Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the Japanese army landed on Malayan Peninsula, invading the British, French and Dutch rubber colonies, capturing the plantations that produced 90 per cent of the world’s rubber. Without the Malayan plantations, the Allied Nations together could count on little more than 150,000 tons of rubber a year. The Japanese were aware of the United State’s heavy dependence upon rubber, which was used to make millions of tires for airplanes, trucks, jeeps and buses, in addition to barrage balloons, life rafts and submarine batteries. The rationing of rubber would stymie the war effort for the US. Lacking the ability to produce synthetic rubber, the United States quickly shifted its attention to the abundant wild rubber existing in the Brazilian Amazon jungle.
Brazil ordered a compulsory enlisting of over 55,000 civilians, most of them recruited by promotional campaigns within the impoverished Northeastern states of Brazil.
- "More tires for Victory !" - (says the poster below; one of the many used on the campaign for recruiting the Rubber Soldiers in the Northeast of Brazil) -
When the war ended, the American interest and support disappeared. The American R.D.C. offices that were put on location in Brazil to control this operation were shutdown and its representatives went home. The Brazilian government didn’t even fulfill its promise to return the Rubber Soldiers to their homes at the end of the war, nor did it honor the Rubber Soldiers with a pension as war veterans. The Brazilian troops sent to Italy received a hero’s welcome, but the Rubber Soldiers were forgotten and abandoned in the jungle to their sort, in many cases, uninformed that the war had ended for years, cut out from the outside world.
The surviving Rubber Soldiers found themselves victims of a debt-slavery system. Many were told that they owed money to the rubber camp patrons who charged them high prices for food, equipment and clothing while cheating them on the weight of the rubber they produced, so they had no other choice but to remain in the jungle until their debt was paid off. It is calculated that only about 6,000 workers managed to return to their homes, at their own expense. With no money, no support from the government, and no transportation, most of the surviving Rubber Soldiers resigned themselves to remain in the Amazon, for decades ignored and forgotten.
It has been 65 years since W.W II, and the Rubber Soldiers are still waiting for a proper pension as war veterans. It took 43 year after the war, (in 1988) for Brazil to ratify a new Constitution with an article that called for the Rubber Soldiers to receive a pension that was barely one tenth of the amount paid to the Brazilian troops who fought alongside American forces in Italy. And many of the Rubber Soldiers found themselves ineligible because they could not supply the required documents.
In 2002, a bill was introduced to the Brazilian Congress asking to pay the ‘Rubber Soldiers’ the same amount that is paid to the Brazilian Army soldiers who fought in Europe during World War II. However, to this day, this bill is still waiting to be approved.
NOTE FROM THE DIRECTOR EVA NEIDE TO READERS:
It has been over 65 years since the war ended and the Rubber Soldiers are still without their proper pension. They have been suffering, living in precarious conditions. They are now old and debilitated, paralyzed, in hospitals beds, struggling, without the strength to demand justice. They have fought a war, but have lost this battle. Please help the surviving Rubber Soldiers receive what they have been denied by signing this Petition, and urging the Brazilian Congress to URGENTLY grant the Rubber Soldiers a proper veteran of war pension, as well as the retroactive pay they are entitled to for their vital contribution during World War II.
Please SIGN! Thank you!
Eva Neide "
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