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PostBrazil in WWII; on the FEB (David Fleischer, Brazil, 09/11/12 4:31 am)
Regarding Brazil's participation in World War II (see JE's comments to my post of 9 September), the FEB (Brazilian Expeditionary Force) was sent to Italy in 1944-1945 and included an Air Force squadron as well. The FEB was totally integrated (racially speaking), and the Brazilians were surprised to find that the American troops were segregated (Negro battalions with White officers).
There was a strong rival "courtship" for Brazil between the Allies (US and UK) and Germany in the 1930s. The US undertook the construction of numerous coastal airfields in Brazil in the name of promoting commercial flights from the US to Rio. However, anticipating the necessity of using Brazil as a route across Africa to India, the US constructed a huge air base in Natal (at the tip of the Northeastern "hump" that extends into the Atlantic Ocean). This base was used to attack German forces in North Africa with B-17 bombers. Heavily laden with extra gasoline, these planes with two crews could bomb the Germans in North Africa and return to Natal without refueling. Because there was no air access to India and the Middle East, the air cargo route via Natal across Africa was of extreme strategic importance.
Finally, FDR persuaded the Brazilians to declare war on Germany and join the allied forces. The Brazilian Navy was already defending commercial shipping against German U-boat attacks. Part of the "persuasion" of Brazil involved the US financing the construction of Brazil's first steel plant in Volta Redonda, RJ.
Wikipedia has good entries about the FEB and YouTube has some clips too.
Some suggestions of books in English about the FEB:
Thomas E. Skidmore. Politics in Brazil 1930-1964: An Experiment in Democracy. NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, 2007. This is a very good historical overview of the period. Skidmore taught history at U of Wisconsin/Madison, and later moved to Brown U, where he retired.
Frank D. McCann. The Brazilian-American Alliance, 1937-1945. Princeton: 1974. McCann taught history at the U of New Hampshire and is the best US scholar on the FEB.
Ricardo Neto and Cesar C. Maximiliano. The Brazilian Expeditionary Force in World War II (Men-at-Arms). Oxford: Osprey Publications, 2011. A translation from the Brazilian original book. A very good Brazilian perspective of the FEB.
Antonio P. Tota. The Seduction of Brazil: the Americanization of Brazil during World War II. Austin: U Texas Press, 2009. English translation of another Brazilian book.
There is also an interesting Brazilian movie named For All, that depicts the Americans in Natal during the War.
JE comments: Many thanks to David Fleischer for the recommendations. Armchair historians of WWII rarely give the FEB a second look; it's important to fill in the gaps.