Brazil in WW2 - March 22, 1941 - The attack on the steamer "Taubaté"

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The “Taubaté” steamship was the first Brazilian vessel attacked by Nazi Germany during World War II, on March 22, 1941, when it was sailing from Cyprus to Alexandria, Egypt, with a load of potatoes, wool and wine.

The ship was attacked in the Mediterranean, when it was approaching its destination, close to the Egyptian coast, by a Luftwaffe plane that, after dropping bombs without being able to hit it, machine-gunned the vessel.

According to a report by Commander Mário Fonseca Tinoco, the ship clearly displayed the Brazilian flag painted on both edges and, even so, the attack did not cease, despite the commander had ordered the raising of a white flag on the mainmast. The commander and the steamship officers declared to the Brazilian consulate in Alexandria that the aircraft carried the insignia of the German air force.

Although it did not sink the ship, the attack caused the death of the first Brazilian in the war: the checker José Francisco Fraga, killed on the bridge, victim of a blast from a machine gun, as well as injuries to 13 other crew members.

The Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs lodged complaints with the German Embassy in Rio de Janeiro, but received no response. In the following year, the attacks intensified, which was the determining factor for Brazil’s entry in the war against the Axis powers.

Ironically, the steamship, built in 1905, was of German origin, and was operated by “North German Lloyd”, under the name “Franken”, until 1917, when it was then confiscated by the Brazilian government when the country entered in the First World War. Renamed “Taubaté” in 1925, it was bought by “Lloyd Brasileiro”, at the time still a private company. He survived the war, and operated until 1954.