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"The Smoking Cobras of WW2 - Brazilians go to..." Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP11 Dec 2019 3:16 p.m. PST


"Of all the fighting units struggling toward the final liberation of Italy, the men of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force are among the most warmly remembered in the towns and villages of the Apuan Alps and the Apennines, where they freed towns from occupying fascists. On local commemorations of the end of the war in the north three flags may fly: The Italian Tricolore, the U.S. Stars and Stripes, and the striking blue, green and gold banner of Brazil. With the passage of time the Brazilian Smoking Cobras, however, are largely forgotten in their own country, and rarely appear in Allied accounts of the war.

Nevertheless, the only Latin American unit thrown up against the Reich in Europe possesses a history as rich and dramatic as any other troops: twenty-five thousand underprepared men who arrived late and were battered by early losses in the field, but ended the war as a band of brothers with significant victories to call their own…"
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Mark 111 Dec 2019 6:22 p.m. PST

An interesting read. Thanks for the link, Tango.

A bit odd to find it on a Medieval History blog site, though.

Indeed Brazil's participation in WW2 is little remembered. They also played a role in the air, with 3 squadrons participating in the Italian campaign (flying P-47s), as well as roles in the South Atlantic (iirc U-Boat attacks on Brazillian shipping were the official casus belli) and even deployed aerial forces to assist in defending the Panama Canal.

As to the reason for the "smoking cobras" name, I'm less confident that the author of the blog article got it right. My understanding is, first, that the term "cobra" as used in Brazilian usage the Portuguese is better translated into English as "snake" than "cobra".

Second, I believe "when a snake smokes a pipe" was a popular phrase in Brazil prior to WW2 -- a Brazilian equivalent of the US phrase "when pigs fly". In the post-war vernacular, though, I'm given to understand that the meaning became completely inverted, instead implying something that you deny only at your peril, something that is likely to come true with a vengeance.

My reference point was a good friend, a foreign student from Brazil, who muttered "when a snake smokes a pipe" under her breath (and through a cloud of her own cigarette smoke) when I suggested that I could convince our professor to give us an extension on our project. When I asked her what she meant, she explained the original meaning, and the then popular meaning, of that phrase. But with no reference to WW2, even though she was wearing an army jacket every time I ever saw her.

So I doubt seriously that it had anything to do with Hitler making any pronouncements. Not that I know he didn't say it -- I don't. Only that there seems to be a very credible path for that moniker that has nothing to do with Hitler.

Could be wrong on that bit, though. Don't claim to be any expert on Brazilian pop culture or slang. Haven't spent any meaningful time with any Brazilians for decades now.

(aka: Mk 1)

M4rtinFierro12 Dec 2019 4:05 a.m. PST

Meanwhile, Argentina did pretty much nothing.

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP12 Dec 2019 7:59 a.m. PST

From: link

The Brazilian government did not want war and the Brazilian people protested against it. It seemed highly unlikely that the Brazilian Army would ever send ground troops to fight in the European campaign. A popular saying in Brazil at the time was "the snake will smoke" before the BEF [Brazilian Expeditionary Force] will go fight. This is something like our idiom in English, "when pigs fly," meaning its not going to happen. The soldiers of the BEF adopted this phrase, calling themselves Cobras Fumantes, the Smoking Snakes. This bit of folk wisdom is captured in their divisional insignia.

That is my understanding, especially after talking with a former co-worker from Brazil who is an archivist and historian.


Richard Baber12 Dec 2019 9:44 a.m. PST

The Brazilians declared war on the axis after losing merchant ships to the German unrestricted U-boat campaign. the populous demanded the government reacted to those sinkings.

I wrote and article on the Brazilian Expeditionary Force for Miniature Wargames magazine (and the SOTCW Journal) 10 or so yrs ago :)

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP12 Dec 2019 1:03 p.m. PST

What???????… Argentina did pretty nothing????

How you dare??…

Argentina during WW2 was a refuge and help from the Nazis … much more after the war … we must admit someday that we were part of the axis … overlapping … how you believe that Peron filled the Central Bank with gold?

One of the former fellow members with authority to discuss the issue and who has unfortunately been exiled is Macunaima

I miss him


Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian12 Dec 2019 6:05 p.m. PST

One of the former fellow members with authority to discuss the issue and who has unfortunately been exiled is Macunaima

I miss him

If I brought him back, the entire staff would quit. Have you forgotten his record of cyberstalking and personal attacks?

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian12 Dec 2019 6:08 p.m. PST

What???????… Argentina did pretty nothing????

How you dare??…

He's from Argentina too. Or claims to be…

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP13 Dec 2019 12:14 p.m. PST

Of course, it would be best not to comment on anything else about it … but … without offending … let me say the following …

I understand the personal situation with Mac and many others … almost none of them would move a finger to defend me or say something positive about my participation in TMP … more … most have been especially aggressive towards me … that said … does not mean that I do not recognize interest in reading many of their comments that are not or were aggressive …
It is for them that … despite everything … personally I would have liked to continue reading their comments … even the bad and aggressive … the desertification of TMP has never been shared by me … the more we are and participate … the better … of course it is only a strictly personal opinion …

Regarding my comment on the participation of Argentina in WW2 … it doesn't matter if Juan considers himself Argentine or not … my answer was completely cynical … and I maintain what has been said … Argentina was shamefully part of the Axis…

And we are still paying for that…


Personal logo Legion 4 Supporting Member of TMP In the TMP Dawghouse14 Dec 2019 9:12 a.m. PST

If I brought him back, the entire staff would quit. Have you forgotten his record of cyberstalking and personal attacks?
Agreed … he does not play well with others …

And yes, many don't know of Brazil's service in WWII. They did a pretty good job overall.

Plus it appears of course Argentina was in the Axis/German "sphere". And it seems there are some former Nazis/supporters still there. Saw a number of documentaries that clearly showed that. But most/many of the Nazis are dying off from old age. Just like most who were alive during WWII.

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