Sunday, April 23, 2017

Invading Switzerland

Lake Geneva

Switzerland is known for its watches, its chocolate, its boarding schools ( and its secretive banks (the gnomes of Zurich).  It is also known for having been stuck in neutral.  Its neutrality and its strong currency do not, however seem to have hurt it any.  On the contrary Switzerland seems to be a textbook example on the benefits of peace and free markets.  The Swiss have no need for Brexit having passed on the EU long ago.

But if you were to conclude that Switzerland must never have been invaded you would be quite wrong.

In our book Italy Invades: How Italians Conquered the World we noted that Julius Caesar was invading the area now known as Switzerland over 2,000 years ago and many more would follow...

Julius Caesar invaded Switzerland

"The Romans took control of the territory of what is now Switzerland in a number of different stages.
For instance, in 121 BC, Quintus Fabius Maximus defeated the Allobroges, who were a tribe that occupied parts of what is now eastern France and a little bit of Switzerland. And in 58 BC, Caesar decisively defeated the Helvetii at the Battle of Bibracte, a victory that set the scene for the establishment of Roman sites like Noviodunum/Nyon and Colonia Raurica in western Switzerland. In 15 BC, Tiberius and Drusus seized Raetia, a territory that included much of what is now Switzerland. And in 6 BC, Augustus celebrated his triumph over the tribes of the Alps with a massive trophy constructed at what is now La Turbie in France, where much of it is still visible.

Swiss Fighting in 1346
Chateau Gruyere, Switzerland
These were not the last Italians to fight over what is now Swiss territory. For instance, the Ticino area of southern Switzerland saw extensive fighting by Italians in the late Middle Ages. After the city of Como decided in 1239 to side with Italian-born Emperor Frederick II, at that time ruler of Switzerland, he took control of Bellinzona, the capital of the region. This area was regularly disputed between the Italian powers of Como and Milan. Milan took the city in 1242, but then Como took it back in 1249. Finally, in 1340, the Viscontis took Bellinzona, and Milan would hold it long term. In 1403, Milan temporarily lost control to Alberto di Sacco, who then sold it to the Swiss. Milan sent troops into the area; and after a decisive victory at the Battle of Arbedo in 1422, retook Bellinzona. Swiss forces attacked in 1441 but failed to take Bellinzona. Another attack in 1478 led to the Milanese suffering a defeat at the Battle of Giornico, but Milan hung onto Bellinzona. In 1499, though, when Louis XII of France attacked Milan, it lost control of Bellinzona, which shortly afterward became Swiss.
Italian Grenadier Guard
Musée de l'Armée, Paris

And the Napoleonic Wars would see more Italians fighting in Switzerland. In 1798, French forces invaded Switzerland and occupied it. Shortly afterward, Andrea Massena, born in Nice (when Nice was Sardinian), was given a major French command in Switzerland and told to resist advancing Austrian and Russian forces. Massena not only managed to resist an Austrian advance on Zurich, but at the Second Battle of Zurich in September 1799, he also achieved a major and strategically important victory over a combined Russian and Austrian force.

Napoleon Crossing the Alps!

In the spring of 1800, Napoleon, whose family was from San Miniato, famously crossed the Alps through the St. Bernard Pass in what is now Switzerland. He soon led the French to victory over the Austrians in the Italian town of Marengo.

While Switzerland may be known for its bankers, it was the Italians who invented double-entry bookkeeping and the Medicis who pioneered merchant banking. And without Columbus’s discovery of the New World, the Swiss would not even have chocolate!"

Swiss Guards, St. Peter's, Rome

Today in Switzerland, just under 7 percent of Swiss citizens are Italian speaking. The pope continues to be protected by guards who must all be Swiss, Catholic bachelors between the ages of nineteen and thirty. There were 112 Swiss guards protecting the pope as of 2010."

Even we Americans have not missed out on invading Switzerland.  In America Invades ( we wrote...

Swiss Fondue, Gruyere, Switzerland
"Mountainous, picturesque Switzerland has a long history of neutrality. So have we ever attacked any fondue-eating, yoghurt-slurping, and chocolate-devouring Swiss? Well, not intentionally, but unintentionally, yes.

Swiss Canon
Chateau Gruyere, Switzerland
During both world wars, Switzerland remained, of course, neutral. In World War I, despite one or two Allied plans to invade Switzerland, or at least invade enemy territory through Switzerland, we didn’t really have that much to do with the country militarily, apart from a bit of espionage.
With its strategic location at the heart of Europe, Switzerland became famous along with the fondue, clocks, and knives for spies during both world wars. There can be few more famous American spymasters than Allen Dulles, and he spent time in Switzerland during both wars. In World War I, he operated out of Berne and ran spies in Austria-Hungary, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe. Also one night, he apparently hung up the phone after a conversation with a Russian revolutionary about to leave Switzerland and desperate to speak to an American diplomat. That revolutionary turned out to be Lenin, and his destination, Russia and the Bolshevik Revolution.

ME 262, Evergreen Air & Space Museum
McMinnville, OR
In World War II, Switzerland once again became a hotbed of espionage activity while the war raged all around the country. And once again, Allen Dulles appeared on the scene, this time heading up the OSS there. Germany was now his focus, and Dulles worked with many anti- Hitler Germans. While in Switzerland, he managed to gather intelligence on the Me 262 jet and the German rocket programs and help the Italians surrender.

Stalin, not a fan of capitalists anyway, denounced the Swiss as “swine” and urged US forces to attack from France. We didn’t. Well, as mentioned above, not intentionally anyway.

P-47, Museum of Flight
Seattle WA
The air war over Europe was wide-ranging, vicious, and often chaotic, fought by crews with, by today’s standards, very limited navigational technology. Some mistakes were inevitable. In September 1944, for instance, US pilots invaded Swiss airspace sometimes as many as thirty times a day. In another example, a squadron of US P-47s shot up a train headed from Zurich to Basel assuming it was German. In one of the most tragic incidents, Americans inadvertently bombed the Swiss town of Schaffhausen, killing tens of civilians. To be fair, Swiss airspace was also violated by the Luftwaffe hundreds of times in the course of the war. After the war, the US government paid compensation to the Swiss.

Sometimes, however, Switzerland was the intended destination of our men. A number of Allied bomber crews, for instance, thinking their planes were too damaged to return home, preferred to avoid becoming POWs and landed deliberately in neutral Switzerland where their planes and crews would be impounded for the duration of the war. And Switzerland was, of course, a destination of choice for American POWs attempting to escape from German prisoner-of-war camps."

So the Swiss HAVE been invaded.  They have fought many wars, been bombed and certainly been spied upon.  Even today they remain heavily armed and well fortified.  They seem to have learned from their experiences.

You can purchase signed copies of America Invades

Or you can find regular copies on

You can purchase signed copies of Italy Invades

Or you can find regular copies on

Coming later in 2017...
America Invaded: A State by State Guide to Fighting on American Soil

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