MARCH 17, 1944
NATAL, Brazil, Thursday—On landing in Belem, there was a reception for the Brazilian officials who welcomed me and for some officers, nurses, Red Cross workers and USO workers. The next morning there was a short press conference at which questions had to be interpreted and my answers translated! Afterwards I visited the Naval Air Station where Lieutenant Commander Congdon is in charge, and then we left for Natal.
Admiral Ingram is away on a mission, but General Walsh and Admiral Read are not only taking good care of me, but are arranging full schedules so that I may see as much as possible of what has been accomplished and as many of our men as I can.
The Red Cross girls have only joined the field director a month ago. One is from Philadelphia, one is from Baltimore, and one is from Boston. They are already popular in the hospital, and are setting up a small recreation center for the men on the post and will teach craftwork.
After a night's sleep, we started out fairly early and visited the Naval Air Base, the hospital, and various other installations around the camp. At eleven o'clock we took off for Natal. This is a country of magnificent distances and as yet communications are not highly developed, so each state is like a little country in itself.
An interventor heads the state, which is divided into counties, and his duties are similar to those of our governors. Because of the lack of transportation facilities, the old families have lived in their own cities with less contact sometimes with other parts of Brazil than they have had with European countries.
What impresses me is the extraordinary cooperation that has existed between our officials and the Brazilian officials, and how very kindly the people have felt towards our men. Needless to say, here as everywhere else, our boys have been remarkable ambassadors.
Senhora Salgado Filho, the wife of the Minister of Aviation for Brazil, was sent by Madame Vargas from Rio to be with me here, and with her came Senhora Lia Souza E Silva Do Amaral, who heads the Brazilian Legion for Assistance, and Senhorita Dedei Aranha, the daughter of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is a member of this same organization.
At dinner, both these young women told me how remarkably well our men, from the young flying officers down to the sailors of our Navy, behaved. They stressed particularly the fact that in Brazil it is the custom for a woman to speak first, showing that she is willing to be addressed. Our boys have observed that custom meticulously, but when the women greeted them they were always most polite in answering. This must require some restraint on the part of our boys, for when they land they must be hungry for a word from a woman and they are not usually bashful when they are at home.