National Geographic : 1944 Jan
Brazil's Potent Weapons BY W. ROBERT MOORE With Illustrations from Photographs by the Author BASES in Brazil helped win the victory over the Axis in North Africa. From the huge northeastern "bulge" of this biggest American republic the African coast is only 1,770 miles away. With the Axis on a rampage in Europe and spreading into Africa, its nearness made the Western Hemi sphere vulnerable to attack. But not now. Today northeast Brazil is a Grand Central Station of the air. Through it were flown countless tons of equipment that bolstered the British Eighth Army when Rommel was making his supreme bid for Alexandria. After flying back by Clipper from the Casa blanca Conference, President Roosevelt con ferred with President Vargas aboard a United States destroyer at Natal harbor. Together they inspected the Army, Navy, and air forces of the United States and Brazil, who jointly guard this vital area (page 42). It was announced that they had reached "complete agreement that it must be perma nently and definitely assured that the coasts of West Africa and Dakar never again under any circumstances be allowed to become a blockade or an invasion threat against the two Americas." Sentinel and Supply Depot Brazil's contribution to the Allied cause, however, is not only one of position. She is fighting today with potent weapons of raw ma terials, with factory products, and with food. Her soldiers stand guard. Her merchant marine is part of the United Nations' shipping pool for carrying vital supplies, while her naval craft maintain alert coastal patrol. The air force has blasted out of existence a number of enemy pigboats that preyed on South At lantic shipping. The ruthless U-boat campaign precipitated the country's declaration of war against Ger many and Italy on August 22, 1942, after 19 of her ships had been torpedoed, six within a single week. I was anxious to see how the war has changed Rio de Janeiro. I hadn't been there for four years.* Here was one of the few cities where planes could still land without having their windows barred by military screens. As our Pan American Clipper spiraled toward the Santos Dumont Airport we could look down on the majestic panorama of mountains, bay, and long, scalloping, sandy beaches, about which the city snuggles (Plate II). The same remarkable Rio, I thought. There was bulky Tijuca backing the whole city. There was bold granite Pao de Aiccar (Sugar Loaf) standing sentinel at the harbor entrance, with an aerial car creeping up the cable to its peak. The statue of Christ still stood benignly atop precipitous Corcovado. But searchlights which once made it stand out like a white beacon at night had been blacked out. The main difference from the air since my previous visit was the unusual growth of mod ern buildings in the old Morro do Castelo area. Government offices and commercial structures now almost completely cover the space left when the hill was sluiced into the bay to build the airport. Through the city a new swath is being cut to provide a wide arterial thoroughfare. Rio Busy and Crowded, Too Rio has changed in a number of ways. It is busier and more crowded. Queues at street car and bus stops are longer. The open trol leys, always festooned with people, are more packed than ever (page 60). Rio early had its own gas shortage. In July, 1942, all private cars, save for high Gov ernment officials and diplomats, were ordered off the streets. Some have reappeared, but they are equipped with charcoal-burning units. Taxicabs still operate, but on restricted gas rations. Every afternoon, near office-closing time, they chalk names of residential locations on their windshields and line up to wait for passenger pools. If you try to get one pri vately at that time, you become party to a black market and pay exorbitant fare in the bargain! After having been closed three months, casi nos were busy. At their night clubs samba orchestras again played to packed houses. In floor shows there were fewer European acts, more Latin American. Instead of pleas ure trippers many of the patrons were war workers. While I was in Rio sugar and salt ration ing went into effect. Sugar bowls vanished, but soon were brought back for coffee. How familiar it was to see people lining up at schools to receive ration cards! *See "Rio Panorama," by W. Robert Moore, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, September, 1939.