The Brazilian Air force made important contributions to the Allied war effort in World War II, especially as part of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force on the Italian front.

From mid-1942 until the end of the war, the FAB also patrolled the Atlantic. On 31 July 1943 it claimed theGerman submarine U-199, which was located on the surface, off Rio de Janeiro, at 23°54′S 42°54′WCoordinates: 23°54′S 42°54′W. Two Brazilian aircraft, a PBY Catalina and a Lockheed Hudson, and an American PBM Mariner attacked the U-boat The Catalina, named Ärará, was captained by 2º Ten.-Av. (2nd Lt.) Alberto M. Torres, and hit U-199with depth charges, sinking her. Forty-nine of the crew were killed, although twelve Germans managed to escape, including the captain. This was possible due to the Catalina’s crew, who threw a lifeboat to the survivors.

Badge of 1º Grupo de Aviação de Caça (1st Fighter Group).

1º Grupo de Aviação de Caça (1º GAVCA; “1st Fighter Group”), which saw action in Italy, was formed on December 18, 1943. Its commanding Officer was Ten.-Cel.-Av. (Aviation Lieutenant Colonel) Nero Moura.

The group had 350 men, including 43 pilots. The group was divided into four flights: Red (“A”), Yellow (“B”), Blue (“C”), and Green (“D”). The CO of the group and some officers were not attached to any specific flight. Unlike the BEF’s Army component, the 1º GAVCA had personnel who were experienced Brazilian Air Force pilots. One of them was Alberto M. Torres, who had piloted a PBY Catalina that had sunk U-199, operating off the Brazilian coast.

The group trained for combat in Panama, where 2º Ten.-Av. (Aviation Second Lieutenant) Dante Isidoro Gastaldoni was killed in a training accident. On May 11, 1944, the group was declared operational and became active in the air defense of the Panama Canal Zone. On June 22, the 1º GAVCA traveled to the US to convert to the Republic P-47D Thunderbolt.

On September 19, 1944 the 1º GAVCA left for Italy, arriving at Livorno on October 6. It became part of the 350th Fighter Group of theUSAAF, which in turn was part of the 62nd Fighter Wing, XXII Tactical Air Command, of the 12th Air Force.

1º GAC P-47s carried the “Senta a Pua!” emblem as nose art along with the national insignia of Brazil.

The Brazilian pilots initially flew from 31 October 1944, as individual elements of flights attached to 350th FG squadrons, at first in affiliation flights and progressively taking part in more dangerous missions. Less than two weeks later, on November 11, the group started its own operations flying from its base at Tarquinia, using its tactical callsign Jambock. Brazilian Air Force stars replaced the white U.S. star in the roundel on the FAB Thunderbolts. The 1oGAVCA started its fighting career as a fighter-bomber unit, its missions being armed reconnaissance and interdiction, in support of the US Fifth Army, to which the FEB was attached.

P-47 at the TAM Museum in São Carlos, São Paulo, Brazil.

On April 16, 1945, the U.S. Fifth Army started its offensive along the Po Valley. By then, the strength of the Group had fallen to 25 pilots, some having been killed and others shot down and captured. Some others had been relieved from operations on medical grounds due to combat fatigue. The Group disbanded the Yellow flight and distributed the surviving pilots among the other flights. Each pilot flew on average two missions a day.

On 22 April 1945, the three remaining flights took off at 5-minute intervals, starting at 8:30 AM, to destroy bridges, barges, and motorized vehicles in the San Benedetto region. At 10:00 AM, a flight took off for an armed reconnaissance mission south of Mantua. They destroyed more than 80 tanks, trucks, and vehicles. By the end of the day, the group had flown 44 individual missions and destroyed hundreds of vehicles and barges. On this day the group flew the most sorties of the war; consequently, Brazil commemorates April 22 Brazilian Fighter Arm Day.

In all, the 1oGAVCA flew a total of 445 missions, 2,550 individual sorties, and 5,465 combat flight hours, from 11 November 1944 to 6 May 1945. The XXII Tactical Air Command acknowledged the efficiency of the Group by noting that although it flew only 5% of the total of missions carried out by all squadrons under its control, it accomplished a much higher percentage of the total destruction wrought:

  • 85% of the ammunition depots
  • 36% of the fuel depots
  • 28% of the bridges (19% damaged)
  • 15% of motor vehicles (13% damaged)
  • 10% of horse-drawn vehicles (10% damaged)