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Brazilian Expeditionary Force

// Information about Brazil and its military force (BEF) during the world war two.

The Brazilian troops were in Italy eleven months, after arriving there on September 1944 and leaving on August 1945. It was the only Latin American country to participate directly in the Second World War. Its participation in the war started due to the signature on January 28th 1942, during the Third Conference of the American Chancellors in Rio de Janeiro, of an agreement which would end its relation with the Axis.
 
With the sinking of thirty four Brazilians ships near the shore, the public opinion started to press the government of Getúlio Vargas, president of Brazil, culminating with the Brazil's entry into the war against the Axis. The Brazilian neutrality kept until then wasn't completely accepted by the Allies, which were seeing Vargas as a possible dictator in the Americas, because he showed many sympathy for the Italian fascism. So, without any other exit, on August 22nd 1942 the government was forced to recognize the existence of a belligerency state between Brazil and the Axis powers (Germany, Italy and Japan).
It was now necessary to know what would be the answer of the government to the Axis aggressions. The first step was to allow the Americans to use the military bases so it could be possible to launch airplanes to Africa and Europe after being refueled in the Brazilian shore, the so called Atlantic Springboard. The Brazilians were also assigned to patrol the Atlantic seas and skies. But, even so, the people wanted more. Wanted that the government clearly respond to the attacks that in a few days killed more than a hundred of civilians which were in the merchant ships drowned by the Axis.
 
It was then in 1943 that Brazil decided to create the BEF (in English, Brazilian Expeditionary Force). Nevertheless, there was a big difficulty to find soldiers that would fit in the profile of the American and English combatant.
The last great war that Brazil had participated was against Paraguay in 1865, so they didn't have experienced combatants in great conflicts. During the 40's, the majority of the weapons was still from the First World War period, being a mix of German and English weapons.
The military tactic teached in the army was still the French one that was used during the 1914 war. The soldiers were spread on all territory, and their physical condition was also not very good. Many soldiers didn't have education because they came from the countryside where the basic education was a privilege for few people. To complete the dark situation, inside the country's army there was still a division between the officials that were supporters of German and the ones supporters from the Alies.
 
Politically speaking, in the country there was a movement called Integralism which was a disguised support group of Nazism and had a lot of force mainly in the South of Brazil, where there were German and Italian colonies.
To end this influence, the government prohibited people from speaking German in public and convoked all the German citizens to appear in the police stations to make a deposition. All this had the main objective of avoid espionage.
 
The national press said that was easier a snake smoke, than Brazil go to war. They were completely wrong. Even with so many problems, Brazil was able to mobilize more than 25 thousand soldiers, divided into three groups and, even if in full speed, started to train them to go to the operations theater. For instance, while an American soldier was trained in an average of 9 months before going to combat, a Brazilian soldier was trained only 3 months.
 
Then, on August 1943 the rules to the organization of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force (BEF) started secretly to be traced, appointed to cooperate with the Allied armies. On August 9th 1943, the General Mascarenhas de Moraes, 2nd Military Region commander (São Paulo), was invited by the war minister, Eurico Gaspar Dutra, to assume the command of one of the Infantry Divisions of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force.
Next, the minister went to the United States with a letter from Vargas to the president Franklin Roosevelt, in which Getúlio manifested the will of Brazil to actively participate in the battles. The division of Mascarenhas de Moraes would be the 1st Expeditionary Infantry Division (1st EID), being its designation assigned later. By the Ministerial Law 4,744, published in the reserved bulletin of August 13th 1943, BEF was structured, constituted by the 1st Expeditionary Infantry Division (1st EID) and by the non-divisionary organs. On November 23th 1943 it's finally created the Brazilian Expeditionary Force (BEF), with three Infantry Divisions and organic elements from the Army Corps, including the Aviation and Command and Services Organs.
A division (1st Sampaio Regiment) would stay in Rio de Janeiro, capital of the Brazilian Republic at that time, other (6th Regiment of Caçapava) in Caçapava, interior of São Paulo State, far away from the Paulist capital approximately 5 hours and other regiment (11st Infantry Regiment) would stay in Minas Gerais State, in the city of São João Del Rey.
 
On October 1943 it had already began the organization of the 1st Expeditionary Infantry Division (1st EID), under the orientation of the General Mascarenhas de Moraes, assigned to that on October 7th 1943. That great expeditionary unit and its elements followed the United States Army's standards and already consecrated by the war experience in course.
The organic troop of the Expeditionary Infantry Division (EID), American type, comprehended:
3 Infantry Regiments:
1st Infantry Regiment, the Sampaio, from Rio de Janeiro;
6th Infantry Regiment, from Caçapava;
11st Infantry Regiment, from São João Del Rey.
3 Artillery Groups 105mm;
1 Artillery Group 155mm;
1 Engineering Battalion (9th Engineering Battalion, from Aquidauana - Mato Grosso);

 
1 Reconnaissance Squadron;
1 Health Battalion (organized in Valença);
1 HQ Company;
1 Bailiff Company;
1 Transmissions Company;
1 Maintenance Company;
1 Police Platoon;
1 Music Band;
1 Health Detachment;
1 Burial Platoon.
 
In summary, the BEF had a Command, an Infantry division, a Personnel Deposit and small organizations with Justice Service and Health Service in which had been assigned to about 100 doctors and 111 nurses. In the organization of the 1st EID great part of the already existent units were reused, and other were transformed and created. 
 
The officers had to adapt to the changes. Brazilian chiefs like the generals Euclydes Zenóbio da Costa, Oswaldo Cordeiros de Farias and Falconiere da Cunha, were sent to the USA to learn the new war tactics.
During the training period, General Mascarenhas de Moraes, on December 6th 1943, accompanied by many officers, within them a Observers Group, left to North of Africa and Italy. In the last, visited during a long period the combat fronts and was in contact with the most notable military Allied chiefs of that Operations Theater. At the end of 1943, was decided that the destiny of the Brazilian expeditionary corp was the Mediterranean Operations Theater.
The Brazilian forces would be integrated into the 5th US Army, commanded by the General Mark Clark, and included in the 4th Army Corp personnel, commanded by the General Willis Crittenberger. This US Army Corp, besides the Brazilian division, was formed by the armored division (American), a south-african and English divisions, and also by the 10th Mountain Division (American), which fought with the Brazilians on February 1945, on the Monte Castello conquest.
 
The 5th US Army was part of the 10th Allied Armies Group. With the 5th US Army the famous 8th British Army commanded by Marshall Montgomery was fighting on the Mediterranean Theater. This British Army had fought against the Rommel Afrika Korps in Africa and had accomplished good results, which also had appeared in Sicily.
The Supreme Commander of the Mediterranean Theater was the Marshall Sir Alexander, from the British Army. In a constellation of brilliant generals like this, the BEF would be introduced.
 
The Allies main objective in Italy in that moment was to keep the German army under pressure, in order to prevent their commanders from displacing their troops to France, where a final offensive of the Allied forces was being prepared on West.
 
Only on December 28th 1943 it was published the General Mascarenhas de Moraes designation to command the 1st Expeditionary Infantry Division (1st EID), in confirmation to the choice made personally by the Government Chief, in August.
 
The soldiers were garrisoned and started to train all time they could, simultaneously with the constant visits from the officers.
The 1st EID was organized with the same organization as an US Army Infantry Division, with 14,254 soldiers (734 officers and 13,520 pracinhas [little soldiers], people's dearly designation for the Brazilian combatants that remained until today) and equiped with 66 howitzers (54 of 105mm and 12 of 155mm), 144 mortars (90 of 60mm and 54 of 80mm), 500 machine guns (87 submachine guns 4.5, 175 .30 and 237 .50), 11,741 rifles (5,231 carbines and 6,510 .30 rifles), 1,156 pistols caliber 45, 2,387 anti-car weapons (13 37mm cannons and 57 57mm, besides 585 2.36 bazooka and 1.532 grenade launchers), 72 anti-car mine detectors and masks against masks for all soldiers. Also with 1,410 motorized vehicles, including 13 tanks M8 and 5 M3 half-tracks tanks. That allowed to move the one third of all manpower of the 1st EID, which occurred during the Panaro river persecution. The 47 assault boats and bridges allowed the division to cross rivers. Their 736 telephones, 42 telegraphs, 592 radio stations and 10 Piper Cub planes, provided ample observation capacity and connection.
With this organization, the 1st EID had the opportunity to attack in a 6km front and defend one front from 5 to 10km, after the mountain adaptation which occurred on Apennines region, in Italy. The 1st EID training sessions started in Brazil with the support of 115 American rules translated and coordinated by the BEF General-Staff, which worked in Casa de Deodoro and provided great help to the BEF complex mobilization under the command of General Anor Teixeira dos Santos. Many officers competed to the training in the US Army.
 
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Source:
Text from the Helton Costa work.
Check the published books (in Portuguese) from Helton and also available for download.


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