Brazilian participation in World War II is largely unknown. Compared to the United States or United Kingdom, Brazilian engagement was very limited, but Brazil was the only Latin American country to send troops to Europe to fight alongside the Allies against the Germans. 25,000 soldiers were deployed in Italy in September of 1944 and fought in the Apennines until the end of the war in May of 1945. 400 of those soldiers lost their lives in the conflict.
The engagement in the war also had internal consequences for Brazil. The return of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force (FEB) to Brazil contributed to the end of the dictatorship, and became the basis of the country’s post-war foreign policy.
The Brazilians in Italy left their mark in the regions where the troops were stationed and fought. Several cultural exchanges happened in the region between Emilia Romagna and Tuscany, and the Brazilian presence there is still celebrated and remembered. Many survivors describe the humanitarian approach of the Brazilian troops in relation to the civilian victims of the conflict.
This project consisted of a study excursion to Italy, exactly to the areas where Brazilians were stationed and fought, making it possible for us to talk to survivors and get to know the theatre of operations of the FEB. The immersion allowed the students to gain an idea of what it was like for young Brazilian soldiers from the tropics to arrive in Italy and stay throughout the winter, in a mountainous region, and have to confront a well-trained and experienced enemy. The excursion detailed what it was like for the Brazilian soldiers to experience the culture shock of having to fight in an international force without the necessary language skills and interact with a population victimized by a long-term conflict. There was also a focus on the ways that Italy cultivates the memories of the Brazilian presence during the war today.
This project was coordinated by Dr. Vinicius Mariano de Carvalho, lecturer at the Brazil Institute, King’s College London. The following took part in the excursion: Ana Maria Bierrenbach, Minister-Counselor at the Brazilian Embassy London and Deputy Head of Mission; Dr. Felipe Botelho, lecturer at SPLAS-KCL; Dr. André Cicalo, postdoc fellow at Brazil Institute-KCL; Hayle Gadelha, PhD fellow at Brazil Institute-KCL and Cultural Attaché at Brazilian Embassy London; Anna Grimaldi, PhD student at Brazil Institute-KCL; MSc students (Brazil in Global Perspective) Pedro Ivo Silva, Marina Eriksson, Joanna Scolary and Gabriella Michelotti; and BA students (International Relations) Medha Pal, Salome Khazaradze and Lena Schubmann.
This trip was made possible thanks to the Faculty Education Fund (SSPP) - King's College London, supporting the project "In the Footsteps of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force"
We would like to especially thank Mario Pereira, the administrator of the Monumento Votivo Militar Brasileiro in Pistoia, Italy, for his generosity, patience and friendship during our excursion. Without his passion and engagement this experience would not be possible. "A cobra vai fumar!"