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Brazil Declares War

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Brazilian sleeve insignia. Gift of the Bornio family, 2010.299.182

In 1942, Brazilian casualties numbered more than 1,000 at sea, all struck by German U-boats. Though the government under dictatorial President Getúlio Vargas sought neutrality—largely to avoid losing business with the powers on either side of the conflict—the people of Brazil largely commiserated with the Allied cause. On 22 August 1942, 70 years ago today, the nation of Brazil declared war on the Axis powers of Germany and Italy.

Prior to the official declaration, Brazil was cooperating with both the Axis and the Allies, though more economically than militarily. The United States had begun building air bases in Brazil in early 1942, but Brazil was still also working and trading with Germany and Italy. Shortly after agreeing to allow US air bases to be built, and while technically still neutral, Brazil had announced it would no longer deal diplomatically with Germany, Italy, or Japan in late January 1942. Six months later, however, Brazil officially sided with the Allies when it declared war.

The US air bases built in Natal and Recife would support aerial runs over North Africa, as well as to the China-Burma-India Theater. In addition to supporting existing American forces and missions, the Brazilians themselves fought on the ground in Italy under Gen. Mark Clark’s Fifth Army; the Brazilian Air Force was represented in the skies, flying American P-47 Thunderbolt, also over Italy; and the navy of Brazil also actively hunted the ever-present and devastating U-boats that had pushed the Brazilians into war against Germany. The Brazilians had other reasons for entering, as well. They hoped to improve their overall military and sustain that improvement after the war. They would be given much needed equipment and training from the US military.

Nearly 1,000 Brazilian lives of the more than 25,000 sent overseas as part of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force (FEB, short for Força Expedicionária Brasileira) were sacrificed in their effort to defeat fascism.


Brazilians at War in Italy Image Gallery

This post by Curator Meg Roussel

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