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Posted: 1/4/2003 5:27:58 PM EST
Inside Switzerland's secret forts By Eric Margolis 4 July 2002 ST. MAURICE, SWITZERLAND - 'I shall show those insolent herdsmen and cheesmakers!' thundered Adolf Hitler in 1940, after Switzerland refused to allow the Germany Army to pass through its territory to outflank France's Maginot Line forts. Soon after France's defeat, Hitler and Mussolini ordered their general staffs to complete Plan von Menges, the invasion and partition of Switzerland by the combined armies of Germany and Italy. But the Axis never invaded tiny Switzerland, then a nation of only 5 million. The reason was not, as revisionists claim, because they needed Switzerland for banking. Other neutrals - America, Spain, Turkey, Sweden, Portugal - were also available for finance and trade. Or because the Swiss cooperated with Hitler's Germany, an outrageous lie concocted by shady American lawyers and New York politicians seeking to blackmail and soak the wealthy Swiss. In 1940, when America was still neutral to Hitler, Swiss fighters shot down 11 intruding Luftwaffe aircraft. The true reason was Switzerland's fierce national determination to remain free, backed by its top-secret National Redoubt - an immense system of over 100 mighty forts and thousands of casemates and bunkers buried deep in the heart of the Alps. In July, 1940, as Europe was surrendering or being overrun by invincible German armies, General Henri Guisan convoqued all senior officers of Switzerland's citizen army to Rutli Meadow and issued his famous order: 'fight to your last cartridge, then fight with your bayonets. No surrender. Fight to the death. ' The world's oldest democracy would stand alone against Hitler and Mussolini. The Germans and Italians decided against attacking Switzerland because of the casualties they would have faced. Switzerland's 700,000 soldiers were given the grim command to be ready to leave behind their homes, wives and children, then retreat into the mountain fortress system, which had only enough food and shelter for the army. Each high Alpine valley was to become a little Thermopylae; every Alpine fort another Verdun. Working round the clock, in two years Swiss engineers created over 100 powerful artillery and infantry forts dug into granite mountain sides. Switzerland's secret Alpine Redoubt exceeded in size, strength, firepower - and, of course, effectiveness - France's famed Maginot Line, hitherto believed to be the world's mightiest fortress system. At the heart of this huge military complex, whose existence is only now coming to light, lay Dailly, the world's largest and most powerful fort. For four decades, I have driven by Dailly without ever suspecting its existence. Now, as a guest of the Swiss General Staff and the elite Festungwachtkorps (Fortress Guard Corps), I was one of the first non-Swiss allowed to inspect the top secret fortress. This Swiss Gibraltar lies some 15kms south of Lake Geneva's eastern end, between Montreux and Martigny, the gateway to the St Bernard Pass, commanding the Valais, a highly strategic valley formed by the Rhone River, the major land route between Italy and northern Europe. At St.Maurice, the Valais is further constricted by the outthrust of the Dailly massif, a steep, pyramind-shaped mountain spur that juts into the valley, narrowing the defile to under two kilometer's width. Here, in 47AD, Roman Emperor Claudius had the first bridge built across the fast-flowing Rhone. Fortification of Daily began in 1892. By the early 1940's, Dailly had literally become, as the fort's technical chief, the redoubtable Aspirant Jean-Claude Raboud told me, 'a giant Swiss Gruyere cheese,' honeycombed by 60 kms of underground galleries (tunnels), with camouflaged gun embrasures, searchlights, troops barracks, magazines, supply depots and headquarters. North and south of Dailly lie numerous other forts: neighboring Savatan, Scex, Cindey, Petit-Mont, Follatres, and more, a lethal gauntlet of underground strongholds with a staggering 300kms of tunnels and interlocking fire from artillery, mortars, and machineguns. From outside, the forts are invisible, save for a few nondescript wooden buildings. The camouflaged embrasures for machine guns and artillery Ð tromp-l'oeil flaps that look like rock Ð are indistinguishable from more than a few feet away. They suddenly open, pour a withering fire, then close. Turrets are disguised as rustic chalets, sheds or boulders. All guns are pre-registered on their targets and can be fired blind, directed only by voice or electronic commands. The valley is crisscrossed by tank barriers, minefields, and obstacles. The main road and its bridges are mined with special demolition charges. Together, the Valais forts represent the pinnacle of 20th century military architecture and engineering. Dailly staggers the mind and body. To reach its entrance at 1400 meters requires negotiating 29 vertiginous switchbacks etched onto the mountain's steep side. At the fort's narrow summit Ð known as 'the needle' Ð you look straight down, a terrifying sheer drop 1800 meters to the valley floor. From this aerie, one sees Ð and the fort's big guns can reach - all the way north to the end of Lake Geneva, the fabled Chateau of Chillon, and Montreux; and south to Martigny and the St Bernard pass into Italy. The fortress was designed to accommodate 1,800 soldiers, with enough munitions, food and water to hold out 'buttoned up' for six months. Neighboring Savatan held 1,600 troops. Hewn into virgin granite, and protected by elaborate air filtration systems, Dailly and many other Alpine forts were immune to everything except for direct hits by nuclear weapons. Fearing a Soviet invasion, the Swiss extensively upgraded their forts until the late 1970's. France similarly upgraded and upgunned some of the Maginot forts during the 1960's. Dailly's fighting power came from a variety of weapons designed for distant and close-in action: machine guns; 75mm rapid fire guns; 105 and 120mm artillery with a range of 17kms; 81 and 120mm semi-automatic mortars; 20mm AA guns; and two turrets with fully automatic 150mm cannon. These latter are fed by a elaborate production line 50 meters below the surface. Shells and propellant cartridges are loaded onto conveyer belts, mated, fused and then fed up by an ammo hoist system to the automatic cannon, huge, evil machines that can fire a storm of 22 heavy shells per minute to a distance of 25 kilometers. Watching this production line of death in operations was a remarkable experience. My Swiss escort and friend, Lt. Colonel Marcel Krebbs, rightly described the huge 150mm guns and their 50-meter high barbettes as 'pharonic,' worthy of an Egyptian pharaoh. So were the fort's power plants, barracks, and magazines. The Swiss spared no expense on these battleships buried in the Alps. The Cold War's end led Switzerland to sharply reduce its armed forces and decommission many forts. Large forts are being replaced by smaller artillery works armed with 155mm long-ranged guns. But much of Dailly and its neighbors are still active and serve as bases for Swiss mountain brigades defending the nation's fortress heartland. Though I'm a veteran fortress explorer, Dailly left me at times with both vertigo from the 'Needle' and claustrophobia after hours of tramping through narrow, dimly lit concreted galleries, or squeezing in to a tiny lift that took us up through the rock inside the 150mm turret. Just looking down the 560-meter deep shaft of the funicular elevator that supplied the garrison made my head spin. After eight hours at titanic Dailly, one of the true wonders of the world, I was overwhelmed, elated, and totally exhausted. And I finally understood why Swiss friends used to tell me, 'Switzerland isn't a country; it's a fortress that looks like a country.' [url]http://www.foreigncorrespondent.com/archive/inside_swiss.html[/url]
Link Posted: 1/4/2003 5:35:47 PM EST
Link Posted: 1/4/2003 5:36:12 PM EST
Very good read - Thank YOU! Kinda looks like the Swiss did not want to be disturbed!!
Link Posted: 1/4/2003 5:42:19 PM EST
Makes ya almost wish the fascists would've tried--I'd much rather have seen the Nazi warmachine destroyed by the swiss thand the red army.
Link Posted: 1/4/2003 5:54:59 PM EST
On the doorstep of War2, Swiss military officers hosted a visit from a contigent of German officers. During the visit one subtle point that was made involved comparative training levels of the German and Swiss armies. The Swiss noted the German Army trained its soldiers to shoot at 100 meters. The Swiss, on the other hand, trained their troops at 300 meters. Someone commented that while the German Army had the power to overrun Switzerland, the German Officer Korps should not plan on going home.
Link Posted: 1/4/2003 6:09:34 PM EST
Another great line about the Swiss: "Switzerland doesn't have an army, it IS an army". Nobody has made war against the Swiss since the middle ages, and Swiss mercenaries were so feared one of the prime points of a Renaissance peace treaty was the Swiss could not hire out any more. It's still a tradition for Swiss men to go to vote carrying an umbrella and a sword. This signifies that Swiss men are ready for anything that comes. The Swiss still consider shooting sports about the same way we do golf or basketball. Every town has at least one good shooting range, and everybody is ACTIVELY encouraged to participate. Imagine an America where every man has a full-auto assault rifle and ammo issued by the government in his closet, there aren't too many golf courses, but you can walk to the shooting range there are so many of them, and people look at you strangely if you ask about gun control, and people like Hillery and Schumer are still chasing ambulances for a living because nobody would vote for them.
Link Posted: 1/4/2003 6:11:06 PM EST
Originally Posted By Arock: On the doorstep of War2, Swiss military officers hosted a visit from a contigent of German officers. During the visit one subtle point that was made involved comparative training levels of the German and Swiss armies. The Swiss noted the German Army trained its soldiers to shoot at 100 meters. The Swiss, on the other hand, trained their troops at 300 meters. Someone commented that while the German Army had the power to overrun Switzerland, the German Officer Korps should not plan on going home.
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A story goes that when a German officer asked a Swiss counterpart what they would do if a German army four times the size of the Swiss Army invaded, the Swiss officer replied, "each Swiss soldier would shoot four times
Link Posted: 1/4/2003 6:18:25 PM EST
"each Swiss soldier would shoot four times"
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"and then go home"[:)]
Link Posted: 1/4/2003 7:23:38 PM EST
Ahhh...Lauterbrunnen.
Link Posted: 1/4/2003 7:34:45 PM EST
Originally Posted By faris: Imagine an America where every man has a full-auto assault rifle and ammo issued by the government in his closet, there aren't too many golf courses, but you can walk to the shooting range there are so many of them, and people look at you strangely if you ask about gun control, and people like Hillery and Schumer are still chasing ambulances for a living because nobody would vote for them.
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Denmark is the hybrid of the two: Denmark has SUPER-STRICT gun control - to own a rifle, you need a valid hunting permit, renewed every year and with an annual fee. Handguns can only be owned if you are an active shooting member of a shooting club, and if you stop being an active member, the police will confiscate your handgun. In addition, the number of 9mm guns is limited to 360 in the ocuntry (pop. 5 million). On the other hand, Denmark has a National Guard (the Home Guard) which anyone can join at the age of 17. After you receive 2 week's basic training - you are given a select-fire assault rifle (or belt-fed MG-3) and a ton of ammunion to keep in your house - along with all your other field equipment. Infantry companies are based on locality and can normally fully mobilize in about 30-60 minutes. All in all it seems to work out well. There is a ridiculously low murder rate and firearms death rate in Denmark - and at the same time nobody can sneak up on them and steal their country. (Of course Denmark doesn't have the social problems and crime rate of the U.S., so I'm not saying it could work here)
Link Posted: 1/4/2003 7:40:52 PM EST
^ But why shouldn't I be able to own anything i want? I'm a law abiding citizen...
Link Posted: 1/4/2003 7:46:52 PM EST
Lets not talk about their taxes. [shock]
Link Posted: 1/4/2003 7:58:49 PM EST
Taxes ? Hell Once you add up local, state, federal, sales, property, and ss we already pay almost 50% of what we make to the damn government. Can it get much worse then that ? Most people think that SS tax is only 6.2%. That is all that you see taken out of your paycheck. Your employer pays and aditional 9% based on your salary/hourly wage. In a free market economy most of that 9% would goto you. So basically SS costs you 15% of what you get paid.
Link Posted: 1/4/2003 8:12:00 PM EST
Originally Posted By DK-Prof: (Of course Denmark doesn't have the social problems and crime rate of the U.S., so I'm not saying it could work here)
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That must be why the Danes instituted the most strict immigration rules in Europe this last year. The crime rate among the immigration population was exploding.
Link Posted: 1/4/2003 8:13:30 PM EST
Raven nice post!
Link Posted: 1/4/2003 8:48:22 PM EST
[Last Edit: 1/4/2003 8:48:56 PM EST by DK-Prof]
Originally Posted By mattja:
Originally Posted By DK-Prof: (Of course Denmark doesn't have the social problems and crime rate of the U.S., so I'm not saying it could work here)
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That must be why the Danes instituted the most strict immigration rules in Europe this last year. The crime rate among the immigration population was exploding.
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Yeah - I didn't want to come out and say it (because I would sound racist) - but immigration was destroying the perfect society. With a relatively homogenous population, Denmark worked like a well-oiled machine. Low crime, attractive people and one of the highest standards of living in the world. Fifteen years ago, a scantily clad 19 year-old with a wad a cash in her hand could have walked from one end of Copenhagen to another at 2 AM without fear. Now about 5 percent of the population is immigrant (mostly muslim) and those 5 percent account from something like 60 percent of violent crime, murder and rape in Denmark. [:(]
Link Posted: 1/5/2003 8:36:26 AM EST
Originally Posted By Arock: The Swiss noted the German Army trained its soldiers to shoot at 100 meters. The Swiss, on the other hand, trained their troops at 300 meters.
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Is this really true? Why then did they issue long-range bolt-action Kar98s instead of something semiautomatic or fully automatic (the StG44 coming sooner is one idea)? As good as the Germans were... they sure had pretty huge holes in their battle tactics.
Originally Posted By faris: Imagine an America where every man has a full-auto assault rifle and ammo issued by the government in his closet, there aren't too many golf courses, but you can walk to the shooting range there are so many of them, and people look at you strangely if you ask about gun control, and people like Hillery and Schumer are still chasing ambulances for a living because nobody would vote for them.
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If even half the gun owners actually voted pro-gun this would be a reality!
Link Posted: 1/5/2003 11:24:03 AM EST
Originally Posted By DK-Prof: Yeah - I didn't want to come out and say it (because I would sound racist) - but immigration was destroying the perfect society. With a relatively homogenous population, Denmark worked like a well-oiled machine. Low crime, attractive people and one of the highest standards of living in the world. Fifteen years ago, a scantily clad 19 year-old with a wad a cash in her hand could have walked from one end of Copenhagen to another at 2 AM without fear.
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That can't be possible. I thought Europeans supported free and open immigration and the benefits that are associated with multi-culturalism?
Now about 5 percent of the population is immigrant (mostly muslim) and those 5 percent account from something like 60 percent of violent crime, murder and rape in Denmark. [:(]
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I have seen studies that indicate if the US did not take into account a certain 13% of our population when computing crime statistics, our crime rate would be lower than the majority of European nations.
Link Posted: 1/5/2003 11:44:33 AM EST
It's like were channeling the ghost of McUZI! [;)]
Link Posted: 1/5/2003 12:52:47 PM EST
We too here in Finland are now seeing the gang and drug related problems some of the ethnic minorities are very much responsible for. The situation has gotten much more severe in the past few years.
Link Posted: 1/5/2003 1:04:03 PM EST
DK-Prof, mattja, Tuuka: REPORT TO DIVSERSITY AND CULTURAL SENSITIVITY TRAINING AT ONCE! Multiculturalism is our greatest strength. Didn't you get the memo?
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