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L.A.T.I. ITALIAN AIRLINES IN BRAZIL * - L.A.T.I. * ITALIAN AIRLINES

5)THE PLOT AGAINST L.A.T.I.


In June 1940, the American ambassador in Uruguay cabled to President Roosevelt that unless the United States acted effectively, countries in South America might fall under Nazi domination. The President empowered the FBI to act, and they were greatly helped by Stephenson's agents. Stephenson's men determined that the Italian airline Linee Aeree Transcontinental Italiane (LATI), which flew regularly between Europe and Brazil, carried German and Italian diplomatic bags, couriers, and agents. The Brazilian Government showed no intention of closing down the airline, since powerful Brazilians had an interest in the operation of the airline.


Station M was asked to fabricate a letter from the head of LATI to the airline's general manager in Brazil. Notepaper was produced using the straw pulp normally found only in Europe. The engraved letterhead of Italy's state owned LATI was copied by counterfeiters, using a genuine letter the agents had succeeded in obtaining. An Olivetti typewriter was rebuilt to conform to the exact mechanical imperfections of the machine upon which the general's secretary had typed the original letter.


The documents were then smuggled into Rio and eventually leaked to President Vargas' friends. Then Brazilian President Getulio Vargas read in the letter that "There can be no doubt the little fat man is falling into the pocket of the Americans, and that only violent action on the part of the green gentlemen can save the country. I understand such action has been arranged for by our respected collaborators in Berlin." President Vargas knew that the "little fat man" referred to him, and that the "green gentlemen" referred to Germans.


Vargas canceled LATI landing rights and ordered the arrest of the LATI general manager in Brazil. A few weeks later, Brazil broke off relations with the Axis and moved under the Allied umbrella. There is no doubt that one of the main factors in persuading Brazil to turn against the Axis was the insulting remarks contained in a letter that was typed by a "forged typewriter."


By Russell R. Bradford and Ralph B. Bradford.


 

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