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Brazilian Expeditionary Force in Italy in WW2
added: Oct. 2022  My thanks to Neal Perrine for this information. I knew nothing about it. Now I do. Live and learn.
A few introductory historical  points:
  • Brazil was the only Latin  American nation to be militarily active in both World Wars.
  • In WW1 (1914-18), it had at first adopted a neutral position to keep markets for its exports of coffee, latex, and industrial manufactured items, but after repeated sinking of Brazilian merchant ships by German submarines Brazil declared war on the Central Powers in 1917.
  • In WW2, the same "unrestricted submarine warfare" by Germany had the same result. In WW1, the Brazilian Navy patrolled the Atlantic to hunt German U-Boots. In WW2 Brazil sent air, sea, and land forces to join the Allies
Brazil’s Allied war effort is extraordinary but often forgotten. Brazil entered the war on the Allied side in August 1942.The Brazilian Expeditionary Force numbered some 25,000 men and played a role in some critical European battles. Some said the world would more likely see snakes smoking than see Brazilian troops on a World War II  battlefield. So when the BEF (Brazilian Expeditionary Force -below also the Brazilian acronym, FEB) showed up to deploy with the U.S. Fifth Army, they looked a lot like the Americans in their fatigues, save for one detail: a shoulder patch, featuring a snake smoking a pipe (image). There was a popular saying: "Mais provável una cobra fumar um cachimbo, do que a FEB ir para a frente da luta" ("It's more likely for a snake to smoke a pipe than for the FEB to go the front and fight"). Before the FEB entered combat, the expression "a cobra vai fumar" ("the snake will smoke") was often used in Brazil like "when pigs fly". Now the fighting Brazilian soldiers  called themselves the Cobras Fumantes (Smoking Snakes) and wore the shoulder patch.
Brazilian soldiers also wrote on their mortars, "A Cobra Está Fumando..." ("The Snake Is Smoking..."), meaning "something fast and furious is about to happen."  After the war that meaning stuck. "A Cobra Vai Fumar!" ("The Snake Will Smoke!") still means that today in Brazilian Portuguese.

Now calling themselves the “Smoking Cobras,” Brazilian forces fought where they were needed. Meanwhile, the Brazilian Navy and Air Force were getting their revenge on the Axis Navy and Air Forces that had so damaged Brazilian shipping. After losing 36 or more ships before entering the war, they lost only three ships afterward. Despite Brazil’s Air Force flying only 5% of the war’s air sorties, they destroyed 85% of Axis ammo dumps, 36% of Axis fuel depots, and 28 % of Axis transport infrastructure.
We note that,  at the time, Brazil had a military regime and was openly authoritarian from 1937 and sympathetic to Nazi-fascist regimes until 1941. Many Brazilian military officers felt a Nazi-Fascist defeat in Europe would increase demands for democracy within Brazil. In the end, the Brazilian government gathered a force of one Army Division of 25,000, compared with an initial declared goal of a whole Army Corps of 100,000, to join the Allies in the Italian Campaign.
Images, left - Brazilian soldiers greeting civilians in the town of Massarossa in Tuscany, Sept. 1944; right- For the homefront: Brazilian actions in Northern Italy, 1944-45, from the National archives of Brazil.

On July 2, 1944, the first 5,000 FEB soldiers left Brazil for Europe aboard the
USS General Mann, reaching Naples, on July 16, 1944. By that time the Salerno invasion of Sept. '43 had long passed and the Allies had pushed the Germans back up through and out of Naples. Lacking weapons, equipment, and even an arrangement for barracks, the Brazilians stayed on the docks while waiting to join U.S. Task Force 45. In late July '44 two more transports with Brazilian troops reached Italy, with three more in Sept. and Nov. '44, and Feb. '45. In Aug. '44, the Brazilians moved to Tarquinia, 350 km north of Naples, where General Mark Clark's army was based. In November, the FEB joined the US IV Corps as part of the very slow push up the peninsula against lethal and tenacious German resistance.

The three regimental combat teams of the BEF took on and defeated the German 148th Division
at the Battle of Collecchio. They fought and won at Camaiore, Monte Prano, and Serchio Valley, In all, they captured more than 15,000 prisoners. Their losses in Italy were just over 450 killed in action. Hundreds of Brazilian troops who perished were buried in the BEF cemetery in Pistoia (image, right). Then a new mausoleum was built in Rio de Janeiro for all military deaths in the war; in 1960 the cemetery in Pistoia was closed and remains were interred with other Brazilian war dead in the new National Monument in Rio.

You can say the Brazilians played
a valued role in the sectors were they operated. Brazil's role was largely tactical and never had a major impact on a strategic level. We would have won the war anyway, and the Italian Front became secondary for both sides after the Normandy landings in June 1944. Nevertheless, the BEF was viewed by contemporaries as a very effective fighting force.

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