Term of Award

Spring 2011

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of History

Committee Chair

Laura Shelton

Committee Member 1

Craig Roell

Committee Member 2

William Allison


Despite declarations of war from several Latin American nations, The Brazilian Expeditionary Force was the only representative from the region to contribute to Allied combat operations on the European continent. The first contingent of men sailed from Rio de Janeiro on July 2, 1944, one year later, after more than two hundred days in continuous contact with enemy forces in northern Italy, the febianos (Footnote 1) returned to Brazil as national heroes. Brazil's wartime alliance with the United States was a calculated risk. Brazilian President/Dictator Getulio Dornelles Vargas and his advisors believed the alliance would guarantee Brazil the economic assistance it needed to industrialize its economy and provide the weapons necessary to transform the weak Brazilian military. The FEB was one of many instruments Vargas utilized to enhance Brazil's international position. As Letícia Pinheiro, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) explained, "The FEB was the core of a political project to strengthen the Armed Forces and provide Brazil with a globally prominent position as an ally of the United States." (Footnote 2) Vargas and his Foreign Minister Oswaldo Euclydes de Sousa Aranha were aware of recent Brazilian history. They knew that although Brazil declared war on the central powers in 1917, it did not send troops to Europe. In the 1920s consequently, Brazilian efforts to secure greater international prestige never blossomed; in 1926, a frustrated Brazil withdrew from the League of Nations. On Monday May 21, 1928, Time Magazine reported on its withdrawal stating: The Secretariat of the League of Nations reluctantly made public, last week, a note dated one month previous in which the Brazilian Government of Premier Octavio Mangabeira reaffirmed Brazil's intention to withdraw from League membership in June 1928. In serving the original notice of withdrawal, two years ago, Brazil was joined by Spain because both nations felt that they should be accorded permanent seats on the Council of the League of Nations, at the time when Germany was admitted to the League and given a permanent Council seat (TIME, June 21, 1926). (Footnote 3) Brazilian leaders that rose to power in the 1930s must have felt that World War II provided Brazil unique opportunities to achieve the status it had failed in attain two decades earlier. They believed that if Brazil offered a "sacrifice of blood" it would acquire increased international respect and a prominent seat at the peace table. This thesis studies Brazilian participation in World War II, through an examination of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force. It argues that although the FEB was a military force, its mission was fundamentally political; the ever-changing political climate in Brazil repeatedly influenced the mission of the expeditionary force. What was that mission? As Leticia Pinheiro argued, its mission was to, "strengthen the Armed Forces and provide Brazil with a globally prominent position as an ally of the United States." (Footnote 4) How was the FEB to accomplish this objective and was it successful? For the FEB, success was contingent upon its ability to organize, train, deploy, engage enemy forces, and attain victories on the battlefield while strengthening Brazil's image on the international stage. This paper uses a chronological narrative to analyze its mission and show that the bold foreign policy objectives of Vargas and domestic political unrest directly affected the organization, combat mission, and the decision to demobilize the expeditionary force rapidly. (Footnote 1: This is the most common nickname for members of the Expeditionary Force. Footnote 2: Carlos Haag, "For whom did the snake smoke? Studies show the importance of Brazil's participation in the Second World War," Pesquisa (online), November 2010. http://revistapesquisa.fapesp.br/?art=2867&bd=1&pg=1&lg=en (accessed May 1, 2011). Footnote 3: "The League of Nations: Brazil Out," Time Magazine, May 21, 1928. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,731754,00.html (accessed May 2, 2011). Footnote 4: Haag, "For Whom did the Snake Smoke".)

Research Data and Supplementary Material