"Swiss Army" in WWII

Discussion in 'General' started by phylo_roadking, Nov 27, 2009.

  1. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    brndirt - the problem with concentrating TOO much on the degree of trade the Swiss DID do with Germany....is that a LOT of this "modern" material has actually surfaced for PROPAGANDA reasons on the long, ongoing "political discussion" I.E. FIGHT in Switzerland between groups wanting to REDUCE the armed services still further, and those wanting levels kept high.

    The "pro"-shrinkage side's argument is that it WASN'T Swiss military readiness that kept Switzerland uninvaded - but the nation's willingness to roll over and let Hitler scratch its belly on demand. So you have to be careful of a lot of the "economic" material - it is NOT unbiased ;)

    What they fail to realise is - as described above - Dissuasion was a fine balance between the two roles - a strong defence and a willingness to trade.
     
  2. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    I've been slowly coming across more references that have some bearing on the May 1940 position.

    First of these is regarding the EARLIER "general mobilisation" of September 1939 - issued on the 1st, by 10am on the 3rd of September the Swiss "Army" of 430,000 men was fully in its (early version) positions on the border facing Germany. And I have quite a few references, including the one mentioned here already, to that 430,000 "Army" total in 1939...

    Such as THIS -

    Switzerland reacted to Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland by a mobilization of some 430,000 troops.


    LPOS - Political System in Switzerland

    But THEN there was THIS -

    He also highlights the speed with which 630,000 men were mobilised in September 1939


    from Nazi Germany and neutral Europe during the second world war by Christian Leitz P.21

    So....once again - IN 1939 - are we really seeing a figure of 430,000 for the FIELD ARMY....and up to 200,000 "others"???
     
  3. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    On the matter of the general mobilisation of May 1940....here's comment which from it's source we have to regard as impecible...

    From Switzerland, National Socialism and the Second World War: final report By Jean-François Bergier, of the Unabhängige Expertenkommission Schweiz--Zweiter Weltkrieg...the International Commission of Experts into Switzerland's role vis-a-vis Nazi Germany in WWII.

    Based on information for 1941, the stipulations of the Swiss militia system meant that if around 430000 men were mobilised, 10% of the population and 20% of the gainfully employed would be summoned for military defence purposes. At the peak of mobilisation in June 1940, almost one-third of the men capable of gainful employment were under arms.


    So...take 433,000....divide by 20 to get 1%.....THEM multiply by, say 33 (to get the third of the working population figure)...and we get a ballpark figure of 714,450 men "UNDER ARMS"

    ...which as you can see bears a LOT more resemblance to some of the "over 600,000", "over 700,000" etc. figures for the "ARMED forces" we have for the early summer of 1940, such as THIS -

    World wide, the question was not whether the Wehrmacht would attack the Alpine Republic, but when. By 13 May, over 700 000 Swiss soldiers were mobilised- nearly 20% of the Swiss population, the highest percentage of any country in the war. As Italian troops massed on their Southern border, more divisions were rushed to the South. The League of Nations, the International Red Cross and the American Consul fled Geneva, Zurich and Basel in anticipation of the inevitable invasion. Aerial dog-fights between German and Swiss aircraft intensified. The USA urged all Americans in Switzerland to evacuate immediately. Holland and Belgium folded, and the British and French armies reeled back in retreat.

    Stephen Halbrook, Target Switzerland
     
  4. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    So - where ARE the Landsturm hiding???

    Well, ONE attempt to locate them INSIDE the "Field Army" has come from a poster on AHF, regarding THIS one reference...

    Landsturm

    ...which translates as -
    1938 they were integrated with the Auszug and the Landwehr in the newly created border brigades.

    There's just ONE teensy problem with this idea...THIS -

    Fortress Europe - European Fortifications of World War II

    The frontier guard consisted of only 1,800 men and the army required two days to mobilize.

    ...regarding the September 1939 mobilisation, and a second reference that by March 1940 the Border Brigades had ONLY increased to 6,000 men!!! They were actually mobilised two months before the main 1940 General Mobilisiation.

    ....which means it's impossible to acount for anything up to 200,000 Landsturm reservists THERE! :mellow: Even at it's most generous interpretation, the 433,800 figure for the "Field Army" in May 1940 only could hide 6,000 of them...
     
  5. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Kuno, regarding the border defences and how they were indeed continued for a while...

    Fortress Europe - European Fortifications of World War II
    HISTORY

    As in other countries, national defense in Switzerland became part of the economic recovery program from the depression. In 1934, the Swiss Parliament authorized the construction of defenses to employ the jobless. Since the government had recently drained the Linth Plain, opening a new route for the enemy, Fortress Sargans had to be set up to protect it. The new fortress underwent four construction phases between 1938 and 1942, resulting in the most heavily defended area in Switzerland. The other two fortress zones of the National Redoubt were also improved, receiving additional forts.
    Site surveys for the new forts in the National Redoubt and the Border Line were carried out in the latter half of 1935 and construction began in 1937. The new forts neared completion by the summer of 1939. New heavy bunkers were also created to defend both positions. The new Border Line Position, where five forts were erected, was completed between 1939-1940.
    Furthermore, in 1937 the Swiss government committed funds and men to positions on the French and Italian borders to avoid giving the impression that only Germany was being singled out as a potential threat. Most road bridges near the borders were prepared for demolition, obstacles were readied, and key bridges were outfitted with capped holes. In time of war troops would be able to quickly replace the caps with steel anti-tank rails.
    Soon after the war began, the Swiss army leaders concluded that the Border Line was too weak, so work resumed on the Army position. Between October 1939 and the summer of 1940, construction continued on this position, and the Border Line increasingly took on the role of an advance position.
    Late in the 1930s, the government reorganized the army into nine divisions and three independent brigades that formed three corps initially. During the war these three corps were reorganized into four, each retaining a mountain brigade The III Corps defended Fortress St. Gotthard and most of the National Redoubt.
    The frontier guard consisted of only 1,800 men and the army required two days to mobilize. According to military writer B. H. Liddel Hart, it would have been a simple matter for the enemy to launch a surprise attack on Switzerland and overwhelm its border defenses, especially between November and February when fewer men were on active duty.


    Thus you can see that the Reduit idea was NOT new by any means....but where previously it was a fallback position, from June 1940 it really became the PREMIER defensive position in the nation.
     
  6. Kuno

    Kuno Very Senior Member

    And for ignoring the sacrasm implied in my post, "just being flip", I take no offense. I apologize to you, obviously you didn't interpret my post as anything more than a "joke" reply, and not sterotypical BS insulting to the Swiss.

    I truly did not recognize the sarcasm. But I accept that you meant it in a sarcastic way. Might have been caused in my limited knowledge of English language :)
     
  7. Kuno

    Kuno Very Senior Member

    From Switzerland, National Socialism and the Second World War: final report By Jean-François Bergier, of the Unabhängige Expertenkommission Schweiz--Zweiter Weltkrieg...the International Commission of Experts into Switzerland's role vis-a-vis Nazi Germany in WWII.

    I have not yet read this report. But I do not like the word 'final' in its title. Such report can never be a final one but is always reflecting the actual knowledge of documents and to a good part the "fashion" on how such report should read. And I would really wonder, if Bergier's report would be final...
     
  8. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Senior Member

    I have not yet read this report. But I do not like the word 'final' in its title. Such report can never be a final one but is always reflecting the actual knowledge of documents and to a good part the "fashion" on how such report should read. And I would really wonder, if Bergier's report would be final...

    Might it be that this is HIS final report, as opposed to any of HIS preliminary reports made earlier? ;):D
     
  9. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    The ICE wrote a number of reports in the immediate post-war period, and seem to have had access to Swiss federal government records. I think it was part of the check process by which the international community satisfied itself the Swiss hadn't been overly partial..."final" as in at the end of the war :)

    Here's one I CAN get at, to let you see the level of detail...

    http://www.uek.ch/de/publikationen1997-2000/gold.pdf

    286 pages on the Swiss' gold transactions during the war....!
     
  10. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    The Swiss Airforce inflicted losses on the Luftwaffe for straying/intruding over Swiss airspace.

    From what I have read the Swiss armed forces would have been a hard nut to crack, especially when defending mountain passes with good strong point/bunkers or positions.

    Just look how the Germans held up the Allies in such circumstances during the Italian campaign.

    Regards
    Tom
     
  11. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Which brings up ANTHER issue entirely...

    I can't find manpower numbers for the Air Force and AA forces anywhere
    ...and the Air Force at least counted as part of the Army...
     
  12. Kuno

    Kuno Very Senior Member

    @ Phylo; I know I may disturb your calculations now a little bit. Just today I received a scan of 'my village's' newspaper dealing with the subject Freiwillige Ortswehr (Voluntary Place Defence... no proper translation, I know...).

    They say that by January 1941, the number of 127'563 persons had voluntered to join this organisations.

    If you want, I could send to you the scannned article (it is in German).
     
  13. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Kuno - I know about the Ortswehren okay...by 1941 it has some 127,000 in total across the nation...but it was only "founded" in the first week of May 1940, and thus definitely didn't come into the numbers' issue ;) (Thank god, it's complicated enough! :) ) It included the 16-19 year olds in shooting clubs and the 50-60 year old men who were not in any of the OTHER "auxiliary" groups. But unlike the unarmed groups - they certainly WERE!

    (I suppose like the Home Guard here that became compulsory for teenagers in 1942, it became regarded as an excellent primer for use of arms BEFORE compulsory Army service at 19!)

    Also - being "local" defence groups, - a bit like the original May 1940 idea of the LDV in the UK - they were probably more like American Revolutionary Minutemen and wouldn't have been assigned/move outside their locality, and would only have mustered in an actual emergency....so would by definition be separate from the Army/Field Army numbers.

    There was also the Burgerswehren but I so far haven't managed to find out out ANYTHING about them!!!
     
  14. Kuno

    Kuno Very Senior Member

    Slowly I start to think that Switzerland had more people in uniform than it had inhabitants ;-)
     
  15. Ferahgo

    Ferahgo Senior Member

    I once had a Commando comic about how the Swiss Airforce used 109 Es to force down Aliied and Axis planes who tresspassed, and one of my WW2 novels mentions a Lancaster Pilot who is shot down, interned, and then shot as he tries to escape. I'm skeptical about the shooting, but the aifroce intrigues me. I agree with, i think it was Smudger, who said that the Swiss would have been a tough one for the Germans to crack.
     
  16. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Slowly I start to think that Switzerland had more people in uniform than it had inhabitants ;-)


    Strangely enough...remember what it says in the federal constitution - EVERY male citizen could in extremis be armed! That gave Switzerland a theoretical army of 1.8 million men during WWII!!!
     
  17. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    I'm skeptical about the shooting, but the aifroce intrigues me.

    Switzerland were actually quite bolshy (in the non-political sense! :lol:) about protecting their borders - again part of Dissuasion, where they had to demonstrate to allcomers that while they wouldn't (couldn't!) fight an OFFENSIVE war, they were able and more than ready to fight a DEFENSIVE one! From Wiki...

    Nazi Germany repeatedly violated Swiss airspace. During the Invasion of France, German aircraft violated Swiss airspace no fewer than 197 times. In several air incidents, the Swiss (using 10 Bf-109 D, 80 Bf-109 E fighters bought from Germany and some Morane-Saulnier Ms.406s built under license in Switzerland), shot down 11 Luftwaffe planes between 10 May 1940 and 17 June 1940. Germany protested diplomatically on 5 June 1940, and with a second note on 19 June, 1940 which contained clear threats. Hitler was especially furious when he saw that German equipment was shooting down German pilots. He said they would respond "in another manner". On 20th June, 1940, the Swiss air force was ordered to stop intercepting planes violating Swiss airspace. Swiss fighters began to instead force intruding aircraft to land at Swiss airfields. Anti-Aircraft units still operated. Later, Hitler unsuccessfully sent saboteurs to destroy airfields.
    Allied aircraft also intruded on Swiss airspace during the war, mostly Allied bombers returning from raids over Italy and Germany that had been damaged and whose crews preferred internment by the Swiss to becoming prisoners of war. Over a hundred Allied aircraft and their crews were interned.
    Switzerland, surrounded by Axis-controlled territory, also suffered from Allied bombing during the war; most notably the accidental bombing of Schaffhuasen by American planes on April 1, 1944. It was mistaken for a nearby German town and 40 people were killed and over 50 buildings destroyed, among them a group of small factories producing anti-aircraft shells, ball-bearings, and Me-109 parts for Germany.

    The bombing limited much of the leniency the Swiss had showed toward Allied airspace violations. Eventually, the problem became so bad that the Swiss authorized fighter attacks on belligerent U.S. aircraft. Victims of these mistaken bombings were not limited to Swiss civilians, however, but included the often confused American aircrews, shot down by the Swiss fighters as well as several Swiss fighters shot down by American airmen. In February 1945, 18 civilians were killed by Allied bombs dropped over Stein am Rhein, Vals, and Rafz. Perhaps the most notorious incident came on March 4, 1945, when both Basel and Zurich were accidentally bombed by Allied aircraft. The attack on Basel's railway station led to the destruction of a passenger train, but no casualties were reported. However, a B-24 Liberator dropped its bomb load over Zürich, destroying two buildings and killing 5 civilians. The aircraft's crew believed that they were attacking Freiburg in Germany. As John Helmreich points out, Sincock and Balides, in choosing a target of opportunity, "...missed the marshalling yard they were aiming for, missed the city they were aiming for, and even missed the country they were aiming for."
    The Swiss reaction, although somewhat skeptical, was to treat these violations of their neutrality as 'accidents'. The United States was warned that single aircraft would be forced down, and their crews would still be allowed to seek refuge, while bomber formations in violation of airspace would be intercepted. While American politicians and diplomats tried to minimise the political damage caused by these incidents, others took a more hostile view. Some senior commanders argued that, as Switzerland was 'full of German sympathisers', it deserved to be bombed. General Henry H. Arnold, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Air Forces, even suggested that it was the Germans themselves who were flying captured Allied planes over Switzerland in an attempt to gain a propaganda victory. However the U.S. eventually apologized for the violations.
    Danger from U.S. bombers came not only from accidental bombings, but from the aircraft themselves. In many cases, once a crippled bomber reached Switzerland and was out of enemy territory crews would often bail out, leaving the aircraft to continue until it crashed.
     
  18. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    You may be interested in reading this account of Switzerland obtaining an airworthy Me 262 before the end of the war.

    I read an account of this quite a few years ago and actually managed to visit the Munich technical museum whilst on a coach trip, where I saw it first hand.

    Hans Mutke & the story of White 3

    [​IMG]


    Regards
    Tom
     
  19. Kuno

    Kuno Very Senior Member

    EVERY male citizen could in extremis be armed! That gave Switzerland a theoretical army of 1.8 million men during WWII!!!

    When I was a youngster, my Grandfather had his 1911 model gun, my fahter the 1931 carabine and I tool some pre-military courses in shooting (which you could from the age of 16). It was a fairly comon picture that after the lessons you saw boys in my age on their bycicle with the Sturmgewehr 57 (Assualt gun, fully automatic) on their back - all those guns were kept at home. Where else?
     
  20. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    When researching all this I came across quite a few gun lobby sites citing the Swiss Experience as an argument in favour of gun possesion. It looks as if it's still VERY much like that in the Alps!!!

    my Grandfather had his 1911 model gun, my fahter the 1931 carabine and I tool some pre-military courses in shooting (which you could from the age of 16).

    After the war it does indeed look as if they Swiss kept on a lot of the WWII changes permanently, through into the Cold War army and militias...
     

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