Brazil was neutral at the start of World War II. They engaged in trade with both the Allied and Axis powers. However, trade with Europe became difficult after 1939. The United States persuaded Brazil to join the Allies as a trading partner. This resulted in the creation of the Joint Brazil-U.S Defense Commission, which was charged with combating Axis influence in South America.
In early 1942, Brazil authorized the United States to use its territory for airbases. This was made possible by a partnership in which the United States agreed to assist in the creation of the national steel industry in Brazil, the Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional. This would initially meet the demand for steel from Britain and other Allies after the war, and it would later contribute to industrialization and progress in Brazil. Diplomatic ties with Germany, Japan, and Italy were also broken off.
In the Caribbean Sea, German submarines destroyed 13 Brazilian merchant vessels between January and July 1942, severely damaging Brazil’s shipping. In addition to 36 Brazilian merchant ships that were sunk by 21 German and two Italian submarines, 1,691 people were killed and 1,079 others were injured as a result of the incidents. The decision to go to war against the Axis was prompted by the sinkings.
The Brazilian Expeditionary Force was composed of about 25,000 men and women arranged into three infantry divisions. It fought against the Axis powers from 1944 until the end of the war.
In addition, Brazil hosted a large number of Allied airbases which contributed to its strong anti-U-boat campaign – which eventually destroyed around 60% of all U-boats operating in South American waters. This campaign also cost many lives as well as losses suffered by merchant ships crossing between Africa and Europe.
Brazil at war is a film from 1940 that triumphs Brazil for joining the Allies and declaring war against Germany, this film works to show Brazil’s similarities to America. Cutting back and forth between Leni Riefenstahl-esque images of soldiers and the Brazilian crew team (low angles, jagged mountains in the background, half-naked men), it also emphasizes the “cosmopolitan” and “modern” nature of Rio.