With resolute movements, clarity and sharp memory, the 100-year-old points to a framed map on the wall of the apartment where he lives, in the Varrubella neighborhood, in Porto Alegre. At a time when all you had to do was type your destination into your cell phone, that recovered piece of paper was the “analog GPS” of Captain Elmo Deniz in Italy, in the middle of World War II. A former combatant of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force (FEB), the centenary celebration preserves this historical document along with photographs commemorating his life.
With the task of providing assistance to the troops’ uniforms, the field used the map as well as dialogue with the Italians who sympathized with the troops on the Allied side. Although the FEB logo appears as a smoking snake, in reference to the “snake smokes” logo—which in turn alludes to the phrase “it is easier for a snake to smoke than for Brazil to go to war,” the captain never smoked. However, smoking helped strengthen these relationships with the local population. With dinner we received a pack of cigarettes. I never smoked and traded bottles of wine with Italians,” he recalls. Despite this close bond, the ex-fighter never wanted to return to Italy. “I saw a few bodies, but I saw it,” he said, still bearing signs of struggle in his memory.
Captain Elmo Framed Map Used in War | Photo: Matthews Piccini
Drover’s son, born in Lagoau, Cruz Alta Province, like his father, used to travel long distances to accomplish troop support missions. The arena says that the roads on Italian soil were more than 100 kilometers, and they were carried out in adverse climatic conditions, under snow and temperatures up to -15 ° C, in an area fraught with confrontation with Nazi fascist forces.
“We went there unprepared. Our uniforms didn’t fit that and our weapons were poor. We fought with courage and pride for being Brazilian,” explains another Porto Alegre-based war hero, Lieutenant Luis Alves de Sousa, 98, who spoke with Correo de Bovo at his home , in Hebeca. He regrets that, even today, the ideals against which he fought in Europe are still resisted even on Brazilian soil. “Here in Brazil we have the Nazis. It is very camouflaged, but what is there is here.”
As a driver, Luiz says that in the time he ended up learning more about Italy than he did about Rio Grande do Sul. Although he is proud of being part of FEB and lived in Europe as a “learning process” that helped him appreciate life, the lieutenant defines wars as “stupidity” and “an ambition to control for economic reasons.”
Lieutenant Lewis with a photograph showing a map of the campaign in Italy Photo: Mateus Piccini
Born in Linha do Coqueiral, São Luiz Gonzaga Province, it is safe to say that his role in the war, like Elmo, was, in a way, following in his father’s footsteps. Pinto Alves de Sousa was a ferryman who took people, animals, and commercial products from one side of the Aigue River to the other. In the case of the field, equipment, garrisons and personnel of the troops were transported by land.
More than 25,800 Brazilians were assigned to work by the FEB during World War II, carrying out more than 400 missions, between the second half of 1944 and the surrender of German forces in May 1945. There were 467 casualties in the fighting among the soldiers. On May 8, Victory Day is celebrated, as a sign of the victory of the Allies over the Nazi and Fascist forces.
Photos from the personal archive of Captain Elmo: Cold and snow were opposing squares | Photo: Matthews Piccini
Recognition in Italy is higher
Today, May 5, National Expedition Day is celebrated, in honor of FIFA in the so-called “Italy Campaign”, between 1944 and 1945. Despite the ephemeris, the Arenas recognize that there is more recognition in Europe than in Brazil itself.. “In Italy, there are regions that we don’t remember to this day, like Montes. And the Italian people are very grateful to us. There was no food, we shared our food,” says Captain Elmo.
Teacher Marisa Terezinha Alves de Sousa, 65, one of the four daughters of Lieutenant Louise, who still has a now deceased child, serving in the army police, regrets the lack of recognition of the soldiers’ achievements. “I began to realize that my father had been a hero for twenty years now, because so little was said about the FEB heroes. With all their unpreparedness and handicap, they crossed the ocean and played a small but crucial role in the outcome of the war,” he says.
“In schools (in Italy) they sing the FA anthem. They have learned to continue to revere their deeds, things we do not do here,” Marisa laments. She stressed the need to separate commemoration and respect for national symbols from partisan politics. The teacher says that even among active duty military personnel, it is necessary to reinforce the importance of the historical role of soldiers.
Clarity and activity
Lucid, Captain Elmo, and Lieutenant Luiz, in addition to the fact that they are known as war heroes, share Grêmio’s passion and the daily habit of reading Correio do Povo. In addition to reading the newspaper, Elmo still watches the news on TV, plays canasta and bocce at the Sociedade Esportiva Recanto da Alegria (SOERAL), in Redenção, as well as keeping the gaucho tradition alive. He even established a gaucho tradition center in Bahia, where he lived, in 1965. In 2006, the captain was awarded the title honorary consul of Rio Grande do Sul from the hand of then-governor Germano Rigoto, with a diploma framed in his living room.. in a prominent place . Elmo chairs the National League of Union Veterans.
Currently, the two ex-combatants, along with Lieutenant Odenot Viladino, 97, who is also a resident of Porto Alegre, are taking part in special ceremonies of the Southern Military Command. In February, the three were in Graduation in reference to the assumption of Monte Castillo, a battle that the Football Association won on February 21, 1945, and it is considered a strategy and the most important battle fought by the Brazilian forces on Italian soil. In addition, there are 11 other surviving arenas living in Rio Grande do Sul, spread across cities such as Pelotas, Alegrete, Paje and São Leopoldo, among others, according to UEFA’s permanent census.
While photographing next to the Campaign Memorial, which honors exactly the Brazilians who fought in World War II, Captain Elmo is identified by Reserve Colonel Henrique Antonio da Costa, who has been doing deliverance exercises. Costa made sure to greet and shake hands with the old warrior. “You have to congratulate them for everything they did for us. Brazil entered the end of the war, but it contributed significantly to the victory,” he says.
The Reserve Colonel made an Elmo salute point | Photo: Matthews Piccini
He also defeated Covid
In addition to returning from the war, the two ex-combatants interviewed also won the epidemic. Lieutenant Louise did not fall ill after taking measures to avoid contamination with the virus. His daughter Marisa, with whom he lives, ensures that he has been in isolation for the past two years. On the other hand, Captain Elmo tested positive for Covid in April 2020. At that time, he released a video claiming to be taking care of himself in strict quarantine and asking people to stay at home. He says that he has in his wife, Eunice, whom he has been married to for 12 years, an “angel” who provides him with all the care and helps him to cope with the disease.