Historian and Brazilianist Frank McCann, author of ‘Soldiers of the Fatherland’, dies

One of the US scholars most closely linked to Brazil, historian Francis Daniel McCann, known as Frank McCann, died on Friday of a heart attack at his home near New Hampshire. At the age of 82, the Latin American political scholar was an emeritus professor at the University of New Hampshire, where he taught until 2007. He was the author, among others, of Soldiers of the Fatherland, A History of the Brazilian Army, (1989-1937).

Professor Emeritus of International Relations at UFF, in Rio, Eurico Figueiredo saw Frank McCann as “a great American and a great friend of Brazil” – and who played an important role in his task of “understanding, as a historian, the role of the military in life Brazilian”.

McCann, he says, “is responsible for a work that will persist”. The Brazilianist left his wife Diana, a companion of six decades, two daughters and grandchildren.

It was in January 19654 that he, with a group of students, all financed by Fullbright Associaton, disembarked for the first time in Rio – and dozens of trips would follow, in an activity that mixed classes, car trips in Brazil, search for historical documents, which would later help him to assemble his Handbook of Latin American Studies – and paved the way for him to become one of the great connoisseurs of Brazilian military life.

In 2014, he was a professor and lecturer at the Institute for Strategic Studies at Universidade Federal Fluminense.

In addition to Soldados da Pátria, edited by Cia. Das Letras, he wrote The Brazilian American Alliance (1937-1945), which received the Bernarth Prize. He was also the author of Modern Brazil: Elites and Masses in Historical Perspective. More recently, in 2018, he released Brazil and USA during World War II and His Aftermath.

For Figueiredo, one of McCann’s most striking books is A Aliança Brasil-EUA, in which he develops a central thesis.

According to him, during World War II the United States took advantage of the military base in Natal, a crucial strategic point in American contact with Africa. “However, after the war, a position that considered Brazil a ‘dangerous’ country prevailed – and thus,’ instead of compensating Brazil for that gesture during the war, the country was reduced to an equal to Argentina.”

For McCann, this was an injustice because Argentina had no behavior or positions like those of Brazil in the war. “In fact, Americans were ungrateful, and it is significant that an American scholar has made this observation.” One likely reason, according to McCann, was that the United States did not want to know “a predominant power” on the South American continent, which could pose future problems. Neither Brazil nor Argentina.

As a result of his academic efforts, the Brazilian government decided to honor him as commander of the Order of Rio Branco, in 1987, and later, in 1995, the Army awarded him the Peacemaker Medal. His academic career included phases as a visiting professor at the University of Brasilia, at the University of Mexico. In addition to traveling to several Latin American countries, McCann was also in Poland, Bulgaria, England, Nigeria, France and Turkey.

His time in Brazil made him an admirer of samba. He was part of the scientific council of the Military Sciences magazine published in Brazil by the Postgraduate Program in Military Sciences of the Army Command and General Staff School (Eceme).

McCann was a critic of President Jair Bolsonaro. For him, the explanation for the presence of so many military personnel in the first echelon of the Brazilian government takes into account the very lackluster passage of the president elected by the barracks. “Bolsonaro is trying to give his government the image of severe, based on the popularity of the image of the Armed Forces. He wants the prestige of the generals to reflect on an improvement of his image. In other words, their role in the government is to provide a stature that the president himself doesn’t have. “

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