Gomes da Costa, Manuel de Oliveira

(1863-1929)
   Marshal of the Portuguese Army, commander of Portugal's forces in Flanders in World War I, and leader of the military coup that overthrew the First Republic in May 1926. Trained at the Military College, Gomes da Costa rose from the rank of private to general during the period 1883-1917. His career began with important colonial service in Portuguese India and Mozambique in suppressing insurgencies in the 1890s. He served with Mousinho de Albuquerque in the Gaza campaigns (1896-97), in Mozambique, and later in Angola and São Tomé. His most notable service was in Portugal's intervention in World War I as he helped organize the first brigade and commanded the first division of Portugal's Expeditionary Corps (CEP), which entered combat on the western front in May 1917. For his role in the battle of Lys, in April 1918, when German forces badly mauled the Portuguese sector, Gomes da Costa was decorated by Portugal with the Tower and Sword medal. During the latter part of the First Republic, he was dispatched to the colonies on missions to divert him from domestic politics, since he had joined the Reformist Party (PR).
   As the most senior and best-known career army officer, Gomes da Costa was invited by former CEP comrades to join in military conspiracies to overthrow the democrat-dominated First Republic. On 28 May 1926, in Braga, he launched the military coup with the pronouncement "To Arms, Portugal!" The general's famous name and forceful personality gave the military movement the necessary prestige and won public opinion's confidence for the political moment. Gomes da Costa, however, was not suited for political maneuvering and administrative efficiency and, on 9 July 1926, he was dismissed as minister of war by other generals, including future president Óscar Carmona, and then exiled to the Azores. For political effect and as a consolation prize to the leader whose individual daring had helped create the abertura (opening) that allowed the coup to succeed, the military dictatorship honored Gomes da Costa, even in exile, with promotion to marshal of the army. In ill health on his return from the isolated Azores in late 1927, he died less than two years later in Lisbon. There is a statue of Gomes da Costa in a square in Braga, designed by Barata Feyo, which honors the general of the Twenty- eighth of May coup d'etat.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

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