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Serving Uncle Sam: A Military Life in WWll

Gerald Schwartz USAAC (USAAF) 1940 - 1945


Chapter 109: Crossing Atlantic to Brazil. Difference Between a Year and Anus! Over the Rainforest. Glad to Get Away from Humidity

Aug 15,1945 Accra, Ghana This morning we boarded the Constellation transport once more and crossed the South Atlantic Ocean to Natal, Brazil. The flight was long (9 hours) but uneventful. We spent the time playing cards and napping. The ride on this Constellation 4 engine transport is a smooth one, and the pilot made a very smooth touch down at Natal.

We spent the night at the in transit camp, and I still remember the heady odor of the Brazilian coffee at dinner time. We went into Natal to see the sights and spent a few hours rubbernecking and bar-hopping. Natal has fine beaches, and the Aquarium Natal, the largest aquarium in Northeast Brazil.

An ancient fortress, the Forte dos Reis Magos, built in 1598 with primitive materials, was the first building in Natal. The principal tourist center is the Centro de Turisom De Natal dating back to the late 19th century. It has been an asylum for beggars, then an orphanage, then a prison.

I had no trouble making myself understood by the Brazilians because of the similarity between Spanish and Portuguese. (Brazil had been a Portuguese colony for a long time) and the native tongue is basically Portuguese with some small variations. I had already been introduced to Brazilian Portuguese because in North Africa we had had Brazilian ack ack crews serving on our airfield for six months. I spent quite a lot of time socializing with them in my free time and was thus introduced to their dialect. I could get along quite well just speaking Spanish, as I picked up many of the small differences between the languages.

Most of the differences I found were not of grammar, but 'false friends'. This expression is also used in French 'faux amis', and refers to the same word having two different meanings in two languages. For example, 'Rato' in Portuguese is a rat. In Spanish it is a moment. 'Ano' in Portuguese means year. In Spanish it means anus! So you see, a word may appear to have a friend in a different language, but in reality it could mean something quite embarrassingly different!

Aug 17,1945 Natal, Brazil. Today we boarded a DC-3 Transport and headed for Belem, Brazil. Flying over the Brazilian forests is a scary experience because all you can see is densely packed greenery. A crash landing would surely be fatal for all concerned. So although we flew over the forest, we were close to the coast, and if we had to make a forced landing, it would be in the ocean. The flight was uneventful, consuming seven hours.

Upon arrival we once again were billeted at the Air Transport Command. Belem, located some 90 miles from the open sea and slightly south of the equator is the great port of the Amazon. The city was founded by the Portuguese in 1616 as the City of our lady of Bethlehem (Belém). Its original role was to protect the mouth of the river and to establish Portugal’s claim to the region. However it soon became established as an Indian slaving port and a source for cacao and spices from the Amazon region. Belem has many beautiful architectural monuments, such as the Mercés Church built in the 17th century in the purest Baroque style.

It has many theaters, restaurants, beautiful tree- lined streets and many squares. We did some shopping and I purchased a fine pair of leather boots. The townspeople are friendly and there is no shortage of food or merchandise. It is quite hot here, as we are now close to the equator. Of course we had gotten use to hot weather in the North African desert; however the dry desert air made living conditions bearable. Here, the combination of heat and humidity keeps you sweating constantly I suppose that if one lived here; he could become acclimated to this intense damp heat over time. We spent two days here and were glad to be on our way again.

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