Brazil during World War I
In 1917, the Brazilian president Venceslau Brás declared war against the Central Powers
Central Powers
The Central Powers were one of the two warring factions in World War I , composed of the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria...

. Brazil in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 (1914–1918) had a position supported by the Hague Convention, keeping initially neutral, trying not to restrict the market to their export products, mainly coffee, latex and industrial manufactured items. Brazil was the only Latin American country that participated effectively in the First World War.

Initial phase

Brazil was officially declared neutrality on August 4, 1914. Only a Brazilian ship, the Rio Branco, was sunk by a German submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

 in the early years of the war on May 3, 1916, but this was in restricted waters, operating with English and most of its crew were composed of Norwegians, so that despite the national upheaval that has motivated, could not be considered an illegal attack from the Germans.

At the beginning of the war, although neutral, Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 faced a complicated social and economic situation. Its economy was largely based on exports of agricultural products such as coffee, latex, and industrial manufacturing. As this was not essential, customs and rents (the main source of government income) decreased with the conflict. This was accentuated further with the German blockade, and then to ban the importation of coffee into England in 1917, now considering the cargo space on ships necessary for more vital goods, given the great losses caused by sags merchant ships by the Germans.

Relations between Brazil and the German Empire was shaken by the German decision to allow its submarines to sink any ship that entered the areas of blockage. On April 5, 1917, the steam Brazilian Paraná, one of the largest merchant navy ships in the world (4,466 tons), loaded with coffee, browsing in accordance with the demands made on neutral countries, was torpedoed by a German submarine miles of cable Barfleur in France, and three Brazilians were killed.


When news of the sinking of the Parana arrived in Brazil a few days later, several protests erupted in the capital. The Minister of foreign relations, Lauro Muller, of German origin and pro-neutrality in the war, was forced to resign. In Porto Alegre marches were organized with thousands of people, initially peaceful, the demonstrations began attacking shops of properties of Germans or descendants like the Hotel Schmidt, the Germany Society, the club and the newspaper Deutsche Zeitung, the Turnerbund, that were raided, looted and burned.

On November 1 a mob damaged houses, clubs and factories in Petropolis, including the restaurant Brahma (completely destroyed), the Gesellschaft Germania, the German school, the company Arp, the German Journal, among others.

Meanwhile, in other cities were minor problems. New episodes with violence would only occur when the declaration of war from Brazil to Germany, in October.

Moreover, trade unionists, anarchists and pacifists opposed the war and accused the government of diverting attention from internal problems, sometimes coming into conflict with nationalist groups favorable to the country in conflict. In the general strike of 1917, violent repression that followed the declaration of war used in October,to declare a state of siege and persecute opponents.

Diplomatic consequences

On April 11, 1917 Brazil broke diplomatic relations with Germany, and on May 20, the ship Tijuca was torpedoed near the French coast by a German submarine. In the following months, the Brazilian government seized 42 German ships that were in Brazilian ports.

On July 27, 1917, the steamer Lapa Brazil was hit by three torpedoes from a German submarine.

On October 23, 1917 the Brazilian freighter Macau, one of the vessels seized in the course of the war, was torpedoed by the German submarine U-93 near the coast of Spain, and the captain taken prisoner.

With popular pressure against Germany on October 26, 1917, the country declared war on the Central Powers.

On November 4, 1917, the Acari Guaíba and another ship were torpedoed by the same German submarine, U-151.

Military involvement

In compliance with the commitments interallied Conference, meeting in Paris from November 20 to December 3, 1917, the Brazilian government sent a medical mission composed of civilian and military surgeons to work in field hospitals of the European theater of operations, a contingent of officers aviators, Army and Navy, to join the Air Force entente. These pilots served with the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

, while a force equivalent in size to an Army
An army An army An army (from Latin arma "arms, weapons" via Old French armée, "armed" (feminine), in the broadest sense, is the land-based military of a nation or state. It may also include other branches of the military such as the air force via means of aviation corps...

A regiment is a major tactical military unit, composed of variable numbers of batteries, squadrons or battalions, commanded by a colonel or lieutenant colonel...

 served with the French Army
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...


Basically, the country's military involvement in this conflict took place at sea. To fulfill this mission, the Navy Minister stipulated the use of part of the Fleet into anti-submarine warfare
U-boat Campaign (World War I)
The U-boat Campaign from 1914 to 1918 was the World War I naval campaign fought by German U-boats against the trade routes of the Entente Powers...

, the Admiral Alexandre Faria de Alencar determined to organise a task force that would allow the effective participation of the Brazilian Navy in World War. This, by Ministerial Notice No. 501 of January 30, 1918, the Naval Division for War Operations (DNOG) was formed, composed of units drawn from the fleets that formed the Navy in Brazil. The dreadnought
The dreadnought was the predominant type of 20th-century battleship. The first of the kind, the Royal Navy's had such an impact when launched in 1906 that similar battleships built after her were referred to as "dreadnoughts", and earlier battleships became known as pre-dreadnoughts...

s and , two scout cruisers, and were some battle ships of DNOG.

This Division was initially tasked to patrol the maritime area covered by the triangle whose vertices were the city of Dakar
Dakar is the capital city and largest city of Senegal. It is located on the Cap-Vert Peninsula on the Atlantic coast and is the westernmost city on the African mainland...

 on the African coast the island of Sao Vicente in the Atlantic Ocean and Gibraltar at the entrance to the Mediterranean. Would remain under the orders of the British Admiralty, represented by Admiral Hischcot Grant. And to command it, the Minister appointed an official of the most prestigious at the time, Admiral Pedro Max Fernando Frontin, appointed January 30, 1918.

But the war at sea by Brazilian navy began just at August 1, on the departure of the mission from the port of Rio de Janeiro. On August 3, 1918, German ships was torpedoed by the Brazilian Maceió German submarine U-43. On August 9, 1918, reached Freetown, in Liberia staying 14 days at this point, where the men began falling ill with the virus of Spanish flu
Spanish flu
The 1918 flu pandemic was an influenza pandemic, and the first of the two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus . It was an unusually severe and deadly pandemic that spread across the world. Historical and epidemiological data are inadequate to identify the geographic origin...


On the night of August 25, in crossing from Freetown
Freetown is the capital and largest city of Sierra Leone, a country in West Africa. It is a major port city on the Atlantic Ocean located in the Western Area of the country, and had a city proper population of 772,873 at the 2004 census. The city is the economic, financial, and cultural center of...

 to Dakar, the division suffered a torpedo attack made by German submarine, but no casualties or damage to vessels. Fortunately, the torpedoes passed harmlessly between the Brazilian ships, which launched a successful counter-attack using depth charges. The Royal Navy credited the Brazilians with the destruction of a U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

. Subsequently, already anchored in the port of Dakar, the crew of the division was a victim of the epidemic at the time known as the Spanish flu, which claimed the lives of over a hundred sailors, and tied the Force for almost two months at the port.

Among the allied naval command, there was debate about how the forces of the Brazilian fleet should be used; “The Italians wanted them in the Mediterranean, the Americans wanted them to work closely with U.S.forces, and the French wanted to keep them protecting the commercial maritime traffic along the African coast Between Dakar and Gibraltar“. This long hesitation among the Allied command, combined with the delay along 1918 to launch the squadron on sea due to operational problems, plus the epidemic that struck the crew in end of august, made the fleet came to Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

 just at beginning of November, 1918 only to see days later the armistice be signed putting an end in the war.
The opposition of the population to engage more deeply in the war, the lack of a clear foreign policy and a military-industrial infrastructure, as well as internal problems prevented the country have increased participation in the conflict.

Military medical mission

On August 18, 1918, the Medical Mission, led by Dr. Nabuco Gouveia and directed by General Aché, started with 86 doctors. On September 24, 1918, the Brazilian Medical Mission came to the land by the French port of Marseille, after a bumpy journey. A mission was sent to the European theater of war in order to install a hospital. In addition to physicians, other individuals took part of the academic mission such as pharmacists, administrative support staff and a platoon of security. The contribution of Brazilian medical mission materialized in the support given to the French people against a flu outbreak which ravaged that country, which ensured the continuity of logistical support troops from the front. The Medical Mission was terminated in February 1919.

End of the war

The squadron joined the fleet of the Entente in the Mediterranean in early November 1918.

Days later, the armistice was signed on the 11th, so eagerly expected by Europeans whose countries were ravaged by conflict. The Treaty of Versailles allowed Brazil to keep over 70 ships from the Central Powers it had seized during the war, which were then incorporated into the Brazilian naval fleet. Brazil was also financially compensated from Germany for the lost coffee shipments and ships that were sunk by German U-boats during the war.

Peace agreement

After the war Brazil participated in the Conference of Versailles, with a delegation led by future president Epitácio Pessoa. This could include delegation in the peace agreement to indemnification bags of coffee seized in ports where the German declaration of War and the sale of the German ships seized. Brazil was also a founder of the League of Nations. After returning to Brazil, the Division of Naval Operations in World War was dissolved on June 25, 1919, complying fully with the mission entrusted to him.

From the economic point of view, if, at first, exports fell sharply, creating crisis in an economy dependent on coffee and latex with the prolongation of the conflict, Brazil started to have good trading opportunities. Increased international demand for food stuffs and raw materials has forced the country to change it's economic structure basically agricultural. It was then that Brazil underwent unprecedented industrial development, making also use of immigrant labor, composed largely of Europeans who were fleeing the famine, and then the war. The number of factories quadrupled in the war years, doubling the number of workers. The Brazilian decreased the number of imported items, changing the country's socioeconomic face.

See also

  • Brazilian Expeditionary Force World War II
    Brazilian Expeditionary Force
    The Brazilian Expeditionary Force or BEF was a force about 25,700 men and women arranged by the Army and Air Force to fight alongside the Allied forces in the Mediterranean Theatre of World War II...

  • U-boat Campaign (World War I)
    U-boat Campaign (World War I)
    The U-boat Campaign from 1914 to 1918 was the World War I naval campaign fought by German U-boats against the trade routes of the Entente Powers...

  • Epitácio Pessoa
    Epitácio Pessoa
    Epitácio Lindolfo da Silva Pessoa was a Brazilian politician and jurist, and president of the republic between 1919 and 1922, when Rodrigues Alves could not take office due to illness after being elected in 1918...

  • Admiral Pedro Max Fernando Frontin

External links

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