by Marcus Borges




Many nations engaged in the Allied side during World War Two, and some effectively contributed with troops in a way or another. Those who did could align themselves with the victors in terms of the ultimate sacrifice made for freedom, the lives of their sons.

Speaking in terms of the American continent, only the USA, Canada, Mexico and Brazil sent troops who entered combat against the Axis powers, and succeeded.

Soon after the declaration of the state of belligerence among Brazil and the Axis nations, it was decided that, besides sending a whole army to fight alongside Gen. Mark Clark’s Fifth North American army in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO), in Italy, it would also be very important to send an aviation group. This way, in December 18,1943, the First Brazilian Fighter Group was created (squadron-sized by north American standards of the time).

As the Brazilians would fight alongside the North Americans, the standardization of the military personnel and of the war material was essential, as to maximize overall efficiency of the combat forces as a whole. The South Americans were then sent to US stateside bases to be properly retrained, as the Brazilian training methods were good enough, but distinct from the ones adopted by the US forces.

As the Brazilians graduated, they were declared a fighting force, and named 1o Grupo de Caça (1o GAC), and were then subordinated to the 350th FG, 12th Army AF, Italy, in 1944.Our Group was the North American fighter group’s fourth squadron, for all administrative and operational ends. As this FG used at the time the Republic P-47D Thunderbolt for its missions, this was the aircraft the Brazilians adopted too, always as a matter of standardization.

The 1o GAC arrived at Livorno, in Italy’s western shores, in October 6,1944.It established its first operational base at Tarquinia, entering combat immediately from there, as soon as the planes were distributed to the flights in October 12,1944, first with the US more experienced pilots, then by themselves. The Group was divided into four esquadrilhas (flights): A-Red, B-Yellow, C-Blue, and D-Green, each one with six planes (numbered from 1 to 6) in the roster plus two in reserve. This way the P-47’s were marked A-1...A-6, B-1...B-6, C-1...C-6, and D-1...D-6.There were two more planes, numbers 1 (1o GAC Commander’s) and 2 (Operations Officer), both with no letters attached.

Photo : the third flight revving engines for the next mission.

(Museu Aeroespacial, via Cap Borges)

Its badge was a fighting ostrich (inspired in the famous figure of Ten Lima Mendes, "Limatão" for his squadron mates), and "Senta a Pua" was adopted as its motto (meaning, in English, "Let’s go to it!", more or less translated). Their radio call sign was "Jambock", and they were to become famous in theater with this name.

Figure : the First Brazilian Fighter Group Insignia


Figure : a third flight P-47D starts its diving attack (note the ‘bazooka’ type rockets)

The Brazilians set an impressive record of operations, launching its first all-Brazilian strike mission on November 11,1944.Losses were equally increasing, and personnel replacements were never at the desired pace up to the end of the war. The main enemy was the infamous Flugabwehrkannonen, or Flak, for at this point in the war the Germans were totally defensive, and mainly concerned with defending their own country, so no combats, unfortunately for the eager pilotos de caça (fighter pilots), existed during the whole campaign among Brazilian and German fighters in the air, but many German aircraft were destroyed in the ground. Indeed, even for the whole 350th FG things were pretty harsh, for between October 31, 1944 and the end of the war, the period combat-shared with the Brazilians, they scored just 18 kills, eleven of them in the same day, April 2, 1945!

The most outstanding day of operations, in which the best results of all the campaign against the Germans was obtained was April 22,1945, and this date is officially commemorated in Brazil as the "Dia da Aviação de Caça" (Fighter Aviation Day).

The actions of the Brazilian fighter squadron were so intense in this last month of war (for the war ended in May 8) that the intelligence of the 350th FG evaluated the South Americans operations as such (in the figure : a Thunderbolt blasts a locomotive out of its tracks, depleting Axis supplies, its main objective) :

"During the period of 6 to 29 of April,1945, the 1o GAC flew 5 % of all tactical sorties executed by the XXII Air Tactical Command and, from all the results obtained by this Command, to the Brazilians were atributed 15% of the armoured vehicles destroyed, 28% of the bridges, 36% of the damaged fuel dumps, and 85% of the damaged ammunition dumps."

The Brazilian outfit initiated its operations with 48 pilots and finished the war with only 23, with 5 killed by flak, 8 shot down over enemy territory, 9 taken off operations for exhaustion, and 3 dead in flight accidents.

As soon as the war ended, the Brazilians returned to their country, and passed along all the lessons the war teached them to the next generation of Brazilian fighter pilots.

In April 22, 1986, the US Congress outorgated to the 1o GAC, by a President Ronald Reagan proposal, the Presidential Unit Citation, received only by one other non-North American unit, during the war. This condecoration was instituted in December 7, 1941, and to be earned, the unit had to demonstrate "extraordinary heroism in action against enemy forces" and "determination, heroism and ‘esprit de corps’ when accomplishing its mission, under extreme difficulties and dangerous conditions, raising itself above other units participating in the same campaign", the nomination being done by the 350th FG commander, Cel Ariel Nielsen, during the war.

The Jambock’s tradition lasts to this day, and will forever within the Brazilian Air Force’s very heart, to inspire generations of Brazilian fighter pilots.



End of Part One

Next :

Part Two : The 1o Grupo de Caça Story by its Members

Part Three : The Modelling Chapter

Photos and text © by Marcus Borges