Operation Vagô

10 November 2020

1961 was Salazar’s annus horribilis, marked by the beginning of the colonial war, the fall of the so-called Portuguese State of India and several actions against salazar’s regime.

One of them took place on November 10th. #Inthisday, TAP’s career flight departs from Casablanca, towards Lisbon. On board are Amândio Silva, Camilo Mortágua, Fernando Vasconcelos, João Martins, Maria Helena Vidal and Hermínio da Palma Inácio. With them they carry thousands of pamphlets, signed by an Anti-Totalitarian Front of the Free Portugueses abroad and signed by Henrique Galvão, in which he denounces the electoral farce that would take place days later.

As the “Super-Constellation” approaches Lisbon, Palma Inácio enters the cockpit, armed, concretizing the “Operation Vagô”, conceived by Henrique Galvão who, in January of that year (1961), had led the group that had taken over Santa Mariaship. Vagô, the name chosen for this Operation, was the name of the main character of the book that Galvão had written years before in the Prison of Aljube, “Romance of the Wild Animals”, and that would be seized and destroyed in the printing press, saving only a few copies.

The plane flies over Lisbon and other parts of the country, with commander José Sequeira Marcelino reporting to the Control Tower at Lisbon Airport that he was flying “under coerce.” The flyers are thrown through an emergency window and the device runs to Tangier, where it lands safely. Back in Lisbon, commander Sequeira Marcelino is interrogated by the PIDE, for suspecting involvement with the “pirates of the air”. But the truth is, Marcelino wasn’t even supposed to be on that flight. He had exchanged to accompany Maria Luiza Infante, the hostess for whom he was in love with and with whom he would marry. The assailants were stranded in Morocco for about a week before being allowed to return to Brazil, with traffic through Dakar. It was the first assault and diversion of a plane for political reasons in Portugal.

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