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Belligerents and Participants
When Venceslau Bras became president of Brazil in 1914, public opinion was decidedly against entering the Great War, and the country declared its neutrality. While their economy continued to grow, many saw no advantage to entering the War, but after German U-boats began interfering with trade, sentiments began to shift. When the Brazilian steamship Parana was sunk in April 1917, anti-German riots broke out, and Brazil severed diplomatic relations with Germany. As more Brazilian ships were sunk, Brazil declared war on the Central Powers on October 26, 1917. Bolivia, Peru, Uruguay, and Ecuador would all break diplomatic ties with the Central Powers by the end of the year but they did not declare war.
The nation’s large German population played an important role in lobbying officials to keep Brazil neutral, and Politician’s took heed. Once war was declared things changed rapidly as certain areas of Brazil with large populations of German emigrants were long considered a threat due to their unwillingness to assimilate into the population. Now the President was given the right to declare these regions under siege and impose brutal marshal law. There were no violent reactions from the German community.
Though Brazil was ill prepared for war, they still made plans to raise a large expeditionary force. Some thought of deploying it to Mesopotamia where their troops would not have to adapt to a very different climate. Commissioned and non-commissioned officers began being sent to Europe in the summer of 1918 to get front line training with the French army while ordinary troops were prepared back in Brazil. Though many of these men served with distinction in battle, no Brazilian units were deployed before the Armistice was signed that November.
The Brazilian Navy saw some action in the South Atlantic while on anti-submarine duty, but many of their ships ended up quarantined in the West African city of Dakar because of an outbreak of the Spanish Flu and they saw no further service.
Brazil had delegates seated at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. While it did not received territorial gains, it did get to keep all the German ships it interned while neutral plus monetary payments to compensate for shipping losses.