Brazil did not go to war, but war came to Brazil when our sovereignty was outraged and our neutrality was disrespected. After the cowardly sinking of national merchant ships in peaceful ocean navigation, there was no other alternative but to declare war to the Axis powers.
Today we remember the 78th anniversary of the capture of Monte Castelo.
We cannot forget that the Brazilian Army played a fundamental role in the history of the conflict. We were the only country in South America to cross the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, with a force of more than 25,000 men, to bring democracy, freedom, and hope to the Italian people, fighting the totalitarianism that threatened not only Europe, but the whole world.
The Brazilian Expeditionary Force (FEB) braved the hostile Italian winter, the steep slopes of the Apennine mountains, the rains, and the bogs of the tortuous roads leading to Monte Castelo.
The mission of the Brazilians was to dislodge the Germans who occupied a fortified defensive position and to liberate Highway 64, also called Via Porrettana by the Italians, which led to the city of Bologna. This operation would begin the liberation of Italian soil, occupied by the Nazi forces. It was imperative for the morale of the brave expeditionaries to conquer that high ground. We were repelled four times, but, with courage and firmness, our little soldiers faced the harsh reality of war and, even during the harsh European winter, intensified their patrol actions and infiltrations, in addition to the mortar and artillery fire.
We won. The price of victory, beyond glory and heroism, was the loss of many of our soldiers on Italian soil. These brave men rest, in solemn and eternal homage, in the Mausoleum of the Heroes of the Homeland, located in the National Monument for the Dead of World War II, in Rio de Janeiro. The Monument came to fulfill the wish of Marshal Mascarenhas de Moraes, Commander of the FEB, who, in an affirmation of his leadership and respect to those brave men, declared: “I took them to the sacrifice; it was up to me to bring them back.
The battle of February 21, 1945 is an unforgettable milestone for the Brazilian Army. It was a difficult victory, but this achievement propelled the FEB to other successes, culminating with the unconditional surrender of the 148th German Infantry Division in Fornovo di Taro, two months after this great feat. In this context, we can say that the taking of Monte Castelo was fundamental for the Allied troops and for the destiny of the war in the Italian Peninsula. The victory of the Brazilian arms, alongside the 10th Mountain Division of the United States, opened the way to break the feared Gothic Line, contributing to the success of the 4th Allied Army Corps in its offensive aimed at liberating Bologna.
The FEB left registered in the annals of History one of the most glorious deeds of our Land Force, written with demonstrations of bravery, abnegation, perseverance, and faith in the accomplishment of the mission. The taking of Monte Castelo made the Brazilian combatant recognized and respected.
Cultivating and revering those who wrote this page of honor and glory with their own blood is a duty for all of us. To our brave soldiers, our recognition and eternal gratitude! May they serve as an example to the Soldiers of Caxias, committed to the fulfillment of the Army’s constitutional mission, in defense of the Homeland and democracy!
*** Translated by the DEFCONPress FYI Team ***