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When Ambassador Caffery in August 1940 officially informed the Brazilian Government that it could expect in time to receive substantial quantities of armaments from the United States, he suggested that Brazil send a ranking officer to the United States to negotiate for the material. In September Brazil chose General Amaro Soares Bittencourt, First Sub-Chief of the General Staff, to carry out this mission.

After the tentative approval by both governments of a military staff agreement, General Amaro's mission was broadened to include the detailed negotiations that would be required to put the agreement into effect. His credentials, delivered to General Marshall in mid-December, stated that as soon as an understanding on the question of arms supply had been reached, he would become "Head of the Brazilian Military Committee" in the United States and the main channel for all military communications between the two governments.

General Amaro opened his formal conversations with American authorities on 8 January 1941. He first talked with Under Secretary of State Welles, who assured him that the Department of State would arrange for credits to finance the purchase of as much war material as the Army could release to Brazil--either surplus from its own stocks or new equipment to be ordered from private manufacturers. On the same day, General Amato discussed his problems with General Marshall and his staff assistants.

The Chief of Staff explained frankly that, while the Army would do all it could to help Brazil obtain modern armaments as soon as possible, there was very little that could be done in the immediate future. The rapidly expanding United States Army and the fighting forces of the democracies abroad had to have first claim on American munitions production. General Marshall promised only that Brazil's requests would be given preference over those of the other Latin American nations.

The list of armaments presented by General Amaro was identical with that delivered to Colonel Miller the preceding June, except that Brazil now added to it the items that had been ordered from Germany but never delivered. War Department officers calculated that the expanded Brazilian requests would cost about $250,000,000, and they noted that Brazil wanted some items "in quantities in excess of the total amount available to United States forces and in at least one item, 37-mm. AP [armor-piercing] shell, in a quantity 50 percent greater than the combined total of United States and British requirements."

Obviously, they concluded, the Brazilian request would have to be reduced. General Amaro himself made a preliminary reduction by submitting a "first priority" listing, but this still amounted to nearly one half of the total.United States officers then worked out a tentative schedule specifying when the Brazilians could expect the items on the priority list to become available.

They divided it into three groups: (1) material that could be made available at once out of Army stocks--a few controlled mines and Waco primary training planes; (2) material that could be obtained in the near future if orders for it were placed immediately--other types of primary trainers and various items of military automotive equipment; and (3) material on which no deliveries could be made before November 1941 at the earliest--the great bulk of the items asked for, and all of the combat items.

The three lists were communicated to General Amaro on 15 January 1941, and on the next day he replied that Brazil now had a clear picture of what it could expect from the United States in the way of arms supply.Toward the end of January the Army proposed that a credit of $12,000,000 be made available to Brazil immediately to permit the procurement of the material in the first two groupings, as well as to finance the remaining expense for modernizing and making usable the coast defense guns sold to Brazil in 1940.

Working from the Brazilian first priority list, the Army also calculated an over-all schedule that would provide Brazil with arms valued at $80,000,000 within the ensuing two and a half years. This schedule in turn became the yardstick for calculating the arms allotments for all of the other Latin American nations. On 7 February the Army recommended that the Department of State arrange for credits for all items on the new schedule, so that Brazil could at least place orders for these items with American manufacturers.

The Department of State wanted to postpone the question of credits until the passage of the Lend-Lease Act, but was finally persuaded in March to arrange with the Export-Import Bank for the $12,000,000 credit initially recommended by the Army. The American-Brazilian arms negotiation during January and February 1941 had in effect cleared the air by letting the United States Army know what Brazil wanted most and by letting the Brazilian Army know what the real chances of procurement were.

But it had not produced a promise of early delivery of any modern combat equipment to Brazil, and therefore held no promise that Brazil could prepare its Army for joint defensive operations with American forces in Northeast Brazil. In December 1940 the Army had wanted to hasten the preparations for operations on the Brazilian bulge.

The current joint war plan (RAINBOW 4) called for the movement of a reinforced triangular division to Brazil immediately after a war emergency required putting the plan into full effect. Indeed, this movement to Brazil was to precede any other deployment or reinforcement of Army forces in the Atlantic and Caribbean areas. Extensive advance preparations would, of course, be needed to receive this force.

Work on the Brazilian airfields to be constructed or improved by Pan American was about to begin. But in addition to the work contracted for, the fields needed bomb and gasoline storage and other service facilities, and quarters for technicians and troop guards. The Navy also needed many new facilities at ports around the Brazilian bulge for its projected South Atlantic operations.

The War Plans Division thought that what the Army ought to do in advance of any RAINBOW 4 situation, if it could, was to put small American troop units near the major airfields in order to insure against sudden and surprise seizure of them by Axis air forces. The United States should then finance further military improvements in the area to prepare it for large-scale troop occupation if necessary, and also should draft joint war plans with Brazil to govern the conduct of such military operations in Northeast Brazil as might develop.

Solely from the military point of view, the Army would have much preferred that the United States lease bases in Brazil, since leased bases could have been occupied at will by United States forces. On the other hand, War Plans recognized the high improbability of Brazil agreeing to any such lease arrangement.During the October conversations, General Goes Monteiro and Colonel Ridgway had discussed the possibility of sending some modern equipment and a small body of American troops to the Brazilian bulge.

Initially, the American troops would teach Brazilian soldiers how to use the material, but afterward the Americans might be permitted to remain to help guard the airfields. In meetings on 3 January 1941, General Marshall discussed this proposal first with his staff and then with Admiral Stark and Under Secretary of State Welles. By that time the proposal involved placing one company of American soldiers at each of five airfield sites.

Both Mr. Welles and Admiral Stark approved the idea, and suggested that the Army take the matter up directly with General Amato. Late in January, having made some progress on the arms supply question, Colonels Ridgway and Miller (the latter having been summoned to Washington to participate in the conferences with General Amaro) broached the subject.

General Amaro doubted that Brazil would allow American troops to be stationed at five different locations for any purpose. As an alternative, he suggested that a troop training center be set up in the vicinity of Natal or Recife and that the United States "send there small groups and the necessary material to instruct Brazilian personnel in the use of bombardment and fighter aircraft, antiaircraft artillery and coast defense material (155-mm. gun), communications, and organization of base facilities."

General Amaro's plan contemplated that after the training period the material would be turned over to the Brazilian Army and the American personnel would be returned to the United States. Acting on General Amaro's suggestion, the Army worked out a plan for sending a total force of nearly fourteen hundred officers and enlisted men, equipped with forty-six airplanes and a substantial number of antiaircraft and coast defense guns.

General Amaro, when shown this plan, urged a reduction in the number of personnel and insisted that the training center must be under Brazilian command. Since he also indicated rather clearly that he wanted a more definite commitment on arms supply before urging his government to accept any training center proposal, nothing further came of the project.Before Colonel Miller returned to Rio de Janeiro, he left his impressions for War Department guidance.

He insisted that the great majority of the Brazilians were "pro-American, pro-British, and anti-Axis." Nevertheless, they were highly nationalistic, jealous of their sovereignty, and opposed to any measure that could be interpreted as an infringement on Brazilian sovereignty. The Brazilians wanted to participate in hemisphere defense measures, not merely to acquiesce in them.

The United States ought therefore to furnish Brazil with what arms it could, and it ought also to assist rather than hinder the development of a Brazilian armaments industry. While the United States, with Brazilian approval, might properly help prepare air and naval bases in Northeast Brazil, this should be done "with the understanding that such bases are Brazilian and will be defended by Brazilian forces until such time as the Brazilian Government requests their defense by our forces."

Colonel Miller cautioned against any attempt by the United States to lease bases in Brazil or to place American armed forces in Brazilian bases before "the realization by the Brazilians that an armed attack against them is imminent." All of this was sound advice, but it did not solve the problem that worried the United States Army most--how to insure that Brazil would call on the United States for armed assistance in time to ward off an actual attack.

The presence of only token American forces in Northeast Brazil would probably discourage any Axis attack, whereas to evict even a token Axis force would be a large undertaking. Military negotiations with Brazil were at a virtual standstill for three months after the January and February conferences. General Amato remained in charge of Brazilian military purchasing activities in Washington, but after February defense negotiations were conducted through Ambassador Caffery and Colonel Miller in Rio de Janeiro.

Internal differences of opinion among Brazilian civilian and military officials seem to have been primarily responsible for the failure of Brazil to take immediate advantage of the $12,000,000 credit for military material extended in early March. With respect to plans and projects for joint defense operations, the Brazilian Army at the beginning of March informed Colonel Miller of a new scheme for strengthening Northeast Brazil.

It proposed to station permanently three of its five existing infantry divisions in Northeast Brazil and to organize three new antiaircraft battalions to reinforce the three divisions. It asked that the United States send modern equipment for the units by September 1941 and also that the United States supply the equipment for new Brazilian infantry divisions to be recruited to guard the vital southern part of the country.

The War Plans Division in Washington expressed some concern over this projected redistribution of the Brazilian Army and termed it "impracticable" to supply the quantity of equipment that Brazil wanted. In April Brazil abandoned this scheme and proposed, instead, to schedule maneuvers for three divisions plus supporting naval and air forces in Northeast Brazil during August and September.

This proposal prompted the American planners to suggest that American forces be sent to participate in the maneuvers. They proposed an American force, consisting of a composite air group, antiaircraft, signal, and engineer battalions, and some medical troops, to operate during the maneuvers under Brazilian command. After Mr. Welles approved the proposal, General Marshall asked Brig. Gen. Lehman W. Miller to sound out the Brazilians.

Transcribed by Patrick Clancey – Hyper War Foundation



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