Latin America played a minor role in the two world wars, the Korean War, and the First Gulf War. Bolivia and Paraguay fought a major war over control of the Chaco region in the 1930s, and, more recently, Argentina invaded the British Overseas Territory of the Falkland Islands in 1982.
From 1932 through 1935 Bolivia and Paraguay fought a bitter war over the Chaco region, which was thought to hold significant oil deposits. Bolivia had the advantage of a larger population and a better equipped military. Paraguay had shorter lines of communication to the front and greater familiarity with the terrain. More importantly, the Bolivan officer corps was staffed by Spanish-speaking creoles, whereas the country’s foot soldiers were Aymara-speaking Indians. The Paraguayan officers and men communicated in Guarani, the indigenous language of the Chaco. The Paraguayans relied on guerilla tactics to outfight their opponents and eventually won the war.
Brazil alone among the Latin American nations sent a division-size force to fight with the Allies in the Italian campaign, along with a squadron of fighter planes. The Brazilian navy patrolled the sea lanes in the Atlantic for enemy submarines, which sank a number of Brazilian merchant vessels.Mexico declared war on the Axis powers in May 1942, but sent only a squadron of fighter planes to the Philippines during the final year of the war. Mexico City formed a militia in the early days of the war in the mistaken belief that the Germans would invade.
On April 2, 1982, Argentine marines landed on East Falkland Island and occupied the capital city of Port Stanley. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher responded by sending the Royal Navy with an expeditionary force to retake the islands, which it did on June 8. Argentina’s defeat in the war soon led to the fall of its ruling military junta.