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COMMANDER SOUTH ATLANTIC FORCE AT RECIFE - COMMANDER SOUTH ATLANTIC

33)CONCLUSION


The history of modern warfare certainly has no very close analogies to the South Atlantic Campaign. Militarily, of course, the story is one of ships and land based planes hunting submarines and safeguarding convoys. There is, admittedly, nothing particularly unique about this, even though these tasks were extremely well performed. But when we examine the origins of the American establishment in Brazil the facts might cause honest skepticism were they not authenticated.


An Admiral in the Navy of a neutral nation enters the port of another neutral nation in command of two ships. His reception, though officially correct, is by no means cordial. The local officials and leaders wish to know why he is there, and he, being the representative of a country at peace, cannot easily explain his purpose in terms that will be clear to them. Yet only a little over a year later that Admiral is in operational control of the Navy and Air Force of the country in question. The maneuvering and diplomacy by which the first situation developed into the second is a very important part of the story. Unfortunately it has not been possible to relate it in as much detail as could be given to the military events, since diplomacy is intangible and does not meet the eye as readily as does the exploding hulk of a damaged submarine. Nevertheless, the story of the Fourth Fleet is as much diplomatic as military.


There can be no doubt that the keystone of he Admiral's diplomatic success was the interview with President Vargas in April, 1942. By that time the United States had become a belligerent; Brazil had not, nor was it certain that she that she would become one. Considerable success had been attained in dealing with the Generals, Admirals, and Interventors of North-eastern Brazil. Yet, due to the centralized government of the country, this could all have come to nothing had the President not decided to "play ball." When the situation had once been explained to him he grasped it fully, saw the actions necessary, and took them. This proved to be the solution of the fundamental problem, for it dispelled any doubts or hesitations the lesser lights may have felt.


The diplomacy required by the situation could not always be orthodox. The Admiral did not come to Brazil as a typical U. S. Government agent. He was the commander of a seagoing force, charged at first with a reconnaissance mission, later with the protection of shipping, and finally with the prosecution of relentless warfare against the enemy. It involved the rather complicated dual role of being first friendly, open, and honest; and secondly somewhat removed, aloof, and tactful. Brazil and the United States differ widely; there could not be the remotest suggestion of interference in local domestic politics. Yet, during the long period of Brazilian indecision there had to be constant pressure maintained, directed toward moving the country in the right direction. The record shows that all this was complicated.


The task demanded to some degree the cooperation of every officer and enlisted man involved. he men were carefully instructed as to their share in cultivating the desired relationship. In general they performed their part well. If some slips occurred, as they did at intervals, the shore patrol was always available to wield the final argument. In general, however, the men proved ambassadors of good will rather than the reverse.


There is no doubt that the presence and mission of the Fourth Fleet left a deep impression in Brazil. The country, despite the existence of a small, cosmopolitan aristocracy, had lived an isolated existence for centuries, touched lightly by the affairs of the northern hemisphere. Suddenly the isolation was broken, and the change was reflected in countless ways, too numerous to be fully described. The removal of the Fleet has not taken place at the present date of writing, though it is expected soon. When it does come, Brazil will not be exactly the same as before, and can never be again. Its military power has expanded enormously, and still more important, the Brazilians have gained a better idea of the things that give a nation power and influence he world. They are far from being a stupid people; the lesson will not be lost on them.


Regardless of its local influence, however, the Fourth Fleet's primary purpose was to aid in winning World War II. It performed the military part of its task. Long before the events of Europe had deprived the Axis of vital submarine bases, the South Atlantic had become relatively secure. The accomplishment of this had required teamwork; between the various branches of the American services, and between Americans and Brazilians. The word "teamwork" could very well be the title of the Fourth Fleet's theme song.


World War II will have many historians, and its memory will certainly live as long as the American Nation endures. The historians will in general concentrate their efforts on the more spectacular theaters of combat, which seemed to be more vital. Yet the future historian with a true mastery of global strategy will feel the importance of the South Atlantic during a certain critical period. He will realize that the officers and men who gave their best efforts there were in all respects the colleagues of those who defended Stalingrad, won El Alamein, took Guadalcanal, and crossed the British Channel. The South Atlantic campaign helped win the war. The men who waged it, living and dead, are satisfied with that statement. They do not ask that any more be said.


Hyper War. Commander South Atlantic Force. U.S Naval Administration in WW II


 

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