Key point: Brazil and other countries contributed forces, logistics, bases, or aid to help the Allies win World War II.
The term “United Nations” was in large part derived from the large number of nations that joined in common cause between 1939 and 1945 to defeat the Axis powers of Germany, Japan, and Italy during World War II. Scores of nations joined the major Allied powers to contribute, directly or indirectly, to the defeat of the common enemy.
One of those nations was South America’s largest country, Brazil. The significant contribution of her wealth, resources, and blood of her own people is, unfortunately, little remembered today.
Latin America in World War II
Originally, Latin America was important to the United States for the resources it provided to a nation soon to be at war. In 1940, 90 percent of the region’s coffee, 83 percent of the sugar, 78 percent of the bauxite, 70 percent of the tungsten, as well as significant percentages of tin, copper, and crude oil were imported to the United States for both domestic and military consumption.
Although the United States was not yet at war, it had concerns about Latin America, for a dictator sympathetic to Adolf Hitler or Benito Mussolini might cause trouble for a United States that was trying to remain neutral. German propaganda took full advantage of the opportunity and distributed literature and films in Spanish to encourage dissension throughout Latin America. It even established a propaganda radio station in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Mexico was already at odds with the United States. It had expropriated American oil companies, and the United States was claiming that communist and National Socialist plots were prevalent throughout that country. And the Mexican government was ready to expel any American agents within its borders that were identified. Mexico also clearly anticipated a German victory, which the country was expected to use to strengthen its position with the United States. Mexico finally sent a squadron of fighter aircraft to the Pacific late in the war.