Landlocked Navies, Part 1: Paraguay

Note: I’m away on vacation biking around Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido with family. The posts in this series are autoposted. Hope you enjoy.

Paraguay is a small Latin American country sandwiched between Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil. It is a geographical mix of desert and rivers, and landlocked hundreds of miles from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. So what is it doing with a navy?


Paraguay’s history has been characterized by long periods of authoritarian governments, political instability and infighting, yet it’s naval forces, first developed in the 19th century, were vital for independence. In a war with Brazil in the middle of the century, the two countries engaged in history’s largest riverine naval engagement. Paraguay ultimately lost that conflict and was occupied by Brazil for fifty years, during and after which the country’s navy was almost non-existent.

This changed in the 1920s in response to tensions with Bolivia, the other landlocked country in South America, that resulted in the Chaco War. None of the battles in this regional Chaco War were naval, but Paraguay’s “fleet” — consisting of just a handful of small river boats — played a vital role in transporting troops and supplies and supplying antiaircraft cover for the army. Some naval officers also saw service as ground force commanders. In addition, the naval air arm carried out important reconnaissance and support missions and undertook in 1934 the first night air raid in the Western Hemisphere.

Since the Chaco War, Paraguay has had a small but important naval force with a few dozen boats and about 3,000 personel. The ship inventory consisted of six river defense vessels, seven patrol craft, and three amphibious vessels, in addition to various support, transport, and cargo vessels. The bulk of the fleet has been supplied by the United States between the 1940s and 1970s, and is one of the most antiquated in the world: five of the six river patrol vessels were laid down in the 1930s, the newest was of 1980s vintage. One large patrol craft had a wooden hull and first entered service in 1908!

Yet Paraguay isn’t the only landlocked country with a navy, as a few more posts in this series will demonstrate.

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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8 Responses to Landlocked Navies, Part 1: Paraguay

  1. Steve says:

    (This has nothing to do with Paraguay) Curzon, you can’t seriously expect anyone to believe the Rape of Nanjing was some mass hallucination.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    This series shows real promise. Looking forward to the rest.

  3. Aceface says:

    Looking forward for your post on Mongolian navy on Lake Hovsgol!

  4. Curzon says:

    Stay tuned for part three!

    (Curzon in Utoro, Hokkaido, on my cell phone)

  5. zenpundit says:

    Don’t forget the greatest seaman of a landlocked nation ever, Admiral Horthy, the Axis dictator and regent of Hungary.

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