World War II Country Trends: Brazil


Figure 1.--Latin American countries were not directly involved in World War II until the Japanese attack on Peal Harbor (December 7, 1941). Within weeks of Pearl Harbor, each of the Latin American countries, except the southern cone countries (Argentina and Chile), either broke relations with the Axis countries ir declared war. Of these by far the most important was Brazil. This country is half of South America and has an emense Atlantic coast. Brazil allowed the United States to set up air bases along the northeastern coast. Recife was especially important. The American sailors like the one here were a curiosity at first to the Brazilian children.

Brazil like the other South American countries proclaimed its neurtality at the outbreak of World War II. South American economomies were primarily base on exporting commodities and thus were affected by the War. The British naval blockade disrupted trade with Germany, but demand increased in Allied countries. Thus the question for Brazil became the ability of the Allies to defeat the German U-boat campaign. Strangely there was very little attention given to NAZI racial policies and what this porteneded for a muklti-racial country like Brazil. The United States even before entering World War II was concerned about NAZI influence in South America. Thre were about 1.5 million ethnic Germans in south America, about two-thirds lived in Brazil. They were not well assimilated and more sympathetic to the NAZIs than the more assimilated ethnic-Germans in the United States. Germans controlled the commercial airlines in Brazil. There was also an important German military mission. Latin American countries were not directly involved in World War II until the Japanese attack on Peal Harbor (December 7, 1941). Within weeks of Pearl Harbor, each of the Latin American countries, except the southern cone countries (Argentina and Chile), either broke relations with the Axis countries or declared war. Of these by far the most important was Brazil. This country is half of South America and has an emense Atlantic coast. Brazil allowed the United States to set up air bases along the northeastern coast. Recife was especially important. These bases and instalations along with British Ascension Island help close off the Atlntic Narrows, making it difficult for German U-boazts to operate in the South Atlantic. Brazilian Navy patrols joined the British and Americans. Thus Brazil played an important role in the campaign against the U-boats in the South Atlantic. Brazil also helped set up air connections with Allied forces in Africa. The loss of Malay and the Dutch West Indies to the Japanese (1942) created shortages of rubber, a critical war material. The United States launched an sythetic rubber industry, but Brazil became a key source of natural rubber for the Allies. The Brazilian Army participated in the Italian campaign

Neutrality

Brazil like the other South American countries proclaimed its neurtality at the outbreak of World War II (September 1939).

Economics

South American economomies were primarily base on exporting commodities and thus were affected by the War. The British naval blockade disrupted trade with Germany, but demand increased in Allied countries. Thus the question for Brazil became the ability of the Allies to defeat the German U-boat campaign.

Race

Strangely there sems to have been very little attention given to NAZI racial policies and what this porteneded for a multi-racial country like Brazil. Afactor here was that Brazil was dominated by individuals of Portuguese or other eiropean ancestry.

Axis Influence

The United States even before entering World War II was concerned about NAZI influence in South America. Thre were about 1.5 million ethnic Germans in south America, about two-thirds lived in Brazil. They were not well assimilated and more sympathetic to the NAZIs than the more assimilated ethnic-Germans in the United States. Germans controlled the commercial airlines in Brazil. There was also an important German military mission .

President Vargas

Getúlio Dornelles Vargas rose as govenor Rio Grande dp Sul (1928). After losingh a presidentialelection, he seized power and established a crypto-Fascist dictaorship (1930). He gained virtual absolite power in Brazil through control of the military. He was not as venral as many Latin American dictaors and was a strong Brazilian nationalist. [Poppino, p. 363.] He proclaimed the Estado Nôvo (New State) sounding much like Mussolini's Corporate State (1937). This ended any semblence of constitutional government. [Kadt, p. 47.] The press was censord and secret police gained enormous reach. Vargas proceeded to govern Brazil for 7 years with no politicalparties, congrss, or elections. Vargas dedcided to develop a close reklationship with the United states as World war II developed. It is not entirely clear why. Given that Vargas was aictator with many Fascist trappings woukld seem to make him a better fit for the Axis. Perhaps Vargs understood that while Fascism sounded good to him that in a Fascist contrilled world he would no longer be in control. One source suggests tha British intelligence planted a fake letter from the Italian Trabhs-AtlAntic air Servuces (LATI) suggestingv that Italian inteligence was engineered a coup to overthrow Vargas. The letter referred to the 'fat man' (Vargas) and 'green gentlemen' (revolutiany Integralists trying to overhrow Vargas). Vargas was reportedly furious when he saw the letter and canceled LATI's landing rights as well as ordered arrests. Commandante Vicenzo Coppola, LTI's regional dircectoe, was caught headung for the argenine border with a million dollars in currency. [Stevenson, pp. 267-68.] That was the end of Vargas' flirtation with Fascism. The Brazilian people perhaps because of the ideals of the Allies increasingly began to understand that they lived in a dictatorship like the NAZIs in Europe that they were fighting against. Demands for reforms arose. Vargas did make some limited reforms Soon the people of Brazil were calling for a democracy. Vargas offered to make several changes, but it was too late. The Army concerned about growing demands for reforms dposed Vargas at the end of the War (October 29, 1945).

Pearl Harbor (December 1941)

Latin American countries were not directly involved in World War II until the Japanese attack on Peal Harbor (December 7, 1941). Within weeks of Pearl Harbor, each of the Latin American countries, except the southern cone countries (Argentina and Chile), either broke relations with the Axis countries or declared war.

Importance

Of all the Latin Ametican countries, by far the most important was Brazil. This country is half of South America and has an emense Atlantic coast.

Battle of the Atlantic

Brazil allowed the United States to set up air bases along the northeastern coast. Recife was especially important. These bases and instalations along with British Ascension Island help close off the Atlantic Narrows, making it difficult for German U-boats to operate in the South Atlantic. Brazilian bases and the Ascension provided air cober throughout the Atlantic Nrrows and U-boats could not operared where the Allies were able to extend air cover. Brazilian Navy patrols joined the British and Americans. Thus Brazil played an important role in the campaign against the U-boats in the South Atlantic. The key battle of course was the North tlantgic convoy routes betweem Ameruica abnd Britain, but securing the South atlany\tic was part of the koverall effort to defeat the U-boat menace.

Air Connection

Brazil also helped set up air connections with Allied forces in Africa.

Natural Resources

The loss of Malay and the Dutch West Indies to the Japanese (1942) created shortages of rubber, a critical war material. The United States launched an sythetic rubber industry, but Brazil became a key source of natural rubber for the Allies.

Italian Campaign (September 1944-May 1945)

The Brazilian Expeditionary Force (Força Expedicionária Brasileira, FEB) totaled about 25,700 men and women prepared by the Army and Air Force to fight with Allied forces in the Mediterranean Theatre. Brazil was the only South American country to actually cpmmit troops to combat. This air-land force fought in the Italian campaign (September 1944 to May 1945). The FEB took some 20,600 Axis prisoners, incluing two two generalss. The Brazilians nearly 950 men killed.

Sources

Kadt, Emanuel De, “Brazil,” Claudio Véliz, ed.Latin America and the Caribbean: A Handbook (New York: Praeger, 1968)

Poppino, Rollie E., “Vargas, Getúlio Dornelles,” Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture Vol. 5 (New York: C. Scribners Sons; London: Simon & Shauster: Prentic Hall International, 1996).

Stevenson, William. A Man Called Intrepid: The Secret War (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: New York, 1976), 486p.






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Created: 5:53 AM 4/16/2010
Last updated: 11:20 PM 1/19/2013