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The Brazilian Expeditionary Force or BEF ( , or FEB) was a 25,300-man force that the Brazilianmarker Navy, Army and Air Force formed to fight alongside the Allied forces in World War II. Brazil was the only South American country to send troops to fight in the war.

Brazilian War Propaganda.
The Brazilian Army and Air Force fought in Italymarker and the Navy in the Atlantic Oceanmarker. During the eight months of the Italian campaign, the Brazilian Expeditionary Force managed to take 20,573 Axis prisoners, including two generals, 892 officers and 19,679 other ranks. During the War, Brazil lost 948 of its own men killed in action across all three services.


Brazil'smarker participation alongside the Allied powers in World War II was by no means a foregone conclusion, even though Brazil had come to participate with them in World War I. Then Brazilian participation was primarily naval, although it did send a regiment to the Western Front. The navy and air force played a role in Naval War in the Atlantic after mid-1942, but more importantly, Brazil also contributed with an infantry division that entered combat on the Italian Front in 1944.

As in World War I, Brazil initially maintained a position of neutrality. Initially Brazil traded with both the Allies and the Axis Powers, while Brazilian president Getúlio Vargas's quasi-Fascist policies indicated a leaning toward the Axis powers. However, as the war progressed, trade with the Axis countries became almost impossible and the US began forceful diplomatic and economic efforts to bring Brazil onto the Allied side.

At the beginning of 1942, Brazil permitted the US to set up air bases in return for the offer by the United States to encourage the formation of an iron industry Companhia Siderurgica Nacional in Brazil. The US bases were located in the states of Bahia, Pernambuco and Rio Grande do Norte, where the city of Natalmarker hosted part of the U.S. Navy's VP-52 patrol squadron. In addition, US Task Force 3 established itself in Brazil; this included a squadron equipped to attack submarines and merchant vessels attempting to trade with Japanmarker.

Although Brazil was technically neutral, this increasing cooperation with the Allies led the Brazilian Government to announce at the Pan American States Conference in Rio on 28 January 1942 its decision to sever diplomatic relations with Germanymarker, Japanmarker, and Italymarker.

As a result, from the end of January to July 1942, German U-Boats sank 13 Brazilian merchant vessels. In August 1942, the U-507marker, sank five Brazilian vessels in two days, causing more than 600 deaths:

*On August 15, the Baependy, traveling from Salvadormarker to Recifemarker, was torpedoed at 19:12. Its 215 passengers and 55 crew members were lost.
*At 21:03, the U-507 torpedoed the Araraquara, also traveling from Salvador towards the north of the country. Of the 142 people on board, 131 died.
*Seven hours after the second attack, the U-507 attacked the Aníbal Benévolo. All 83 passengers died; of a crew of 71, only four survived.
*On August 17, close to the city of Vitóriamarker, the Itagiba was hit at 10:45, with a death toll of 36.
*Another Brazilian ship, the Arará , traveling from Salvadormarker to Santosmarker, stopped to help the crippled Itagiba, but ended up being the fifth Brazilian victim of the German submarine, with a death toll of 20.

In all, 21 German and two Italian submarines were responsible for the sinking of 36 Brazilian merchant ships, causing 1,691 drownings and 1,079 other casualties. The sinkings were the main reason that led Brazilian Government to declare war against the Axis.

Berlin Radio pronouncements led to increasing nervousness among the Brazilian population. So unlike 1917, in 1942 it seemed that the Brazilian government did not want war. However, in the then capital, Rio de Janeiromarker, the people started to attack German businesses, such as restaurants. The passive position of the Vargas government was untenable in the face of public opinion. Ultimately, the government found itself with no alternative but to declare war on Germanymarker and Italymarker on August 22, 1942.


Brazilian Officers in Italy, Monte Castello.
The Brazilian 1st Division of the BEF fought with the 15th Army Group under Field Marshal Harold Alexander (later succeeded by General Mark Clark), via the U.S. Fifth Army of Lieutenant General Mark Clark (later succeeded by Lieutenant General Lucian Truscott) and the U.S. IV Corps of Major General Willis D. Crittenberger. The entry for the Gothic Line order of battle provides the overall order of battle for the Allied and German armies in Italy.

The Brazilian Air Force component was itself under the Mediterranean Allied Tactical Air Force.

The BEF headquarters functioned as an administrative headquarters and link to the Brazilian high command and War Minister General Eurico Gaspar Dutra in Rio de Janeiro. General Mascarenhas de Moraes (later Marshal) was the commander of the BEF with General Zenóbio da Costa as commander of the division's three regimental Combat Teams and General Cordeiro de Farias as commander of the Artillery.

The BEF was (theoretically) organized as a standard American infantry division, complete in all aspects, down to its logistical tail, including postal and banking services. The maneuver units were the 1st, 6th and 11th Regimental Combat Teams, each of about 5,000 men in three battalions plus supporting units, with each battalion consisting of four companies each.

The campaign


Soon after Brazil declared war, it began to mobilize an expeditionary force to fight in Europe. It took almost two years to gather a force of one Army's Division with 25,000 men (replacements included), compared with an initial goal of a whole Army's Corps of 100,000, to join the Allies in the Italian Campaign.

Arrival in Italy

On July 2, 1944 the first five thousand BEF soldiers, the 6th Regimental Combat team, left Brazil for Europe aboard the USNS General Mann, and arrived in Italy on July 16. They disembarked in Naplesmarker, where they waited to join the US Task Force 45. They disembarked without weapons, and as no one had arranged barracks, the troops stood around on the docks. At the time this caused controversy in the Brazilian media. In late July, two more transports with Brazilian troops reached Italy, with three more following in September, November, and February 1945.

The BEF dedicated its first weeks in Italy to acquiring the proper equipment to fight on Italian terrain, and to training under American command. The troops moved to Tarquiniamarker, 350 km north of Naplesmarker, where Clark's army was based. In November 1944, the BEF joined General Crittenberger's U.S. IV Corps.

The Brazilians joined what was a multi-national hodge-podge of forces. The American forces included the segregated African-American92nd Infantry Division and the Japanese-American 442 Infantry Regiment. British forces included New Zealanders, Canadians, Indians, Gurkhas, Black Africans, Jews and Arabs from the British Mandate in Palestine, South Africans, units of exiles — Poles, Greeks, Czechs, Slovakians, as well as anti-fascist Italians, also served under British command. The French forces included Senegaleses, Morrocans and Algerians.

Brazilian Army in the strong Italian winter.

The Germans made much of the political aspect of the presence of the Brazilian force in Italy. They targeted propaganda specifically at the Brazilians. In addition to leaflets, the Germans provided an hour-long daily radio broadcast in Portuguese from Berlin Radio called "Hora AuriVerde" (GoldenGreen Hour).

The campaign

The BEF achieved battlefield successes at Massarosa, Camaiore, Monte Prano, Monte Acuto, San Quirico, Gallicano, Barga, Monte Castello, La Serra, Castelnuovo, Soprassasso, Montese, Paravento, Zocca, Marano su Panaro, Collecchio and Fornovo.

The first missions the Brazilians undertook were reconnaissance operations to the end of August. Brazilian troops helped to fill the gap left by divisions of the Fifth Army and French Expeditionary Corps that left Italy for Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern Francemarker.

On September 16, the 6th RCT took Massarosamarker. Two days later it also took Camaioremarker and other small towns on the way north. By then, the BEF had already conquered Monte Prano, and taken control of the Serchiomarker valley without any major casualties. After having suffered its first reverses around Bargamarker city, and after the arrival of the 1st RCT at the end of October, the BEF was directed to the base of the Apenninesmarker where it would spend the next months facing the harsh winter and the resistance of the Gothic Line.. Allied forces were unable to break the Gothic Line over the winter and an offensive by German and Italian divisions to the right of the BEF led to serious losses in US 92nd Division, which required the assistance of the 8th Indian Infantry Division to contain the offensive.

Between the end of February and beginning of March 1945, the Brazilian Division and the U.S. 10th Mountain Division were able to capture important positions on the Apennines, which deprived the Germans of artillery positions on the mountains. This made the breaking of the Gothic Line and the consequent Spring offensive practicable.

In the US 5th Army's sector, the final offensive on the Italian Front began on April 14, after a bombardment by 2,000 heavy bombers and 2,000 artillery pieces, with an attack carried out by the troops of US IV Corps, commenced by the Brazilian Division, that took Montesemarker, breaking the Germans' lines to the North. The Polish Division, from the British 8th Army, and the U.S. 34th Infantry Division, from the US 5th Army, entered Bolognamarker on 21 April.

On 25 April the Italian resistance movement started a general partisan insurrection at the same time as the Brazilians troops arrived at Parmamarker and the Americans at Modenamarker and Genovamarker. The British VIII Army advanced towards Venicemarker and Triestemarker. From then on, the main task facing the Allied forces in Italy was pursuing the enemy.

After capturing a large number of Germans at Collecchiomarker, the Brazilian forces were preparing to face fierce resistance at the Taro rivermarker region from the retreating German-Italian forces of the region of Genoa/La Spezia that had been set free by troops of the 92nd US Division. These German troops were surrounded near Fornovo and after some fighting surrendered. On April 28, the Brazilians captured more than 20 thousand men, including the entire 148th Infantry Division, elements of the 90th Panzergrenadier and the last former Division of the Italian Fascist Army.

This took the German Command by surprise as it had planned for these troops to join forces with the German-Italian Army of Liguria to counterattack against the US 5th Army. The US 5th army had advanced, as is inevitable in these situations, in a fast but diffuse and disarranged way uncoordinated with air support, and had left some gaps on its left flank and to the rear. The Nazi-Fascist forces had left intact many bridges throughout the Po Rivermarker to facilitate a counter-attack. The German Army Command was already negotiating a truce in Casertamarker, and hoped that a counterattack would improve the conditions for surrender. The events in Fornovo disrupted the German plan, as much by the dissarray of their troops as by the delay it caused. This, added to the news of Hitler's death and the fall of Berlin to the Red Army, left the German Command in Italy with no option but to accept the unconditional surrender of its troops.

In their final advance, the Brazilians reached Turinmarker and then on 2 May they joined up with Frenchmarker troops at the border in Susamarker. That same day brought the announcement of the end of hostilities in Italy.


Brazilian Soldiers' Cemetery in Toscana, Italy.
The bodies of the soldiers buried in the BEF cemetery in Pistoiamarker were later transferred to a mausoleum in Rio de Janeiromarker. Marshall Mascarenhas de Moraes had proposed and promoted the construction of the mausoleum and it was inaugurated on July 24, 1960. It covers an area of 6,850 square meters.

Brazil's participation in World War II was more extensive than its participation in World War I. During World War II, Brazil provided a meaningful tactical and strategic contribution. Still, the FEB/BEF was just one of the 20 Allied divisions in Italy. Furthermore, although the division played an important part in the sectors in which it operated, none of these sectors were the main one on the Italian Front, and the Italian Front became secondary for both sides after D-Day.


  • Due to the Brazilian dictatorship's unwillingness to get more deeply involved in the Allied war effort, by 1942 a popular saying was that "it's more likely for snakes to start to smoke now than for the BEF to set out." ("Mais fácil uma cobra fumar do que a FEB embarcar") Until the BEF entered combat, the expression "a cobra vai fumar" ("snakes will smoke") was often used in Brazil in a context similar to "when pigs fly." As a result, the soldiers of the BEF called themselves Cobras Fumantes (literally, Smoking Snakes) and wore a divisional shoulder patch that showed a snake smoking a pipe. After the war the meaning was reversed, signifying that something will definitively happen and in a furious and aggressive way.

  • During the capture of Montese, three Brazilian soldiers, Arlindo Lúcio da Silva, Geraldo Baeta da Cruz, and Geraldo Rodrigues de Souza, when on a patrol, ran into German forces. Though ordered to surrender, the Brazilians refused and fought to the death. In recognition of their bravery, the Germans would bury them and write on their crosses “Drei brasilianische Helden” (Three Brazilian Heroes).

The Air Force

The 1oGAVCA (1st Fighter Group/1º Grupo de Aviação de Caça) was formed on December 18, 1943. Its commanding Officer was Ten.-Cel.-Av. (Aviation Lieutenant Colonel) Nero Moura.

The group had 350 men, including 43 pilots. The group was divided into four flights: Red ("A"), Yellow ("B"), Blue ("C"), and Green ("D"). The CO of the group and some officers were not attached to any specific flight.Unlike the BEF's Army component, the 1oGAVCA had personnel who were experienced Brazilian Air Force (Portuguese: Força Aérea Brasileira, or FAB) pilots. One of them was Alberto M. Torres, who had piloted a PBY-5A Catalina that had sunk U-199, which was operating off the Brazilian coast.

The group trained for combat in Panamamarker, where 2o Ten.-Av. Dante (Aviation Second Lieutenant) Isidoro Gastaldoni was killed in a training accident. On May 11, 1944, the group was declared operational and became active in the air defense of the Panama Canal Zone. On June 22, the 1oGAVCA traveled to the U.S. to convert to the Republic P-47D Thunderbolt.
Brazilian fighter pilots "Senta a Pua"
On September 19, 1944 the 1oGAVCA left for Italy, arriving at Livorno on October 6. It became part of the 350th Fighter Group of the USAAF, which in turn was part of the 62nd Fighter Wing, XXII Tactical Air Command, of the 12th Air Force.

The Brazilian pilots initially flew from 31 October 1944, as individual elements of flights attached to 350th FG squadrons, at first in affiliation flights and progressively taking part in more dangerous missions. Less than two weeks later, on November 11, the group started its own operations flying from its base at Tarquiniamarker, using its tactical callsign Jambock. Brazilian Air Force stars replaced the white U.S. star in the roundel on the FAB Thunderbolts. The 1oGAVCA started its fighting career as a fighter-bomber unit, its missions being armed reconnaissance and interdiction, in support of the US Fifth Army, to which the FEB was attached.

On April 16, 1945, the U.S. Fifth Army started its offensive along the Po Valleymarker. By then, the strength of the Group had fallen to 25 pilots, some having been killed and others shot down and captured. Some others had been relieved from operations on medical grounds due to combat fatigue. The Group disbanded the Yellow flight and distributed the surviving pilots among the other flights. Each pilot flew on average two missions a day.

On 22 April 1945, the three remaining flights took off at 5-minute intervals, starting at 8:30 AM, to destroy bridges, barges, and motorized vehicles in the San Benedetto region. At 10:00 AM, a flight took off for an armed reconnaissance mission south of Mantuamarker. They destroyed more than 80 tanks, trucks, and vehicles. By the end of the day, the group had flown 44 individual missions and destroyed hundreds of vehicles and barges. On this day the group flew the most sorties of the war; consequently, Brazil commemorates April 22 Brazilian Fighter Arm Day.

In all, the 1oGAVCA flew a total of 445 missions, 2,550 individual sorties, and 5,465 combat flight hours, from 11 November 1944 to 6 May 1945. The XXII Tactical Air Command acknowledged the efficiency of the Group by noting that although it flew only 5% of the total of missions carried out by all squadrons under its control, it accomplished a much higher percentage of the total destruction wreaked:
  • 85% of the ammunition depots
  • 36% of the fuel depots
  • 28% of the bridges (19% damaged)
  • 15% of motor vehicles (13% damaged)
  • 10% of horse-drawn vehicles (10% damaged)

The Navy

Brazilian Frigate against German Submarine.

German submarines were the biggest challenge the Brazilian navy faced. The Brazilian Navy also had the task of carrying BEF troops to Gibraltarmarker. The Brazilian Navy lost 500 of its 7,000 sailors in the conflict.

The main task of the Brazilian Navy was to ensure the safety of ships sailing between Trinidadmarker in the Caribbeanmarker and Florianopolismarker, a city in the south of Brazil. The Brazilian navy conducted 574 operations that protected 3,164 merchant ships; German submarines were only able to sink three ships. In the fight against German submarines, Brazilian frigates and submarines used sea mines and depth charges. According to German documents, the Brazilian Navy attacked German submarines a total of 66 times.

See also


a. A squadron from the Mexican Air Force did see combat in the Philippines.

  1. Hélio Silva, "1942 Guerra no Continente"
  2. Fernando Morais, "Chatô, o Rei do Brasil"
  3. Silva, Hélio, "1944 o Brasil na Guerra"
  4. Command Magazine issue 51, page 34
  5. Ready, J.Lee, "Forgotten Allies: The Military Contribution of the Colonies, Exiled Governments and Lesser Powers to the Allied Victory in World War II"
  6. Propaganda leaflets of World War 2: Italian theatre of operations / Po Valley Campaign
  7. R.Brooks, The War North of Rome, p.220 to 224
  8. Bohmler, Rudolf, Monte Cassino, Cap.XI
  9. BEF's participation in World War II. Brazilian Army Retrieved July 31, 2007


  • Brooks, Thomas R. The War North of Rome (June 1944-May 1945). Da Capo Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0306812569.
  • Buyers, John. História dos 350th fighter group da Força Aérea Americana (in Portuguese). UFAL-Universidade Federal de Alagoas, 2007. ISBN 978-8571773226.
  • Castro, Celso with Vitor Izecksohn and Hendrik Kraay. Nova História Militar Brasileira (in Portuguese). FGV-Fundação Getúlio Vargas, 2004. ISBN 85-2250-496-2.* Clark, Mark Wayne. Calculated Risk. New York: Enigma Books, 1950, republished 2007. ISBN 978-1929631599.
  • de Moraes, Mascarenhas. The Brazilian Expeditionary Force, By Its Commander US Government Printing Office, 1966. ASIN B000PIBXCG.* Morais, Fernando. Chatô, o Rei do Brasil (in Portuguese). Cia das Letras, 1994. ISBN 85-7164-396-2.
  • Ready, J. Lee. Forgotten Allies: The European Theatre, Volume I. McFarland & Company, 1985. ISBN 978-0899501291.
  • Ready, J. Lee. Forgotten Allies: The Military Contribution of the Colonies, Exiled Governments and Lesser Powers to the Allied Victory in World War II. McFarland & Company, 1985. ISBN 978-0899501178.
  • Silva, Hélio. 1942 Guerra no Continente (in Portuguese). Civilização Brasileira, 1972.
  • Silva, Hélio. 1944 o Brasil na Guerra (in Portuguese). Civilização Brasileira, 1974.
  • The 350th Fighter Group in the Mediterranean Campaign, 2 November 1942 to 2 May 1945. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, . ISBN 0-76430-220-5.

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