Book Review: Target Switzerland: Swiss Armed Neutrality in World War 2


by Stephen P. Halbrook

Rockville Center, N.Y.: Sarpedon Publishing, 1998 / New York: Da Capo Perseus, 2008. Pp. xii, 320+. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $21.99 paper. ISBN: 0306813254

Defending Fortress Switzerland

Although it’s well known that the Swiss preserved their neutrality in W. W. II primarily because they’d turned their alpine republic into a fortress. But beyond that, until this work first came out over 25 years ago, very little seems to have appeared in English on what the Swiss did during the war.

The key to this story, of course, is the unique military institutions of the Swiss Republic, every able-bodied man was a highly trained marksman, with his arms and basic equipment in his home to facilitate rapid mobilization, while women were trained to serve in supporting roles. In addition, the nation’s rugged physical terrain was expertly seasoned with defensive installations.

We get a look at Swiss defense planning, which began almost as soon as Hitler came to power in Germany, and Axis attitudes toward the Swiss. Halbrook gives us short looks at the several Axis proposals to invade the little country, and makes the case that such an invasion was slated for mid-1944, but was cancelled due to the D-Day landings

Halbrook touches upon these preparations often, but also covers the policies pursued by the Swiss government to stave off war. While fairly openly suppressing Nazi and Fascist sympathizers, they maintained good relations with all powers, even trading, carefully, with both sides. There’s a good deal in here about how the war affected the population, which endured some hardship as food supplies and other goods became scarce.

There’s also a lot about the large numbers of refugees and interned Allied troops. Though he doesn’t touch upon what the Swiss might have done with the latter, had the Germans and Italians had invaded; some Polish internees have claimed the Swiss allowed them to carry on training, just in case they might have been needed to help defend the country.

While one wishes there could have been more detail on the Swiss militia system, training, and equipment, and the strength and organization of the army when mobilized, Target Switzerland certainly is a must read for anyone interested in the war in Europe.




Note: Long out-of-print in hardcover, Target Switzerland is also available in e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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