Macau was under Portuguese rule from 1557 until 1999. During the final period of colonial administration prior to the handover to China, Portugal retained only limited numbers of military personnel in Macau for liaison and support purposes; the last major units having been withdrawn following the Carnation Revolution of 1974.
The Macao Garrison of the People's Liberation Army was established in 1999.
The permanent Portuguese military garrison of Macau dates from March 1691, replacing the employment as needed of sailors from warships based in the colony.
During much of the colonial period, the Portuguese garrison of Macau comprised a mixture of units from Portugal itself, African troops from Mozambique and locally recruited indigenous soldiers. Between 1784 and 1810, sepoys from Portuguese India were used to augment the regular troops. The colonial troops, whether Chinese, Indian or African, had Portuguese officers and some NCOs. In accordance with general Portuguese colonial practice, they served in units designated as Caçadores (Light Infantry).
Prior to 1914, a pale blue-grey zouave style uniform was worn by the Mozambiquean askaris with red fezzes and sashes for parade. The indigenous Macau units wore Chinese pattern dress of the same colour with conical headdresses.
In 1936 the garrison consisted of 497 men - 22 officers, 35 NCO's and 440 soldiers; including 224 native Caçadores. The total was increased to 797 men by 1940. They were organised as follows:
Following the surrender of Hong Kong in December 1941 the Japanese respected Portuguese neutrality. However, although Japan did not formally occupy Macau, Japanese troops transited the territory at will.
During World War II, the Portuguese military units stationed in Macau were:
Following the war, the machine gun company was changed to an armoured cavalry squadron equipped with armoured cars. Five indigenous companies (Companhia Indígena de Caçadores) were posted at Colane, Flora, Ilha Verde, Mong Ha and Portas do Cerco. An anti-tank company (Companhia de Anti-Carro) was posted at Ramal dos Mouros.
The last of the Mozambican Caçadores were withdrawn from Macau in 1964, after the outbreak of the Portuguese Colonial War in Portugal's African possessions. The remaining Portuguese garrison in the colony effectively ceased to exist following the change of government in Portugal in 1974 and agreement on a timetable for a takeover by mainland China by 1999. For the remaining quarter-century of Portuguese administration, order was kept in the territory by a civilian police force without direct military backing.
Military Police Company 2428 of the 2nd Lancers Regiment (Portugal) was stationed in Macau from 1968 to 1970.
From 1956 to 1974, Macau was part of the 3rd Aerial Region (3ª Região Aérea) of the Portuguese Air Force with its headquarters in Lourenço Marques, Portuguese Mozambique (now Maputo, Mozambique). No Air Force unit was however stationed at Macau.