27 Comments

  1. Mausers were pretty dang popular, weren’t they? And I assume they have French Adrian helmets, which were also popular because they were stylish and inexpensive compared to the stahlhelm.

    Assuming that is a strip-fed Hotchkiss, who has to oil it?

  2. Brazil sent a force of 25,000 to fight in Italy. By that time they were armed with American weapons. Before that, Brazil used the weapons in this photo and their military was heavily influenced by French thinking.

    • That was the thing crossing my mind when I looked at the picture. This would have been likely obsolete equipment in 1944. I’d guess they were equipped with American small arms by that time.

  3. Great photo, but I guess it shows a group of Brazilian soldiers somewhere in the 1930s, not during the FEB adventure in Italy; the troops were fully uniformed and (especially) armed in full conformity with US standards, though a Brazilian uniform of modernised appearance was designed and distributed to the troops prior to their departure to Europe (some of its elements – jacket, shirt, etc – coexisted with US-made items for a while and proved to be quite comfy and practical in the hot Italian summer, but in winter they had to don US supplied clothing, of course).
    The men in the photo seem to belong to some cavalry or mounted infantry unit (given the presence of bayonets); all wear riding breeches or jodhpurs, complete with boots.

    • Excellent and perceptive observation, Ruy. One other thing about this photograph is how it inadvertantly represents the multi-ethnic diversity of Brazil’s population if one looks more closely at the features of the men — unfortunately, minus those of African and Carribean descent, who make up a significant and important part of Brazilian society.

      • When the Second World War began, the Brazilian officer corps was all brancos/whites. In June 1940 these guys were celebrating because the “right side” was winning the war.

        Nonetheless, Getúlio Vargas, leader of the “Estado Novo” since 1937 astutely made agreements with FDR that Brazil would enter the war on the allied side.

        The Força Expedicionaria Brasileira, or “FEBianos” emanated from a military based on late 19th/early 20th century French models, and was retrained under U.S. models. As Ruy points out, the FEBianos had all U.S. small arms, jeeps, helmets, etc. etc., providing just the manpower and uniforms for the 25k men on the Italian Front.

      • Thanks, Earl! I forgot to mention that in many photos of Brazilian troops from early 1930s till the early 1940s, a locally-developed pith helmet often masquerades as an Adrian helmet; the thing was devised as cheaper and much more practical alternative to its steel model for use in parades, barracks’ jobs and the like, but ended up being used as a normal colonial pith helmet would be, in very much the same way as the North Vietnamese pith helmet of Vietnam war fame, i.e. in all sorts of contexts, including combat (for instance during the ‘Revolução Constitucionalista’ of 1932).

        While the Brazilian pith helmet had a rather elaborate chin strap, on many occasions it was removed by their users (instead of having it positioned over the peak). Since the pith helmet had an impermeabilized fabric cover painted in a dark green colour and was closely patterned after the shape of the ‘true’ Adrian steel helmet, complete with its typical crest, sometimes it is difficult to tell them apart in period photos. The most noticeable difference is the much wider brim on the pith helmet, especially in later versions; here’s an early example in superb condition: http://tudoporsaopaulo1932.blogspot.pt/2013/01/capacete-de-uma-tropa-gaucha.html
        Later production specimens became more detached in appearance from their steel model, featuring a design more akin to a true colonial pith helmet.

        • Hello, Ruy :

          Thanks very much for the interesting additional information about the history of the Brazilian pith helmet. When you say that it was “much more practical”, I take it to mean that it was far lighter and more comfortable for tropical usage due to better air circulation and less solar heat absorption compared to a steel helmet. The users of pith helmets in the tropics throughout the world, including those who long preceded this time period and those who came after, certainly knew what they were doing as far as practicality in the field goes.

          • De nada, David! You are welcome. By the way (and Ian, please forgive me if this is a bit off-topic), I am just reading an amazingly well researched and equally well-written biography of Getúlio Vargas which doubles also as powerful and detailed account of Brazilian history between the end of the 19th century and the 1950s; it is a three-tome affair, of which I am now finishing the first part: http://biografiagetuliovargas.com/

          • Hi, Ruy :

            I know that your comment was part of a conversation with David Carlson, so I hope both you and David will not mind too much if I say that I was fascinated by some of the information contained in your link about Getulio Vargas. I will have to read up more as I am sure there is still a great deal to be learned. Thanks very much!

  4. In case anyone was too lazy to Google Translate, the caption says something like this.

    “It is easier for a snake to smoke a pipe than it is for the BEF to ship out to the front.”

  5. The FEB’s light armament was all of american origin. Pistol Colt .45 (1937 brazilian contract), M1 e M3 submachine guns, Springfield 03 e M1 Garand rifles, M1 carbine, Browning 1918 automatic rifle, 1919 A4/A6 machine guns and various shotguns (Win, Rem and others) and sixguns (SW 1917 .45, SW MP .38 and others).

  6. Gentlemen, all above… I read this with great interest probably because Brazil, part of some minor missions, has had very little involvement so far. Great knowledge and thanks!

    • Since the only reading material allowed on watch was official publications and my watch station my first few patrols was helmsman/ planesman – which was an hour on the helm aiming the submarine, an hour controlling the stern planes keeping us underwater, and an hour as bridge messenger bored out of my gourd on the midwatch – I spent a lot of time studying ‘Jane’s Fighting Ships.’ I remember that in the late 70s the Brazilian Navy still had a couple of side-paddle steamers with .50 deck guns on Amazon patrol. Just pure “Sand Pebbles” boats.

      May not have told this one here… in 2004 after the invasion of Iraq Brazil sent a small contingent of intelligence troops and military police to join the Coalition of the Willing. A few weeks later the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is briefing the President of the United States and says “And I’m sorry to report that three Brazilian soldiers have been killed near Fallugah.” Bush buried his face in his hands and burst into tears and sobbed “That is such terrible news… those brave, brave men….” Then he looked up and said ‘He’p me out, here, General, you know math ain’t my thing. Just how many is a brazzilion?”

      • Per Paragraph One — I remember reading the same in Jane’s Fighting Ships, except that the information I had came from the 1960’s and early 1970’s — I’m guessing not much changed in the riverine scenario within the Brazliian Zone Of The Interior in those decades, particularly the Amazon Basin and the Mato Grosso.

        Per Paragraph Two, I seem to recall you had mentioned this before on FW — still interesting to re-read it though, except that I would add that certain “grey suits” such as the erstwhile Vice-President, Secretary Of Defence and assorted policy makers had a great deal to do with influencing said President’s decision-making process, and not necessarily for the greater good or the long term. Quite amazing how easy it is to make executive decisions that directly and severely impact the lives of others as long as one’s own familial interests are not involved, yes?

        On that basis, I have always believed that if one expects to lead, one had better be prepared to lead from the front in every respect, personal sacrifices and all plus a good deal more, otherwise not at all. Too many people nowadays want the glory and privilege of leadership, but don’t want to pay the price of Admiralty. Talk about a completely half-baked, completely disingenuous, hypocritical and lopsided approach to the subject at hand.

        And one wonders what is wrong with the leadership of this country.

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