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Corpo de Fuzileiros / Marine Corps

The Portuguese Corpo de Fuzileiros looks like a marine corps, but is is not. The Portuguese Fuzileiros would appear to lack even rudimentary amphibious assault capabilities, with only a handful of LARCs and a single LCU. Portuguese Marinha plans to acquire an amphibious assault capability have been delayed by the financial crisis, and absent such a ship, the Fuzileiros are not marines.

Portugal has a long history of amphibious warfare. Malyn Newitt notes that "Between 1482 and the 1520s the Portuguese developed a maritime and trading empire along the coast of Africa.... Portuguese amphibious warfare against these coastal settlements was initially carried out by units of the India fleets. These were made up of naus (carracks), which carried heavy artillery and professional soldiers. The ships gave Portuguese forces the ability to move large numbers of men and materiel around with ease and speed. Armed forces could be concentrated for an attack and supplies and munitions could be brought in quantiy to the very site of the assault.... In the 16th century the military strength of the Portuguese lay overwhelmingly in their ships and their ability to deliver amphibious assaults..."

The Marine Corps integrates about 1,400 Marines [as of 2012] in the school and the Marine Base, and 7 operational units: the battalion of Marines No. 1, the battalion of Marines No. 2, the unit of methods of landing, the Naval police unit, the Special Actions detachment, Fire support company, and the Tactical Transports support company.

The Marines promote the Corps development, administrative and logistical support of forces, units and operational resources assigned thereto and ensure the training of personnel that are committed by integrating two large marine Units, the school and the Marines, and seven Operating Units: the battalion of Marines No. 1, the battalion of Marines No. 2the unit of methods of landing, the Naval police unit, the Special Actions detachment, Fire support company, and the Tactical Transports support company. The guidelines of the strategic concept of national defence, advocate the existence in the system of national Forces of power projection capability.

A task force of amphibious nature is characterized by great flexibility, mobility, employment of combat power, as sea maneuver and with ability to project power ashore, with the aim of defending the national interest reaches that desideratum. The Marine Corps Command ensures the training for power projection ashore this force. The Marines, part of the operational component of the Navy, also have an important role in the implementation of actions in support of the foreign policy of the State, in particular of national representation and demonstration of force abroad.

The existence of Marines in the Fleet dates back to 1585for the management of artillery and riflemen on ships bound for India. The Corps has its origins in the oldest permanent Military Force formed in Portugal, being dated 1621 to its Foundation, with the designation of "Terco of the Navy of the Crown of Portugal", of which the current Marines are legitimate heirs.

Since that date until the middle of the 19th century, "Soldiers of the Navy" or "Sailors of the rifle", as they were known in those times the Infantes de Marinha, fought in Brazil, in the southeastern border of the national territory, constituted cover for the Coast Guard Fleet and fought alongside Lord Nelson in the Mediterranean, scoring successes in the fight against the French, Dutch and Spanish.

The Tercia [an Iberian unit intermediate in size between a battalion and brigade] was considered an elite unit, having been appointed by the King d. João IV as his personal guard. At the end of the 18th century, the operational organization changed, articulating two infantry regiments and an artillery unit, renamed the "Royal Brigade of the Navy". In 1808, during the invasion of Napoleon's troops, elements of the Royal Brigade of the Navy, ensured the personal security of the Portuguese royal family in his trip to Brazil. The Marine Corps of Brazil, formed after the independence of that colony, says with pride that has its origin in the Royal Brigade of the Portuguese Navy.

Already in the transitional period of the 19th to the 21st century, when Europe started its colonial claim process in Africa, Portugal sees itself confronted with the great ability of colonial powers such as France, England and Germany, who considered it necessary to affirm national presence in the territories that had been allocated in the continent following the treaties of Berlin.

"Sailors of the rifle", integrated into Battalions Expedition and in Marine companies, fought in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea. Most recently in 1961, when Portugal saw itself involved in new war effort in Angola, Guinea and Mozambique, Marines wore the camouflaged for combat in the jungle, rivers, in the hills, in Savannah, patrolling the rivers, landing in dinghies and speedboats, making hand blows from naval units and helicopters, ensuring the safety of Marine facilities, participating in fighting of all kinds.

Prior to 1960, Portuguese military forces in Guinea were led by white officers, with white commissioned soldiers, overseas soldiers (African assimilados), and indigenous Africans (indigenato) in the enlisted ranks. General António de Spínola's Africanization policy eliminated these discriminatory colour bars to service, integratinn indigneous Guinea Africans into Portuguese military forces in Africa. Two special indigenous African counterinsurgency units were formed. The African Commandos (Comandos Africanos) was a battalion of commandos consisting entirely of black soldiers (including the officers). The African Special Marines (Fuzileiros Especiais Africanos) was entirely composed of black soldiers.

The African Special Marines supplemented other Portuguese units conducting amphibious operations in the riverine areas of Guinea in an attempt to interdict and destroy guerrilla forces and supplies. Naval amphibious operations were instituted to overcome some of the mobility problems inherent in the underdeveloped and marshy areas of the territory, utilizing Destacamentos de Fuzileiros Especiais (DFE) (special marine assault detachments) as strike forces.

In 1970 Portugal mounted Operation Green Sea / Operação Mar Verde an attack on the government of President Ahmed Sékou Touré, the leader of the Republic of Guinea. Portugal commenced Operação Mar Verde or Operation Green Sea on 22 November 1970. This seaborne invasion of Conakry, conducted under cover of darkness, sought to overthrow Touré, a supporter of the insugency in Portugues Guinea.

Approximately 12,500 Marines were involved in theaters of operations during fourteen years of counter-insugency operations. Ending 14 years of war, there was a need to undertake a restructuring of marine Units, adapting to the new National Theater and the requirements of the Alliance of which Portugal is a founding member. The units were reduced by 50 percent, to about 2500 men, of whom 60 per cent were permanent cadre.

In 1974, under the Chief of staff of the Navy, the Marine Corps Command was created as top Corps command structure with the mission to ensure the preparation, training and readiness of the units of Marines. With the entry into force of the organic law of the Marine Corps became part of the operating structure of the Navy Naval command in dependency.

Since 1621 the spirit of the Navy Infantry has remained alive and well, harbinger of the current concept of the so-called "Expeditionary Forces". By the end of the Cold War the Marine Corps consisted of 2,500 men, of whom approximately half were conscripts. They were organized into two infantry battalions and one naval police battalion. The marines were trained for small amphibious operations and shore patrol duties. In addition to light arms, their equipment included wheeled armored vehicles, mortars, and landing craft.

Today, the Portuguese Marines provide close cooperation of military technical nature to the Marines of the new African countries (Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique) and since 1997 has participated jointly or separately and combined in peace support Operations and humanitarian assistance in Bosnia and Herzegovina, East Timor, the former Zaire, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Afghanistan.

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Page last modified: 31-01-2013 16:45:09 ZULU