World War I

On October 26th, 1917, Brazil entered their first World War after declaring war against Germany. Throughout the first two years of the war, Brazil had been getting threatened from Germany on unrestricted submarine warfare. Brazil abstained when the war first broke out but eventually declared neutrality on August 4th, 1914. This, however, took a toll  on Brazil’s imports after many european countries’ demand for agricultural and foreign products decreased. Countries such as England, implemented new policies towards foreign imports, like the the ban on imported coffee,  so that they could utilize and purchase necessary imports. In addition, “ports were blockaded” and Brazil’s economy disintegrated as the war progressed. As war tensions increased, imported demand decreased for Brazilian goods which in effect, left the economy fragile and weak.

A day after the U.S. declared war on Germany, a Brazilian merchant ship (Parana) was sunk and wrecked by a German U-boat after sailing off the coast of France on April 5th, 1917. The Parana was on its way to deliver coffee and other exported goods to neutral based countries before it was sunk. After Brazil received news of this, many of the people began protesting, looting, and destroying German/German descents’ houses, properties, restaurants, and businesses. After several Brazilian ships were attacked by German submarines, Brazil took the initiative to seize German ships located near its ports. “Over the next few months, Brazil’s government actively sought to amend its constitution to enable it to declare war. This having been accomplished, the declaration was made on October 26, 1917.”

After joining the Allied powers, Brazil made limited contribution to war efforts by sending twenty army officers, some sergeants, few marine men and one medical unit team. Brazil was not suited nor prepared to send much military or navy “of any real standing.” Brazil had three official delegates at the Paris Peace Conference  and was one of the twenty-seven nations to sign the “Treaty of of Versailles.” After the war, Brazil was compensated by Germany for the cargo ships they had destroyed and sunk during the war.

Brazil went on to help found the League of Nations, becoming a non-permanent member but later withdrew because it was never granted permanent membership. However, Brazil’s limited involvement during World War I served to expand its diplomatic and foreign diplomacy with other countries. WWI indirectly served as a mechanism to expand Brazil’s army, air force, and overall defense. The war also boosted Brazil’s economy by increasing reliance on “domestic industries.” Overall, Brazil was able to serve as an example to other regional countries after becoming the only nation in South America to fight in WWI.