Capitan Jairo de Freitas Saraiva: A Brazilian Patriot’s Saga in the 2nd World War

Cap. Jairo Saraiva  (center) and Gen. Castelo Branco (right)

In 1945, the young army Lance Corporal JAIRO DE FREITAS SARAIVA, boarded the American USS 116 in Guanabara, Rio de Janeiro and headed to 2nd War Operation in Italy as a member of the Brazilian allies Expeditionary Forces.

Jairo de Freitas Saraiva (February 24, 1923 –January 17, 2004).  Soldier, poet, community leader and Christian, born in the city of Manaus, raised in the neighborhood of Educandos where he grew up and spent his youth.

In 1945, the young Jairo Saraiva, 22 years old at the time, from the state of Amazonas and the son of Luiz Rufino and Maria, both from the state of Ceará, boarded the American troop carrier, the USS Harry S. TRUMAN in Rio de Janeiro, and headed to War Operations in Italy as a member of the Brazilian Expeditionary Forces. On that ship were thousands of Brazilians crossing the Atlantic to fight for the democratic ideal of liberty against Nazi-Fascism.

The desire for victory and the tradition of undefeatable courage that was and is present in Brazilians, from the north to the south, especially motivated those youth that had left behind their mother’s worry and their father’s pride, under a canopy of prayer and cheers from their beloved homeland, under whose flag they would fight the uncertainties of a threatened and disturbed world, facing death so that humanity would be free of racial supremacy ideologies that did not respect those that were different.

The young expeditionary grew old  and indulged in reminiscing (since “to remember is to live it again”, as the popular adage says). He used to tell that, upon arrival in Italy, soldiers from first world countries – Brazil was the only one from South America that participated in the conflict and sent troops – asked them if Brazilians were crazy for wearing  warm weather clothing under such severe weather conditions. It was one more enemy, and a terrible one at that, especially for those coming from the Amazon.

However, after the joking, the fraternal solidarity of the American troops gave way for our brave soldiers to receive a gift of coats appropriate for facing the European cold.

He also told the story, in a vain manner, of how he carried an injured companion even though he had been struck in the head by fragments of a  grenade that had hit them… He said his painkiller was his identification tag, which he bit strongly as a way of overcoming the pain while returning to the base.

The victory in Monte Castelo, in the south of Italy, began the much wanted return trip home… However, many of those young men stayed behind in the Pistoia  cemetery and other wartime stages. Jairo Saraiva, however, came out of the conflict alive and returned to Brazil.


It is possible to speak of destiny, but it’s preferable to speak of choice, as it is an idea of free will and individual responsibility.

The fact is that the FEB [Brazilian Expeditionary Force] member met the young Adamar de Paiva Sales, from the state of Pará, an orthodontics student in Belem. The connection between both of them was irresistible and capable of overcoming all barriers. They started a relationship and set up residence in Porto Velho, the then capital of the Guapore Territory, under the government of Jesus Bulamarque Hosanna (1952). Under a law that allowed ex-FEB (Brazilian Expeditionary Force) combatants to join the Territory Guard, Jairo took the position of warrant office  and his career began.


Two granddaughters, both born in Brasília, inherited the warrior tendency from their grandfather Jairo and enlisted in the American Armed Forces, as they had graduated in the U.S. and held dual citizenship there and in Brazil. Priscila serves as a marine  (US Marines) and will soon leave to fight terrorism in Afghanistan; Graciela, a member of the Navy (US Navy), fulfilled her military honors on missions in the Gulf of Aden and the Persian Gulf, in 2009/2010, on board the USS Destroyer Donald Cook (DDG 75), keeping alive the memory and military tradition of their nostalgic Brazilian grandfather.


A pioneer in Rondonia Territory, Jairo Saraiva, considered a police officer of great insight in detecting crimes, temporarily commanded the Territory Guard that, under his administration, received and hosted the 5th  Battalion, led by Lieutenant Coronel Carlos Aloysio Weber, on their arrival in Porto Velho in 1965.

The FEB member also directed the fire combat operation  in the historic Central Market when there wasn’t yet a firefighting squad in Porto Velho, leading his Territory Guard personnel and a group of brave volunteers who were able to salvage half of the building’s damaged structure from the flames , in spite of the precarious lack of resources.

Among the other functions he carried out, he was also the Aide-de-Camp  to military governors Paulo Nunes Leal and Theodorico Gahyva, as well as to the Penal Colony administrator, Enio Pinheiro.

He retired in 1978 with the rank of Captain and, from then on, dedicated himself to carrying out personal projects for social  well being. He was a citizen working for a common social good, enthusiastically taking on community service with a youthful spirit.


Jairo Saraiva was decorated with the Company Medal Award by General Newton Estilac Leal, the War Minister. He was a Representative for Rondonia at the XIV National Convention of Brazilian Ex-Combatants, which took place in Caxias do Sul – RS in 1972. Among the decorations he received, there is the curious “Diploma of Honor,” granted by the “Association of Veterans of the Cangaço na Raza da Catarina Campaign” – Bahia, for heroic efforts with the Brazilian campaign in Italy, bestowed by “Captain  Virgulino.” FEB member Jairo Saraiva spread his genes and, being wellrepresented, they will continue for centuries well beyond our borders, on the North American continent.


Having lived an uncommon life full of adventure, and participated in the most fierce war of the 20th Century, the old combatant, pioneer of Rondonia Territory, now a thriving state, passed away at 81 years of age on the 17th of January of 2004 in Fortaleza (CE), the land of his ancestors.

His remains rest in Serra d’Agua, in the city of Quixeramobim, under a lush jujube tree. Its leaves are always green, like the hope that guided him throughout his life, and never fall, withstanding  drought and bad weather.

He picked the unusual tomb, while still alive, granted by the Ceara justice system in honor of his history of fighting for the freedoms that are the ideal of free men. His legacy is a valiant portrait of discipline and honor, witnessed by the pioneers that surrounded him.

Rest in peace dear Lieutenant Jairo Saraiva, with your well-accomplished earthly mission. Your irrefutable example of courage in life is light for those that are left behind.



Sam, the path taken by the “Old Captain” could be a novel given the fertile history that marked his existence. His exemplary life, the loves that enriched his memories, the missions taken on, his passion for Brazil, his pride for having been born in Amazonas, not losing his north easterner  soul – in all, the experiences that multiply into the development of a book. Congratulations for the impeccable work! Hugs!


This was great. Now not just family members, but also those from Rondonia, Amazonas and other Brazilians have the opportunity to get to know Jairo Saraiva’s life better.


Dear Samuel, I am certain that your father, wherever he is, is proud to have a son with the ability to give him such a beautiful and deserved tribute. All of us, children of this earth, are also proud of our heroes. Congratulations.

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