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The war plans of the United States had recognized the vital importance of the Brazilian bulge in hemisphere defense long before Hitler loosed his onslaught against Western Europe in the spring of 1940. The basic joint RAINBOW 1 plan, approved in August 1939, placed the defense of Brazil at the top of the list of specific tasks to be undertaken by United States forces.

General Emmons' survey in November 1939 reinforced the conviction that "the Natal area is of critical and utmost importance in the defense of the continental United States and the Panama Canal against a possible coalition of European nations." The Army's Air Board in 1939 used the prospective task of evicting a hostile air force from the Brazilian bulge as the yardstick for determining the strength required by the Army's air arm in hemisphere defense.

During the fall and winter of 1939-40, the Army and Navy planners worked on detailed RAINBOW 1 plans for dispatching an expeditionary force to Brazil, although the services did nothing more than plan until Hitler opened his western European offensive. Just before the German attack on France, President Roosevelt again expressed concern about the security of Fernando de Noronha and suggested the immediate renewal of conversations with Brazil "to make definitely certain that this Island will not be used by any European nations in case the European war spreads." Fernando de Noronha had a usable airfield and would have been a logical steppingstone in any German or Italian air approach to the Natal area.

In response to the President's message, the Army and Navy proposed that the Department of State open conversations with the Brazilians to determine if they were prepared to act on the basis of the views expressed by Foreign Minister Aranha and General Goes Monteiro in 1939. Immediately after the German attack began, General Goes Monteiro sent a message to General Marshall indicating his feeling "that closest collaboration between the United States and Brazil is vitally necessary as there is now a real and imminent danger confronting both countries."

The way toward intimate military collaboration with Brazil appeared clear. When the Germans smashed through the front of the western European Allies within a week, the United States Government feared that it might have to take drastic action to protect the vital and vulnerable Brazilian bulge.

While the President's proposal for conversations with Brazil broadened into preparations for conducting military staff conversations with the American republics generally, United States authorities realized that any sort of conversations would take time and that it was essential for the United States to be prepared to take emergency action to deal with either an external attack or an internal Nazi-inspired revolutionary movement in South America. At the President's direction, over one weekend (25-27 May) the armed services hatched the impracticable POT OF GOLD plan for rushing a 100,000-man force to Brazil.

The Department of State agreed to send consular representatives to the Natal area to obtain a variety of current information needed for planning the movement of American troops to the bulge. A Nazi plot uncovered in Uruguay during the last week in May helped to confirm American fears and sufficiently alarmed the Brazilians themselves so that they sent five thousand rifles to the Uruguayan Army.

By mid June Army detailed planning, based on the new joint RAINBOW 4 plan, projected a Northeastern Brazil theater as a prospective major area of operations in the event that Great Britain followed France in defeat. In July both the Army and Navy planning staffs believed that a highly probable development of the war, if Great Britain were defeated, would be a German drive through Africa and across the South Atlantic to Brazil.

They feared this drive would be preceded or accompanied by Axis-inspired Latin-American revolutionary movements, and they felt the prospect constituted the most serious military threat to the Western Hemisphere.When it appeared in the fall of 1940 that Great Britain could hold out at least until the following spring, the sense of urgency in planning for operations in Northeast Brazil subsided.

Nevertheless, the Army considered it "well recognized" that a German penetration of North and West Africa and occupation of Dakar would make it "imperative for the United States to anticipate such action by the preventive occupation of the air fields and ports in northeastern Brazil." It was to facilitate an operation of this sort that the Army in November 1940 contracted with Pan American Airways for the improvement of and new construction of airfields between the United States and eastern South America, so that all types of combat aircraft could be deployed under their own power to the Brazilian bulge.

All of these emergency plans required advance arrangements for "closest collaboration," as urged by the Brazilian Chief of Staff the preceding May. To make the arrangements the Army chose Lt. Col. Lehman W. Miller, an Engineer officer who had previously served with the Military Mission in Rio de Janeiro.

Unlike the other officers dispatched from Washington at the beginning of June 1940 to conduct staff discussions in Latin America, Colonel Miller was to remain in the Brazilian capital, where he would serve as Chief of the Military Mission. Ambassador Jefferson Caffery and General Goes Monteiro both had requested his appointment to this position, and it was also planned to raise Colonel Miller to general officer rank to lend prestige to his mission and to emphasize American concern for the security of Brazil.

Arriving in Rio de Janeiro during the final week of the French debacle, Colonel Miller found the Brazilians thoroughly alarmed over the turn of events in Europe and dubious of the ability of the United States to protect them or to help them to protect themselves against future Nazi aggression. The Brazilian Army immediately presented Colonel Miller with a list of the armaments it wanted--a long list of material estimated to cost about $180,000,000.

At first, the Brazilians insisted that the problem of arms supply must be settled before any staff discussion of mutual defense plans began, but presently they agreed that the two problems might be considered together. Analyzing the situation the day after his first discussion with Brazilian staff officers on the preparation of mutual defense plans, Colonel Miller reported to Ambassador Caffery: The present turn of events of the war in Europe is having a profound influence upon all the authorities here in the Brazilian army, navy, and civil government.

Although they do not trust Germany, they do have great admiration of the fighting machine of that country. They have no love for the English. They do not wish to arouse the antagonism of Germany, because they know that Brazil is not prepared and they believe that Germany is the only country that will furnish them with arms at reasonable terms. They strongly doubt that the United States will be able to assist them with material.

The fate of neutral countries in Europe has raised doubts of the ability of the United States to protect them from aggression, especially in the case of a coalition of powers acting against us. All of these considerations tend to strengthen the pro-Nazi element in Brazil, and as Germany consolidates her gains in Europe the situation here in Brazil will grow worse unless immediate action is taken by our Government to combat it effectively.

A few days earlier, Foreign Minister Aranha in a conversation with Ambassador Caffery had "made it forcibly clear . . . that if the United States cannot find means to assist Brazil in acquiring armament, necessarily the Brazilian military authorities will turn toward Germany and acquire armaments there . . . at the end of the war.” Until the United States indicated what action it could take on the armament list submitted by the Brazilians, then, there was scant prospect of reaching any agreement on mutual defense plans. Brazil's armaments request became the vehicle for determining a Latin American arms supply policy.

In presenting the problem for decision, Colonel Ridgway virtually reiterated the statement he had made a year previously: "Upon our willingness to supply, or definitely to promise to supply, this armament in the near future, appears to depend our future relations with Brazil." After President Roosevelt approved a new Latin American arms policy on 1 August, the Department of State informed the Brazilians through Ambassador Caffery that their Army could "procure some of its equipment in the United States within the next few months" and all of it "within an estimated maximum period of three years."

The Brazilians from President Vargas on down expressed their great pleasure on receiving the news. Seemingly, the way was now open for negotiation and execution of an agreement with Brazil on mutual hemisphere defense plans and preparations. Actually, grounds for a continued misunderstanding between the Brazilian and United States Armies remained. What the Brazilians wanted most was modern combat equipment.

The Army had informed the Department of State that only automotive equipment and some noncombat aviation material (training planes) could be made available to Brazil in the near future. Apparently this point was not made clear to the Brazilians in August 1940. The Brazilians also seem to have been led to anticipate that they could get actual deliveries of some equipment "within the next few months," whereas the Army had meant that it would assist the Brazilians in placing orders for this equipment in the near future, but that it would be many months before the equipment could actually be delivered in Brazil.

Finally, in the autumn of 1940 the United States Army began its own rapid expansion, and the United States Government veered toward a policy of all-out aid to Great Britain. With American industrial mobilization for war just getting under way, prospects of delivering any significant amounts of modern military equipment to Brazil were to become increasingly slim.

The War Department in August authorized Colonel Miller to begin formal staff conversations with Brazilian Army representatives in order to work out a definite plan for military collaboration. The United States goal was a plan that would provide adequate means of insuring "the maintenance in Brazil of a Government, both determined and able, to preserve its territorial integrity and freedom from European control, and to cooperate fully with the United States in hemisphere defense."

Colonel Miller's instructions, similar in context to those issued other Army officers sent out from Washington for the second round of staff conversations, emphasized the paramount concern of the Army for the security of the Brazilian bulge. Although Colonel Miller carried on informal conversations with the Brazilian staff during August and September, General Goes Monteiro presently indicated his preference for concluding the conversations in Washington.

The Brazilian Chief of Staff, who was joining other Latin American military chiefs in a visit to the United States in October, wished to negotiate a staff agreement directly with General Marshall and his advisers. Through Colonel Miller, General Goes Monteiro transmitted to Washington a draft of the type of agreement Brazil wished. In Washington General Goes Monteiro conferred first with General Marshall and afterward with his staff subordinates.

He left with the latter a new draft for a staff agreement, dated 29 October 1940, that with some modifications was eventually accepted by both governments. The agreement in its final form contained a mutual pledge of armed assistance under two hypotheses: by Brazil, to any American nation (except Canada) attacked by any non-American power; by the United States, to Brazil if it were attacked by any non-American state.

Brazilian aid under the first hypothesis would include the use of its air and naval bases and the supply of strategic raw materials, and Brazil pledged itself to prepare for rendering such aid by building up its defenses as rapidly as possible. Brazil also agreed to take the proper steps to suppress alien subversive activity within its borders.

The United States promised to supply Brazil with arms and with material to develop its war industries and railway system to the degree that American resources, current programs, and legal restrictions permitted; in principle, the United States agreed to accept raw materials in payment for the armaments and other material furnished Brazil. The United States also promised "to bring up its armed forces to join Brazilian forces" in the defense of Brazil, in the event of an external attack before Brazil had completed its defense preparations.

Although the staff agreement made no specific mention of Northeast Brazil, General Marshall subsequently recalled that he had had to fend off General Goes Monteiro's request for a definite pledge that the United States would employ its armed forces to guarantee the integrity of the bulge. Also, the Brazilian Chief of Staff told American staff officers with whom he conferred that he thought Brazil would not object to an American aerial photographic survey of strategic points along the Brazilian coast, or to a survey "on the ground" by United States Army medical officers.

Underlying the Brazilian Army's proposals and United States Army's acceptance of them was the understanding that the United States would render substantial material assistance in strengthening Brazilian defenses and defense forces. United States Navy staff conversations paralleled those of the Army during September and October 1940.

The Navy reached a satisfactory agreement with its Brazilian counterpart, the Brazilian Navy promising "to interpose no objections to advance discreet operations of United States Naval Forces in the Natal area and outlying Islands, both ashore and afloat." These operations could be carried on in advance of any actual attack from abroad against this area. The Army and Navy staff agreements with Brazil negotiated in the autumn of 1940 provided the base for the subsequent military cooperation of the United States with Brazil during World War II.

General Goes Monteiro on his return to the Brazilian capital gave President Vargas a favorable report on his reception in the United States, on the progress of American defense preparations, and on the prospect for close cooperation with the United States in hemisphere defense measures.

General Marshall's intervention during November on behalf of Brazil in the Siqueira Campos affair provided an additional impetus to the spirit of friendship that had characterized the staff conversations. But troubled waters lay ahead. Nearly two years were to elapse before Brazil and the United States achieved the close plane of military collaboration forecast by the staff agreements of 1940.

Transcribed by Patrick Clancey – Hyper War Foundation