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Gentleman's Military Interest Club
Douglas Jr.

Senta a P?a !

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Hi folks,

Here a short history about the FAB (For?a A?rea Brasileira - Brazilian Air Force) during the Italy Campaign. As very few people know that South Americans saw combat in the ETO, I think you all may like it.

The 1? Grupo de Avia??o de Ca?a in Italy, 1944-1945

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Formed on 18 December 1943, the 1?GAVCA had its cadre composed of volunteer FAB (For?a A?rea Brasileira) pilots. Its Commanding Officer was Ten.-Cel.-Av. Nero Moura. The Group had 350 men, including 43 pilots, and was sent to Panama for combat training, since the pilots already had flying experience -- one of its pilots, 2? Ten.-Av. Alberto M. Torres, was the pilot of the PBY-5A Catalina that had sunk the U-199.

There, the Group suffered its first casualty -- 2? Ten.-Av. Dante Isidoro Gastaldoni (KIFA).On 11 May 1944, the Group was declared operational and became active in the air cover in the Canal Zone, equiped with the Curtiss P-40.

Following the completion of its initial training, the Group was sent to the USA on 22 June for an operational conversion course on to the Republic P-47D Thunderbolt that was to equip the 1?GAVCA.

The Group departed to Italy on 19 September 1944, arriving at Livorno on 6 October. There it became part of the 350th Fighter Group USAAF, an unit which had been formed on 1 October 1942 in Britain. Several of its first pilots had served previously with the Royal Air Force or the Royal Canadian Air Force. After the Allied landings in Northern Africa (Operation "Torch"), the 350th FG was transferred to that region and followed the Allied invasion of Italy. Until the arrival of the 1?GAVCA, the 350th FG was made up of three squadrons: 345th Fighter Squadron ("Devil Hawk Squadron"), 346th FS ("Checker Board Squadron") and 347th FS ("Screaming Red Ass Squadron"). When the 1?GAVCA - or, rather, the 1st Brazilian Fighter Squadron - 1st BFS - was incorporated to the 350th FG, that unit was subordinated to the 62nd Fighter Wing, XXII Tactical Air Command, 12th Air Force USAAF. The call-signs for each of the Groups component squadrons were: 345th FS, "Lifetime"; 346th FS, "Minefield"; 347th FS, "Midwood"; and 1st BFS, "Jambock"

THE BADGE OF THE 1?GAVCA

The badge of 1?GAVCA was designed while the Squadron was travelling to Italy aboard the transport ship UST Colombie by a group of its pilots, Ten.-Av. Rui Moreira Lima, Ten.-Av. Jos? Rebelo Meira de Vasconcelos, Ten.-Av. Lima Mendes and Cap.-Av. Fortunato C. de Oliveira.

Drawn by the latter, it can be described as follows, according to its author:

- The green-yellow surrounding represents Brazil;

- The red field behind the fighting ostrich represents the war skies;

- The bottom field - white clouds - represents the ground to a pilot;

- The blue shield charged with the Southern Cross is the common symbol for the Brazilian Armed Forces;

- The ostrich represents the Brazilian fighter pilot, whose face is inspired in that of Ten.-Av. Lima Mendes, and also the stomach of the veterans of 1?GAVCA;

- The white cap was part of the FAB uniform at the time and distinguished the Brazilian pilots from the other Allied pilots;

- The gun being hold by the ostrich represents the firepower of the P-47, with its eight .50in machine-guns;

- The motto "Senta a Pua!" is the war cry of 1?GAVCA;

- The white streak, at the right, ending on a flak burst, was added later, and represents the danger brought by the German anti-aircraft artillery to the pilots (this device appeared only on replacement aircraft).

The use of an ostrich to represent the Brazilian fighter pilots comes from the fact that, during the early Forties, several Brazilian aircrew went to the USA to fly back to Brazil the aircraft then being bought in large numbers by the Brazilian authorities, not only training but also combat aircraft. During their stay in that country, they got acquainted to American food: baked beans, powder eggs and powder milk, among other items. The then Cel.-Av. Geraldo Guia de Aquino dubbed the pilots "ostrichs" and the nickname caught.

The war cry "Senta a Pua!" was a suggestion from Ten.-Av. Rui who had heard it several times from Cap.-Av. Firmino Alves de Araujo while serving at Salvador Air Base; it was used by the latter on his subordinates, inviting them to do their tasks at once and quickly. It became the Brazilian equivalent of the British Tally-Ho and the French "A la Chasse!".

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IN ACTION!

The Brazilian pilots initially flew from 31 October 1944 as individual elements of flights of the 350th FG US squadrons, at first in affiliation flights and progressively taking part in more dangerous missions.

Less than two weeks later, on 11 November, the Group started its own operations, flying from its base at Tarquinia, using its call-sign Jambock.

The Group was divided into four flights, Vermelha (Red), Amarela (Yellow), Azul (Blue) and Verde (Green).Each flight had a complement of roughly 12 pilots, these having been flying together since their training spell in Panama. A pilot customarily wore an echarpe in the colours of his flight. The CO of the Group and some officers were not attached to any specific flight.

The Thunderbolt colour scheme

Initially the P-47s were finished in standard US fighter colours, olive-drab (top surfaces) and neutral grey (undersurfaces) (except those aircraft of the commander and operations officer which were finished in natural metal and olive-drab anti-glare panels). The badge of the Group was painted just after the engine cowling, and the aircraft code (flight letter-aircraft number) was in white letters over the cowling.

National insignia was in four positions, this being the US star-and-bar, with the white star replaced by the Brazilian star. Later, replacement aircraft were in natural metal, with olive-drab anti-glare panels, the codes being in black (click here for some pictures of the colour schemes).

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(Above: US Captain John C. Buyers served as US liasion officer with the Brazilian Fighter Group during the Italy Campaign. He even flew several combat missions with the Brazilians pilots)

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(Above: Leutnant Roberto Tormin Costa, who flew 65 combat missions during the campaign. Among other decorations, he was awarded with the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal and the Presidential Unit Citation. He died at age of 22 in a plane crash in April, 1946).

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THE GROUND CREWS

In every air combat unit, the ground personnel - mechanics, armourers, radio technicians, intelligence officers, supply men, medics and nurses - are those that make every effort so that a few men - the pilots - are able to carry out the missions attributed to them.

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The 1?GAVCA was no exception, having had at its disposal more than 300 men. Commanded by Maj.-Av. Marcilio Gibson Jacques, who showed the utmost ability to organize and communicate with the personnel under his orders, they performed the daily tasks of maintenance with strong determination and dedication to duty - as a result, the Group had a high rate of serviceability.

A group of doctors and nurses were also sent to Italy. Among them was Ten.-Med. Luthero Vargas, son of the then Brazilian president, Get?lio Vargas. Some of the doctors served with the US 12th General Hospital at Livorno, while Cap.-Med. Thomas Girdwood was attached to the Group - he was the first FAB "squadron doctor", although at that time such an appointment did not exist. Six nurses - 2? Tenentes Isaura, Antonina, Judith, Ocimara, Regina e Diva - were attached to the 1?GAVCA since the training in the U.S.A. until the end of the war.

THE 1?GAVCA SONG

During the Carnival of 1945, some pilots created the song "Carnival in Venice" after a bombing mission on that town. This song became the Brazilian fighter pilots song after the war.

COMBAT MISSIONS

The Brazilian pilots had been trained in the US for fighter operations -- but the Luftwaffe had by then nearly no airplanes in Italy! Thus the 1?GAVCA started its fighting career as a fighter-bomber unit, its missions being armed reconnaissance and interdiction, in support of the US 5th Army, to which the Brazilian Expeditionary Force was attached.

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On 16 April 1945, the US 5th Army started its offensive along the P? Valley. On this date, the Group was reduced to 25 pilots, some having been killed and others, having been shot down, becoming POWs. Also, some had been relieved from operations on medical grounds due to combat fatigue. The Yellow flight was thus disbanded, its remaining pilots being distributed among the other flights. Each pilot flew on average two missions a day.

On the 19 April, the German frontline was broken, this having been first signalled to Command HQ by the Group. The Allied forces had to set up a bridgehead across the River P?, before the German forces crossed it. This was to be done on the 23 April, after a softening up of the German defences by the Air Force on the previous day.

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(Above: 2nd Lieutnant Renato Goulart Pereira with his P-47 during the Italy Campaign, 1945. He flew 94 combat missions between November, 1944 and April 30th, 1945. Among many decorations, Goulart was awarded with the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oakleaves and Air Medal with four oakleaves. He is still alive.)

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THE 22 APRIL 1945 - DAY OF THE BRAZILIAN FIGHTER ARM

The day dawned cold, overcast and foggy. The three flights took off at 5 minute intervals starting at 8:30 AM, to attack targets in the San Benedetto region, destroying bridges, barges and motorized vehicles.

At 10:00 AM, a flight took off for an armed reconnaissance mission south of Mantua - more than 80 trucks and vehicles were destroyed. Other aircraft attacked fortified German positions, tanks and barges.By the end of the day, the Group had flown 44 individual missions, having destroyed more than a hundred vehicles as well as barges, etc.

Two P-47s were damaged and a third was shot down, its pilot, 2? Ten.-Av. Armando de S. Coelho being taken prisoner. This was the day when more sorties than ever were made by the Group, and is commemorated each year as the Brazilian Fighter Arm Day.

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(Brazilian pilots are awarded with the Air Medal, 1945)

THE RESULTS

The 1?GAVCA flew a total of 445 missions, 2,550 individual sorties and 5,465 combat flight hours, from 11 November 1944 to 4 May 1945. The XXII Tactical Air Command acknowledged the efficiency of the Group by noting that, between 6 to 29 April 1945, it flew only 5% of the total of missions carried out by all squadrons under its control, but destroyed:

 85% of the ammunition depots,

 36% of the fuel depots,

 28% of the bridges (19% damaged),

 15% of motor vehicles (13% damaged) and

 10% of horse-drawn vehicles (10% damaged).

The actions of the 1?GAVCA during the Italian Campaign were even more exhalted on 22 April 1986. On that day the Group received, from the Mr. Ambassador of the USA to Brazil, together with the Secretary for the USAF, the Presidential Unit Citation (Air Force), given by the US Government. It is with pride that we acknowledge that, apart other few USAF units, only the 1?GAVCA and two Royal Australian Air Force units - Nos. 2 and 13 Squadrons - have received this citation.

"Their deeds will remain alive while men fly. Their victories in the battlefields will be in our hearts while courage and heroism are treasured by men ."

E. Aldridge Jr., Secretary for the USAF, at the bestowing ceremony of the Presidential Unit Citation to the 1?GAVCA

Hope you enjoy it!

Regards,

Douglas.

Edited by Douglas Jr.

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Brazilian forces (FAB and FEB) received a number of US decorations for gallantry and service in World War II, including:

Distinguished Service Cross - 1

Silver Star - 30

Legion of Merit - 67

Distinguished Flying Cross - 25 (including 1 oak leaf cluster)

Bronze Star - 163

Air Medal - 138 (including 96 oak leaf clusters)

The Brazilian Expeditionary Force (FEB) anchored the right of Fifth Army's line in much of the fighting in Italy and acquitted themselves quite well, as the decoration tally shows.

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Some photos.

The items and planes showed here are at the "Museu Aerospacial dos Afonsos - Rio de Janeiro"

Otto

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#3

reached by the German antiaircraft artillery

FLAK of 37 mm

April 23,1945

Airplane of the 1st Lieutenant - Rui Moreira Lima

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They have a small display of the Brazilian nose art and gear etc at the US Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, if you can get there I'm sure you would enjoy seeing the display and all the aircraft and gear etc in the Very large museum, well worth a trip to see !

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