From John Breslin, S1/c, 1945-1946:
While moored in Santos, Brazil, a wild riot broke out between Japanese, Brazilian civilians and our liberty party while on tour of automobile factory in Sao Paulo. 36 Americans and many more civilians injured by their own police force, as well as Brazilian troops called in to rescue American liberty party. One of my buddies was severly injured when crowds overturned Brazilian Army truck that was hauling our sailors back to the ship. (About a 50 mile drive.) And in the meantime, severe food poisoning had broken out that same day among very many of the duty sections still aboard our ship! I was very lucky to be one of the few unaffected men aboard. We were ordered to single-up our mooring lines, in case we had to move off shore, as Brazilian troops returned our men to the ship while other troops held off the angry crowd at the inner end of our pier, with Reising guns and rubber bullets. The newspapers in Brazil and the USA all carried the story, and many of our families and friends in the States read all about it! Even Arther Godfrey mentioned it on his radio show, and my future wife's mother heard it on the radio! As you may already have heard, the Brazilian press soon published the whole story! It was shown that the huge Japanese colony living in Sao Paulo, (still bitter about losing the recent war), had published thousands of anti-American phamplets and several newspaper articles, warning the whole town that the American "Pirates and Barbarians" were coming to town, and "To get all of the woman and children off the streets".
The following is from two letters written by Arthur Schultz, CDR, MC, USN, 1945-1946 to his family during the South America Cruise. (The extracts from the letters are reproduce exactly as written.)
December 20, 1945
Did you read about us in the papers, or did the whole affair get hushed up? Anyway none of us will get to Sao Paulo after what happened due to the stupidity of a couple of sailors and the ill will the Paulistas apparently hold towards the Americans as well as their explosive Latin temperament and a little mob psychology. There is more to the affair than meets the eye, also, according to what we hear.
Here is the story as we understand it, but certainly not the way the Sao Paulo newspapers put it:
On Thursday December 18, a group of 400 sailors went on liberty to Sao Paulo as guests of the General Motors Corporation there. There was an asado, games, and beer. A few of them got a bit tanked up on it. At about 4:30 a group of them went into town to spend a couple of hours before train time. The trouble started when a couple of sailors a little bit under the weather stumbled off a street car and one of the, jostled a 45 year Paulista who may have been a bit drunk himself. The Paulista berated him in English and struck him - and as might be supposed, the sailor struck back.
Before he could turn around he and his companions were surrounded by milling crowd of wildly excite people.
From this center - all sorts of wild stories about Brazilian girls being raped and insulted - and about many civilians being beaten up were circulated without substantiation. The the crowds of hoodlums searched out all the sailors in town, threw stones at them, spit on them, kicked them and if it had not been for the quick intervention of the police and the army, we’d have had some men killed.
As it was - the sailors were taken by surprise. Most of them were cold sober and were shopping or eating in the restaurants when they looked up to find a yelling, spitting crowd gathered outside. I can certainly understand why Sao Paulo has such a reputation for riots and disturbances of this nature. The people seem to have it in their blood. We are also lead to believe that there were some trained Communist or Facist agitators behind it since everything was so wide spread and sudden.
Anyway, the police sent out cars, firetrucks, cavalry, and even set up machine guns at certain of the intersections. We got a few injured sailors out of the affair. Most of the injuries were of a trivial nature, and none were of a permanent nature. Within an hour most of the men were aboard the train and on the way home. The few who remained were housed in the police station overnight and everyone was aboard by noon the next day. Since then everyone has been aboard, and the captain is going slightly nuts and chewing his nails worrying about the affair. It is hard to see what can be done about the ship’s reputation now.
As far as Santos is concerned - everything is a calm as a placid pond and we have been having visitors aboard each afternoon since the fracas with never an incident to indicate anything was wrong. Of course we have had no liberty at all and I hardly suppose there will be anymore here.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
December 22, 1945
Everything has quieted down and the crew is now on liberty as if nothing had happened, and so far nothing has, though as you might expect - the whole of Brazil has heard about the Sao Paulo affair. However even the Sao Paulo affair can’t completely dampen the U,S, - Brazilian relations. The Sao Paulo newspapers have published retractions of most of their stories, and there have been some “niggers-in-the-woodpile” discovered which might have made the affair worse. The latin temperament is touchy to say the least, and coupled with the multitude of Germans and Italians who live in Sao Paulo it is not hard to see how the affair started like a prairie fire.
(The remainder of the Dec 22 letter contains material not pertainent to the riots. It will appear in a subsequent posting.)
In an e-mail from Fred Hoeppner, CDR, 1945-47 to Woody Donaldson, CDR Hoeppner wrote the following:
Just found your name at the bottom of the Restoration Fund envelope and then decided to take another look at the website. You have done a great job and be assured that we all appreciate your work. The website brought back many memories. I think that I am the middle officer in the group picture in the Rio bar. I was also the Duty Commander the day of the Brazilian encounter with our liberty party. The story, as I received it, differs somewhat from the newspaper article. What I got from our sailors and the investigating office was that there was some sort of jam-up at a bus which was instigated by some Brazilian boys. Words, then I guess our guys, after being provoked, hammered a few of them. The police advised later that this was a staged event. I recall no other reports of our crew being in trouble or out of line during the entire cruise. W.E. Miller, our Captain, was an experienced officer and had made it very clear to all hands at the very beginning that "there will be no problems ashore". For the record, I was in the pre-commissioning detail and served as Communication Officer 3/45 - 2/46 when I fleeted up to Navigator 2/46 - 11/47 .