could argue which was the main reason why Brazil entered the
Second World War. In the early 40's, as a result of the diplomatic
actions for the "good vicinity" politics, led by
Pres. Roosevelt, fascist - oriented Brazilian strong man,
Getúlio Vargas, had to realign his political cores
with big brother United States, fighting for Democracy and
the Free World.
Brazil was a very important strategic point for the Allies
in the more intense scale of war in Europe and North Africa.
Right after Pearl Harbor in 41, Brazil cut relations with
Axis countries. Sooner, United States was engaged in the war
in Europe and North Africa. All this settled, in a short time
there were several air bases in Brazilian land to help the
American planes, ships, men and material reach North Africa,
in what was called "The Springboard for Victory ".
It is said that the American Air base in the city of Recife
was one of the busiest in the world at that time. This base
along with another in the city of Natal, helped men, equipment
and provisions reach North Africa, since these bases were
in the Northeast seashore of Brazil. At the same time, American
Army instructors started to train Brazilian troops and supply
equipment to Brazilian Army, Navy and Air Force, in the hay
days of 1942. With all this privileges to Roosevelt and the
war effort of the Allies, the German U Boats that once were
routing through the South Atlantic, using bases in Argentina
and Chile, started to sink as many merchant ships as they
could, being many of this ships with Brazilian flag, in territorial
waters. This ragged the public opinion in Brazil so as to
force a declaration of war against the Axis on August 42.
When Brazil - the only country in South America who fought
along the Allies - entered WWII, no significant victories
of the Allies had occurred at that early stage of the war
in the fields of Europe or the Pacific. Soon came the mobilization
of men to form the Brazilian Expeditionary Force, in a giant
effort to upgrade a backdated army in its doctrine and equipment.
It took two years to get these men ready to join the war effort
against the Axis forces.
in 1944, the Brazilian Forces joined the
Allies in Europe to help the actions in Italy, after a gross
part of the more experienced troops left for Anzio, South
of France and even Normandy. With very few time for proper
training, the Brazilian troops compensated with great character
and capacity of adaptation to war conditions in a very tough
terrain and climate, being well honored by all the staff of
the Allied High Command during their participation in the
Italian Campaign. Many Brazilian soldiers were condecorated
with the highest medals of the American Forces. This has been
the finest hour for the Brazilian Expeditionary Force
the first days of July, 1944, the first Echelon of the Brazilian
Expeditionary Force FEB- left to Europe, aboard the
American ship General Mann, in a total of 5.081 men. Originally,
the ship should be going to Argel, where the troops would
get preliminary training before landing in Italian soil. However,
the convoy headed straight to Naples, where the troops disembarked
and waited to join US Task Force 45. Later, on the 22nd July,
two more ships, Gen Mann and Gen Meigs, left to Europe, with
the Second and Third Echelons, with 10.369 men total. The
last two Echelons, Fourth, with more 4.722 men and Fifth,with
5.128 men, left Brazil on the last days of November and first
days of February '45, totaling 25.300 men.
first moments of the Brazilian troops in Italy were dedicated
to acquiring and training with new equipment, since the uniform
and gear of the Brazilian Army would not fit the different
climate and tough exigencies of a modern war (yes, it was
obsolete). So that, all the gear used by the Brazilian Army
was the average US G.I. equipment. The troops were moved to
Tarquinia, 350 Km North of Naples, where the US 5th Army,
commanded by the famous Gen Mark Clark, was based. The Brazilian
troops were incorporated to the 4th Army Core, commanded by
Gen Crittenberger. On the 19th August, Churchill himself visited
the 5th Army in Cecina, where he was told that Brazilian troops
were part of the Guard of Honor. He directed some of his speech
to the Brazilian troops that now joined the war effort in
The Brazilian troops were filling the gap left by several
divisions of the 5th US Army and French Expeditionary Force
that went to the invasion in the South of France. This straight
action with the fresh Brazilian troops was a necessity, due
to the great operation at Anzio, to where so many American
and British troops were issued. The overall command of Brazilian
troops was made from the High Command of the 15th Allied Army
Group, headed by Gen Mark Clark and Gen Crittenberger (5th
Army and 4th Army Core, USA), Field marshal Alexander (8th
Royal Army, England) together with the high staff of the Brazilian
Army, Gen Euríco Dutra, Gen Mascarenhas de Moraes,
Gen Zenóbio da Costa and Gen Cordeiro de Farias (commanders
of several Infantry and Artillery Divisions among the whole
of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force).
Brazilian Air Force - FAB- had a group of pilots and land
personel trainned in the United States, the 1º GAvCA
(1st Fighter Group), sent to Italy and alocated in the 350th
U.S. Army Air Force Fighter Group. The Brazilian pilots actually
formed one of the 20 squadrons of the XXII Air Tactic Command,
flying the updated P-47D. Their role was very important to
the actions of all Allied forces in Italy and the Brazilian
pilots were also very praised for their important air-to-ground
operations. Many pilots were victims of heavy flack, some
were downed , captured by Germans and taken to prisioner camps
On the 16th November, FEB occupied Massarosa. Two days later,
Camaiore and other small towns and cities on the way North.
During this period, the Brazilians G.I.s, or "pracinhas",
created the FEB symbol, consisting of a badge with a snake
over National colors (Green and Yellow), with a smoking pipe
in mouth. This was a big irony to answer a group of the society
opposing Brazil entering the conflict, who used to say that
³it was easier to see a snake smoking than to see Brazilian
troops sent to fight the war...
October, FEB conquered Monte Prano, controlled the Sercchio
river valley and Castelnuovo, with first significant losses.
Later that month, troops were directed to the Reno valley.
This region, at the feet of the Appenines, was the place where
FEB would spend the next three months, facing rigorous winter
and the fierce resistance of the German forces up on the mountains
and hills, the so called Bernhard and Gustav Lines, strong
defenses made by the Axis to delay the advance of troops.
It was there where one of the great achievements of the Brazilian
troops took place: Monte Castelo. In the end of November,
several attempts were made to kick the Germans out of this
hill, from where they could spot all movements of Allied troops.
The freshly created and debuting in the front 10th US Mountain
Division, joined FEB in an 18Km front, having the task of
clearing Monte Belvedere from the Germans atop of it. The
days went by with head-on clashes with the well nested Germans,
clearing off mine fields, "booby traps", ambushes,
machine gun nests, all this under a heavy barrage of grenades
and mortar fire. It was not until the 21st of February, 1945,
that finally the Germans were battered off Monte Castelo.
The Brazilian troops paid a heavy toll for this victory, but
still there was more to come.
5th of March, FEB entered Castelnuovo. During this period,
the Offensive for Spring was being prepared by the High Staff
of Gen Crittenberger and the Brazilian High Command. This
was a large scale operation (which would endure till the last
days of the War), ranging from the Adriatic to the Tirrene,
using every single Division of every Army taking part in the
campaign. The actions would start with a frontal attack on
the enemy lines, and the city of Montese was the target to
the Brazilian troops, so as to remove what was left of the
German artillery, still causing great damage to the Allies.
The city was taken, but late at night, the Germans counter
attacked and it took a high number of casualties to finish
off with the fight, again, a tough and bloody page in the
actions of FEB during the Italian Campaign.
At this point, the Germans were trying to regroup after escaping
through road 64, the only path down the Appenines. The progress
of the troops was fast and in a few days, the city of Parma
was taken. Later on, FEB entered Bologne without any resistance.
In the end of April, the actions of pursuing the enemy became
the main occupation of the Allied Forces. So it was that FEB
entered Collechio, still under German artillery. After surrendering
a large number of Germans, the Brazilian Forces were preparing
to face fierce resistance at the river Taro, from what was
left of the retreating German Forces , this time through route
62. The German troops were surrounded near Fornovo and forced
to surrender. So that, the entire 148th Wehrmarcht Infantry
Division, consisting altogether of more than 16 thousand(!)
men, including the 80th Panzer division, several Italian divisions
and more than a thousand vehicles(!), surrendered to the Brazilian
Forces on 28th April.
2nd May, Brazilian Forces entered the city of Turin, in the
Northeast of Italy, meeting French Mountain troops in the
frontier, while in the North, FEB was on the heels of German
Forces still on the run. At this date, the astounding news
that Hitler was dead put an end to the fights in Italy. All
German troops finally surrendered to the Allies in the following
The War was over.
During eight months of the Italian Campaign, the Brazilian
Forces managed to make 20.573 Axis prisoners, being two generals,
892 officials and 19.679 privates. FEB had 443 KIA, being
13 officials. Summing up with the lives of civilians and military
that were in the ships of the Brazilian Merchant Navy - sunk
in the South Pacific in Brazilian waters by U boats, more
losses in the Brazilian Navy and Air Force, the Second World
War stole the lives of nearly 2.000 Brazilians. The 443 soldiers
buried in the FEB cemetery in Pistoia were later removed to
the WW II mausoleum and monument built in Rio de Janeiro,
in the beginning of the 60's, where stands the eternal flame
lit in the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
1-1944; O Brasil na Segunda Guerra , Hélio Silva;
2- A FEB Pelo Seu Comandante, Marechal Macarenhas de Moraes;
3- A Nossa Segunda Guerra, Ricardo Bonalume Neto.