Latin America during World War II

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Latin America during World War II
Admiral Graf Spee Flames.jpg
Following the Battle of the River Plate, the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee was scuttled by her crew off Montevideo, Uruguay, on December 17, 1939.
Location Latin America
Date19391945
EventsThe St. Louis Affair
June 1939
Battle of the River Plate
December 13, 1939
Operation Bolivar begins
May 1940
The Lüning Affair
August 1942
The sinking of U-176
May 15, 1943
Revolution of '43
June 4, 1943
The Strike of Fallen Arms
May 5–11, 1944
The Panama Canal strike
June 1945

The history of Latin America during World War II is important because of the significant economic, political, and military changes that occurred throughout much of the region as a result of the war. The war caused a lot of panic in Latin America over economics, because they depended on the European investment capital which was shut down. Latin America tried to stay neutral but the warring countries were endangering their neutrality. Most countries used propaganda to turn the neutral countries to their side, while Berlin wanted Latin America neutral. [1] In order to better protect the Panama Canal, combat Axis influence, and optimize the production of goods for the war effort, the United States through Lend-Lease and similar programs greatly expanded its interests in Latin America, resulting in large-scale modernization and a major economic boost for the countries that participated. [2]

History of Latin America history of the Latin American region

The term "Latin America" primarily refers to the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries in the New World.

Panama Canal Large artificial waterway in the Republic of Panama, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans

The Panama Canal is an artificial 82 km (51 mi) waterway in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. The canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a conduit for maritime trade. Canal locks are at each end to lift ships up to Gatun Lake, an artificial lake created to reduce the amount of excavation work required for the canal, 26 m above sea level, and then lower the ships at the other end. The original locks are 34 m wide. A third, wider lane of locks was constructed between September 2007 and May 2016. The expanded canal began commercial operation on June 26, 2016. The new locks allow transit of larger, post-Panamax ships, capable of handling more cargo.

Axis powers Alliance of countries defeated in World War II

The Axis powers, also known as "Rome–Berlin–Tokyo Axis", were the nations that fought in World War II against the Allies. The Axis powers agreed on their opposition to the Allies, but did not completely coordinate their activity.

Contents

Strategically, Panama was the most important Latin American nation for the Allies because of the Panama Canal, which provided a link between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that was vital to both commerce and defense. Brazil was also of great importance because of its having the closest point in the Americas to Africa where the Allies were actively engaged in fighting the Germans and Italians. For the Axis, the Southern Cone nations of Argentina and Chile were where they found most of their support, and they utilized it to the fullest by interfering with internal affairs, conducting espionage, and distributing propaganda. [2] [3] [4]

Allies of World War II Grouping of the victorious countries of World War II

The Allies of World War II, called the United Nations from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.

Atlantic Ocean Ocean between Europe, Africa and the Americas

The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest of the world's oceans, with an area of about 106,460,000 square kilometers. It covers approximately 20 percent of the Earth's surface and about 29 percent of its water surface area. It separates the "Old World" from the "New World".

Pacific Ocean Ocean between Asia and Australia in the west, the Americas in the east and Antarctica or the Southern Ocean in the south.

The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south and is bounded by Asia and Australia in the west and the Americas in the east.

Brazil was the only country to send troops to the European Theater; however, several countries had skirmishes with German U-Boats and cruisers in the Caribbean and South Atlantic. Mexico sent a fighter squadron of 300 volunteers to the Pacific, the Escuadrón 201 were known as the Aztec Eagles (Águilas Aztecas).

Military history of Italy during World War II

The participation of Italy in the Second World War was characterized by a complex framework of ideology, politics, and diplomacy, while its military actions were often heavily influenced by external factors. Italy joined the war as one of the Axis Powers in 1940, as the French surrendered, with a plan to concentrate Italian forces on a major offensive against the British Empire in Africa and the Middle East, while expecting the collapse of the UK in the European theatre. The Italians bombed Mandatory Palestine, invaded Egypt and occupied British Somaliland with initial success. However, German and Japanese actions in 1941 led to the entry of the US and the USSR in the War, thus ruining the Italian plan and postponing indefinitely the objective of forcing Britain to agree to a negotiated peace settlement.

Battle of the Caribbean

The Battle of the Caribbean refers to a naval campaign waged during World War II that was part of the Battle of the Atlantic, from 1941 to 1945. German U-boats and Italian submarines attempted to disrupt the Allied supply of oil and other material. They sank shipping in the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico and attacked coastal targets in the Antilles. Improved Allied anti-submarine warfare eventually drove the Axis submarines out of the Caribbean region.

201st Fighter Squadron (Mexico) Mexican Air Force unit

The 201st Fighter Squadron was a Mexican fighter squadron, part of the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force that aided the Allied war effort during World War II. The squadron was known by the nickname Águilas Aztecas or "Aztec Eagles", apparently coined by members of the squadron during training.

The Brazilian active participation on the battlefield in Europe was divined after the Casablanca Conference. The President of the U.S., Franklin D. Roosevelt on his way back from Morocco met the President of Brazil, Getulio Vargas, in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, this meeting is known as the Potenji River Conference, and defined the creation of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force.

Casablanca Conference Conference for allied powers to plan for the next phase of World War II

The Casablanca Conference was held at the Anfa Hotel in Casablanca, French Morocco, from January 14 to 24, 1943, to plan the Allied European strategy for the next phase of World War II. In attendance were United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British prime minister Winston Churchill. Also attending and representing the Free French forces were Generals Charles de Gaulle and Henri Giraud, though they played minor roles and were not part of the military planning. Premier Joseph Stalin had declined to attend, citing the ongoing Battle of Stalingrad as requiring his presence in the Soviet Union.

Franklin D. Roosevelt 32nd president of the United States

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, often referred to by his initials FDR, was an American statesman and political leader who served as the 32nd president of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. A Democrat, he won a record four presidential elections and became a central figure in world events during the first half of the 20th century. Roosevelt directed the federal government during most of the Great Depression, implementing his New Deal domestic agenda in response to the worst economic crisis in U.S. history. As a dominant leader of his party, he built the New Deal Coalition, which realigned American politics into the Fifth Party System and defined American liberalism throughout the middle third of the 20th century. His third and fourth terms were dominated by World War II. Roosevelt is widely considered to be one of the most important figures in American history, as well as among the most influential figures of the 20th century. Though he has also been subject to much criticism, he is generally rated by scholars as one of the three greatest U.S. presidents, along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Getúlio Vargas President of Brazil

Getúlio Dornelles Vargas was a Brazilian lawyer and politician, who served as President during two periods: the first was from 1930–1945, when he served as interim president from 1930–1934, constitutional president from 1934–1937, and dictator from 1937–1945. After being overthrown in a 1945 coup, Vargas returned to power as the democratically elected president in 1951, serving until his suicide in 1954. Vargas led Brazil for 18 years, the longest of any President, and second in Brazilian history only to Emperor Pedro II among heads of state. He favored nationalism, industrialization, centralization, social welfare and populism – for the latter, Vargas won the nickname "The Father of the Poor". Vargas is one of a number of populists who arose during the 1930s in Latin America, including Lazaro Cardenas and Juan Perón, who promoted nationalism and pursued social reform. He was a proponent of workers' rights as well as a staunch anti-communist.

History

United States role

In 1940, after he expressed his concern to President Franklin D. Roosevelt over Nazi influence in Latin America, Nelson Rockefeller of the famous family was appointed to the new position of Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA) in the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (OCIAA). [5] [6] Rockefeller was charged with overseeing a program of U.S. cooperation with the nations of Latin America to help raise the standard of living, to achieve better relations among the nations of the western hemisphere, and to counter rising Nazi influence in the region. [7] He facilitated this form of cultural diplomacy by collaborating with the Director of Latin American Relations at the CBS radio network Edmund A. Chester. [8]

Nelson Rockefeller 41st Vice President of the United States

Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller was an American businessman and politician who served as the 41st Vice President of the United States from 1974 to 1977, and previously as the 49th Governor of New York from 1959 to 1973. He also served as assistant secretary of State for American Republic Affairs for Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman (1944–1945) as well as under secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1954. A member of the wealthy Rockefeller family, he was a noted art collector and served as administrator of Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, New York.

Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs Former U.S. government agency

The Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, later known as the Office for Inter-American Affairs, was a United States agency promoting inter-American cooperation (Pan-Americanism) during the 1940s, especially in commercial and economic areas. It was started in August 1940 as OCCCRBAR with Nelson Rockefeller as its head, appointed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Cultural diplomacy is a type of public diplomacy and soft power that includes the "exchange of ideas, information, art, language and other aspects of culture among nations and their peoples in order to foster mutual understanding". The purpose of cultural diplomacy is for the people of a foreign nation to develop an understanding of the nation's ideals and institutions in an effort to build broad support for economic and political goals. In essence "cultural diplomacy reveals the soul of a nation", which in turn creates influence. Though often overlooked, cultural diplomacy can and does play an important role in achieving national security efforts.

Anti-fascist propaganda was a major U.S. project across Latin America, and was run by Rockefeller's office. It spent millions on radio broadcasts and motion pictures, hoping to reach a large audience. Madison Avenue techniques generated a push back in Mexico, especially, where well-informed locals resisted heavy-handed American influence. [9] Nevertheless, Mexico was a valuable ally in the war. A deal was reached whereby 250,000 Mexican citizens living in the United States served in the American forces; over 1000 were killed in combat. [10] In addition to propaganda, large sums were allocated for economic support and development. On the whole the Roosevelt policy was a political success, except in Argentina, which tolerated German influence, and refused to follow Washington's lead until the war was practically over. [11] [12]

Economics

According to author Thomas M. Leonard, World War II had a major impact on Latin American economies. Many countries were raising prices on their exports so that they could support themselves economically. [1] Following the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, most of Latin America either severed relations with the Axis powers or declared war on them. As a result, many nations (including all of Central America, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Argentina, and Venezuela) suddenly found that they were now dependent on the United States for trade. The United States' high demand for particular products and commodities during the war further distorted trade. For example, the United States wanted all of the platinum produced in Colombia, all of Chile's copper, and all of Peru's cotton. The parties agreed upon set prices, often with a high premium, but the various nations lost their ability to bargain and trade in the open market.

Shortages of consumer goods and other products were also a problem during the war years. The demands of the American war industry and a scarcity of shipping caused many goods to be unavailable in Latin America, and so the prices for what was available increased. Gasoline and other oil products were expensive and difficult to obtain. Food shortages were a problem in the cities. Ultimately, all of these factors resulted in inflation. [2]

Most of Latin America used the war to their advantage by siding with the United States and receiving aid. Peru, however, was an exception. In Peru, the government placed price controls on various products; hence, its foreign reserves did not increase as much as some of the other Latin American states and it lost badly-needed capital. Argentina, despite its pro-German leanings and its hostility towards the United States, did very well as trade increased rapidly. Panama also benefited economically, mainly because of increased ship traffic and goods passing through the canal.

In Puerto Rico, the alcohol industry boomed because access to European markets ceased. Petroleum-rich Mexico and Venezuela benefitted from the elevated price of oil. Mexico used this commodity to force a deal on its terms with American and European oil companies for the nationalization of its oil industry in 1938. Furthermore, during the war President Manuel Ávila Camacho capitalized on the situation to improve Mexico's bargaining position with the United States. [2]

Lend-Lease

On March 22, 1942, the United States government enacted Lend-Lease, which was a program which gave war materials and other assistance from the United States in exchange for military bases and participation in the defense of the Western Hemisphere. The United Kingdom and other European nations, including their colonies, logically received the majority of the aid, because the chaos of war was much closer to them. Latin America, however, received approximately $400 million in war materials, which was a small fraction compared of what was distributed to the European nations. [13]

Out of all of the Latin American nations, Brazil benefited the most from Lend-Lease during the war, mainly because of its geographical position at the northeastern corner of South America, which allowed for patrolling between South America and West Africa, as well as providing a ferry point for the transfer of American-made war materials to the Allies fighting in North Africa, but also because it was seen as a possible German invasion route that had to be defended. New and favorable trade treaties were signed with the United States, which offered loans and military aid, but of more importance was the drop in competition in Brazil's manufacturing industry. Brazil received three-quarters of the Lend-Lease assistance distributed in Latin America. Ecuador received some, mainly for the building of an airbase in the Galapagos, and both Colombia and the Dominican Republic used Lend-Lease to modernize their militaries in exchange for their participation in the defense of the Panama Canal and the Caribbean sea lanes. [2]

In contrast, Argentina and Chile received very little military aid, because for most of the war neither would heed American demands that they sever all relations with the Axis powers. Peru received some aid, but by 1943 the western coast of South America had lost all strategic significance, because it was so far away from the main theaters of war, and thus Peru lost its immediate justification for Lend-Lease weaponry. The Central American nations suffered a similar fate as Peru. By 1943, the Pan-American Highway, which the United States was building for defense purposes, ceased to be a priority, and so work on the road, as well as military aid, was halted. [2]

According to Leonard, Lend-Lease changed the balance of power in Latin America and "rekindled old rivalries." The Chilean government, for example, was very concerned about its lack of military assistance, not out of fear of an attack by Axis forces, but because it was concerned that Bolivia and Peru might attempt to use their newly acquired weapons to take back territory lost to Chile sixty years before during the War of the Pacific. Ecuador also was unhappy because, at the end of the 1941 Ecuadorian-Peruvian War, it had lost to Peru. Finally, Argentina was threatened by its old rival, Brazil, because of the latter's access to modern American weaponry. Leonard says that the Argentine dictator Juan Perón came to power partially by claiming that he would "redress this change in military status." [2]

Axis activity

A German Junkers Ju 52/3m, which was confiscated by Peru and transferred to the United States Army Air Forces as a war prize, at Howard Field, Panama, in late 1942. German Junkers Ju 52 in USAAF service 1942.jpg
A German Junkers Ju 52/3m, which was confiscated by Peru and transferred to the United States Army Air Forces as a war prize, at Howard Field, Panama, in late 1942.

At the beginning of World War II, fascism was seen as a positive alternative by some Latin American leaders and groups that were impressed by Germany's Adolf Hitler, Italy's Benito Mussolini, Japan's Emperor Hirohito, Spain's Francisco Franco (even though Spain remained neutral throughout the war) and the fascist dictators of the minor Axis Powers (Romania and Hungary). President Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, for example, admired Hitler for his style and his militaristic rallies. Similar views were held by Jorge Ubico and Maximiliano Hernández Martínez, the dictators of Guatemala and El Salvador, respectively. According to Leonard, in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, the strong sense of unity and purpose created by fascism was quite attractive. All three nations had an influential fascist political party [ dubious ]. Brazil's Integralists dressed in jackboots and green military-style shirts, and were open admirers of Mussolini. [2]

The politics of fascism were not all that was attractive, as in the pre-war years the Germans also enjoyed growing economic penetration using strict binational trade agreements to ensure that the economic relationship with various Latin American nations would be equal. Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic all had trade agreements with Nazi Germany. Brazil's trade with Germany, for example, doubled between 1933, when Hitler came to power, and 1938, the year before the war began. With the start of the war in September 1939, Axis ships could no longer cross the Atlantic for commerce, and so trade between Latin America and Germany and Italy ceased. Losing trading partners hurt some of the Latin American states, and in most cases the United States was the only country that was able to replace the Germans and Italians. [2]

Almost all of the Latin American states had to respond to Axis espionage activity. Mexico, and to a lesser extent Brazil, cooperated with the United States in shutting down Axis cells. Chile and Argentina, on the other hand, allowed enemy agents to operate in their countries for most of the war, which was a source of considerable discord between the two nations and the United States. Many of the Latin American states also had to deal with large numbers of immigrants from Axis countries. Colombia, for example, had a population of about 4,000 German immigrants in 1941, as well as a small village of Japanese farmers in Cauca. Many of the Germans in Colombia were involved in the air transportation industry as employees of SCADTA, so the United States was concerned that they might be engaged in espionage or even plot to convert civilian aircraft into bombers for an attack against the Panama Canal. As a result, the United States government pressured Colombia into monitoring and interning the immigrants or, in some cases, deporting them to the United States. The same occurred in other Latin American countries as well. [2] [2]

The threat of German and Spanish espionage was much more real. Throughout much of the war, the Germans operated spy networks in all of the most prominent countries of the region, including Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, and others. Operation Bolivar, as it was called, was centered on clandestine radio communications from their base in Argentina to Berlin in Germany, but it also utilized Spanish merchant vessels for the shipment of paper-form intelligence back to Europe. The latter was possible because of Spanish cooperation with German intelligence agencies during the war. Although Argentina and Chile eventually "cracked down" on the Axis agents operating in their countries in early 1944, some Bolivar activity continued up until the end of the European war in May 1945. [3] [4]

In addition to German espionage and sabotage in Latin America, the United States was also concerned about Nazi propaganda. For example, Germany's embassy in Guatemala City served as the distribution center for Nazi propaganda in Central America. Prior to the beginning of the war in 1939, the propaganda focused on the superiority of German manufactured goods, and claimed that Germany was the center for scientific research, because it had the "world's most advanced educational system." Between September 1939 and late 1943, the propaganda focused on German victories and the superiority of its military equipment. From Guatemala the propaganda made its way to the German embassies in other countries, often as packages aboard the Salvadoran airline TACA. [14]

SovietLatin American relations

Hitler's invasion of June 1941 provoked support and aid for the Soviet Union in many countries in Latin America, generally organized through voluntary organizations or trade unions. Cuba dispatched 40,000 cigars to the Red Army and in October 1942 became the first Latin American country to extend diplomatic recognition to the USSR. The war led to a diplomatic thaw more generally: by 1945, 11 Latin American states, including Colombia, Chile, Argentina and the Central American republics, had normalized relations with Moscow. [15]

At the end of World War II in Europe, Mexican president Manuel Ávila Camacho declared: "Al enterarme del retroceso definitivo del Ejército alemán recuerdo junto con mi país los esfuerzos admirables del heroico pueblo soviético durante los años de la lucha contra las tropas fascistas." (Upon hearing of the final defeat of the German army, I, along with my country, remembered the admirable efforts of the heroic Soviet people during the years of struggle against fascist troops.) [15]

Jewish Passports-El Salvador

While Jews were trying to escape exile in The Axis powers, Colonel José Castellanos Contreras, the Salvadoran Consul General in Geneva, Switzerland, saved 25,000 Jews by providing them with Salvadoran passports which could be used as a form of political asylum. This was however a very quiet and unrecognized part of El Salvador contribution in World War 2. [16]

See also

Related Research Articles

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References

  1. 1 2 "Latin America | International Encyclopedia of the First World War (WW1)". encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Leonard, Thomas M.; John F. Bratzel (2007). Latin America during World War II. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN   0742537412.
  3. 1 2 "Cryptologic Aspects of German Intelligence Activities in South America during World War II" (PDF). David P. Mowry. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  4. 1 2 "German Espionage and Sabotage Against the United States in World War II". Archived from the original on December 5, 2001. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  5. Cary Reich, The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: Worlds to Conquer, 1908-1958 (1996), pp 260-373; the standard scholarly biography;
  6. Cramer, Gisela; Prutsch, Ursula, "Nelson A. Rockefeller's Office of Inter-American Affairs (1940–1946) and Record Group 229", Hispanic American Historical Review 2006 86(4):785–806; doi : 10.1215/00182168-2006-050.
  7. Morris 1960 , pp. 129–135
  8. Time, June 1, 1942
  9. Kornel Chang, "Muted reception: US propaganda and the construction of Mexican popular opinion during the Second World War." Diplomatic History 38.3 (2013): 569-598.
  10. Lars Schoultz (2014). National Security and United States Policy Toward Latin America. p. 175.
  11. Reich, pp 270-75, 305-17.
  12. Randall B. Woods, "Hull and Argentina: Wilsonian Diplomacy in the Age of Roosevelt" Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs 16#3 (1974) pp. 350-371 online
  13. Pearcy, Thomas L. (2006). The History of Central America. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN   0313322937.
  14. Leonard, Thomas M. (2011). The History of Honduras. ABC-CLIO. ISBN   0313363048.
  15. 1 2 Sizonenko, Alexander (26 April 2015). "América Latina y la URSS en la Segunda Guerra Mundial". Russia Beyond the Headlines. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  16. Call to honour El Salvador's rescuer of Jews after war role rediscovered, Rory Carroll, June 2008, The Guardian, retrieved 8 April 2015

Further reading

External video
Nuvola apps kaboodle.svg Presentation by Mary Jo McConahay on The Tango War, September 18, 2018, C-SPAN