- Bombings of Switzerland in World War II
Bombings of Switzerland in World War II consisted of initially sporadic bombing events that became more frequent during the later stage of
World War II.cite web | url=http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj00/sum00/helmreich.html | title=Diplomacy of Apology | author=Helmreich JE |access=05-05-2007] Switzerlandwas a neutral countryduring World War IIbut adjacent to and at times completely surrounded by Axis countries. On several occasions Allied bombing raids hit targets in Switzerland resulting in fatalities and property damage. Such events led to diplomatic exchanges. While Allied forces explained the causes of violations as navigationerrors, equipment failure, weather conditions, and pilots’ errors, in Switzerland fear was expressed that some neutrality violations were intended to exert pressure on the country to end its economic cooperation with Nazi Germany. In addition to bombing raids, air attacks by individual fighter planes strafed Swiss targets toward the end of the war.
Allied use of Swiss air space
During World War II Swiss air space was violated by both sides. [ [http://switzerland_during_world_war_ii.totallyexplained.com/ Switzerland during World War II] ] The
Swiss Air Forcewas not in a position in terms of size of force or modern equipment to defend Swiss air space effectively. Thus, during the war, over 7,000 siren alarms were initiated in Switzerland. [ [http://www.geschichte-schweiz.ch/zweiter-weltkrieg-1939-1945.html Swiss History, World War II (German)] ] Some Allied bombers took advantage of this situation by using Swiss air space as a safer route than enemy air space on their bombing runs to and from targets in Germany, but more often, bombers in distress preferred to descend to neutral Switzerland for asylumrather than in German territory. As a result Switzerland ultimately interned 1,700 American airmen. [cite book | author=Tanner, Stephen | title=Refuge from the Reich: American Airmen and Switzerland During World War II ]
The daylight bombing of
Schaffhausenon 1 April 1944 by the United States Army Air Forceswas the most serious of all incidents. Approximately 50 B-24 Liberators of a larger force misidentified Schaffhausen as their target Ludwigshafen am Rhein (about 235 km north of Schaffhausen), and dropped bombs that led to 40 fatalities, numerous injuries, and property damage. At the insistence of the Swiss government for an explanation, Allied investigations into the incident found that bad weather broke up the American formation over France, and that high winds that nearly doubled the ground speedof the bombers confused the navigators. (Two other widely scattered cities in Germany and France were also mistakenly bombed during the same mission.) As Schaffhausen is situated on the right bank (north side) of the Rhineriver, it was apparently assumed to be the German city. By October 1944, 4 million dollars had been paid in restitution.
tein am Rhein
On 22 February 1945 thirteen USAAF air attacks took place with
Stein am Rheinreceiving the most damage. Other places included Taegerwilen, Rafz, and Vals. Overall these attacks led to 21 fatalities.
Zurich and Basel
On 4 March 1945 six USAAF B-24H bombers hit
Zurichwith 12.5 tons of high explosives and 12 tons of incendiaries resulting in seven fatalities. The intended target had been Aschaffenburg(300 km north). The six bombers had gone off course and believed they were bombing Freiburg. At virtually the same time, other bombers dropped 12.5 tons of high explosives and five tons of incendiaries on Basel.
During 1940, minor attacks on
Geneva, Renens, Basel, and Zurich were conducted by the Royal Air Force. On 1 October 1943 bombs were released by the USAAF over Samedanleading to property damage. 1944 saw attacks that included Koblenz, Cornol, Niederweningen, and Thayngen. Attacks in 1945 included Chiassotwice. Basel was bombed on March 4, 1945. The last air attack occurred in Brusioon 16 April 1945.
Regarding the Zurich bombing, a court-martial proceeding took place in England on June 1, 1945, possibly the first criminal prosecution of a “
friendly fire” incident. Lt. Col. James Stewart, himself a B-24 pilot, was the presiding officer of the trial. [http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj00/sum00/helmreich1.htm Helmreich JE: The Bombing of Zurich] ] Accused were the lead pilot Lieutenant Sincock and one of his navigators, Lieutenant Balides, for violating the 96th Article of War, Sincock specifically for having “wrongfully and negligently caused bombs to be dropped in friendly territory.” Weather conditions and equipment failure were found to be at fault; the defendants were found not guilty of criminal culpability.
In addition to the four million dollars paid by October 1944, the United States Government agreed to pay 62 million Swiss francs (about $14 million) to the Swiss government as full and final payment for damage to persons and property during World War II on 21 October 1949.
Switzerland during the World Wars
* [http://www.stadtarchiv-schaffhausen.ch/Schaffhausen-Geschichte/Bombardierung-Schaffhausen.htm Report of Schaffhausen bombing (German)]
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