62th year of Glory
When, at the end of 1943, our
Government decided to send Brazilian troops to the
Italian Campaign, the Air Minister saw that, however
difficult this stage of its development may be, and
however great its responsabilities in the air
operations of South Atlantic, the Brazilian Air Force
could not fail to send a contigent to the battle in
Europe, together with the Brazilian Expeditionary
Force (Brazilian Army).
The first thing was to organise
and train a fighter unit. Other combat units would
also be sent to the Mediterranean, as soon as there
was enough staff to allow it. As a matter of fact,
when the hostilities in Europe came to an end, the
"key-staff" of a Brazilian Medium Bomber
Group was training in the United States.
It was also decided that BAF
would provide the Army's Expeditionary Force with the
necessary staff for the organization of the Liaison
and Observation Squadrons (1ª ELO), attached to the Divisional
Artillery, with the exception of the air observers
who would be army officers of the Artillery Reserve.
Once it was decided to send a
fighter unit to the Mediterranean, all the necessary
arrangements were made very quickly.
On the 18th December 1943, the
Government established the 1st Brazilian Fighter
Group; by decree of the 27th December, Major NERO MOURA was appointed its commander;
on the 3rd January 1944, the "key-staff" of
the unit, made up of the commander, the Operations
Officer, the Intelligence Officer, and four Squadron
Commanders, left Brazil to be trained in the United
States; from January to March, those officers
underwent a complete training programme, amounting to
60 flight hours on Curtiss P-40 fighters.
On February 1944, the other
officers of the unit, about 350 men, were sent, by
groups, to the "Agua Dulce" Air Base in
Panama. When the "key-staff" finished their
training in Florida, they joined the rest of the unit
in Panama, on 18th March 1944.
During the last training weeks
in "Agua Dulce", the Brazilian Fighter
Group took part in the air defence of the Panama
Canal, having one squadron on duty every day.
At the end of June 1944, the
Brazilian Unit was moved to the USA - to Suffolk Air
Base, on Long Island, New York. And there they stayed
just over two months on a new training programme,
this time with the most modern of the US Army Air
Force fighters, the P-47 "Thunderbolt",
which they were to fly in Italy; each officer carried
out 80 hours of flight and the ground staff got used
to the new equipment.
When the Fighter Unit finished
its training with the P-47, it was then at the same
level, with regard to training, as any similar unit
of the US Army Air Force; besides, at least one third
of the Brazilian pilots were officers with more than
2,000 hours of flight; and all the officers of the
unit had volunteered to flight in Europe, which was a
garantee of the pilot's high morale, as was proved
many times later on, in face of the enemy.
On the 10th September 1944, the
1st Brazilian Fighter Group embarked, near Newport,
in the state of Virginia, on the French ship
"Colombie" which joined one of the convoys
crossing the North Atlantic and bound for the
Mediterranean. On the 6th October 1944, the unit
arrived at the theatre of war, at the port of
Livorno, on the West coast of Italy; from there they
travelled by train to Tarquinia, their first airfield; here
they pitched their tents and started operations. I
was in this camp that they received their P-47
"Thunderbolts", completely new and already
painted with the brazilians colours; it was also in
this camp that they joined the 350th Fighter Group,
which had three other Fighter Units with American
staff; and here they carried out the first test
flights of their planes and the first air
reconnaissance of the region.
The 350th Fighter Group was part
of the Tactical Air Force of the Mediterranean which
was supporting the US Fifth Army and the British
On the 14th October 1944, for
the first time, the flag of the BAF was carried into
action over enemy territory; on that same day, the
Brazilian Flag was hoisted in the camp of the 1st
Brazilian Fighter Group with a solemm ceremony; on
the Order of the Day, of that day, Maj Nero
the following words:
in the history of nations, has come to us the honour
of being the first South American Force to cross the
ocean and to raise our wings over European
going into action here, in the Old World, the 1st
Brazilian Flighter Group fulfils its sacred duty by
plating the Brazilian Flag in enemy territory.
fellow soldiers: let us go to the front, into action,
with the image of the Mother Country always in our
thoughts, whose honours and integrity we swore to
keep safe and sound.
our duty to face everything, with courage, in order
to keep untouched that treasure which has never been
violated: the honour of the Brazilian soldier! And we
will do it, no matter how hard it proves to be."
On the 31st
October 1944, Brazilian pilots started taking part in
war missions, flying their own aircraft, but
operating together with American squadrons, in order
to familiarize themselves with the realities of war.
On the 6th
November we had our first loss in action: 2nd
Lieutenant Cordeiro e Silva was killed by
anti-aircraft fire in the region of Bologna.
On the 11th
November, the Fighter Unit started operating in
squadrons formed by Brazilian pilots only and taking
their own objectives for attack.
A month later,
on the 4th December 1944, without interrupting the
air operations for a single day, the unit, together
with 350th Fighter Group, moved to Pisa airfield
which was 124 miles to the North and very near the
front, allowing the unit to take better advantage of
the range of their aircraft.
the North of Pisa were the Appenine mountains,
covered with snow; a rough winter imposed more
sacrifices upon pilots and ground staff.
Interception and Escort missions, the unit operated
in Italy in the role of fighter-bombers. Diving
towards their targets, they attacked rail and road
bridges, railway stations and tracks, enemy
airfields, artillery positions, barracks equipment,
and troop concentrations, ammunition and petrol
depots, and so on.
The pilots had
orders to fly low on their return from bombing raid
and try to attack with machine-guns any vehicles
found on the roads, railway engines and waggons,
grounded aircraft, etc.
The mission for
which the Brazilian and other Fighter Units were
responsible, were part of a bombardment plan in which
the Tactical Air Command had three main objectives:
direct support of the land forces (Close Air
isolation of the battle-field, by systematically
cutting the means of communication, raiways and roads
which connected the German front with the Valley of
the River Po and with the rest of the territory
occupied by the Germans (Interdiction);
destruction of military and industrial plant in the
North of Italy.
It was during
the hard winter months of 1944/45 that the Brazilian
Fighter Unit rapidly strengthened its war experience
in a way that no training could ever replace.
Regarding this we can quote from the report of Lt.
Col. Ariel W. Nielsen, Commander of the American
350th Fighter Group, a veteran unit which had already
gone through the campaigns in North Africa, Sicily
in the 350th Fighter Group who helped the Brazilians
wanted to fight the enemy and fight skilfully. In a
month they were operating like veterans. They had
only a few rotation pilots compared with our
squadrons, but, nevertheless, their courage and
energy were too strong to be defeated."
occasion the Brazilian Fighter Group had the
opportunity of supporting the Brazilian Expeditionary
Force directly; on the day before the BEF took Monte
Castelo, on the 20th February 1945, Brazilian
squadrons had broken down the enemy's resistance on a
hill at the flank of the Brazilian troops; Field
Marshal Mascarenhas de Moraes refers to this incident
in his book The BEF by its Commander:
planes had destroyed the German resistance on
Mazzancana with their daring participation in the
land combat, giving an unforgettable example of unity
between the air and land expeditionary forces."
During the air operations in the
winter months, the 1st Brazilian Fighter Group
suffered several losses; three officers died in air
accidents in the initial stage at Tarquinia; on 23rd December, 1st
Lieutenant Ismael da Motta Paes, had his plane
damaged by anti-aircraft fire to the North of
Ostiglia; he baled out and was captured by the
Germans; on the 2nd January 1941, 1st Lieutenant João
Maurício de Medeiros had to bale out over enemy territory,
fell onto high tension wires and was killed; on the
22nd January, 1st Lieutenant Aurelio
was killed attacking railway engines to the North of
Milan; on the 29th January, 1st Lieutenant Josino
Maia de Assis's plane caught fire, he was forced to
bale out and was captured by the Germans.
On the 4th February 1945, one of
the Squadron Commander, Captain Joel Miranda and 2nd
Lieutenant Danilo Moura were shot down in flames at the same
time while they were attacking train engines together
to the Southwest of Treviso. They both baled out.
Captain Joel, in spite of a broken arm and a
seriously wounded foot, walked for many hours until
he was sheltered by a group of partisans who lodged
him in the neighbourhood of Padua until the end of
the war. Lieutenant Danilo walked for twenty four
days, covered one hundred and sixty one miles and
crossed the entire enemy territory; after joining the
partisans in the Apenines, Lieutenant Danilo succeded in getting through
the front lines and finally suceeded in rejoining his
comrades of the 1st Brazilian Fighter Group, in Pisa.
On the 10th February, 1st
Lieutenant Roberto Brandini, seriously wounded in the
head by shrapnel from anti-aircraft fire, baled out
and was captured by the Germans; on 7th March,
Captain Theobaldo Kopp, shot down in an attack on ammunition
depots to the Northeastof Parma, baled out and took
refuge among the partisans; on the 26th March, 1st
Lieutenant Othon Correa Neto in a rocket attack on
anti-aircraft positions on Casarsa bridge, West of
Udine, was shot down and taken prisoner until the end
of the war.
In April 1945 the Allies
unleashed a great Spring offensive in order to
overcome German resistance in Italy once and for all.
This offensive was launched by the American XV Army
Corps on the 9th of April Under Officer Frederico
Gustavo dos Santos died in the explosion of a German
ammunition depot which he was machine-gunning, in the
neighbourhood of Udine.
Between the 14th and 20th of
April, the total allied Air Force in Italy
concentrated all its power in an attack on the German
defensive positions along the entire front; the
fighter crews began flying an average of two missions
From the 20th April the Germans
withdrew along the whole lenght to the front, and the
opportunities for the 1st BFG to attack
everywhere increased - though particulary along the roads.
The 22nd of April is
commemorated by the Brazilian Air Force because it
was the day when the 1st Brazilian Fighter Group , at
the height of its activity, attained maximum results
and covered itself with glory; its attacks, on the
day, in the region of San Benedetto, were a decisive
factor in the establishment of allied bridge-head on
the following day.
Of course, even on the
triumphant 22nd of April victory could only won a
price: 2nd Lieutenant Marcos Coelho de Magalhães was
captured and broke both his ankles when he baled out
over enemy territory.
On the 26th April, 1st
Lieutenant Luis Lopes Dornelles died when was in command of
the same squadron that had formerly been led by
Captain Kopp, shot down the previous month. Leutenant
Dornelles ran into anti-aircraft fire when he was
attacking a train in the city of Alessandria; he had
no chance of baling out.
The 30th April, saw the end of
German resistance in the valley of the river Po; on
the 2nd May, the war ceased in Italy.
The fantastic results achieved
by the 1st Brazilian Fighter Group in the last month
of the war can be judged by the following passage
from the official report of the 350th Fighter Group:
the 6th and 29th April 1945, the 1st Brazilian
Fighter Group took part in 5% of the flights
accomplished by the 22nd Airtactical Command and,
neverthless, of the results attained by this Command,
15% of the destroyed vehicles, 28% of the destroyed
bridges, 36% of the damaged fuel depots and 85% of
the damaged ammunition depots were oficially ascribed
to the Brazilians."
The statistics showed that, in
the first four months of 1945 alone, the 1st
Brazilian Fighter Group aircraft carried out 1,728
flights and were damage by anti-aircraft fire 103
times; in most cases the planes, even when damaged,
succeeded in returning to their bases, and the P-47
"Thumderbolt" became famous for its
endurance and capacity to bring back the pilots.
During the Spring offensive, in
the last month of the war, the 1st Brazilian Figther
Group achieved the following results:
|Railway and tanks
occupied by the enemy
|Camps occupied by
Among the 48 pilots of the
Brazilian Unit who carried out war missions, there
was a total of 22 losses; five of the pilots were
killed by anti-aircraft fire, eight had their planes
shot down and baled out over enemy territory, six had
to give up flying operations on medical orders, after
suffering nervous breakdowns, and three died in
The remains of the brave
Brazilian airmen who lost their lives in Italy were
buried in the Brazilian Cemetery at Pistoia.
Subsequently they were taken to Brazil and they are
now in the crypt of the Monument of Dead of the
Second World War, in Avenida Beira Mar, in Rio de
That is the story of the
Brazilian Air Force activity in the Italian Campaign.
The 1st Brazilian Fighter Group accomplished 445
missions, with a total of 2,546 flights and 5,465
hours of flight on active service. It destroyed 1,304
motor-vehicles, 13 railway waggons, 8 armoured cars,
25 railway and highway bridges and 31fuel tanks and
The Brazilian Air Force, in its
first experience of war outside Brazilian territory,
sent to Italy an air unit, the 1st Brazilian Fighter
Group, who staff came up to the highest expectations
with respect to courage, sense of duty, spirit of
sacrifice and professional skill.
Total of the operations of the
First Brazilian Fighter Group in the Italy Campaign:
of flight in war
hours of flight
total tonnage of bombs............................
of .50 calibre ammunition fired..................
creation the 1st Brazilian Fighter Group flew the
following fighters: P-40, P-47
"Thunderbolt", T-6 North American, F-8
"Gloster Meteor" (first jet plane to fly in
Brazil), T-33/F-80 "Shooting Star", and
AT-26 "Xavante". At this moment the unit is
flying supersonic F-5E "Tiger II" from
The legacy left by the heroes of
the 1st Brazilian Fighter Group was the base for the
future generations of fighter pilots at the Brazilian
Air Force, and it was the responsible for the new
warrior mentality of the Brazilian Air Force. We owe
them for everything.
Note: This material
was compiled from the following books: "Senta a
Pua!" by Maj Brig Rui Moreira Lima, and
"História da Força Aérea Brasileira" by
Ten Brig Nelson Freire Lavenère- Wanderley.