destroyers remained, and before long the destroyers were also ordered detached. On 9 February, the cruisers MILWAUKEE, CINCINNATI, and MARBLEHEAD were ordered to New York for duty to be assigned by CominCh. The CINCINNATI already was in New York for routine availability, and the other two ships were sailed immediately. The MILWAUKEE never returned, but the other two were sent back to the South Atlantic briefly before the end of the war. The MEMPHIS was on duty as Flagship during Admiral Ingram's tour, but shortly after the change of command in November 1944 it
was ordered to the Mediterranean for detached duty with the eighth Fleet. The OMAHA, which became Admiral Munroe's Flagship, was the only cruiser on duty in the South Atlantic during the entire campaign.
Although CVE groups had been operating in the North Atlantic and as far south as the Cape Verde Islands for some time, no escort carrier had been under Fourth Fleet control since the departure of the SANTEE in early 1943. In March 1944, CVE's returned. The MISSION BAY and WAKE ISLAND, not assigned to the South Atlantic, were called at Recife on 1 March to refuel and provision. They operated in a section just north of the South Atlantic Sub Area. Then the CVE SOLOMONS was assigned to the Fleet and reported at Recife on 2 April. With four DE's at a time as escorts, the SOLOMONS made extensive patrols of the South Atlantic, following the sub plot as far as 26°S 05°W, the approximate position of the one sure kill recorded by the carrier in its tedious patrols.
The USS TRIPOLI relieved the SOLOMONS on 14 August 1944, and operated in the area until 14 November. She also made long patrols, one so far to the south that refueling at Cape Town was necessary. For a month beginning in the middle of October 1944, the CVE MISSION BAY also searched for submarines in the South Atlantic, under Fourth Fleet orders although she was designated as TG 22.1 and not assigned to the Fleet. In September 1944, the CVE SHAMROCK BAY was designated to relieve the TRIPOLI, but her orders were canceled and the departure of the TRIPOLI in November ended South Atlantic offensive patrols by
carriers. Thereafter the few submarines plotted in the area, all cargo U-Boats traveling far from the coast, were hunted by long range aircraft and groups of U.S. and Brazilian DE's. The last submarine to be sunk went down on 29 September 1944 after an attack by VB-107 planes.
A major project in 1944 was the convoying of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force to Europe. The troops were carried in the USS General W. H. Mann and the General M. C. Meigs. The first movement was scheduled for July, and in the interest of Brazilian relations the Commander Fourth Fleet made all arrangements Top Secret and provided heavy escorts for the Transport Mann, which made the first trip. By dispatch 201238 of June 1944, ComFlt4 voiced his plans to CominCh:
"Consider safe arrival of Brazilian troops to be transported from Rio to Oran aboard General W. H. Mann most important to South American-U.S. relations. Intend to escort from Rio to point off Recife with three Brazilian destroyers. My task group Omaha and two destroyer escorts will relieve Brazilians and escort to Gibraltar. CinCMed to arrange escort from Gibraltar to Oran."
Actually the final destination of the troops was changed from Oran to Naples, but the convoying arrangements were carried out as suggested.
The three Brazilian destroyers mentioned were new ships completed in 1943 by the Brazilian Navy yard at Rio. Beginning in February 1944 they were sent one at a time to Philadelphia for arming. They were the MARCILIO DIAS, MARIZ e BARROS and GREENHALGH. The three destroyers sailed from Rio escorting the transport on 2 July 1944,
and were relieved by the Fourth Fleet ships off Recife. Continuous day and night air coverage (Class A cover) was provided by Fleet Air Wing Squadrons from Rio to a point northeast of Fernando de Noronha, the limit if endurance of the planes. Although only one submarine was estimated in the South Atlantic, and it far from the route of the convoy, the care taken in protecting the transport won favor with the Brazilians. Three similar convoys subsequently were sailed from Rio to Gibraltar, with varying escort groups. The MARBLEHEAD returned to the Fleet in time to join the escort of the second and largest troop movement, which sailed from Rio on 22 September. Both transports, MANN and MEIGS were in the convoy. The Meigs was the only transport in the last two movements, which sailed 23 November  and 8 February 1945. All movements were as carefully guarded as the first, and all trips were made without incident. In the later escort arrangements, the Brazilian destroyers went all the way to Gibraltar. Approximately 25,000 Brazilian troops thus were transported to Italy, where they did their share in the European war, along with Brazilian air squadrons already in the Italian area. In July 1943, sailing independently, the MEIGS carried home the first shipload of victorious Brazilian troops, although a few wounded men had returned earlier.
In August 1944, the first of eight U. S. Destroyer escorts were transferred to the Brazilian Government under lend-lease, and the transfers continued at Natal until early 1945, when Admiral Munroe and Commodore Nixon presented the last two, the ALGER and
MARTS, to the Brazilian Navy.
Also in August, the first steps in the Fourth Fleet's greatest administrative problem, the "roll-up," were taken. On 1 August, the Naval Operating Facility at Vitoria was closed, and its duties were taken over by the Brazilian port captain (Capimar Espiritu Santo). Within the month, NOF's at Fortaleza, Sao Luiz, Maceio and Florianopolis also were closed.
Previously, the NOF's had reported ship movements to the Commander Fourth Fleet, and had received from him instructions on the sailing of ships. The American officers trained the Brazilians in reporting procedure, and after the Brazilians took over, ship movements were reported to the Fourth Fleet through local channels. The reports were sent in through the Brazilian Admirals in Recife, who passed the information by to Fleet Headquarters, where the messages were translated, sometimes with weird results. However, the system worked very well, and saved much useless duplication, for the port captains always had reported to the Brazilian commanders anyway, although the Fleet had used only reports from American authorities along the coast.
By September 1944, the war in the South Atlantic was practically finished. Only one or two submarines attempting to pass through mid-ocean were plotted in the area at any one time, and none approached the coast more closely than the U-Boat sunk on 29 September 660 miles southeast of Ascension, by Lieutenant Krug of VB-107. Some coastal
navigation lights were permitted in Brazil, because the darkness had become more of a hazard than the submarines.
In October, certain ships were allowed to sail independently, particularly tankers of all speeds. In November, all United States escorts were withdrawn from the Fourth Fleet on short notice, some of them turning back to Trinidad from convoys halfway to Recife. Thereafter the convoy system was maintained by token escorts of one or two Brazilian ships, until 9 March 1945, when the JT-TJ system was suspended. Special escorts continued to be furnished for passenger ships and other important movements until 15 May, a week after V-E Day, when all convoys officially secured.
1 November 1944 to June 1945
In the first week of November 1944, word was received that Vice Admiral Ingram would be promoted to Commander in Chief, U. S. Atlantic Fleet, with the rank of Admiral, and that Rear Admiral Munroe would relieve him and assume the rank of Vice Admiral.
On 11 November Admiral Munroe arrived from his previous assignment as Commandant of the Third Naval District, and the change of command was expeditiously effected.
Under Admiral Munroe the history of the South Atlantic Force is chiefly concerned with the demobilization of forces, the turnover of material to the Brazilian Government, and the completion of the roll-up. The complete details of the complicated operation cannot be written until the final work is done, and the final chapter of this history will be a copy of the report prepared by the officers in charge of the program.
Admiral Munroe, known as a most capable administrator, at first continued the transfer program already in progress by turning over two destroyer escorts to Brazil and returning the Tajipio building to the State of Pernambuco, on 31 December 1944, as originally agreed.
On 9 January 1945, through the office of Admiral Spears in Washington, BRN-1239 (Brazilian Requisition Number) was assigned as the authority for the transfer of naval units to Brazil, and shortly thereafter, BRN-1240 was set up as authority for the transfer of
air and radio frequencies. Under this program, recommendations for the transfers of equipment and installations were sent to Admiral Spears, and then the Brazilian Purchasing Commission in Washington submitted a specific lend-lease requisition. By this procedure, installations at Recife including Camp Ingram, DesRep 12, the Naval Dispensary and Radio NKM were turned over to Brazil by 7 July 1945, the date set by the Admiral to wind up all affairs in Recife.
The OMAHA arrived at Recife on 5 July to take the Admiral and his staff to Rio de Janeiro to finish paperwork, and the move was on schedule until the OMAHA first was quarantined for a week because of a case of meningitis aboard, and then urgently sent on a rescue mission caused by the worst disaster to a Brazilian Navy ship since 1906.
The tragedy occurred while the Brazilian cruiser BAIA was on station in the Army-Navy Air-Sea Rescue Program for the protection of U.S. Army transport planes returning personnel from Europe and Africa. The BAIA's station was No. 13, located at the Equator and 30°W.18
There had been no necessity to communicate with the ship since her arrival on station, and the fact that she had exploded and sunk, leaving very few of the nearly 400 men aboard as survivors, was not discovered until a second Brazilian cruiser, sent to relieve her, found only a few rafts with dead and dying men. Apparently she sank after an explosion of her magazine or boilers on 4 July 1945. When the tragedy was discovered on 8 July, all available ships, including the OMAHA, were sent to the area at once, to give medical aid to
survivors already aboard ships without doctors, and to search for other men. Four U. S. Navy radiomen aboard the BAIA were missing and probably lost.
The BAIA was one of two Brazilian ships lost after the beginning of hostilities. The only Brazilian warship, and the only warship of any of the United Nations lost in the South Atlantic during the campaign, to be lost was the Corvette CAMAQUA which capsized off Recife on 21 July 1943, after she had been relieved by U. S. ships in the escort of a JT convoy.
Despite the delay at the end, the roll-up program went swiftly and on schedule through the first six months of 1945. Captain Nixon arrived in January, relieved Commodore Braine as Chief of Staff, and in early February announced that the Admiral had set up a "Roll-up Board" to handle the final affairs of the Fourth Fleet in Brazil. Captain Johns arrived in March and was put in direct charge of the roll-up program.
On 15 April 1945, the Fourth Fleet became Task Force Twenty-Seven of the Atlantic Fleet, but Admiral Munroe's title and command as Commander South Atlantic Force continued as before.
Victory in Europe on 7 May accelerated the closing of South Atlantic activities. On 29 May the South Atlantic, long inactive, officially became a non-combat area.
Meanwhile Admiral Munroe had set 7 July as his objective for the buttoning-up of all Recife affairs, and the deadline was met.
The final transfer of Recife equipment was the presentation of the Naval Radio station to the Brazilian Navy on the 7th. It was not immediately manned by the radiomen of Vice Admiral Teixeira's Naval Command of the Northeast, however, because of the OMAHA's quarantine and her emergency mission.
Just before the closing of all facilities in Recife, Admiral Ingram made his first visit to Brazil since his departure in November 1944. He arrived in Recife in his plane, "The Southern Cross," familiar to all Americans and Brazilians who had arrived with him, on 30 June. At Recife he presented the Legion of Merit to Admiral Munroe for his activities in Com3 before reporting to ComSoLant. Then Admiral Ingram proceeded to Rio on his final tour of inspection. He announced that the roll-up was proceeding excellently. At Rio, the new light cruiser, USS BREMERTON, awaited Admiral Ingram, and he embarked on it to return to the North on 7 July.
The closing of U. S. Navy installations all along the coast was practically completed in the second week of July, when Admiral Munroe finally went to Rio de Janeiro to conclude the work there. His plan was to leave the area within a few weeks, although roll-up officers would remain as long as necessary to handle final details.
During the roll-up procedure, many stations and considerable equipment were turned over to U. S. Army Forces South Atlantic, which remained in the area after the departure of the South Atlantic Force.
Table of Contents
1. For details see Annex III-A, History of NOF Recife.
2. CominCh Secret dispatch 251553 of November 1942; a copy appears in Appendix II-B, History of NOB, Rio.
3. See Annex I-A, letter of authority, list of NOF's and NAF's.
4. Annex I-A "Background of Naval Mission Functions".
5. FCE History, Annex I-J.
6. For details of Admiral Ingram's contacts with President Vargas and the Brazilian Naval, military and air force commanders, see "A history of the South Atlantic Campaign." The several working agreements made by Admiral Ingram were substantiated by Recommendation No. 11 of the Joint United States and Brazil Defense Coalition, drafted 13 November 1942 and approved 9 June 1943. (See Annex I-A)
7. The first squadron was VP-52, Catalinas, under the administrative control of Wing Three at Coco Solo.
8. The advice was too late, for the Marines arrived in Brazil on 19 December 1941. The 17th Provisional Company stopped at Belem, the 18th was stationed at Natal, and the 19th went to Recife. They were the first Marines sent overseas in World War II. For details see "The South Atlantic Campaign," and History of NOF Recife, Annex III-A.
9. Campaign Plan 1-42, Appendix I-B.
10. Annex I-A Recommendations of Joint U. S. - Brazil Defense Commissions.
11. See History of N. O. F. Recife, Appendix III-A.
12. See Appendix I-A: CominCh Secret serial 001315 of 1 July 1943 and CinCLant Secret serial 00858 of 23 July 1943.
13. See list of Fourth Fleet casualties, Appendix I-C.
14. See Appendix I-Item for Training information, specimens of training notices, etc.
15. ComFlt4 Secret Serial 0049 of 3 April 1943, Appendix I-A.
16. Appendix I-[?]: ComFlt4 Secret Serial 00193 (the report), and CinCLant serial 00965 (the endorsement).
17. ComFlt4 serial 2145 of 30 August 1943, Appendix I-A.
18. See Air-Sea Rescue Op-Plan, Appendix I-B.