Taken at Sea
January 23, 1961: The Santa Maria, a Portuguese cruise ship, is hijacked. The 609 foot long, 20,900 ton luxury cruise liner was the second largest ship in the Portuguese merchant navy at the time. It was owned by the Lisbon-based Companhia Colonial de Navegação and she and her sister ship, Vera Cruz, were the most luxurious Portuguese-flag liners at the time. The Santa Maria was used mostly for colonial trade to Angola and Mozambique in Africa and for migrant transportation to Brazil. The Atlantic crossing had several stops between Lisbon and Port Everglades. Madeira, Tenerife, La Guaira, Curacao, and Havana (later San Juan) were all stops between the two terminal ports of call.
On this day there were 600 passengers and 300 crew aboard ship. Men, women, and children were aboard as were 24 Iberian leftists led by Portuguese military officer and politician Henrique Galvão. He was a political foe of dictator António de Oliveira Salazar, the head of the Estado Novo regime. Galvão and his companions had boarded, some at La Guaira in Venezuela and some at Curacao. They pretended to be civilian passengers and their luggage had secret compartments in which to hide their weapons. When they seized the ship, the also cut off all communications. One officer was killed – 3rd Pilot Nascimento Costa – and several others were wounded before takeover was complete.
The rebels forced the crew to alter course. Captain Mario Simoes Maia was forced to sail where directed. It was several days before the missing ship was located by a massive US search effort. The sea and air search found the Santa Maria in the Mid-Atlantic and began communication with it. A fleet of US naval vessels, included four destroyers, surrounded the ship. Some of the destroyers were staffed with USMC infantry belonging to “G” Company, 2nd Battalion of the 6th Marine Regiment from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The fleet was under the command of Rear Admiral Allen E Smith. When surrounded, the Santa Maria was still fifty miles offshore of Recife, Brazil.
The admiral left his ship, the USS Gearing, and went to Galvão’s ship and began negotiations. The presidency in Brazil was soon to change and the incoming President was more sympathetic to Galvão and his followers. This was a bargaining chip. The day after negotiations began, the Santa Maria and the US Naval fleet of escorts, entered the harbor at Recife. There, Galvão and all 24 terrorists surrendered the ship and all passengers and crew in exchange for political asylum. Galvão eventually left Brazil for Angola to set up an renegade Portuguese government in opposition to Salazar. Galvão told his story in Santa Maria: my crusade for Portugal, published in 1961. Galvão remained in Angola where he died in exile in 1970 at the age of 75.
In politics, what appears is.
Do not discuss God and virtue. Do not discuss the homeland and its history. Do not discuss the authority and prestige. Do not discuss the family and its moral. Not discuss the glory of work and their duty.
Who is not patriotic can not be considered Portuguese.
Teach your children to work, teach your daughters modesty, teach all the virtue of economy. And if not make them saints, at least make them Christians. – all from António de Oliveira Salazar
Also on this day: Shaanxi Earthquake – In 1556, the deadliest earthquake on record strikes central China.
More Than Vases – In 1368, the Ming Dynasty came to power in China.
Greenbriar Ghost – In 189, Elva Zona Heaster was murdered but did not leave this mortal coil.
Poppies – In 1912, the International Opium Convention was signed.
Cowboys and Indians – In 1870, the Baker Massacre took place.