Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Brazil

The participation of Brazil on the side of the Allies in World War II marked a new chapter in the nation's history. The war severed Brazil's traditional relationships with western European sources of loans and investment capital. As a consequence, even before the United States joined the war, President Getúlio D. Vargas (the Brazilian dictator from 1930 to 1945) entered into an agreement with Washington to lease bases in northeastern Brazil along the air routes to Africa in return for Washington's support for Vargas's project of developing a national iron and steel mill at Volta Redonda. Such a step was unprecedented in Brazilian history and left Vargas open to charges that he had bargained away the national sovereignty.

Brazil did not follow the United States into the war in December 1941. Although the Brazilian government declared its solidarity with the United States, it also maintained diplomatic ties with the Axis states. The pretense of neutrality ended when Brazil severed these diplomatic relations, a step announced at the February 1942 Rio Conference. The fact that this consultative conference was held in Rio de Janeiro was indicative of the strategic importance that the U.S. government attached to Brazil. Following the conference, Brazil received a large quantity of U.S. military supplies, and it allowed the stationing of some U.S. troops on its soil.

Any Brazilian government efforts to avoid outright involvement in the war ended with the sinking of Brazilian merchant ships by German submarines. On 22 August 1942, Brazil declared war on Germany and Italy (it did not declare war on Japan until 5 June 1945), and in return, it received important military and technological aid from the United States.

Brazil proved an important addition to the Allied military effort. The country occupied a strategic position geographically, and bases there would play a significant role in the war against German U-boats in the South Atlantic. Brazil was also a key link in the air route between Florida and the Middle East, and it furnished important raw materials, especially rubber, to the Allied war effort. Brazil was also the only Latin American state, apart from Mexico (with one air squadron), to furnish combat forces.

Under the order of the Brazilian dictator Vargas, Major General Jo‹o Baptista Mascarenhas de Moraes, commander of the Second Military Region of S‹o Paulo, began organizing the Brazilian Expeditionary Corps (FEB) in late 1943; it was to cooperate with Allied military operations in Europe. In 1944, Brazil shipped this expeditionary force to Italy. It also sent other military elements by air, including doctors and nurses.

The first part of the FEB departed Rio de Janeiro for Naples on 2 July 1944. Other elements followed over the next months, with the fifth and last component arriving in February 1945. The FEB troops were largely untrained and had no combat experience when they arrived in Italy to serve with Lieutenant General Mark Clark's U.S. Fifth Army, but they entered fighting that September and continued in the line until the end of the war. In all, 25,445 Brazilians fought in the Italian theater.

In addition to army personnel, 400 men of the Brazilian air force fought with the 350th Squadron of the U.S. Army Air Forces in Italy. Ships of the Brazilian navy also worked with the U.S. Navy in patrolling the Brazilian coast.

Brazil's cooperation with the Allies in the war affected national development through the growth of important ties between the nation and the United States. The U.S. share in Brazilian trade jumped from 24 percent in 1938 to 55 percent in the early 1940s, and it remained at that level. Further, the war also had been fought in the name of democracy, and in 1945, the Brazilian army overthrew Vargas and his dictatorship in a bloodless putsch.

Jó Klanovicz and Spencer C. Tucker


Further Reading
Humphreys, R. A. Latin America and the Second World War. 2 vols. London: Athlone Press, 1981, 1982.; Lima, Rui. Senta a pua. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Biblioteca do Exército, 1980.; McCann, Frank D., Jr. The Brazilian-American Alliance, 1937–1945. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973.; Moraes, João T. M. de. A FEB pelo seu comandante. São Paulo, Brazil: Ipê, 1947.; Silva, Hélio. O Brasil declara guerra ao eixo. São Paulo, Brazil: Três, 1998.
 

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