Refuge from the Reich: American Airmen and Switzerland During World War II

Overview


Imagine the courage of a U.S. aircrew whose plane is rocked by explosions at 26,000 feet. The engines smoking, wounded crying, pilots desperately trying to control the falling craft, secretly unsure whether to shout the dreaded order: "Bail out!" A final moment of terror occurs when fighter planes suddenly appear alongside the stricken craft-and then a sigh of relief. The agile fighters are marked with the white cross of Switzerland. The crippled bomber is escorted to an airfield, and to safety.By 1943, a ...
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Overview


Imagine the courage of a U.S. aircrew whose plane is rocked by explosions at 26,000 feet. The engines smoking, wounded crying, pilots desperately trying to control the falling craft, secretly unsure whether to shout the dreaded order: "Bail out!" A final moment of terror occurs when fighter planes suddenly appear alongside the stricken craft-and then a sigh of relief. The agile fighters are marked with the white cross of Switzerland. The crippled bomber is escorted to an airfield, and to safety.By 1943, a multitude of U.S. airmen who just months earlier had been farmboys, clerks or students were soaring over Germany, braving the vicious wrath of the Luftwaffe and storms of enemy flak. Thousands of flyers died; thousands more fell into Nazi hands. But for over 1,700 U.S. airmen, salvation came from a small, surrounded country that defied Hitler throughout the war. Refuge from the Reich is the story of how the world's two oldest democracies came into contact amid the raging inferno of Nazi-held Europe.Having parachuted or crashlanded into Switzerland, U.S. airmen encountered a world they were unprepared for: a country where food and heat were rationed and every man was a soldier, subject to instant mobilization to counter the German threat. There were clashes of culture, as well as episodes of high drama. And, by the end of the war, there was an overriding sense of warmth and respect between U.S. airmen and the Swiss who had given them shelter.Refuge from the Reich tells the gripping story of U.S. flyers waging history's greatest air campaign, while providing a firsthand, insiders' view of the small democracy that was able to offer safety to our airmen, while facing dangerous odds of its own.
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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
Refuge From The Reich: American Airmen And Switzerland During World War II tells the riveting story of how U.S. airman, shot out the skies by the Germans, parachuted, crash-landed, or otherwise escaped to Switzerland. There they encountered a country where food and heat were rationed, where every man was an armed solider subject to instant mobilization to counter the German threat. It was a small, mountainous country swarming with internees, refugees, and expatriates seeking protection from the certain death that awaited them from the Axis powers. By the end of the war there was a firm and pervasive sense of respect between the U.S. airmen and the Swiss who had given them secure protection from the Germans. Refuge From The Reich is a valued and informative contribution to the annals of World War II's European theater.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781885119704
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Edition description: GIFT
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.92 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author


Stephen Tanner is a New York-based writer who specializes in military history. He was the leading contributor to Great Raids in History: From Drake to Desert One.
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2001

    Refuge From the Reich: The Airmen Report

    It is not easy to maintain your neutrality with a world war blazing around all your borders, but Switzerland did so. Ground armies and air armadas swirled around the Swiss borders from June 1940 to May 1945, and from time to time, soldiers crossed its borders, by land and by air, to find themselves interned 'for the duration,' under the terms of the Geneva Conventions. In all, over 100,000 soldiers and airmen of various armies were interned during the war, including approximately 1700 American aviators, mostly the crews of heavily damaged B-17 and B-24 bombers that could not make it back to their bases in England, Africa or Italy. The first Americans to land in Switzerland arrived in August 1943, as 8th and 15th Air Forces began their heavy daylight raids over southern Germany. In 1944, as many as ten aircraft might land there in a given day. In 'Refuge from the Reich,' Stephen Tanner tells the story of the fortunate airmen who made it safely down to Swiss soil, and also tells the tale for those crewmates who died in crashes or who fell short and ended up in German Stalags. Mr. Tanner has written a compelling narrative history about the airmen while tracking the evolution of the democratic Swiss Republic in the heart of monarchist Europe, the development of strategic air power, and the strategic conduct of World War 2. He has combined a 'top down' strategic overview and 'bottom up' personal narratives of the surviving aviators very successfully. This is a moving book in many respects. You find that there is a well-tended US military cemetery in Munsingen. You find that bored airmen wanted back in the fight and mounted hundreds of successful escapes, often with the help of US embassy personnel and ordinary Swiss citizens. You find that in trying to escape Switzerland and return to the fight, if caught, you might land in the infamous little camp at Wauwilermoos, under the corrupt Nazi sympathizer, Captain Andre Henri Beguin. You find the Army Air Force mistakenly bombing Swiss towns and cities, time and again --on March 1, 1945, 16 tons of bombs landed on Basel and 25 tons landed on Zurich. You see the humanity of the Swiss people, occasionally targets of bombs and forced to endure a daily diet of about 1500 calories, yet doing everything legal and possible to assure the safety of American and other interned military men, even assisting escapees trying to get back to the war. Mr. Tanner has done a very nice job of combining strategy and diplomacy with dangerous missions, hazardous landings, escapes and captures, a little espionage and intrigue, and a most illuminating portrait of the paradox of a neutral people at war.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2000

    finally, some clarity!

    The courage of the Swiss during World War II has never before been so completely or accurately portrayed as in Refuge from the Reich. Long viewed as a neutral, unimportant footnote in WWII history, Switzerland was actually a crucial lifesaver for many US airmen during the conflict. Tanner uses exciting first-hand accounts of planes falling from the sky and Swiss pilots coming to the rescue to point out that, though neutral, Switzerland took an active part in protecting its country and those who entered uninvited. The crux of the book is the sequence of events leading to and from internment--a forced type of stay required of downed flyers who landed in neutral countries during the war. American flyers came down in the hundreds to survive burning wreckages, all because Switzerland was there to protect them. Tanner manages to make the Swiss seem at once sympathetic and demanding of their interned soldiers, reminding the world that the Swiss were in a precarious situation that they somehow survived unscathed. For the honest depiction of Switzerland alone this book should be part of every WWII student's collection. Far too much of the recent literature about the Swiss has focused (wrongly) on their banking policies to allow this other role to be ignored. To know what really happened--to know about the hardships they suffered, the simple life they espoused and survived by--Refuge from the Reich is a book worthy of buying. WWII buffs in general will love the airwar sequences too; Tanner managed to find some truly thrilling crash landing stories.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2010

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