The Smoking Snakes

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E-14256

The Brazilian Expeditionary Force was an Allied force fighting in the Mediterranean during World War II and the only ground troops sent into the war from a South American country. The BEF had some notable victories in Italy in 1944 and 1945, but was generally late entering the war. At the beginning of the war Brazil tried to maintain neutrality, but as the war progressed trade with the United States became more important than trade with Germany and Brazil slowly came over to the Allies. The Brazilian Navy began to help the US Navy to keep shipping lanes open in the Atlantic and Germany retaliated by torpedoing Brazilian merchant vessels, killing hundreds.

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 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.   Read more

A war story not for the faint hearted

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Pfc. Dorris Malear
U.S. Army Signal Corps, Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation collection, E-12688

Pfc. Dorris Malear tells a story that suggests he may have been a survivor of the so-called Malmedy Massacre, one operation related to the famous Battle of the Bulge, in which the German 1st S.S. Panzer Division sought to instill fear in their enemies by taking no prisoners and killing all civilians in their path. While the details of Malear’s narrative differ somewhat from the historically accepted account of the Malmedy Massacre, he is certainly in the right place at about the right time.

Mr. Malear passed away in 2013, you can read his obituary here.   Read more