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Winefred (née CASSELLE) Cole WAAF for the additional contribution to UK forces of the BRITISH LATIN AMERICAN VOLUNTEERS Most Latin American countries had ambivalent attitudes to WW2 but a considerable proportion of Argentinian citizens opposed the nation’s official neutralist stance. Over 750 Argentine volunteers fought in the British, South African and Canadian Air Forces, with many on No.164 Argentine-British RAF squadron, which saw action in Northern France and Belgium. Nearly 4,000 Argentine volunteers fought on the Allied side.
During the period of World War II, Argentina was ruled by a series of dictatorial military juntas. While a large majority of the Argentine economic elite was considerably anglophilic and wanted Argentina to join the Allied side, neutralist feelings prevailed in the military, which saw the war as a potential source of economic benefit for the country, by exporting supplies and agricultural products to both sides of the conflict. The government of Edelmiro Julián Farrell eventually caved in to international pressure, and Argentina joined other Latin American countries and declared war on Germany and Japan, but by this time the war was all but over, on 27th March 1945.
Brazil was under its dictator Getúlio Vargas maintained its neutrality until August 1942. After German submarines attacked Brazilian ships in the six months up to August, inflicting 1,079 casualties. Brazilian naval forces helped to patrol the South and Central Atlantic oceans, against German U-boats and commerce raiders. In NE Brazil Natal was the largest American air base outside the USA, and Recife was used by the U.S. Fourth Fleet. This air base gave support to the North Africa campaign, and a route for USAAF airplanes to fly to India and China to fight the Japanese.
In 1944, Brazil sent the 25,000-man Brazilian Expeditionary Force (FEB) to fight in Europe, thus becoming the only Latin American nation to send troops overseas. This force joined the U.S. Fifth Army under American General Mark Clark in the Italian campaign until the end of war. Brazil also sent two Brazilian Air Force groups (one of them a fighter group) to Italy, becoming the only South American country to send any air force unit. Initially Chile chose to remain neutral in the war, with close German trading links but later distanced itself from the Axis powers and dismissed its pro-German military officers.
The Mexican government declared war on the Axis powers on 22 May 1942. The Mexican Air Force‘s Escuadron Aereo de Pelea 201 (201st Fighter Squadron) served with the US Fifth Air Force in the Philippines during the war’s last year.. Also hundreds of thousands of Mexican immigrants served in the US forces in WW2. Nicaragua declared war on Japan immediately after Pearl Harbor and within days on Germany and Italy, plus Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary. The small Panama Canal Zone was United States territory, and American forces from the US Navy, and the US Army and Howard Air Force Base, the USAAF, inside the Canal Zone, guarded the Panama Canal from both ends. This Canal provided the United States and its Allies with the ability to move warships and troops rapidly between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Most American shipbuilding was on the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, the Canal was vital for moving new warships to the Pacific to fight the Japanese Navy. Paraguay‘s authoritarian government was sympathetic to the Axis powers early in the war; the country’s large German community in particular supported Nazism. Franklin D. Roosevelt managed to avoid this happening with aid and military hardware in 1942.
Paraguay however only declared war on Germany in February 1945. Peru broke off relations with the Axis in January 1942. With its ability to produce aviation fuel and proximity to the Panama Canal, the oil refinery and port city of Talara, in northwest Peru, became an American air base. Although Peru did not declare war with Germany and Japan until 1945 ( “state of belligerency”), the Peruvian Navy patrolled the Panama Canal area. Uruguay was neutral for most of World War II, although later joined the Allies. Neither side of the conflict acknowledged the exclusion zones established by the declaration, and, as covered elsewhere, in December, British warships and the German ship Admiral Graf Spee fought a battle not far off Uruguay’s coast. This prompted a joint protest from several Latin American nations to both sides. Admiral Graf Spee took refuge in Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo, claiming sanctuary in a neutral port, but was later ordered out and then scuttled his warship.
In early 1942, Uruguay broke off diplomatic relations with the Axis Powers and dropped its neutrality and joined the Allies. Some Uruguayan pilots, along with volunteers from other countries, joined the Free French Forces. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Venezuela severed diplomatic relations with Italy, Germany and Japan, and, after implementing (with help from the United States) defence of its oil wells, produced vast oil supplies for the Allies. There had been information that Germany had plans to invade the American continent from Venezuela to seize its oil production. As other South American countries, it remained neutral until finally declared war on Germany in the final months when the outcome was no longer in doubt.