About two weeks after leaving the late winter weather behind in Boston, the Queen Mary stopped in the tropical city of Rio De Janeiro on March 6, 1942. While the men weren’t allowed to leave the ship, they were quite content to take in the view of the city surrounded by lush, green mountains and the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer. “…A symbol of peace in a world torn by war,” remarked PFC. Ducharme.
The ship’s appearance in the harbor didn’t go unnoticed by the Axis. Messages from Nazi radio installations and an Italian spy ring were sent off containing information about the Queen Mary‘s course, position and time of sailing. After supplies were loaded and the ship was refueled, the Queen Mary set sail on March 8th, heading for Cape Town, South Africa. Josef Jacob Johannes Starzicny was arrested by Sao Paulo police on the 10th for sending the message to the Nazis. Eventually, an Axis spy ring was also disrupted by the Brazilian police and American Special Intelligence Service agents.
The occupants aboard the ship experienced nothing more than rough seas on this leg of the journey. A portion of the men had their first bout with seasickness as they sailed through waves that sometimes topped 30 feet. Six days after leaving Rio, the Queen Mary steamed into Cape Town’s harbor. The city’s backdrop of black cliffs were a stark contrast from the green mountains that the men had seen at their last stop. Men were told that there wouldn’t be any shore leave this time either, leaving them feeling more restless and anxious than before. Once again, the ship was restocked and on its way by March 15th. Soon, the troops were told they would stop in Fremantle, Australia, then disembark in Sydney.
Before they could reach Australia, they had to cross the “Roaring 40s,” a rough patch of sea with waves rocking the ship hard enough to send people flying from their chairs and dishes from tables and leaving more of the troops seasick. Three small fires broke out in different parts of the ship on March 22nd, making everyone aboard very nervous. Finally, the Queen Mary reached Fremantle the next day for refueling and resupplying, then sailed on to Sydney on the 24th. The last part of their voyage was difficult as well. Temperatures hovered around freezing and the water was the most turbulent that they had encountered on the trip. The troops were briefed on the Japanese military and warned about potential air or sea attacks.
On the 27th, the men were greeted with the welcome sight of two destroyers coming out to meet the Queen Mary. They packed their bags, then celebrated the end of the voyage on the prom deck. The next day, the ship anchored outside the harbor, as it was too tall to clear Sydney’s Harbor Bridge. Soon enough, the men left the ship and headed out in the rainy weather to their quarters at Randwick racetrack.