Diary: Flying from Belem to Fortaleza, Brazil 2/21/44

Here are a couple of excerpts from my grandfather's diary on the way to Toretta. A nice example of his potty humor, and there is plenty of potty humor in his letters, let me tell you, from mistaken bidets to ancient latrines, the man had a nose for poop. And he seemed to enjoy listing off all the diseases one could die from. He also mentions contraception. My grandfather!

It was a whirlwind tour of Brazil, West Africa, Morocca, then Italy and he flew the whole way. I should mention he was the pilot, and flying in a convoy. It must have been thrilling to see the Amazon intact.

We still have the Berber knife and powder horn he bought for $13.00 and said would be valuable one day. They are odd, but beautiful.

The Berber knife my grandfather purchased in Marrakesh

The powder horn my grandfather purchased in Marrakesh

I used them both as props for a Shakespeare play (Henry IV, Part 1) I once worked on for the Seattle Shakespeare Festival

His observation of the Army giving Arabs bubonic plague when they came in for medical care shows a bit of his compassion and sense of irony. Blowing crushed fleas into peoples eyes and only a few would die. Good ol' U.S. Medical Corps, indeed!

I will add more of his amazing trip diary later.

Lt. Col. Philip R. Hawes – Diary – 1944

February 21st:

Left Belem for Fortaleza, Brazil, at about 06:00 AM. About 900 miles. Altitude 9000 feet. Cloud coverage the same as the day before. Trip uneventful. The Brazilian Coastal regions were considerably drier as we approached Fortaleza from about 200 miles NW. We actually observed cattle grazing here and there as in Texas! Fortaleza is not quite the easternmost point of Brazil and South America but is close enough to be a good jumping—off point for Dakar, French West Africa.

February 21st & 22nd:
In Fortaleza, Brazil. Adjacento Field, Fortaleza, was booming with four—engine aircraft about to take the jump across the pond and a few two-engine aircraft heading for Natal, Brazil, for the shorter hop to Ascension Island. Most of the boys quartered in tents but I ‘finagled’ quarters in a very cool BOQ for the five officers on my ship. We had arrived at noon, and at about 2 o’clock I managed to get a staff car to take myself and Capt. Word into Fortaleza. Quite a city! The road to town is lined with thatched huts and giant avocado and mango trees. Natives, dirty, abject, walk to and fro carrying giant loads on their heads. As one enters town things look better and it turns out to be a city not unlike Monterey, Mexico - at the same time a Mardi Gras festival was going on, so between local beers at side-walk cafes we paraded in the streets with the others.

There were thousands of well-dressed Portuguese in town - white suits by the hundreds and gay varicolored dresses on the women. None of the women paraded - it is against tradition or modesty.
However a great number of the men were dressed as women in the parades. The ‘parades’ were numerous and consisted of bands and dancers with little organization, playing and dancing to the swingiest tropical music I have ever heard.

Everyone in town had “ether” squirt guns and we were squirted continually with fragrant ether as we walked the streets. The idea is that ether makes us more passionate. However, we had been briefed so continually on venereal diseases that we did not respond to the many amorous possibilities that presented themselves.

That evening we - in shirt sleeves - attended a formal ball at the “Country Club”. The attendance was approx. 1000 and it was entirely formal except Capt Word and I, a fact which did not faze us in the least. We drank Scotch and Sodas until 2:30 AM on a Senhor Purcell - Englishman who was in New York last in 1895. Drank also with the American Consul, the CO of Adjacento Field, who eyed our attire disapprovingly, also with a “big” banker Baker. Also with an old guy who ran society in Fortaleza and who had lived in Brazil 45 years --- so we got along famously & danced with many women to their tropical music which had plenty of fire to it. I often found myself in the center of a circle all alone doing a tropical jig and undoubtedly looking very foolish.

The next day at Fortaleza I had a slight hangover until about noon, but slept also in the afternoon until suppertime.

The mess at Fortaleza abounded in fruits - bananas and oranges were always present and at night mangoes and also giant avocados.

At the Officers’ Club on of the favorite drinks was ice-cold orange juice during the hot day — Coca Colas were also obtainable in the PX or Club. Lest I be misunderstood about the quality of post: the PX and club altho colorful were poor imitations of the real thing. The native waiters made them colorful and interesting. There were no white or colored (native) women whatsoever. At the P1 I purchased some mosquito boots for $5.75, a good imitation of cowboy boots, and also a riding crop in which is a stiletto about six inches long.

On the evening of the 22 at 10:00 p.m. we took of under a tropical starry sky for Dakar, French West Africa at 9000 ft. The usual misgivings and worries beset our minds. What if our engines should fail? What if our gas was insufficient? It was a trip of over 2200 miles with no land whatsoever along the route. We hit Dakar almost on the nose to our great delight (we were very nonchalant about it) at about 1:30 in the afternoon (Greenwich time - also African time) after a flight over water of twelve hrs and 30 minutes.

February 28th At Marakech, North Africa Morocco.

To resume the flight narrative — yesterday we took a good look at Tindauf — town of 3rd importance - and decided that the U.S. was the place for us. Tindauf was merely a Mohammedan village with a sand-swept desolate airport nearby. The population was about 300 or 400, I should say, and for hundreds of miles on all sides there was no sign of life — just stretches of light tan sand and rock.

The Sahara has proved to be one of the wonders of the earth for me. There is very little life on it for 1,300 miles on the route we flew — not even plant life. At times we flew over a hundred miles over dazzling white sands without seeing a plant, tree, bush of any sort be1ow us or in the distance. It would be horrible to be forced down there. Caravan trails are outlined on the maps but they are impossible find from the air and they are only sand anyhow. The distance between oases is sometimes 500 — 600 miles, a long stretch. We are briefed to remain with the airplane four days if forced down. ATC will search four days then give up. If one is not found in four days in that desert he might as well shoot himself.

At Marakech - French Morocco:
The field is cluttered up with hundreds of combat planes:
B-17’s, B-24’s, B-26’s, C-47’s and a few British and French ships. The living conditions on the post are primitive in comparison to past conditions - tents, mud, rain, dirty officer’s lounge, dirty mess, eating out of mess kits. The boys are rapidly becoming acclimated to combat conditions, and we are still 1000 miles from combat.
Being a field officer, I have been quartered in Marakech in the Hotel Mamounia, reputably one of the finest, if not the finest, hotels in North Africa. The city is French Mohammedan, built for the most part of a reddish stucco or clay composition and the hotel is no exception, but the hotel is exquisite throughout. Turbaned servants greeted us at the entrance and ushered me to my room. The room is very attractive and compares most favorably with the finer hotel rooms in the U.S. But in addition, has that foreign appeal that makes an American go for it in a big way. It is large-two writing tables, two very comfortable 3/4 beds, one side of the room glassed in with French doors opening out to a large balcony which overlooks an attractive garden. On the balcony I have another table - a circular wicker table with two chairs. Very large mirrors are found in the bathroom, the hallway, and in one wall of the main room. All are about six feet high. The floor is inlaid tile of Mohammedan design. The bathroom is very modern with excellent French fixtures - a bathtub I can almost swim in, a shower, a large wash basin, several cabinets, mirrors, a table, and - get this - a douche bowl. I at first thought the douche bowl was a water closet and I urinated in it. Then I started wondering how would excrement go down? For there was only the usual drain one finds in a wash—bowl. Then I noticed the hot and cold water handles and a nozzle shooting up in the middle of the darn thing. They say the French nearly always install these douche bowls in bathrooms arid they are often used instead of contraceptives. The water—closet was difficult to locate at first, and I finally discovered it behind a sliding door, all by itself in a little room next to the bathroom.
Finis de douche.

This morning our flight to Tunis was cancelled because of bad weather. Tomorrow the outlook is doubtful.
Purchases today:
1. 8 packages of cigarettes and 3 Raleigh Pipe Tobacco
6 Chesterfield & 2 Philip Morris 32 francs or 6¢.
2. A Berber knife supposed to be 400 years old and a powder horn with shot pouch. 650 francs $13.00.
Too much but will be valuable some day in. a den.

Tonight: Crap game at the field. Won $120. Lost $120.

February 29th: Hotel Mamounia

Weather poor. No clearance. Slept 11 hours. Had a wonderful piping hot bath in that tremendous French tub. This afternoon had 5 other officers in for baths and brandy and admiration of my douche bowl.

Went to French Town with Harrison. Bought a billfold for Jean. Note: Marakech is predominantly Mohammedan but Arabs are present in large numbers - women with veils can be seen everywhere. A most unattractive lot. They are very dirty for the most part. The French are clean. The natives – Mohammedans - and Arabs are filthy — they dress in grimy sacks, dirty rags.

Diseases in Marakech:

Typhus - We are immune for the most part.
Smallpox - We are immune.
Malaria - We are not immune.
Bubonic Plague - Most of the native section is “off limits”
because of this.
Dysentry - Never eat in any but the Mamounia or Mahgreb Hotels,
- controlled by army.
Venereal: Every known variety. French women and natives.
Solution: Abstinence and Prophylaxis, if weak.
A note on the Bubonic Plague: The Xray Medic tells me that they have been crushing fleas taken off of Bubonic patients, and for research sake blowing this dust into the eyes of Arabs coming to the Army for treatment of minor diseases - result is that about 80% catch the bubonic plague. However it is treated quickly and only a few of those who have this dust blown into their eyes die. They do not know, of course, that they are being subjected to the plague. The medico - a Capt. Bull - explained the few deaths to me thusly:
“Oh - Arabs are expendable!” The good old U.S. Medical Corps at work again!

Medina - the native section of Marakech - is off limits for the U.S. Army because of disease and because there are constant clashes between the French who rule and the Arabs. A French officer got knocked off last nite. Americans are not immune for four have been lost in that section of Marakech the last few months. Checked off as dead – still, they may have deserted.

Americans are as a rule in great favor in Morocco, for we have been pouring a lot of money down the drain. So we are troubled by the natives very little.
(This diary is property of the estate of Ann H. Hawes and may not be reproduced without written permission of Susanne C. Bard, Personal Representative

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