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MILITARY RELATIONS WITH BRAZIL BEFORE PEARL HARBOR - BRAZIL X USA MILITARY RELATIONS

7)PROBLEMS OF ARMS SUPPLY


General Goes Monteiro, in his talks with American staff officers during June and July 1939, took the position that Brazil must continue the concentration of its existing military strength in the south and depend on American military aid for the defense of Northeast Brazil.


For this purpose he proposed the installation of coast defense and antiaircraft guns and construction of air and naval bases, and suggested that the base sites be selected jointly by American and Brazilian staff officers. These proposals hinged on the ability and willingness of the United States to supply Brazil with large quantities of arms and other war material and to grant technical and financial assistance in the construction of the proposed air and naval bases.


General Goes Monteiro informally submitted a list of the ordnance and air equipment Brazil wanted. The "first priority" items on this list included 156 heavy artillery pieces, 196 antiaircraft guns, 102 combat aircraft, 41 tanks, 252 armored cars, and 722 automatic weapons of various types. The total requirements of Brazil would be about thrice these amounts. The Brazilians hoped to pay for munitions principally by a direct exchange of raw materials.


While the armaments request included air and naval items, the apparent implication of the Brazilian proposals was that if Brazil and the United States became jointly involved in a war, American naval and air forces could use the new Brazilian bases, while ground defense would be supplied by newly organized units of the Brazilian Army equipped with American arms. President Vargas approved these proposals upon General Goes Monteiro's return to Rio de Janeiro in August.


In summarizing the Rio conversations for General Marshall, Major Ridgway of the War Plans Division concluded that the crucial factor in carrying out General Goes Monteiro's plan for defending Northeast Brazil would be the supply of munitions. If the United States could furnish them (though not necessarily in the large quantities requested), "the remaining steps will be relatively easy of accomplishment," Major Ridgway noted.


The difficulty was that legal restrictions prevented the United States Army from providing from its own stocks or arsenals the type of military material that Brazil wanted, and Brazil certainly could not expect any American private manufacturer to negotiate the type of barter deal that it had made with the German Krupp works.


Major Ridgway could only urge that the arms supply question be considered, that the United States provide such technical assistance and training to Brazilian Army officers as might be practicable, and that, in the meantime, American plans for formation of a joint Army-Navy expeditionary force to be employed in defense of the Brazilian bulge in an emergency be developed with a minimum of delay.


The day before Germany invaded Poland, President Roosevelt and the Department of State became alarmed by reports that the Germans intended to seize the island of Fernando de Noronha, lying about 215 miles off the Brazilian coast, and turn it into a submarine base. Brazilian authorities assured the United States that they had previously taken adequate measures to insure the security of Fernando de Noronha, but they again asked that the United States hasten to supply them with munitions, especially coast defense guns.


Their request now received President Roosevelt's personal attention and backing.After the outbreak of the European war, the Brazilian Army was doubly anxious to get American arms, since it appeared probable that there would be great difficulty in securing deliveries on the Krupp order.


General Marshall in October explained to General Goes Monteiro the existing difficulties that prevented the United States Army from readily providing all the types of equipment Brazil wanted, but he did offer to sell some surplus coast artillery weapons to Brazil at nominal prices. In mid-November the Secretary of War and President Roosevelt approved the terms on which surplus material could be offered.During the summer conversations, arrangements had been made for a good-will visit of American Flying Fortresses to Brazil.


This flight, when undertaken in November under the leadership of General Headquarters Air Force commander General Emmons, provided the means not only for publicizing Brazilian-American friendship but also for furthering military collaboration. As previously mentioned, General Emmons and his party used this opportunity to conduct a careful survey of the west and east coast air routes to the Brazilian bulge, and of the Natal area on the bulge as the prospective major air base site.


General Marshall had arranged for Major Ridgway to accompany the flight, and he, together with Col. Allen Kimberly, Chief of the United States Military Mission, discussed problems of strategy and arms supply with General Goes Monteiro.


They offered the Brazilian Chief of Staff the surplus coast artillery weapons that the President had approved for sale and also gave him a list of strategic raw materials that the United States wished to acquire. The Department of State had vetoed the Brazilian proposal that the United States follow Germany's example of bartering military equipment for raw materials directly; instead, the American plan was to purchase in both directions on a cash basis-the exchanges to parallel each other insofar as possible.


The Brazilians agreed to this procedure and arranged for three of their artillery officers to return with General Emmons to inspect the material offered. The surplus coast defense equipment offered to Brazil in November 1939 consisted of 6-inch mobile guns, 7-inch railway guns, and 12-inch guns, and gun tubes, of various models.


None of the material was in an immediately usable condition, but apparently neither Americans nor Brazilians foresaw the difficulties that lay ahead in getting the weapons ready for actual use. At the time, coast defense guns appear to have been considered an interim contribution that the United States Army could make immediately to Brazil's defenses, pending arrangements to supply field equipment.


Between January and May 1940, Brazil purchased for cash ninety-nine of the 6-inch guns, eighteen of the 7-inch guns and gun tubes with 2,300 empty projectiles for them, and twenty-six 12-inch gun tubes, at a total cost of more than $100,000. All of the guns and gun tubes required extensive overhauling and additional parts, and there was no currently available ammunition supply for any of them-indeed, the drawings for the ammunition could not even be located.


At General Marshall's urging, the War Department from the spring of 1940 onward seems to have done all that it could to expedite work on this equipment. In November 1940 the Chief of Staff arranged to attach Lt. Col. Morgan L. Brett, a retired ordnance expert, to the Brazilian Purchasing Commission in Washington in order to forward this work. Actually, only the reconditioned 6-inch guns reached Brazil before the end of 1941 (only nine of them before February 1941).


The procurement of the 6-inch guns added nothing to the defenses of Brazil, since the Brazilians were not able to get any ammunition for them in the United States or to manufacture it themselves. In February 1942 the Brazilians were still trying to get better priorities in the United States in order to make some of the 6-inch and 7-inch guns usable.


The United States was actually considerably more successful in getting German arms rather than American arms into Brazil during 1940 and 1941. Deliveries on the order that Brazil had placed with the Krupp works in 1938 had just started to arrive when the war in Europe began. Between September 1939 and June 1940, the British permitted two shipments of German arms to reach Brazil via Italy.


When Italy entered the war, the British clamped down on further German arms shipments. Nevertheless, the Germans in June 1940 were promising the Brazilians September deliveries, and in fact they continued to turn over title to armaments produced under the Krupp contract to a large Brazilian Army purchasing commission that remained in Essen, Germany, until December 1941.


The British in November 1940 seized a Brazilian vessel, the Siqueira Campos, that was attempting to carry some of these arms from Lisbon to Brazil. The Brazilians immediately requested that the United States intercede with the British to get the arms released. Primarily at General Marshall's urging, the United States persuaded the British to release the ship, but the episode stirred anti-British sentiment in Brazil, especially among the higher officers of the Brazilian Army.


Finally, in the summer of 1941, the British permitted an American vessel to pick up a load of German arms (mostly missing parts for equipment already delivered) at Lisbon and carry it to New York for transshipment to Brazil.


Again, the intervention of General Marshall in securing this permission was perhaps decisive. Throughout, the United States Army seems to have done all it could to help the Brazilian Army secure delivery on their German armament order. By November 1941 Brazil had actually obtained about two hundred guns of various types from Germany, many of them not usable because of missing parts. While these guns represented only a fraction of the original order, they were far more than the United States was able to supply Brazil during the prewar period.


The failure of the United States, for whatever good reasons, to make effective delivery of the coast defense equipment purchased by the Brazilians in early 1940, together with the Brazilian Army's failure to get more than a fraction of the arms ordered from Germany before the war, introduced a factor of irritation in Brazilian-American military relations that made it increasingly difficult to plan for the defense of the Brazilian bulge.


Knowing that they could not obtain more than a small part of their German armaments order, the Brazilians realized that they must get large quantities of arms in the United States if they were to achieve their defense objective--responsibility for ground defensive measures in any joint United States-Brazilian operations that might have to be undertaken.


On the other hand, until 1942 the United States found it utterly impracticable, in view of its own and other nations' more urgent requirements for munitions, to make more than small token shipments of modern military equipment to Brazil. The arms supply problem made the planning and execution of Army defense measures in Brazil far more complicated than the friendly preliminary staff conversations of 1939 and the general prewar cordiality in Brazilian-American relations had seemed to augur.


Transcribed by Patrick Clancey – Hyper War Foundation


 

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