After the U.S.A.’s entry into the war, in December, 1941, Brazil, under American pressure and domestic public opinion, declared its support of the U.S.A., and even consented to the establishment of American Air-Force Bases in its territory.
Nevertheless, it continued to maintain diplomatic relations with the Axis countries.
These relations came to an end during the Rio Conference, which took place in the beginning of the year 1942 with the participation of the countries of Latin America.
In retaliation to Brazil’s support of the U.S.A., German submarines that were operating in this part of the Atlantic Ocean began sinking ships hoisting the Brazilian flag, and in Brazil’s territorial waters. Between the years 1941-1943, 36 Brazilian ships were sunk by German submarines in the Atlantic Ocean. The sinking of Brazilian vessels and the killing of 1,074 persons severely affected national morale and led to massive public pressure on the Government to join the war in an active manner alongside the Allies.
In August, 1942, Brazil declared war on Germany and Italy – the first among Latin American countries to do so.
The Brazilian Navy and Air-Force began actively participating in the war on the Atlantic, providing protection to Allies’ ship convoys and fighting against German submarines.
Moreover, the Government of Brazil decided to dispatch an Expeditionary Force, the Forca Expedicionaria Brasileira (FEB), on the order of 25,334 soldiers, to fight in Europe alongside the Allies against the Germans, thereby also satisfying the national desire to take revenge on them for sinking the ships.
The Brazilian Army in those days had no combat experience. Its combat means were mostly pre-World War I weapons. The Americans undertook to assist Brazil in organizing the Force, equipping, training and preparing it towards its departure to the battlefield. The Force’s nucleus was an Infantry Division, established in 1943 on the basis of the principles of the American Army. Then it was decided that the Force will operate in the Italian Campaign under the command of the Fifth United States Army, based, among other things, on the assumption that the weather conditions there resemble those common in Brazil and will thus be comfortable for the fighters. The Force was transferred to Italy by sea, in several rounds, during the second half of the year 1944. About 500 members of the Air-Corps were transferred as well, and they operated within the framework of one of the American Squadrons. The Brazilian Navy worked in cooperation with the American Navy, securing the Brazilian coasts.
The Expeditionary Force took part in several battles in the Italian Theatre and had quite a few triumphs. Its soldiers distinguished themselves in battle, succeeded in liberating lands and captured many prisoners. Some of them were even awarded by the Allies’ Armies with various decorations for their actions. The Battle of Monte Castello, in February, 1945, symbolized the Force’s accomplishments in the Campaign more than anything, for this was its most significant victory dating back to when it had started to fight, and this Battle was of great importance in the stage prior to the Allies’ break-through into the Po Valley. The events that followed were also accompanied with success, particularly the surrender to the Force of an entire German Infantry Division and the remnants of an Armored Division, together with remnants of Italian Divisions, in the Po Valley area in northern Italy in April, 1945.
The Brazilians were very proud of their triumphs and their conquests, and mainly, that they managed to raise and operate a skilled Force that had been assembled from a large variety of soldiers, most of them villagers.
In the course of fighting, the Force captured 20,753 prisoners; 480 of its soldiers were lost, 2,064 were injured, and 34 went missing-in-action.
In the context of Brazil’s political dilemma before joining the war, when a large part of the Brazilian public favored isolationism and some part of it even supported the Axis countries, members of the Jewish Community who were also Brazilian citizens pressed the Government to stand alongside the Allies.
Many Jews volunteered to fight against Germany, and took part in that in the framework of the Expeditionary Force.