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Home > December 2016 > The Brazilians Against the Nazis?

The Brazilians Against the Nazis?
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

Yep.  Another forgotten story of World War II is that Brazil sent it's tiny little army, navy, and air force to help us in the fight against Nazism.  The United States had been pressuring Brazil to join the Allies.  Brazil at first was hesitant since their own government was a military dictatorship, and they were happy to trade with both sides.  The United States wanted the Brazilian navy to help guard troop convoys as they crossed the Atlantic, and we also wanted some air bases in South America.  

Brazil struck a deal with the US: in exchange for companies opening up iron ore operations in Brazil, the South American nation would sever relations with Germany and Italy.  Brazil cut off trade with the Axis powers on January 28, 1942, and right after that German and Italian subs in the South Atlantic began sinking Brazilian ships.  The Brazilian people were incensed and clamored for a declaration of war-- which they got on August 22, 1942.

The Brazilian Navy immediately went into action; their frigates and subs guarded Allied merchant and troop ships and chasing down enemy subs.  By the end of the war, the little Brazilian fleet had sunk 12 enemy submarines (1 Italian, 11 German)!  Pretty good shooting.

In July of 1944 the 1st Brazilian Division arrived in Italy to take their place with the Allies next to British, French, American, Polish, Indian, South African, and Czechoslovakian troops!  (Talk about a diverse group. . . )

The Brazilians arrived without weapons, but were soon completely equipped by the US with American rifles, tanks, and artillery.  A month later, they were in action against the Nazis.  The Brazilians fought with great skill and courage in over a dozen fierce battles in Italy.  In the last weeks of the war, as they were punching through German lines near thd Alps, they captured the entire German 148th Division, elements of the 90th Panzergrenadier, and the entire Italian 1st Bersagliere Division!  Not bad, eh?

Their fighter squadron was attached to the US 350th Fighter Group.  Their pilots flew the rugged P-47 Thunderbolt fighter plane.  In the eight months they fought the Germans, the Brazilian Air Force flew 445 missions, blew up 1,304 tanks and armored vehicles, 25 bridges, and 31 ammunition depots.  Way to go Brazilians.  

The "Brazilian Expeditionary Force" only numbered 25,700 fighting men, but they showed up, fought hard, lost 948 of their own, and helped us in defeating the savage empire of Hitler and Mussolini.  

Small, but mighty.

Thank you Brazil!

 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016, 10:39 PM

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