Swiss General Staff Studies

[Preliminary Study Germann 22.6.40] [Assessment Gonard 22.6.40] [Proposal Strüby 22.6.40]
[Study Germann 30.6.40] [Study Gonard 1.7.40] [Study Strüby 1.7.40]

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".

Preliminary results of the Study, 22. June 1940
(Col Germann)

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Germann mentiones, that he had received the task to check the question of a retreat to a central redoubt. He considered a retreat to be extremely difficult and with a high risk of losses. Therefore the redoubt position has to be manned before an attack.

He refers to a letter by the General (No 9720) which states a first layout of the redoubt.

Germann already mentions one of the key issues of the redoubt concept: The redoubt would consist of several areas which would have only very limited connections between each other - and especially no railway with large capacity. In addition the connecting road passes would be closed in winter.

His conclusion was, to create independent battle groups in the different areas with their own supply depots.

He considered, that a retreat for the 2nd corps would not be possible and that a prolonged fight for the exits of the Jura mountains would make more sense. For the 3rd corps he saw the possibility to retreat to the redoubt position with two night marches.

He also considered, that a retreat of the 2nd division and the other parts of the 1st corps from the Jura mountains to the Alps would be questionable.

His conclusion was, that a retreat under enemy attack from the current army position with enough troops to create a successful defense of the central redoubt would be impossible.

He therefore proposed, that enough troops should man the central redoubt before a German attack - especially in the case of a remobilization.

He already mentions a concept with three lines of resistance: the border troops, the advanced position and the central redoubt.

Assessment of the Situation, 22. June 1940
(Col Gonard, Chief of the Operations Section)

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In his assessment of the situation, Gonard proposed the idea of a central redoubt including the Gotthard, the Napf and the Bernese Oberland.

Gonard considered an immediate retreat of the whole army into the central redoubt to be impossible as well as the retreat after the opening of the hostilities. He considered that a retreat would be best when the advanced position would start to fail.

Proposals for the Behaviour, 22. June 1940
(Col Strüby, Under Chief of Staff Front)

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Strüby considered the army position with a total of 670 kms of frontline to be untenable. He proposed a central redoubt which was quite extensive (Tödi - Pragel - Schindellegi - Zug - Sursee - Napf - Thun - Dent de Lys - St. Maurice). He proposed:

  1. That the border troops should stay where they were.

  2. The current army position should be used as the defense position.

  3. The retreat of troops from the Limmatstellung (between Zurich and Baden) after the enemy had broken through the army positon.

  4. That the re-positioning of the 8.Div, 7.Div and 3.Div into the central redoubt should be considered.

  5. To demobilise the army after the armisitice between Germany and France.

He considered, that the Axis would loose interest in Switzerland, when the important North-South railway lines would be destroyed in an attack.

Study, 30. June 1940
(Col Germann)
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Germann refers to his first report of the 22.6.40. The idea of the Réduit was formulated as follows by Germann:

"Aber es soll, nachdem bereits durch Grenz- und Vortruppen dem Gegner erhebliche Verluste beigebracht und seine Operationen durch Zerstörungen, Tanksperren und andere geeignete Mittel verzögert worden sind, noch das Gros der Armee nachhaltigen Widerstand leisten können. Die Reduitstellung hat nach meiner Ansicht den Zweck, durch diese Widerstandskraft die Existenzberechtigung eines unabhängigen Schweizervolkes zu erweisen und den Landesbehörden zu erlauben, in ihrem Schutz auf freiem Schweizerboden frei ihre Entschlüsse zu fassen."

"After the border troops and and the advanced troops have already incurred significant losses to the enemy and the enemy operations have been delayed through the destruction work, the tank obstacles and other means, the bulk of our army should still be able to resist for a long period of time. The reduit position through its strength, in my opinion, has the purpose to prove the right of existence of the Swiss people and to allow its government to take its decision under the protection of the reduit on free Swiss soil."

Germann proposed to move the core of the required troops to the central redoubt in advance. The troops in the advanced position (army position) should stay and fight.

The Réduit in his planning was considerably smaller, than the actual one chosen in the Operationsbefehl No 12. Germann assumed, that the number of divisions would have to be limited in order to allow a long term survival under siege.

Like Gonard he didn't want to defend the canton of Glarus, the town of Lucerne and the Napf area. Germann proposed to create three main groups: Gotthard, Unterwalden/Brünig and Bernese Oberland/Valais.

In addition Col Germann provided detailed analysis of the following sectors:

Pragel - Zugersee (30.6.40)

Entrance to the Bernese Oberland (7.7.40)

Zugersee - Hohgant (13.7.40)

Study, 1. July 1940
(Col Gonard, Chief of the Operations Section)
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The chief of the operations section submitted its study on 1. July 1940. It analysed in depth the size and borders of the Réduit and proposed three different options. The different options are discussed on 17 pages, the defense of the advanced position and the task of the border troops on further 2.

Goal of the Réduit National

Gonard states that the aim of the "réduit national" was to keep possession of as many alpine passes as possible.

The minimum solution would have been to control at least the passage of the Gotthard and of the Lötschberg (the two main railway passages through the alps).

Variants

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The maximum solution would have been to control the Rhine and Rhone valley at Sargans and St. Maurice respectively and to keep control of the minor (no railway passage) passes in the Grisons. With this solution the Swiss army would have to control:

240 kms of frontline (Sargans - Zug - Sursee - Thun - Chillon) with 8 divisions. This meant that one division was required to hold 30 kms (with 7 batallions on the frontline roughly 4 km per batallion). Gonard considered this to be insufficent and looked at some possibilities to shorten the frontline:

  1. The fortresses of Sargans and St. Maurice would need to fight alone and then destroy the communication lines. This would reduce the task for the field army significantly. Gonard considered, that both fortresses could fight alone as long as the rest of the redoubt.
  2. The mountains of the St. Gall oberland (between the lake of Constance and Sargans) would have to be abandoned. He considered, that this would not be a big issues, since all lines of communication through this area lead to Sargans. One option in this part of the study would still defend the canton of Glarus, but required the defense of a line along the Linth canal. The other option would have been to abandon the canton of Glarus too - this seems to have been the option Gonard preferred, since this would have left a frontline of 60 km in strong terrain. Defending the canton of Glarus, the line of the Linth canal and the Southern end of the lake of Zurich required a front of 120 km with a lot of vulnerable points in weak terrain.
  3. Gonard considered the defense of the Napf area to be too difficult with no significant gain to the redoubt position. In addition such a defense would have asked for an extension of the lines East and West of the Napf region to avoid the danger of enemy encircling movements. Gonard looked at three variants and preferred the minimal solution: to abandon the Napf area as well as the towns of Lucerne and Thun since this still secured the Brünig pass, although the communications with the defense of the valley of Uri was very limited.
  4. The question of the independent defense of the St. Maurice area Gonard opted for the longer front (110 instead of 45 km) which integrated the strong fortress. Looking at his arguments it is not clear to me how important the fact was, that this solution would defend a considerable part of the French speaking part of Switzerland (the alps of the canton of Vaud) or how if the military considerations really outweighted the political ones (N.B. Gonard and Guisan both lived in the French speaking part of Switzerland).
  5. The plans for the defense of the Southern front were not changed by Gonard. One of the main considerations was the need to improve the defense of the Gletsch area (North of the Gotthard pass), since the decision to abandon the communication between Lucerne and Thun through the Napf area would leave this area as to be the main communication node between the different areas of the redoubt.

Gonards Proposal

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Other Considerations

One of the key points of Gonard's considerations is, that the central redoubt consisted of several compartments (Bernese Oberland, Uri, Unterwalden, Glarus, Vorderrhein, Ticino, etc) with limited means of communications between them. In Winter it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to move supplies and troops between some of the compartments. This compartimization would inhibit the formation of a army reserve and would require to put all reserves to the corps and battle groups defending the individual compartments.

Gonard wanted to take back the territorial units attached to the border defenses to strengthen the redoubt. On the other hand he stated, that the number of troops in the redoubt would be limited by the amount of supplies which could be stored. It would have been important to reduce non-combatant units to a minimum.

Study, 1. July 1940
(Col Strüby, Under Chief of Staff Front)
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The sub-chief of the front section (Unterstabschef Front) also submitted a study on 1. July 1940. Besides of the undisputed use of the border troops to cover the mobilization of the field army, the study proposed three different options to the defense:

1) Defense of the actual army position (Operations oder No 10).
2) Defense of the central redoubt (Réduit).
3) Defense of parts of the actual front and of the central redoubt at the same time.

The study assumed, that "Die Schweiz wird bei den gegenwärtigen Verhältnissen nur dann von einem direkten Angriff Deutschlands verschont werden, wenn die Berechnungen des deutschen Generalstabses ergeben, dass der Kampf gegen uns langwierig und zäh wird und die Schaffung eines neuen Unruheherdes im Zentrum Europas auf längere Zeit sich ungünstig auf die deutschen Pläne auswirken würde."

The assessment of the different options was the following:

  1. Despite the good state of the defensive preparations (fortifications, depots etc), this position had a front which was too long (280 km) to be held with the available forces.
  2. To defend a front of 185 kms was considered to be feasible, especially since the entrances to the central redoubt would have been small and easy to hold. But the following issues were identified:
    1. The border troops would have been sacrificed with leaving an empty space of almost 100 kms depth behind them.
    2. Almost 3/4 of the country would have been given up.
    3. To leave the strong positions (especially in the North) was considered to create psychological problems.
  3. This option was considered the best, since it shortened the front by using the strong fortifications of the old army position.

[Last Update 30.08.2010]