Arquivo da tag: BRAZIL

BRAZILIAN PARTICIPATION IN WORLD WAR TWO – NATAL – MOST IMPORTANT AIR FORCE BASE IN THE BRAZIL

1944 - A Brazilian soldier artillery in Italy
1944 – A Brazilian soldier artillery in Italy

Brazil’s participation in World War II was the culmination of a foreign policy emphasis that began in 1902. That year, Foreign Minister Rio Branco set Brazil on a course of close relations with the United States. He believed that ties with the United States, a growing world power, would promote Brazil’s aims at leadership in the Latin American region and provide international prestige.

Geopolitical Situation

After the 1930 revolution and 1937 coup that brought Getúlio Dornelles Vargas to power, Brazil’s political priorities were industrialization and the build up of military power. The country balanced its relationship with the United States through closer ties with the Axis powers of Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan.

Getúlio Vargas - www.euamoipatinga.com.br
Getúlio Vargas – http://www.euamoipatinga.com.br

Germany became the biggest buyer of Brazil’s cotton and its main supplier of weapons. Brazil’s leading politicians were divided between “Pro-USA” and “Pro-Axis” factions. Concern that the Latin American region could shift away from the United States politically prompted the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to launch its “Good Neighbor” policy of cultural and economic assistance in place of an earlier policy of direct intervention in Latin American affairs.

Military Bases

Brazil and the United States adopted neutral positions in September 1939 on the outbreak of war in Europe. However, the United States became concerned about a potential German attack on the Western Hemisphere should Britain fall, figuring the most likely route for this to be from North Africa to northeastern Brazil. In 1941, Brazil agreed to the construction and enlargement of American air bases in northern and northeastern Brazil.

Parnamirim Field in Natal, Northeastern Brazil, the most important air base in the southern hemisphere
Parnamirim Field in Natal, Northeastern Brazil, the most important air base in the southern hemisphere

When the United States entered the war in 1941, the U.S. Navy was allowed to use Brazilian ports in its anti-submarine campaign. The air bases became an essential part of the Allied air transport system, a stopover for planes heading to Africa, the Mediterranean and points beyond.

Natal, the largest and most important air base in Brazil

The World War II gave an impulse to the growth of Natal and surroundings.

Seaplane at Potengi River. For the US government to Natal region is particularly important for its strategic position in the South Atlantic
Seaplane at Potengi River. For the US government to Natal region is particularly important for its strategic position in the South Atlantic

It is estimated that, before the War, Natal had 40,000 inhabitants; after the war, not only the population doubled to nearly 80,000 inhabitants, but the city also had improvements in the infrastructure and one airport (the airport of Parnamirim).

The Americans only entered the War on December 7th 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour; however, since the eclosion of the conflict, in 1939, the Americans were watching with preoccupation the expansion of the Axis powers.

American strategists were concerned with an eventual movement from the Axis towards the American continent; since 1940, Italians and Germans were occupying positions in North Africa; the next step could be the invasion of South America.

Ceremony in Parnamirim Field - https://catracalivre.com.br
Ceremony in Parnamirim Field – https://catracalivre.com.br

In 1939, the Major Delos C. Emmons, commander of the US Air Force, overflew the coast of Brazilian Northeast, and concluded that Natal was the most strategic point, both for a German invasion and for the Allies to use as a supporting site to the operations in Africa.

The US were not at war yet, and, to not create diplomatic tensions, decided to create a Program for Development of Airfields; to avoid the direct envolvement of the US government, the airline company PanAm was the co-signer of the agreement.

The first airplane to land in Parnamirim was the “Numgesser-et-Coli”, a monomotor Breguet-19, piloted by Dieu Coster et Le Brix, on October 14th 1927; before then, only aquaplanes arrived in Natal, on the waters of the Potengi River. According to Clyde Smith Junior, this was itself a Historic flight, because it was the first inter-Atlantic flight in the East-West direction. There was not an airport, however; instead, there was little more than the runway.

Hangar nose in Parnamirim Field
Hangar nose in Parnamirim Field

With fundings of the US government, the “Parnamirim Field” was constructed. It became the largest US basis outside American territory. Not only the airport, but also the infrastructure (roads, housing, etc) was built from ground.

Thousands of Brazilians migrated to Natal, looking for work. Also, Brazilian soldiers were sent to the Army and Navy bases. These movements explain the growth in population during the period.

After US entered the war, there was no more need for diplomatic actings. On December 11th 1941, a US Navy fleet composed by 9 aircrafts PB4 Catalina and one Clemson arrived in Natal; two weeks later, 50 marines arrived, to patrol the basis.

A maritime patrol aircraft PV-1 take off from Parnamirim Base
A maritime patrol aircraft PV-1 take off from Parnamirim Base

It is estimated that, during the War, between 3,000 and 5,000 Americans were located in Parnamirim. Also, tens of thousands of Americans and British passed by Natal, in transit. Parnamirim was the busiest airport in the world; flights were taking off and landing every three minutes.

Raw Materials and War Declaration

Brazil supplied iron ore, manganese, bauxite, tungsten, industrial diamonds and especially rubber to the United States during World War II. The Japanese occupation of Southeast Asia had halted 90 percent of world rubber supplies. Brazil received $100 million in arms and military equipment under the Lend-Lease Program, through which the United States supplied its allies.

Natal newspaper announcing the sinking of a Brazilian boat in March 1942
Natal newspaper announcing the sinking of a Brazilian boat in March 1942

Brazil’s close cooperation attracted attacks on its merchant shipping by Axis submarines. Italian and German submarines sank a total of 36 Brazilian merchant ships by August 1942 when Brazil declared war on the Axis powers.

Expeditionary Force

After an initial reluctance to commit troops to the war effort, Brazilian politicians decided that their country’s direct participation would achieve it a special status after the war. The Brazilian Expeditionary Force started as a political project to make Brazil a “special ally” of the United States.

Brazilian Expeditionary Force shipping in Rio de Janeiro. Destiny - The Italian front.
Brazilian Expeditionary Force shipping in Rio de Janeiro. Destiny – The Italian front.

Britain opposed the involvement of Brazilian troops partly because of perceived pro-Axis sympathies of some Brazilian politicians, and partly because of troops of too many nationalities in the Mediterranean Theater. Doubts that the BEF would be deployed in combat at all led to its nickname “the Smoking Cobras.” This referred to a Brazilian saying, equivalent to “pigs might fly,” stating that it would be more likely for a snake to smoke than for the BEF to be deployed. As a result, the BEF insignia was a coiled cobra with head upright and smoking a pipe.

poster-feb-dia-da-vitoria-segunda-guerra-mundial-9364-MLB20015498896_122013-Oindex_clip_image002

Deployment in Europe

The U.S. government considered deploying the BEF in southern Brazil on the Argentine frontier following coups in Argentina in 1943 and 1944, and a 1943 Argentina-inspired coup in Bolivia. However, the Americans conceded to BEF deployment in Italy because of Brazilian wartime cooperation. A total of 25,335 Brazilian troops came under the command of the U.S. Fifth Army. They fought in battles at Castelnuovo, Monte Castello and Montese in the Apennines south of Bologna. Brazilian military and political leaders rejected Allied offers to remain as an occupying force in postwar Europe. In late 1945, the FEB returned home and was disbanded. 

By Maria Kielmas, Demand Media and http://www.natal-brazil.com/

http://classroom.synonym.com/brazilian-involvement-wwii-12185.html

http://www.natal-brazil.com/basics/natal-world-war.html

See this blog – 

https://tokdehistoria.com.br/2011/07/04/1944-the-tragedy-of-the-b-24/

https://tokdehistoria.com.br/2011/05/25/memories-of-world-war-ii-in-natal-brazil/

https://tokdehistoria.com.br/2012/11/21/4369/

Anúncios

1944 – THE TRAGEDY OF THE B-24 IN FORTALEZA, BRAZIL

EVENTS OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR IN NORTHEASTERN BRAZIL 

No one disputes the importance of Natal in the context of Brazil’s participation in World War II. The existence of an intense traffic of transport planes and bombers, between the air bases on the island of Ascension, Dakar and Accra, was a contributing factor in the Allied victory in this conflict. In addition to support point for air, do not forget that Natal aircraft patrolling the Brazilian coast were destroyed and also some submarines.

But Natal was not just the only Brazilian city that participated in this effort by the Allied victory. Even to a limited extent, other cities also had air bases and helped Brazil in its war effort. Fortaleza, capital of Ceará state, was one of them.

The city of Fortaleza in 1937

The First Air Bases and the Americans arrived

In this city the first airfield was the “Alto da Balança”, which became a point of support of the Brazilian National Air Mail planes.

The site was maintained by a unit of the Brazilian Army since September 21, 1936 and also served for the Brazilian and foreign airlines. In the history of the “Alto da Balança” Field, was stopping point for various foreign aviators who carried out air flights. One of these was the famous American aviatrix Amelia Mary Earhart, that landed in Fortaleza on June 4, 1937.

The researchers Augusto Oliveira and Ivonildo Lavor, authors of “The history of aviation in Ceara”, when the Americans were deploying their bases in the Northeast of Brazil, even before the Brazilian declaration of war against Germany and Italy, they decided that Fortress on the air base site would be built on old farm called “Sítio Pécy”, which became known as “Pici Field”, and construction has started in July 1941.

When the track was still in its final construction phase, it was opened prematurely when a B-17 landed, when lost in relation to its original route. According to the two authors of “The history of aviation in Ceará,” the big four-engine plane caused some panic in Fortaleza.

Also according to Augusto Oliveira and Ivonildo Lavor, with the growth of air traffic for Natal, and the fact landing strip in “Pici Field” had completed a limited size, the command of the USAAF in the region decided to build a second landing strip at Fortaleza.

The “Pici Field” was then under the responsibility of the U.S. Navy and the new site was given the name “Adjacent Field” and this was near the “Pici Field”.

Weapons being transported to Lockheed PV-1 Ventura U. S. Navy in “Pici Field”

Inaugurated on December 10, 1943, “Adjacent Field” served a great purpose for five months until May 14, 1944, in order to vent the air traffic in Natal, the site was the starting point of large four-engine aircraft, most of them belonging to the 15th Air Force which had bases in southern Italy and moved non-stop directly to Dakar.
The American detachment that operated the base was known as 1155th Army Air Force Base AAFBU Unit – Fortaleza, which was part of the South Atlantic Division, all subordinate to ATC – Air Transport Command.

Fortaleza before the Second World War. Source – Book “Ah Fortaleza!”, Gilmar Chaves, Patricia Veloso, Peregrina Capelo, organizers. Fortaleza: Terra da Luz Editora, 2006, pg. 49

During this period the use of “Adjacent Field” was very intense. 1.778 crossings were made from this base. From May 15, 1944, this type of operation, received only passing airliners or some aircraft that had an emergency.

Taking the “Land of the Sun”

Yet despite this apparent limited use between 1942 and 1945, there was always the presence of U.S. military personnel in the city of Fortaleza. There was even a local branch of the USO.

The USO headquarters in Fortaleza, actually known as the notorious “Estoril Restaurant” in Iracema Beach. Source – Book “Ah Fortaleza!”, Gilmar Chaves, Patricia Veloso, Peregrina Capelo, organizers. Fortaleza: Terra da Luz Editora, 2006, pg. 62

Its USO headquarters in Fortaleza was a sumptuous residence on the seaside on Iracema Beach. The old Fish Beach was a place still so little used by local people, where there were few vacation homes. The residence used by the Americans, a real palace, was built in 1920 by a wealthy city dweller who first called initially “Vila Morena”.
My friends in Fortaleza have commented, that information from their grandparents and parents who lived those days of North American presence in the city, it was thought that these foreign military headquarters USO was a nice place with an inviting breeze, a great swimming place in deliciously warm water under a blazing sun. And then enjoy delicious coconut water.

The U.S. military in a moment of relaxation

Apart from exploring the nature seaside, the U.S. military took advantage of other good things of Ceará. They maintained cordial relations with the girls in town. These were traditional families, usually beautiful, elegant, educated and did not care for criticism of local society. Soon these young men were derisively dubbed the “Coca-Colas.” It is said that the name in a derogatory way, they appeared to have the privilege of drinking the famous American soft drink, which at the time, was only seen on the big screen. They probably drank Coca-Cola plant from “The Coca-Cola Company” in Natal.

This is B24H, No. 41-28750, named as “The Thunder Mug”, belonging to 789 Squadron, the 467th Bomb Group, commanded by Lieutenant Charles Kagy on the transatlantic route across South America At the bottom of the control tower “Adjacent Field”- http://moraisvinna.blogspot.com

Memoirs 

Despite this positive climate, the passage of aircraft by the Northeast of Brazil toward Africa was not without its problems.

In archives of the United States Army Air Force – USAAF, there are three unpublished reports of accidents with aircraft B-24, “Adjacent Field” which has as its point of departure or arrival.

The legendary B-24

Manufactured by Consolidated Aircraft, the legendary B-24, known as the “Liberator,” was a strategic bomber, with ten machine guns 12.7 mm Browning M2 model defense. He airplane had a total weight of 29,500 kg, could take nearly six tons of high-explosive bombs, at a maximum speed of 470 km / h, at a maximum altitude of 8,500 meters, with a range of 6,000 kilometers. The crew usually consisted of 10 militaries. This was the model airplane seen more in Fortaleza during the busiest time of the aircraft toward Africa.

Group B-24 bombers in the Pacific Island before takeoff

The Problems with the B-24

The first accident occurred in the region on January 22, 1944, when the B-24 registered with the numeral 42-100307, led by second lieutenant Henry A. Daum, around one o’clock in the afternoon amid heavy rain, crashed into a mountain 25 miles southwest of Fortaleza. All six people on board died.

Details of the briefing paper from falling B-24 No. 42-100307, ​​commanded by second lieutenant Henry A. Daum in collision with a mountain in Ceará – Source – National Archives, Washington, D. C., United States

Limited information and few details, the report of the destruction of the B-24 pilot by second lieutenant Daum shows that the accident probably occurred in the mountains between the towns of Caucaia and São Goncalo do Amarante.
The second accident occurred on the morning of February 8, 1944, when the B-24H, 41-29293 belonging to 758 Squadron, the 459th Bomb Group, commanded under the second lieutenant Daniel B. MacMillin, of Stephenville, Texas, left for Dakar, Senegal’s capital today.

Details of the report on the disappearance of the B-24H, No. 41-29293 – Source – National Archives, Washington, D. C., United States.

At that time, according to the documentation, each plane that took off from Fortaleza was obliged to send a coded message, in periods of pre-determined time, for they knew they were flying and their position. In the first three hours the message arrived, then nothing. The B-24 and his ten crewmen were lost. The documents show that for ten days were accomplished visual search tasks, but never heard what happened to this aircraft, with the lieutenant Daum and his crew.

Group B-24 over the sea. Source -Archive Life Magazine

But the best documented case was the crash of a B-24 bomber in Fortaleza.

The Tragedy of the B-24 of Lt. Brock 

At around midnight and fifty minutes on February 28, 1944, the B-24H, numeral 42-52645, commanded by second lieutenant William M. Brock Jr., took off toward Dakar, but due to problems in one of the engines, made a turn to land and fell.

Part of the report by Major Ernest E. Dryer, classified as “SECRET” – Source – National Archives, Washington, D. C., United States

The operations officer “Adjacent Field”, major Ernest E. Dryer prepared a brief report about the tragic fact.
Major was called shortly after one o’clock, where he was informed by the officer of the day on 1155th AAFBU who had a major fire southwest of the “Adjacent Field” and that a Brazilian had said that a plane had crashed.
For major Dryer this fire was too strong to be just a housing problem in any one local residence, and one of the planes to fly took off from the base site. But the fire covered a large area, the operations officer and a group of men did not even wait the return of the plane and left in car to investigate.

B-24 bombers of the 15th Air Force, attacking the refinery in Ploesti, Romania

Upon arriving at the scene of the fire, major Dryer found that it actually was an accident with a B-24 model airplane, with the number 42-52645. At the site were already members of the police and fire department of the city of Fortaleza to keep the fire under control.
The operations officer, took command and sent a messenger back to base to inform the medical officer to bring ambulances and military police. Immediately work was started to report the details of the accident. They soon found that all ten crew members had died.
Airplane parts, broken bodies and personal belongings were scattered over a distance of 1000 feet. The body of one crew member was hanging from a tree. American guards were placed to guard the wreck and waited for the medical officer of the base to take over the charge of the bodies.
Checking the number of the plane with the boot record, it was discovered that one B-24 was the last to leave the base that night and crashed three minutes after takeoff.

B-24 burning

The plane was so damaged that a check of the controls was not possible.
It was noted that the right wing had hit a tree and was broken. For this reason the path of the plane was close to the ground and had shifted about 90 degrees to the right. Then hit the ground, and was dragged in a straight line for about 1000 feet, disintegrating along the way.
Finally, the B-24 hit a tree, stopped in a ditch and exploded, throwing debris over a wide area. In the fall the aircraft destroyed an empty shack and an oil tank was thrown through the roof of another hut, but no one on the ground died.

Highlights of the testimony of the Brazilian woman about the fall of the B-24

The documentation by the main witness, the Brazilian, Laura Ramos Barreto, who lived about a mile away from the base, which today is probably in the neighborhood of Montese.
In her report delivered at the premises of the 1155th AAFBU, Laura said she always listened at night the planes taking off from “Adjacent Field” and heard that on this occasion an aircraft whose engines stopped suddenly near her residence. She was surprised, when looking at the plane she saw three explosions on the ground, followed by heavy fire.

An accident of an unusual B-24 in Italy

To Major Ernest E. Dryer, examination of the propellers showed that at least three of the engines had operational capacity, but that could not be given a conclusive opinion, due to the extent of damage.
The investigations showed that the cause of the accident was a failure in one engine, which was certainly the most destroyed immediately after takeoff. Probably the pilot retracted the flaps at a very low altitude, thus making the B-24 fly too close to the ground, hitting a tree, tearing the plane’s right wing and causing the explosion.
The bodies were buried in Fortaleza and transferred to the United States in 1947.

They were part of the following crew of the B-24H, 42-52645;

-Second Lieutenant William M. Brock Jr., pilot
-Second Lieutenant Robert D. Wear, co-pilot
-Second Lieutenant James H. Beatty, navigator
-Second Lieutenant William D. Davies, bomber
-Sergeant Kelley L. Epley, flight engineer
-Sergeant Homer E. Hill, radio operator
-Sergeant William C. Ship, gunner
-Sergeant Thomas M. Bassett, gunner
-Sergeant Leo P. Desjardins, gunner
-Sergeant Jack Z. Roby, gunner

The participation of air bases in Brazil was not only restricted to Natal, these reports show that there are certainly many stories to be told.

P.S. – I would like to thank the researcher  Ângelo Osmiro, for your support in this work.

Rostand Medeiros

DPP_0119

 

Rostand Medeiros was born in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte. He is a 45 years old writer, researcher and expert in producing biographical works. Also does researches in history of aviation, participation of Brazil in World War II and in regionalist aspects of Northeast Brazil.

He studied History at UFRN – Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte and is member of Genealogy Institute of Rio Grande do Norte – IGRN and SBEC – Brazilian Society for the Study of Cangaço.

In 2009, he was co-author of “Os Cavaleiros dos Céus – A Saga do Voo de Ferrarin e Del Prete” (in free translation, “The Knights of the Sky: The Saga of Ferrarin and Del Prete Flight”), a book that tells a story from 1928, of the first nonstop flight between Europe and Latin America. This book was supported by the Italian Embassy in Brazil, Brazilian Air Force (FAB) and Potiguar University (UNP).

In 2010, Rostand was a consultant of SEBRAE – Brazil’s Micro and Small Business Support Service, participating of the project “Território do Apodi – nas pegadas de Lampião” (in free translation, “Apodi Territory – In the footsteps of Lampião”), which deals with historical and cultural aspects of rural areas in Northeast Brazil.

In 2011, Rostand Medeiros launched the book “João Rufino – Um Visionário de Fé” (“João Rufino – A visionary of Faith”), a biography of the founder of industrial group Santa Clara / 3 Corações, a large coffee roasting company in Latin America. The book shows how a simple man, with a lot of hard work, was able to develop, in Rio Grande do Norte state, a large industry that currently has seven units and 6,000 employees in Brazil.

Also in 2011, he wrote, with other authors, a book of short stories entitled “Travessa da Alfândega” (in free translation, “Customs Cross Street”).

In 2012, Medeiros produced the following books: “Fernando Leitão de Moraes – Da Serra dos Canaviais à Cidade do Sol” (“Fernando Leitão de Moraes – From Sugarcane Mountains to Sun City”) and “Eu Não Sou Herói – A História de Emil Petr” (“I’m not a hero – The Story of Emil Petr”). This latest book is a biography of Emil Anthony Petr, a farmer who was born in Nebraska, United States. During World War II, he was an aviator in a B-24 bombing and became a prisoner of the Germans. This work shows the relationship of Emil with Brazilian people, whose with he decided to live from 1963, when he started to work for Catholic Church.

He also published articles in “Tribuna do Norte”, newspaper of the city of Natal, and in “Preá”, cultural magazine published by Rio Grande do Norte State Government.

He founded SEPARN – Society for Research and Environmental, Historical and Cultural Development of Rio Grande do Norte.

Currently, is working as a Parliamentary Assistant in Rio Grande do Norte Legislative Assembly and develops other books.

Rostand Medeiros is married, has a nine years old daughter and lives in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil.

Phones: 0051 84 9904-3153 (TIM) / 0051 84 9140-6202 (CLARO) / 0051 84 8724-9692 (Oi)

E-mail: rostandmedeiros@gmail.com

Blog: https://tokdehistoria.wordpress.com/

© 2011 Copyright Tok de História

MEMORIES OF WORLD WAR II IN NATAL, BRAZIL

A DIFFERENT DAY IN PONTA NEGRA BEACH

Although little known outside Brazil, this country was during the Second World War the main U.S. ally in Latin America.
At that time many Brazilian ships were sunk in the conflict, causing the declaration of war against Germany and Italy on August 22, 1942.
But even before this date, naval forces U.S. maintained a network of air bases in the major coastal cities of Brazil. For the U.S. bases in the cities of Belém and Natal were of vital importance to the call of the South Atlantic route, they passed thousands of aircraft to the south of Europe, Africa, Middle East, India, China, Burma and elsewhere.

American soldiers at Ponta Negra beach during World War II

From December 1941 until the end of the conflict, the city of Natal, located in the Brazilian Northeast, received a large number of American soldiers who operated the wide Parnamirim Air Base, besides their patrol squads and hunting and destruction Nazi and Fascist submarines.
The U.S. military authorities worked together with the authorities and the Brazilian military that even with serious deficiencies in equipment and training, did their best to protect their territory.

Defending the Coast of Northeastern Brazil

Four months before the day of the official declaration of war against Germany and Italy, the Brazilian military employed a system of patrols along their shores. The then Brazilian minister of war, General Zenóbio da Costa created what is called “Plan for the Defense of the Northern Army.”
Among the orders for the thousands of Brazilian soldiers assigned to this mission, is the exercise of strong vigilance on the coast. This task was assigned to the 7th Military Region, then a control region (now extinct) of the Brazilian Army, with headquarters in the city of Recife. The Brazilian Air Force and the Navy of Brazil also participated in these efforts, but in other ways.

Brazilian soldiers in the beach

Army units were moved to the northeastern beaches. Men from various parts of the country occupied the coast, in a form of defense somewhat questionable in the sense of war. Actually they were more observant of things happening on our beaches, which itself was a fighting force able to deter a possible invasion.

Brazilian soldier watching the coastline in a poor lookout

But they were important in its function and this activity had its value.
I believe that the Brazilian military brass pointed to other goals. How to prevent the landing of spies by submarine and the very question of the psychological context of transmitting to the population of these coastal regions that our forces were present on our shores, taking part of our defense.
Despite this importance, we know that given the revealing of the history of Brazilian participation in World War II, by quite a few studies that linked the memories of the Brazilians who were at the European front.
If the state of history connected people who crossed the ocean to fight in Italy is limited, the more difficult are the testimonies of those who were patrolling our beaches, awaiting the arrival of an enemy that could land at any time.
The lives of these soldiers of the Brazilian army was not easy.

Brazilian soldiers

Besides having to endure the jokes of people who said they were on the beach “sunbathing” there was the scarcity of accommodation, food, the uncertainty of the appearance of the enemy, the monotony of deserted beaches, the wear caused mainly by the mighty Northeastern sun, salt, sand, wind, rain fell from time to time and homesickness, especially for those who had come from afar.
Indeed the situation was monotonous. But not always!

The Sad Arrival of a North American in the Ponta Negra Beach

Years ago I met the Mr. Clóvis Ramalho Ribeiro Dantas, a Brazilian born in Natal, father of our great friend, the economist Vivianne Fernandes Ribeiro Dantas, she is a competent official of the Regional Labor Court of Natal.
Mr. Clóvis, was the retired bank cashier. Serious man, worker, mason, quiet and liked to tell stories of his participated in the Second World War.
He recounted his sufferings always one of the “beach soldier” as the coast guard was known. He spoke about the patrols, the lack of what to do, spending all day staring at the sea of ​​night patrols and day to day of this function.
But one day something appeared on the horizon and everything was different and busy.

Ponta Negra Beach

You said that Mr. Clóvis said that “beginning of the year 43, probably in January.” He was on patrol in the area of ​​Ponta Negra Beach, in the area near the present highway known as the “Via Costeira”, a desert location at the time, but currently is full of sumptuous hotels that receive thousands of tourists who visit the city of Natal.
According to him, his friend, a military, who was the first person to spot the small boat. For this military, which drew his attention to the sea were some sea birds flying over a point in the sea and then he noticed the small boat.
Then someone, or the strength of the tide, brought the boat to shore. Several Brazilians were watching what was in it. Your Mr. Clóvis was among these patrols.
What caught his attention, even when he was walking some distance from the ferry, was the smell of rotting flesh. Inside the lifeboat was the reason: there was a human body in a state of putrefaction. He was a man, of the North American military, with clothes of a foreign exchange official U.S. Army. The body was very dehydrated, badly burned, with multiple wounds in the skin caused by the sun and birds. The head was hanging on the edge of the raft, and what most caught the attention of Mr. Clóvis, was the lips late opening of grotesque form, showing what was due to the action of the sun.
At the time when he recounted this episode, he told me that it may be endured, but many colleagues vomit before the board. Like most of the Brazilian population is devout Catholic, to these other military men, who made the sign of the cross and remained on their knees and prayed for the souls of the dead.
It is war that, but even without going directly to Natal, he sent a message there saying.

Signs of a tragedy in the Atlantic

Another thing that caught the attention of this young Brazilian soldier was a small bag that from the U.S. A Brazilian sergeant opened to verify its contents and found, according to Mr. Clóvis, several “small plates with engraved names”. He was speaking of the famous identification nameplates, involved in several armies during the Second World War. Used primarily to identify the wearer in case of death or injury, the small plates served as a source of medical information for treatment, always bringing the blood type and other data. The Americans called this material “Dog Tag” because of its similarity with the plates placed in collars, used to identify dogs.
Soon they reached the shore where were U.S. military, both soldiers and officers. Some of the men rolled the body, which when searched, photographed it, took notes, and sought information from the Brazilian patrol through interpreters.

Demonstrating the use of rescue boat in a school of the Air Force 

Everything was done quickly, without much talk, no crying, with the military quiet and reserved. Soon the U.S. military took the corpse, the bag with small plates, the ferry, put everything into a vehicle and drove away.
Mr. Clóvis Ramalho Ribeiro Dantas never forgot this day. But until his death in 2008, her never knew who was the American on the ferry. Mr. Clóvis thought the occupant of the boat was the victim of a submarine that sank a ship in the Atlantic and Mr. Clóvis  never knew his name.
Life goes on.

News was even in Australia

I’ve never forgotten the story that Mr. Clóvis told me with, to the richness of detail and eloquence as he recounted this episode.

But at the same time, due to lack of information provided to the Brazilians at the time, about who the person was on the ferry, there were few details known about the case.

Recently I remembered the story of Mr. Clóvis and his like today we have this unique tool (both for good and for bad) that we call the internet, I had the desire to seek contacts with people around the world, seeking any information on this episode.

I left information about the case and to my luck and surprise, Mr. Henry F. Mann, Sydney, Australia, sent me a helpful message, which forwarded the pictures of two pages of old newspapers in his country. The newspapers were of January 1943 and had an interesting story about a plane crash in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Reporting on the event of Ponta Negra in Australian newspaper

In a note from the Australian newspaper “The Mail”, Adelaide city, edition of February 20, 1943, on the first page, reports that a small life raft, rubber, bearing the body of Maj. Arthur Mills, member of the Army Air Corps Ferry Command, who drifted to a beach near Natal, Brazil.
According to United Press correspondent stationed in Natal, the note added that the boat had neither food nor water, and the ferry had probably followed the drift of more than 1,000 miles across the South Atlantic
Pointed to note that Major Mills struggled to survive because the small boat had fish bones and one of those traditional emblems of an eagle (which the Americans put on the caps of officers during World War II) was transformed into a makeshift fishhook.

More significant was the fact he was found with the body together with six aboard “Dog Tag”, indicating that six other airmen had died, probably on the ferry, amid a tremendous agony of thirst and hunger. The names of these six victims were not released.
It was a very similar story that was told to me by Mr. Clóvis.

Since the newspaper “The Sydney Morning Herald”, issue on 24 January 1943, on the eighth page, you find the news that follows. Two members of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), the pilot W. T. B.  Smithson and Sargent H. V. Lamb, along with thirteen Americans and twelve British who were unaccounted for due to the loss of an American transport plane in the South Atlantic.

The note stated that the body of Major Arthur Mills had been taken on a life raft headed for the Brazilian coast.
The note ended, that some of the personal property of other airmen were found in the raft.

An Old Book Helps Understand This Episode 

Then I remembered that in the city of Recife, a friend of mine has a copy of the book “The eagle in the egg” and might have some information about this case.
Written in 1949 by Lt. Col. Oliver La Farge, and published by Houghton Biffin Company, Boston, this material with 319 pages detailing the history of the ATC – Air Transport Command, which was the agency that developed the network of aircraft, airports, airfields and the whole structure of American air travel in the Second World War.

Fueling aircraft on the airfield’s ATC en route from South America

At my request he did a search and found on page 194, that just before midnight on January 17, 1943, a transport aircraft model Consolidated C-87 “Liberator Express”, registration number 41-1708, took off from the African city of Accra, the former Gold Coast, now Ghana, towards the city of Natal. Its pilot was Captain Orval Eknes Mijkpen and he basically carried passengers. Given in the book that due to a good strong tailwind, Capt. Elwes planned to make the trip nonstop, just flying over the island of Ascension, a volcanic rock in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, belonging to England and also an important air base support.
But this plane just disappeared.
At noon on Jan. 18, began the search for the aircraft along the route which, although hampered by bad weather conditions, was continually used until January 30, 1943, both by air, for seeking military signals brought on Brazilian beaches of the sea.

C-87

No wreckage was found.
On February 5, a Friday, the Brazilian soldiers patrol in Ponta Negra, among them the Mr. Clóvis Ramalho Ribeiro Dantas, spotted a lifeboat where the dehydrated body of Major Arthur Mills. This was nineteen days after the plane C-87 41-1708 had taken off at night in Accra.

Accra Airport during World War II

This appeared in “The eagle in the egg,” the men who perished on the waters of the Atlantic, left no records or documents to unravel the mystery of the disappearance of C-87.
What was interesting is that the author has confirmed the note’s Australian newspaper, that there were bones and a distinctive cap of colonel to form a fishhook.
For Lt. Col. La Farge, it was evident that the plane had landed successfully in the water and the men on board (or part of them) should have successfully managed to evacuate the stricken aircraft, but with great haste, but apparently did not bring all of their survival gear in the raft.

Investigations 

The ensuing investigation found that Captain Elwes was one of the best pilots to fly over Africa, he was not tired, had not drunk the night before the match in Accra. The records show that the behavior of the entire crew before the flight was normal. There was the usual inspection before takeoff and the engines were in great condition.

Embarking on a military C-54 ATC in Accra

The book claims that the plane was relatively new in service, without having flown in an excessive way. Furthermore there was no unusual incident, nor was any message received from the plane after it took off.
For the book’s author, Lieutenant Colonel La Farge, a likely explanation was that this accident could have been any problem with the fuel on board or the C-87 could have been knocked down by a German submarine.
These are just theories. The truth about what really happened to the C-87 “Liberator Express” will probably never be known.

A Strange Story 

Major Arthur Mills who was a former transport pilot of air mail in the United States, was born in the city of Muscatine, Iowa.
Among the occupants of the aircraft was Sgt Ross Ballard Moore Jr., of Texas. He graduated in 1940 and joined the Army Air Corps of the United States and died in this accident. It was the only crew member who was photographed and there is a strange story involving this military.

Sergeant Ross Ballard Moore Jr.

On the internet site http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=42650429 amid a series of misrepresentations regarding this accident, a relative says that on the night of 15 January 1943, the older sister of Ballard, called Dorothy Lee, the awoke, and saw at the foot of her bed she saw her brother.

She was surprised and startled, because she knew that he was in South America. What was worse when she heard the figure clearly say “You’ll have to take care of our mother now, I will not be able”. Reportedly, she began to ask what he was talking about but he was gone.

According to the information on this site, the family only learned of the accident two days late.
I am not judging this last information, just informing.

Natal, Brazil, may 2011

DPP_0119

Rostand Medeiros – Was born in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte. He is a 45 years old writer, researcher and expert in producing biographical works. Also does researches in history of aviation, participation of Brazil in World War II and in regionalist aspects of Northeast Brazil. He studied History at UFRN – Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte and is member of Genealogy Institute of Rio Grande do Norte – IGRN and SBEC – Brazilian Society for the Study of Cangaço.

In 2009, he was co-author of “Os Cavaleiros dos Céus – A Saga do Voo de Ferrarin e Del Prete” (in free translation, “The Knights of the Sky: The Saga of Ferrarin and Del Prete Flight”), a book that tells a story from 1928, of the first nonstop flight between Europe and Latin America. This book was supported by the Italian Embassy in Brazil, Brazilian Air Force (FAB) and Potiguar University (UNP).

In 2010, Rostand was a consultant of SEBRAE – Brazil’s Micro and Small Business Support Service, participating of the project “Território do Apodi – nas pegadas de Lampião” (in free translation, “Apodi Territory – In the footsteps of Lampião”), which deals with historical and cultural aspects of rural areas in Northeast Brazil.

In 2011, Rostand Medeiros launched the book “João Rufino – Um Visionário de Fé” (“João Rufino – A visionary of Faith”), a biography of the founder of industrial group Santa Clara / 3 Corações, a large coffee roasting company in Latin America. The book shows how a simple man, with a lot of hard work, was able to develop, in Rio Grande do Norte state, a large industry that currently has seven units and 6,000 employees in Brazil. Also in 2011, he wrote, with other authors, a book of short stories entitled “Travessa da Alfândega” (in free translation, “Customs Cross Street”).

In 2012, Medeiros produced the following books: “Fernando Leitão de Moraes – Da Serra dos Canaviais à Cidade do Sol” (“Fernando Leitão de Moraes – From Sugarcane Mountains to Sun City”) and “Eu Não Sou Herói – A História de Emil Petr” (“I’m not a hero – The Story of Emil Petr”). This latest book is a biography of Emil Anthony Petr, a farmer who was born in Nebraska, United States. During World War II, he was an aviator in a B-24 bombing and became a prisoner of the Germans. This work shows the relationship of Emil with Brazilian people, whose with he decided to live from 1963, when he started to work for Catholic Church.

He also published articles in “Tribuna do Norte”, newspaper of the city of Natal, and in “Preá”, cultural magazine published by Rio Grande do Norte State Government. He founded SEPARN – Society for Research and Environmental, Historical and Cultural Development of Rio Grande do Norte. Currently, is working as a Parliamentary Assistant in Rio Grande do Norte Legislative Assembly and develops other books. Rostand Medeiros is married, has a nine years old daughter and lives in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil.

Phones: 0051 84 9904-3153 (TIM) / 0051 84 9140-6202 (CLARO) / 0051 84 8724-9692 (Oi)

E-mail: rostandmedeiros@gmail.com

Blog: https://tokdehistoria.wordpress.com/

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