Monday, September 21, 2015

Bolt Action Brazil!

In the English-speaking world, it is generally unknown that a volunteer Brazilian Expeditionary Force (FEB) fought alongside the US Army in Italy from mid-1944 until the end of the war. This was in effect a light infantry division, consisting of three infantry regiments augmented with artillery and light armour. It was supported by a Brazilian Air Force contingent of a light reconnaissance squadron as well as a P-47 Thunderbolt-equipped fighter squadron.  --From Brazilian Expeditionary Force in World War II by Cesar Campiani Maximiano and Ricardo Bonalume
About six months ago, I got it into my head to collect a Bolt Action platoon based on the Brazilian Expeditionary Force (Força Expedicionária Brasileira, or FEB).

Why Brazil?

Well, like most folks who have been into a given period of historical wargaming for more than a few years, I'm inordinately interested in the weird little nooks and crannies of my chosen period, and the FEB struck me as a fun but not too "out there" choice (as far as these things go).

They were equipped by their American allies (for the most part), so standard U.S. figures suffice nicely. As a nice change of pace from the period, however, the FEB was the only fully racially-integrated division fighting for the Western Allies, so score one for diversity! In fact, I first started reading up on the FEB after having a productive online discussion with a fellow blogger regarding the white-washed nature of typical WWII (European theater) wargaming. Warlord makes a range of Japanese-American and African-American figure heads that provided plenty of conversion opportunities.

Plus it can't be denied that Brazil in the 1940s has a certain romantic charm about it.

But the final tipping point for me came when I saw their divisional sleeve patch:

Yes, that's a snake smoking a pipe. The image was based on an apocryphal story that someone (it changes depending on who you ask - let's just say Hitler) said that the Brazilians would join the war effort "when snakes smoked."

(I've currently got an order in with Fighting Piranha Graphics to produce a sheet of custom sleeve insignia decals...)

I ordered Osprey's volume on the FEB (because of course there's an Osprey book on the subject!) and did some reading. In the end, I decided to base my list off of the FEB in the last stages of the war, as they overran northern Italy during the spring of '45, specifically in the fighting around Montese and Collecchio. In particular, I modeled my collection on a Pelotão de Choque ("Close Combat Platoon"), ad hoc units that were tasked with aggressive reconnaissance and "keeping up the scare" on the retreating Axis forces. The members of the Close Combat Platoons were hand-picked from various units based on their bravery and exploits in the war up to that point, so it's a nice way to model a fierce fighting force in an army that had a, shall we say, somewhat checkered service history.

Although the FEB was equipped with American materiel, they weren't carbon copies of U.S. soldiers. For one thing, despite intentions to do so, they weren't trained in the U.S. Army's contemporary tactical doctrine, and for good reason: the infantry were largely issued surplus M1903 Springfield bolt action rifles rather than the more famous M2 Garand. As such, the Bolt Action special rules for American troops wouldn't be a perfect fit.

What I decided to do, after further reading, was keep the AIR POWER special rule, but replace the FIRE AND MANOEUVRE rule with the VENGEANCE characteristic from the Armies of Great Britain supplement, the better to reflect the FEB's noted solidity on the defense and general chip-on-the-shoulder attitude of wanting to prove themselves to doubtful allies and foes alike.

Without further ado, then, some pictures:

One of the two "Close Combat" squads. Between the halftrack's .50-cal and the .30-cal team, these guys should be able to lay down some serious firepower.
The other "Close Combat" squad, including a bazooka team for some anti-armor (the one place where my list is fairly weak).
Support elements: a Jeep mounting a .30-cal, an FAO team to call in those Thunderbolts, a medic and attached Jeep, and the platoon Lietenant and team. (I also painted up a "moving" .30-cal team for fun.)

Okay, this is when things really went overboard - I assembled and painted a 1/48-scale Thunderbolt to use as an airstrike marker! How could I not though, when Italeri makes a kit with FEB markings?
An integral M8 armored car and an M10 tank destroyer from the 1st Armored Division (which operated in close communication with the FEB).
Partisans! Advance units of the FEB often made contact with local insurgents and used them in operations against local German and Italian defenses.
The whole crew! A little over 1,000 points, so plenty of room to customize my list for a "standard" game. I hope to get them onto the table for a battle very soon.
Os brasileiros estão chegando!

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant. I thought that the Brazilians were limited to Pele in "Escape to Victory". Today I learnt something new. It was a good day. Good luck with them


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