12 Renaults were bought by Brazil in 1921: one radio tank
(TSF), four machine gun and seven cannon armed tanks. These had some improvements in
relation to the normal French vehicles, suggested by Captain José Pessôa Cavalcanti de
Albuquerque. Captain Albuquerque served as a military observer in the French 4th Dragoon
Regiment, Armor School and 503rd Char de Combat Regiment during WWI and is considered the
"father" of the Brazilian Armored force. The tanks, acquired for testing armor
theories, were used by the government against the rebels in the 1924 and 1932 Revolutions
and were withdrawn from active service in 1938, although continuing to serve in the Armor
school up to 1942. There are four known surviving Renaults in Brazil, but only one is kept
in working condition (a cannon vehicle), the others were gutted. The 2 man crews had their
functions divided as such: commander/gunner and driver/mechanic. A small breakdown of the
duties was as follows: for each operational day, 3 hours were set apart for repairs, also,
there is a prevision of a rest day after two days in the field.
An experimental type. After satisfying trials two of these cars were shipped to the East Indies in 1934. Results there were less satisfactory, the vehicles being too heavy for the roads and the air-cooled engines suffering from overheating, forcing the use of airplane gas rather than the normal gasoline. The 2 cars thus were sold back to the firm and returned to the Netherlands.
In February 1935 two vehicles were sold to Brazil. The third remained at the firm until they managed to sell it to the Netherlands army in return of a tax-reduction. In May 1940 the Germans captured the third unit and stored it until re-activated in April 1945 for the defense of Berlin, still unarmed.
These vehicles were known only as "Ansaldos" in Brazil, unlike the Renaults, they were not classified as "carros de assalto" (assault cars), but as "autometralhadoras" (machine gun carriers) (*). The goal was to have a Autometralhadoras Reconnaissance Regiment in each Cavalry Division, with two companies of 20 cars each, but Brazil only acquired about 20 CV-33-3 (**). These arrived in Brazil in the Late 1930's (1938?), remaining in Rio de Janeiro, mostly to test armor theories. They were withdrawn from active service as soon as more modern armor was available (US M-3 "Stuart" tanks), in early 1940's (1942?). The vehicles never saw action.
Ralph Ricco - author of Italian Tanks and Fighting Vehicles of WW2 writes: "Between 1937 and 1939, 23 CV 35s were furnished to Brazil, and were designated "Auto Metralhadoras de Reconhecimento" (AMR). These were assigned to the "Escuela de la Motorisation" and were organized into a school squadron consisting of a command platoon and four platoons of 5 machines each. It is believed that 18 tankesttes were armed with 7mm Madsen machineguns (twin mounts), and 5 were aremd with a Breda 13.2mm machinegun."
About the Period:
Data on the four bottom pictures: "The efficiency of these cars were very impaired by their enormous weight, considering the small weight limits of roadways and bridges. From them, the manufacture of lighter cars began. These were made over Ford Chassis, reinforced with Lincoln road axis and springs and using Ford motors. Armed with a HMG, in a rotating turret, they did good service, due to their small weight and consequent greater mobility. Their weight was 4 tons while the previous ones weighted 14 tons" Source of the text and these four photos (Xerox): A escola Polytecnica e o Movimento Constitucionalista. Revista Polytécnica, nr. 106, Nov./Dec. 1932.pp. 286 (text) and 289-290 for the photos).
The following data has been found from a reference in Brazil. Sadly, there are no Brazilian photos to add. Only a few of these vehicles were ever delivered owing to a British blockade and (later) Germany keeping these units for their own use.
"From Büssing-NAG Vereinigte Nutzkraftwagen A.G. de
Braunschweig (July, 28 of 1939) - One hundred forty four 5 ton half-tracks to be used in
the movement of the long (heavy) 105 mm Krupp cannons and for the heavy 150 Krupp
howitzers, 36 5 ton half-track, with auxiliary hoist (for the field repair shops). The
army ordered 108 pieces of each type, so some of them would have to be drawn by Henschel
33D1 4-ton trucks."
"From Lokomotivfabrik Krauss &
Comp. - I.A. Maffei A.G., München (July, 28 of 1939) - 32 7.5 tons half-tracks and eight
7.5 tons half-tracks with auxiliary hoist (to drawn field repair shops). These were to be
used by the heavy (88mm) antiaircraft regiments. (The other 28 guns were to be drawn by
Krupp L3 H163 3.5 tons trucks)."
"From Daimler-Benz A.G. de
Untertuerkheim b/Stuttgart (July, 28 of 1939) - 60 12 ton half-tracks, com Maybach 12
cylinder motors of 185 hp to be used long (heavy) 150 mm Krupp cannons, six 12 ton
half-tracks, same as above, with auxiliary hoist (for the field repair shops). (Only 24
guns, but these were to be moved in 2 and half loads, so the 60 half-tracks)."
Acquired in 1940. Never deployed in combat in Europe. This was a common vehicle that the USA was willing to send abroad, as it would not compromise USA defense requirements. After WWII a large number of these were sent to Brazil and they remained in use up to the late 1970's, although they still are listed in the T9-2800 Manual (Características Gerais das Viaturas Automóveis do Exército - General Characteristics of the Army Automobile Vehicles), 1981 edition. After this time they were substituted by ENGESA's Urutu APC. This armored car passed through a series of changes in its role during its Brazilian Army Career, going from a light reconnaissance vehicle to APC, its armament showing this changes. Already obsolete in the 1950's it was kept in use due to lack of a suitable replacement, but its worth was not considered enough to justify a modernization program, as other WWII vintage armor went through. The vehicle changed its function between the 1940's and 1981. The annexed photo show it in its armored car configuration, with a crew of 6, drawing a 37 mm gun and armed with a Madsen 7 mm light machine gun and two Browning water cooled MGs. By the photo I am not sure whether these are the USA .30" M1917A1 version or the 7 mm M1924 version that was acquired in small numbers by Brazil. Later, this car would be armed with a Browning M1919 air-cooled machine gun and a .50 cal. HMG. In its APC role, the car was unarmed, carrying a crew of two and eight soldiers.
of these were received in (out of a promised 65) 1942 and used to replace the armor then
available in Brazil. Some 200 more were acquired between 1944 and 1945, both in the M3 and
M3A1 versions (**). Due to its lightness and handiness, it was well liked by the army
personnel, being nicknamed by them as "Perereca" (Frog), even considering the
problems with its radial engine (***).
Note: a small batch of partially modernized tanks (new motor, tracks and electronic gear, but with the old turrets) were presented as a gift to Paraguay in the middle of the 1980's.
received during the war, starting around 1944 - 45, when it was declared obsolete in the
US (of this 100 some M4 Shermans were mixed in so the exact number is difficult to
assertain). The number received was great enough to allow the distribution of the vehicle
to units outside the main defense areas of the country, Rio de Janeiro and Rio Grande do
Sul States, as the accompanying photo, of a parade in São Paulo State, 1944, shows. After
the war it shared with the M4 Medium tank the role of the Army MBT, arming four Combat Car
(tanks) Units, which would give a number of about 230 vehicles (M3 and M4 together),
considering the necessary number to equip schools and training facilities.
The first batches of this tank began to arrive in Brazil by the 1944/1945 (a mixed assortment of M3 and M4 tanks that make exact numbers hard to determine), their deliveries being concentrated to Rio de Janeiro and Rio Grande do Sul States units, where they equipped the four Combat Car Battalions (later renamed to Combat Cars Regiments) created during the war. The number of vehicles, together with the M3 medium tanks, sent after the war (more M4 vehicles were delivered after the Rio de Janeiro Defense Pact of 1947 was signed) was great enough to create a Armored Division. The division was sited in Rio de Janeiro and the nucleus for another one, in Rio Grande do Sul State (approximately 230 vehicles, considering the number needed to equip schools and training facilities.
The Shermans began to be phased out of service in the early 1960, replaced by North American M41 light tanks, as the Army could not obtain from the USA the MBTs it requested. Even so, lack of a sufficient number of M41 tanks forced the Army to keep the Shermans in service until the late 1970s, even tough it was becoming increasingly difficult to find replacement parts for them by that date.
The M4 Medium tanks are listed in the 1981 edition of the Brazilian T9-2800 manual, but it was already in limited service or reserve status. By then it was not considered worthwhile to modernize the vehicles or to study their use as equipment platforms, so they were not converted to other uses, as it was done with the M3 light tanks. Some were kept in the Army research establishments, to serve as test beds for concept development, but in the end, none were converted to other uses.
T9-2800 mentions as in use two marks of Shermans: M4 (some equipped with a 105 mm howitzer) and M4A1. It is possible that other types where received, but these were out of service by 1981. The army also received the M32 and M74 Armored recovery vehicles, based on the Sherman chassis, the only point of note being that the M32 in Brazil did not have the 81mm mortar that some North American vehicles were equipped with. T9-2800 has an entry for the "common name" of the vehicles it depicts (for an instance, in the case of the M3 light tank it lists "Perereca" as its common name). The M4 and M4A1 entries is strange, as their common name appears as "SHERMMAN" (with two "Ms"). Also, I remember seeing this spelling as common in the army.
Five M3 Half Tracks were deployed in Europe by the Brazilians. The units were employed by the FEB's reccon company. The exact version of M3 halftrack used by the FEB was not recorded. After WWII a large number of these were sent to Brazil and they remained in use up to the late 1970's, although they still are listed in the T9-2800 Manual (Características Gerais das Viaturas Automóveis do Exército - General Characteristics of the Army Automobile Vehicles), 1981 edition. After this time they were substituted by ENGESA's Urutu APC.
The North American family of half-tracks was introduced in
1940 with the M2 and M3 vehicles. These, with the general modification of the addition of
an M49 ring mount for a .50 HMG, became, respectively, the M2A1 and M3A1. The main
differences between these are that the M3 series of vehicles were some 10 inches longer
than the M2, seated 13 men instead of the 10 of the M2 and had a door at the rear. All
these where later replaced by the M3A2 standard, heavier than the previous versions and
seating only 12 men. To further complicate matters of recognition, there were also the
following variants: M5, M5A1, M5A2 and M9A1 (similar to the M3/M3A1/M3A2 and M2A1, but
made by International Harvester, with components made by that company).
Source: CASTELLO BRANCO, Manoel Thomaz. O Brasil na II Grande Guerra. Rio de Janeiro, 1960, pages 128-129. Castello Branco was chief of staff of FEB.
This combat car, basically a turret less M8, was developed in 1943 as a command vehicle and general-purpose cargo/personnel carrier (as a cargo carrier it would only have a crew of 2). Introduced in Brazil after the war, it was used only as a command vehicle for the units armed with the M8 "Greyhound" combat cars, in which case it had a crew of six and carried a M1 Rocket Launcher (Bazooka) as part of its armament. Still listed as in service in TM9-2800, of 1981, it was taken out of service soon after this date, substituted by Cascavel Combat Cars and Urutu APCs, developed locally.
13 units were available to the Brazilian
Expeditionary Force. The
M8 Armored car was received by Brazil to arm the Reconnaissance Troop of the Brazilian
Expeditionary Force in Italy (13 vehicles). After the war, a much greater number was
acquired by Brazil, together with M20 turret-less command vehicles. The mobility and
handiness of these cars made then be well liked by the army personnel. When its
useful life was nearing the end in the early 1970's, due to difficulties in finding
replacement parts, it was decided to modernize them locally. This decision was also forced
on the Army, for there was not enough money to buy new cars outright. The modernization
kit including a new and more powerful diesel engine (replacing the original gasoline one),
a new transmission, brakes, tires and electronic equipment, all of these made in Brazil.
With these modifications, the max road speed went from 85 km/h to 95/h. The modernized
vehicles continue to serve until the 1980's when they were replaced by Cascavel Armored
Cars, developed locally.
An improvised armored train as used in the Brazilian revolution in the 1930s. The train was equipped with a Schneider 75mm model 1919 mountain gun.
The reluctant ally...
Starting in the 1930's, Brazil leaned slightly toward Germany for friendship. Many Germans and Italians lived inside Brazil with a good deal of political and economic power. This same condition also existed in Argentina and Chile. Each of these countries had a serious cash flow problem owing to the Great Depression and the overtures of an economically viable resurgent Germany were welcome. It also helped that Fascist type government appealed to those who would love the power aspect it provided to politicians. By the mid 1930's this provided a bit of worry to the United States and Americans decided to start to do some political pressuring themselves. The thought of a Fascist South America was unthinkable. In 1937 President Vargas responded to both communist and fascist attempts to overthrow him by announcing a new constitution and declaring his intention to remain in office. Vargas then suspended payment on all foreign debt, began road and railway construction into the interior, and announced that he would modernize the army. His last step was to warm up to the United States - slowly and still keeping his hand out to Germany. Vargas doubted that the United States would be able to halt a German invasion of Brazil.
After much political maneuvers by America and Germany, Brazil was undecided as to where it's best interests lay, but determined to get the best deal. President Vargas got military and economic concessions from both countries. The Germans tried to set up a Krupp plant to make steel but Vargas turned it down when it appeared that the Germans were not going to win the Battle of Britain. America set up a steel mill (which Vargas wanted) along with airfields and a loan for 10 million dollars (plus a pledge for more later). These pledges would eventually cost the American taxpayer more than 350 million dollars (that is known).
Joint US-Brazilian naval and air patrols angered Hitler and in 1942 he ordered his U-boats to make a special effort to hit Brazilian shipping in an effort to teach them their folly of supporting the United States. Hitler even threatened to level the city of Natal in Brazil in a radio message. German U-boats hit hard and sank a Brazilian troop ship and another with religious pilgrims onboard. Brazilian public opinion exploded with anger - there was no turning back now. Brazil declared war. Hitler was overheard to say that the Brazilians would actually send combat troops when "snakes began smoking pipes". Brazil did indeed send ground combat troops - the Brazilian Expeditionary Force - a.k.a. the "Smoking Cobras" thanks to Hitler's little comment. Directly integrated into the command structure of the United States, this division would fight with bravery and determination in Italy. As the unit gained combat experience, they would chalk up a good combat record. On one occasion, a battalion of the FEB (the Portuguese acronym for the Brazilian Expeditionary Force) was ordered to relieve an American unit. The commander of the battalion asked for a delay to allow his men to rest and resupply with ammunition. General Mascarenhas, the commander of the FEB, was overheard to say "Didn't each soldier receive a knife?". General Mascarenhas had the spirit of a lion. After the war, the men of the Smoking Cobras would return to their country determined to make some political changes. Vargas, fearful of these new, world wizened men, disbanded their division and forbade even poetry about their heroics.
Note: The Brazilian expeditionary force of about 20,000 men was entirely equipped by the U.S. and had few (if any) weapons used prior to the declaration of war with them in Europe. Most weapons listed on this page would be found in units in Brazil before the US started supplying large quantities of equipment.
Adler Homero Fonseca de Castro added the following data and history about the FEB.
I would like to make some comments on the action of the FEB's recon troop. FEB's history, for those who are interested in this kind of history in Brazil - is very important: we did not do badly in Europe and the influence of the officers that went to Italy was long lasting. In addition, we went to Europe to fight a particularly abhorrent government and although Brazil was a right wing dictatorship, even the communist party supported the effort to fight the Nazis. Later on the return of the FEB marked the fall of Vargas' dictatorship, so we here felt proud of FEB's action
FEB's recon troop: The Brazilian Expeditionary Force was a project
that would result on the creation of an infantry corps of three divisions to fight in
Italy, with all associated support elements (including Armor units). The situation in the
end of 1944 did not warrant the sending of so many soldiers to Italy, so the presence of
the Cavalry was reduced to a single unit, the recon troop attached to the 1st
Expeditionary Division. Most of the action in 1944 and early 1945 was centered in the
efforts to breach the German lines, were the light Armor of the M8 cars was useless, so
the troop was not used at all, but when the Pó Valley line fell the situation changed.
Now the enemy was in retreat, with the allied divisions in pursuit. The FEB, being a
"foot" infantry unit, would not able to participate in the chase but for the
decision of the Division Commander, Marcarenhas de Morais, of striping the artillery of
its towing and ammunition trucks and creating an improvised motorized infantry combat
group, based in the 6th Infantry Regiment. This unit was led by the recon troop and it did
the greatest feat of arms of FEB's brief history, when in the 26th-29th of April it
surrounded the German 148th Division (as well remnants of the 90th Panzer Division and
Italia Bersaglieri Division). These surrendered, resulting in almost 15.000 prisoners. The
VI day (May, 2nd) saw the linking of the recon troop with the 27th Free French Division,
in the French Border.
A short history of Brazilian armor from 1939 compiled by Adler Homero Fonseca de Castro
1939, the Brazilian General Staff presented, informally to the US a request for weapons,
which included 41 tanks and 252 armored cars as a "first priority" items (the
real needs would be three times these numbers), these vehicles to be used mostly in the
defense of the Southern borders. As this area was not among US worries, linked to the
European situation, and considering the US laws prevented the selling of war material from
its stocks, the hopes of seen these needs fulfilled were dim. Orders with the
manufacturers were also out of question, as the country lacked the necessary cash and a
barter deal, like the one that was made with Germany in exchange of weapons, was
impossible. Brazil had to do with the material it already had.
Major James C. Collins - U.S.A.F.
Edward M. Dyer