Conferences and Correspondence of the High Command

[Meeting 22.6.40]
[Letter of the Cdr 1.AK 24.6.40] [Protocol of the Discussion in 2.AK 25.6.40]
[Letter by the Chief of Staff 2.7.40] [Instructions by the Federal Council 2.7.40]
[Meeting 7.7.40] [Protocol UG Front 9.7.40]
[Note to the Federal Council 12.7.40]

For a timeline of the Swiss operational planning see "Swiss Operational Planning 1939 to 1941".
To match the planning against the German attack planning see "German unit timeline".

Meeting in Berne, 22. June 1940
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A few days before the armistice between Germany and France became effective, a meeting took place in Berne with the general, the commanders of the four corps, the head of the general staff and the chief of the department 3 of the general staff.

The general presented the situation of Switzerland:

  1. France's army is beaten.
  2. Switzerland risks to be completely encircled by the Axis.
  3. The economic situation is difficult, rationing of all goods will be necessary.
  4. Switzerland is still an important transit country for the Axis.
  5. There is a need to be ready to defend against an attack from all sides.

In his view, the Germans would currently not consider military action, but use political and economical pressure.

Therefore the general proposed three potential defense plans for discussion:

  1. The army could continue to hold the current position (see operational order no 10) on a long thin front.
  2. The army could use part of the army position and then turn the position towards the West. This position would have given up the Western part of Switzerland up to a line at Hauenstein - Napf - Thun - St. Maurice.
  3. Withdrawal of the army into a central redoubt. This would have left 3/4 of the country defenseless.

The general preferred the 2nd solution. After a discussion he summarised as follows:

"Die Besprechungen können wie folgt zusammengefasst werden:

Die Korpskdt . Wille, Miescher und Labhart sind der Auffassung, dass man nach einem Waffenstillstand zwischen Deutschland und Frankreich neue Massnahmen treffen muss im Sinne einer Zurückziehung der Armee in den Zentralraum, unter Einschaltung einer intensiven Kampfausbildung und ohne im Zentralraum Befestigungsarbeiten durchzuführen.

Oberstkorpskdt.Prisi und Oberstdiv.Huber sind der Auffassung, die Armeestellung unter entsprechender Reduktion zu halten und aus ca. 3 Heereseinheiten eine zentrale Reserve zu bilden. Auch sie anerkennen die Notwendigkeit der Kampfausbildung der Truppe.

Oberskoprskdt.Lardelly möchte vorerst zuwarten, die Entschlüsse des Bundesrates hören und erst dann handeln, wobei er aber der Beibehaltung der Armeestellung zustimmen würde.

Alle Anwesenden sind einverstanden, dass die Grenztruppen in ihren Stellungen verbleiben, dass ausserdem Vorbereitungen getroffen werden, um Munitions- und Verpflegungsvorräte mehr im Landesinnern anzulegen.
"

"The discussions can be summarized as follows:

The Korpskdt. Wille, Miescher and Labhart expressed the view that one must take new measures after an armistice between Germany and France in the sense of a witdrawal of the army into the central area. There the army would accomplish intensive combat training and without fortifying the central area.

Oberstkorpskdt.Prisi and Oberstdiv.Huber expressed the view to hold the army position under appropriate reduction of the forces and to form a central reserve with 3 divisions. They recognize the necessity for the combat training of the troops too.

Oberskoprskdt.Lardelli would like to wait for the deisions of the federal council and to act only then, whereby he would agree to stay in the the army position.

All present agree that the border troops remain in their positions and that in addition preparations should be made, in order to move ammunition and food supply supplies to the central area."

At the same meeting the generals also decided to go for a stepwise demobilization of the troops.

After this meeting the generall staff started to work on new plans. I could identify three different studies in the archives.

Letter , 24.6.40
(Lardelli, Cdr 1st Corps)
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After the initial meeting, Lardelli put down his thoughts in a letter. Lardelli considered, that a mobilized Swiss army or the preparation of a central redoubt could be considered as hostile acts by the Axis.

Lardelli stated the following reasons for the Axis to be interested in Switzerland:

In addition Lardelli had doubts on the efficiency of tanks and Stukas against the Swiss army and considered, that the army position was the strongest one the army could find and that neither people nor soldiers would understand why one would leave such a well fortified position.

Even with his doubts about the efficency of the tanks and the Stukas, he didn't think that the Swiss army could do more than to die with honour in the army position.

His proposal was then, that the army position should be fortified further and the the central redoubt should be prepared to for the survivors of the army position.

Protocol of a Conference with the Divisional Commanders of 2nd Corps, 25.6.40
(Prisi, 2.AK)

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Prisi, the commander of 2nd corps considered, that the situation after the fall of France was unique in Swiss history: Switzerland was without the possibility to rely on another party and that the fact, that there were no longer two belligerent parties, the notion of neutrality itself had become useless.

He considered that the current army position should be fortified and that the central redoubt would be useless. Prisi also considered demobilization to be dangerous.

All divisional commanders wanted to fight in the army position. A central redoubt was unacceptable to all of them.

Letter to the General, 2. July 1940
(Huber Chief of Staff)

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In his letter, Huber, the Chief of Staff supported the conclusions of Strüby.

Letter by the Federal Council, 2. July 1940
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In this letter, the federal council confirmed the instructions given to to the general on 31. August 1939 "... to maintain the independence of the country and to maintain the integrity of the territory by using all military means ...".

Meeting in Berne, 7. July 1940
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Only a fortnight after the meeting of 22. June the generals met again. This time the heads of the deparments I, II and III of the general staff and the commander of the air force and AA troops took part in the meeting.

The assessment of the situation showed that a large body of German troops was assembled close to the Swiss border:

The Italian border was almost free of troops.

The federal council had reconfirmed the task of the army to defend Switzerland against an enemy invasion. Between the meetings the discussions between the generals and the general staff had yielded the following results:

  1. The border troops should remain in place to cover mobilization (Border Area).
  2. The current army position should be used within the limits of the current situation (Advanced Area).
  3. A central redoubt (Zentralraum) should be occupied by a number of troops which could be fed over a longer period of time.

There were two questions the general asked the corps commanders to get a final picture before he could take the decision on the move to the "Reduit national":

  1. How many troops will the corps need in the army position (Advanced Area) to block all main axis of advance?
  2. How must the central area be equipped with the necessary resources / reserves ?

The chief of the general staff Oberstdiv. Huber presented two possible solutions during the meeting. A pessimistic with a relatively small central area where independent units would fight to their annihilation and an optimistic plan where a relatively large central area would be held by a large body of troops. The chief of the general staff preferred the optimistic solution.

In the discussion following the presentation by Oberstdiv Huber, turned around a few key points:

  1. What is a credible plan? Which plan will convince the soldiers to fight despite the defeats of Poland, Danmark, Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium and France?
  2. Would it psychologically feasible to leave the Swiss plateau, its cities and its industrial potential without a fight?

The two main opinions were

  1. The "Reduit National" represented a credible plan. It made good use of the strengths of Swiss terrain and the Swiss armament (Wille, Miescher, Labhart). The whole army (except the border troops) should withdraw to the mountains.
  2. The task of the army is to defend the whole country (or as much of it as possible), it therefore has to remain in the army position (Prisi, Lardelli)

The general closed with the words "Die heutige aufschlussreiche Aussprache wird dem Oberbefehlshaber gestatten, seinen Entschluss in Bälde zu fassen." "Todays interesting discussion will allow the supreme commander to take his decision soon."

Five days later the general issued the operational order No 11 which was based on the optimistic scenario.

Protocol of the Conference of the Group Front, 9. July 1940
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The work on the central redoubt had made some progress - supplies for two months were already in the depots. But the construction of additional roads would take 6 months for the Pragel and ahte Sustenpass and 1 to 2 years for other passes.

The 7. Div, 8. Div, 3. Div and 1. Div were already earmarked to take position in the central redoubt (the preparatory order No 11 would go to the troops on 12. July 1940).

Note to the Federal Council, 12. July 1940
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In this note the general explains his decision for the new defensive positions to the head of the departement of defense:

"J'ai pris la décision suivante: la défense du territoire s'organisera suivant un principe nouveau, celu de l'échelonnement en profondeur.
A cet effet, j'ai institué trois échelons de résistance principaux, complétés par un système intermédiaire de points d'appui."

"les trois échelons de résistance seront:
a) les troupes frontière, qui conserveront leur dispositif actuel;
b) une position avancée ou de couverture, qui utilisera le tracé de la position d'armée actuelle entre le Lac de Zürich et le massif du Gempen et qui se prolongera par un front Ouest, jalonné par le Jura bernois et neuchâtelois - Morat - la Sarine jusqu'à la trouée de Bulle.
c) une position des Alpes ou réduit national qui sera flanquée à l'Est, à l'Ouest et aus Sud, par les fortresses, englobées, de Sargans, de St. Maurice et du Gothard, et dont le tracé sera jalonné généralement par le Canal de la Linth - le Rigi - le Pilate - Schrattenfluh - La Sulg - la chaîne du Stockhorn - les Alpes fribourgeoises - la Dent de Lys - Villeneuve - la crête frontière des Alpes valaisannes - le front Sud de la fortresse du Gotthard - le Tödi - Sargans."

[Last Update 30.08.2010]