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A Fortress, Disguised as a Country
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Morgarten, Switzerland – Here, in 1315, a force of Swiss mountaineers ambushed an invading force of Austrian feudal knights who had come to reassert Hapsburg feudal rule over the rebellious Swiss.

The burly Swiss farmers and woodsmen from the forest cantons Unterwalden, Uri and Schwytz fell upon the close-packed Austrian knights and men-at-arms, using long pikes or deadly pole axes known as halbards, and massacred them without quarter.

Two years later, a second Austrian expeditionary force was caught by the Swiss peasant infantry near Lucerne at Sempach and crushed.

These fierce battles were the first time in modern history that foot soldiers had withstood heavily armored mounted knights. These epochal encounters marked the beginning of the end of European feudalism and the rise of infantry armies. They also freed Switzerland’s forest cantons of Austrian rule, creating Europe’s first independent democratic state, the Swiss Confederation.

The always astute Machiavelli said of the Swiss warriors: ‘Most heavily armed, most free.’ Indeed, most free to this day.

Those who think of Switzerland as a quaint land of cuckoo clocks and chocolate are sorely mistaken. To paraphrase Voltaire’s bon mot about Prussia, Switzerland is a giant fortress, disguised as a country.

I attended school and university in Switzerland. Over the decades, I kept hearing about mountains opening up to disgorge warplanes, or cliffs studded with hidden artillery. But even my Swiss friends didn’t know much about these seemingly fantastic sightings.

Fifteen years ago, I was the guest of the Swiss Fortress Guard Corps, a top-secret military outfit that operates Switzerland’s mountain fortresses. I was one of the first non-Swiss to be shown the mountain forts that guard the heart of the nation’s ‘Alpine Redoubt.’ What I was shown astounded me – and continues to do so.

In the late 1930’s, as one European nation after another bowed down to Hitler’s demands, the Swiss military and its popular rifle clubs, banded together and decided their nation would not bend the knee as the Czechs, Dutch, Norwegians, Belgians, and then the French had done.

A feverish program of fortress construction was begun across the Alps. Some 900,000 troops were mobilized. Orders went out from Gen. Henri Guisan: ‘leave your families behind in the lowlands. Man our mountain forts. We have no place or food for civilians in them. Fight to your last cartridge; then use your bayonets. No surrender!’

Every road and bridge was mined; all mountain passes were rigged with explosives. Particularly so the rail lines and tunnels that linked Germany to its erstwhile ally, Italy.

Hitler was furious. He denounced the Swiss as ‘insolent herdsmen.’ Mussolini, Hitler’s ally, rightfully feared tangling with the tough Swiss mountaineers who had ravaged Italy during the Renaissance. The Pope’s Swiss Guards are a memento of the era of ‘Furia Helvetica.’


Working 24/7, Swiss engineers created a warren of tunnels and gun positions guarding the main entry points into Switzerland at St. Maurice, Gothard, Thun and Sargans. These forts were equipped with 75, 105 and 150mm cannons, machine guns and mortars emplaced in mountain sides and camouflaged so they are almost invisible.

Inside the forts are barracks, engine rooms, headquarters, clinics, observation posts and magazines filled with shells. The hidden forts interlock their fire and support one another. Unlike the less heavily gunned Maginot Line, each fort was protected by a special infantry unit on the outside, linked by telephone to the underground garrison.

In addition, Switzerland built bomb shelters for most of its people.

The Swiss only began decommissioning their forts in the 1990’s – after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Switzerland was a prime target of the Soviet Red Army. Advancing from Czechoslovakia, the Soviets planned to race across lightly defended Austria into eastern Switzerland.

Then, into the Swiss lowlands on a Basel-Neuchatel-Lausanne axis to Geneva. From there, the Group of Soviet Forces powerful armored divisions would erupt into France’s Rhone Valley and drive north for the Channel ports, taking US and NATO forces in the rear and cutting their supply lines. It would have been a replay of Germany’s brilliant Ardennes offensive in 1940.

But Swiss forts and solid Swiss citizen troops stood in the way. The sons of the heroes of Sempach and Morgarten were on guard.

When Swiss mountaineers vote, they always carry rifles and swords as a symbol of how their freedom was attained and preserved.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Switzerland 
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  1. dearieme says:

    These fierce battles were the first time in modern history that foot soldiers had withstood heavily armored mounted knights

    Oh come now; Bannockburn was in 1314, Courtrai in 1302.

  2. Not to mention Switzerland was founded by Templars, and control much of the world’s wealth. After the whistle blower incident, they’ve doubled down on their banking secrecy laws. All of the world’s criminal organizations are client banks. It’s nice to know they’re also virtually impregnable. The seat of Satan.

  3. Now if the Swiss could couple this kind of resolve with keeping out African and Arab invaders masquerading as “migrants.”

    • Agree: RadicalCenter
    • Replies: @KenH
    , @Anonymous
  4. – They just bowed to the EU (OK, more a nod) on gun control (that I should live to see that 😛 ).
    To their credit, they did it by plebiscite.

    What´s not to like? The humor (don´t ask) and the beer [shudder]

  5. KenH says:
    @Diversity Heretic

    Now if the Swiss could couple this kind of resolve with keeping out African and Arab invaders masquerading as “migrants.”

    Yeah, but if they were hunting down Muslim and African (Muslim or other) invaders then Margolis would be carping about the racism and Islamophobia of the Swiss and tell us how ashamed he is of obtaining his degrees in such a nation that dares to guard its border against non-white invaders, er, migrants. But it’s ok to celebrate them killing other European blood brothers.

    • Replies: @anonymous1963
  6. Ibound1 says:

    The USSR was never going to invade Switzerland, even had they conquered the world. Krushchev said they would had to have left Switzerland free so someone could have rationally set prices.

  7. Alistair says:

    Dear Eric: I am sure you’re enjoying your time in the Swiss Alps, but you didn’t have to take sanctuary up there, we have averted the WW3, you can come back now.

    Under President Trump’s leadership we have averted the start of WW3 in Persian Gulf last week.

    While I understand why you rushed to Europe; after all Switzerland has the reputation of being the neutral state, but we have just averted the WW3, therefore you’re safe now, you can come back !!! LOL — Have a good time !!!

  8. Anonymous [AKA "Swatch"] says:

    Well, B-52’s and bunker busters would overcome cavemen. Tora Bora come to mind? Anyway, taking Basel would fix the world dominating Central Bank system and besides skiing there’s little need to venture into the Alps. But they do have a cool name for their cheese and they make kinky knives.

  9. Blake says:

    Could be bombed from the air – there is no iron dome shield like that racist settler colony masquerading as a country has [sarcasm intended].

  10. Navionpa says:

    I visited, a fort in 2013, it was opened for tours, only in French. But one interesting thing, the cannons, and machine guns, we’re well maintained.

    When I mentioned it to the tour guide (retired soldier), he say all the old forts are maintained, just in case.

  11. Lo says:

    Interesting read. I always assumed Swiss had chocolate balls and that was why no one bothered them. Turns out it was balls of steel.

    • Replies: @foolisholdman
  12. @Lo

    Interesting read. I always assumed Swiss had chocolate balls and that was why no one bothered them. Turns out it was balls of steel.

    Well, yes those too. One of the reasons The Nazis did not invade Swizerland was that they needed the ball- and roller bearings that the Swiss provided.

  13. Vinnie O says:

    When I was in ROTC circa 1970, our PMS (Professor of Military Science, a Green Beret LTC just back from Vietnam) arranged with the Swiss consulate in Chicago to have one of their military attaches come talk to us about “reserve” forces in Switzerland. He brought a movie that opened with a pair of Saab 35s screaming out of the clouds over the Alps. (Buying Saab from Sweden doesn’t lock you into the American or Russian spare parts racket) EVERY man in Switzerland has an assault rifle and a couple hundred rounds of ammo in the closet at home. When they VOTE, EVERY male voter shows up in the village square with a GUN to prove he’s entitled to vote. NOBODY wants to mess with Switzerland. Conquering it would be WAY more than it’s worth.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    , @RadicalCenter
  14. Great country. Hell of a bureacratic police force though they are very civilised. I can’t actually go back there or I’ll be arrested. Long story

  15. That’s inspiring. I think I’ll show up on election day in 2020, gun in hand.

    • Replies: @Jacques Sheete
  16. Miro23 says:

    The interesting thing about Switzerland, is that they take civic responsibility down to the lowest level – the Commune and the individual. Every Swiss citizen is obliged to participate, and is constantly reminded that being Swiss has obligations, such as compulsory attendance a meetings, voting, military service etc.

    It’s also interesting that they don’t evangelize their system in any way. It’s a private thing for the historic Swiss people and is largely unknown to the rest of the world.

    I found a good explanation of the political aspects, in a small book by a British academic, Kenrick Jones, “Swiss Democracy”, where he assesses how the Swiss system could regenerate British politics. Highly recommended.

  17. Hitler and the Germans could have annexed Switzerland in about 3 days in 1940, and probably would have gotten an enthusiastic reception from a sizeable part of of the population. There was simply no reason to.

    It served both German and Swiss interests to have Switzerland remain nominally neutral, in order to preserve a German back-channel to their opponents, while in fact Switzerland was completely integrated into the German war economy.

    Also, a quick look at the map will show you that many of the major Swiss cities – Basel, Geneva, even Zurich – are hardly mountain redoubts and are easily invadeable from Germany and France. Napoleon also demonstrated this – he seized Geneva and Basel in 1798 with almost no real resistance whatsoever. For some reason the Swiss like to gloss over how quickly the country fell apart the one time it was actually attacked by a determined invader.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    , @Jacques Sheete
  18. Badonian says:

    This kind
    of propaganda was thought to impress the enemy, but mostly
    impressed the swiss themselves.
    Hitler got everything he wanted (weapons etc) and payed
    with coal and gold.
    In case he had not, he had occupied the lowlands with the
    interesting industries.
    The “Alpenfestung” he would have left where it was.
    Of course the generals and politicans who built the
    “Festung” never admitted that this was a waste of money.
    I met a lot of young swiss (of my age) still in the seventies,
    bigmouthing that they would have sent Hitler home.
    This were reserve officers of the swiss army mostly,
    and absolute resistant to facts.

    • Replies: @Badonian
  19. Badonian says:

    Some thing I forgot:
    The Alpenfestung maybe was thought to be a
    job creation programme.
    Switzerland was hit very hard by the crisis
    since 1929.
    The way Hitler acted to remedy the unemployment
    crisis in Germany could very well impress
    unemployed swiss workers.

  20. Anonymous [AKA "MichelT8"] says:
    @Peter Akuleyev

    These assertions fly in the face of the historical record.

    While it is true that a few Swiss politicians were happy to see Germany stand up to Communist Russians, the big Swiss political parties were the Free Democrats (the Nazis had put their German counterparts into concentration camps) Christian-Democrats (the Nazis had banned Germany’s Christian-Democrats & persecuted those who didn’t like it) and Social Democrats (ditto.) At the time, the army’s brass were mostly Freemasons, all of whom would have gone straight to concentration camps. None of the Swiss elite wanted the fate of their German colleagues, and the one pro-Nazi party never got even 1% of the votes before it was banned, before Stalingrad.

    Switzerland had been a bottom up democracy to varying degrees for 600 plus years and they had no need or use for a Führer & single party state.

    The Wehrmacht General Staff had detailed plans to invade Switzerland, Operation TANNENBAUM but was too occupied elsewhere to find the men and materiel to move into action. Plus, the German armies in Italy were dependent on supplies other than weapons that transited the alps via swiss railroads. In the first hour that the Germans invaded Switzerland all the tunnels and bridges would have been dynamited, drastically reducing the Germans’ ability to resupply Italy.

    As for Napoleon; the cities on the border capitulated. In the alps, the Swiss fought. At one encounter, Swiss peasants charged French musketeers with their pitchforks. 200 swiss died to 14 French, but it was the French who fled.

    And even once the Swiss had surrendered; the first substantial revolt against Napoleon was in the swiss alps (Nidwaldener Schreckenstage), and was as against the odds as the battle above.

  21. Anonymous [AKA "Falesteeni"] says:
    @Diversity Heretic

    Fu*k off It’s there Promised land Bitch, look it up in the bible.

    • Replies: @anonymous1963
  22. anonymous1963 [AKA "anon19"] says:

    That would certainly sound like Margolis.

  23. anonymous1963 [AKA "anon19"] says:

    Looks like Tiny Dick is back.

  24. Logan says:

    Stirling Bridge, 1297?

  25. @dearieme

    These fierce battles were the first time in modern history that foot soldiers had withstood heavily armored mounted knights

    Oh come now; Bannockburn was in 1314, Courtrai in 1302.

    Oh, c’mon guys! Doncha know that ya gotta employ a little “poetic license” here and there to spice up the story? Margolis never fails to brag about his inside knowledge, as if it means anything, so without a dash of drama, who’d peruse such piffle?

  26. @Charles_Martel

    I think I’ll show up on election day in 2020, gun in hand.

    You’ll need a set of brass balls in your shorts too!

  27. @Peter Akuleyev

    I’d like to seize the town of Gruyere and keep it all to myself! 😉

  28. Anonymous [AKA "xuartema"] says:
    @Vinnie O

    HAHAHA, Vinnie O, you make me laugh. I can see you are the typical Yankee that goes by stereotypes but never travels the world.

    NO, the Swiss don’t vote with their sword or bayonet on the side in the village square. This is a reminder of the past and still happening only in two remote cantons in Eastern Switzerland called Glaris and Appenzell, and that type of public voting is called “Landsgemeinde”, google it.

    Now as for your “EVERY man in Switzerland has an assault rifle and a couple hundred rounds of ammo in the closet at home” , this is sheer exaggeration: the CONSCRIPTS only take their assault rifle back home with them and keep it as long as they serve in the military. Not “all the Swiss”, again. And they have enough rounds to fill a magazine, i.e. 24 cartridges, not “hundreds of rounds” as you suggest.

    As for your “NOBODY wants to mess with Switzerland“, the Swiss are under complete domination of the banks, money forces in general, the most miserably enslaved people on earth, despite the appearances and I’m a Swiss citizen myself, albeit not living in Switzerland any more (enough is enough).

  29. ” But Swiss forts and solid Swiss citizen troops stood in the way. The sons of the heroes of Sempach and Morgarten were on guard. ”

    HA ! You make it sound like Swiss yoodlers single handedly won the cold war .

  30. jeppo says:

    Looking at Swiss referendum results regarding what could be called the larger National Question (immigration, citizenship, sovereignty, Islam, the EU, etc), Italian-speaking Ticino tends to be the most “based” canton, while the French cantons are extremely “woke.”

    The Romansh in Grisons canton lean more towards the Italians, marking a sharp east-west political divide between the Latin groups in Switzerland. The Germans, who fall between the Italians and French, also have an east-west divide, albeit less stark. This split goes back to the earliest days of the confederation, to the rivalry between Zurich in the east and Bern in the west.

    Zurich canton itself is much more urbanized than Bern, and therefore more liberal. But the conservative movement in Zurich is much more right wing and nationalistic than the same is in Bern. Zurich is like a mostly liberal island in the conservative sea of Eastern Switzerland, while Bern is the moderate exception in an otherwise very liberal Western Switzerland.

    Rural cantons (obviously) and Catholic cantons (less obviously) tend to be more right wing than urban and Protestant ones, and they’re split pretty evenly between east and west. But by far the biggest political differences run on linguistic lines, with the globalist French and Frenchified-Germans of Western Switzerland, versus the nationalist Germans and their based Italian and Romansh allies in Eastern Switzerland.

  31. Fox says:

    Which country bent the knee to Hitler’s demands? I remind Eric Margolis of the facts that war was declared on Germany in 1939. As a consequence, Germany took countermeasures, but only after several attempts by Germany to withdraw the declarations of war. Hence, neither Norway, nor Denmark, nor Belgium, nor Holland, nor France would have experienced occupation had this idiocy of declaring war been voided. Norway was occupied by German forces hours before the English were landing, Denmark was occupied to deny England a foothold on the German border, Holland and Belgium were in collusion with England and France. Besides, why was the Danish Greenland and the independent Iceland occupied by the US?
    The Czechs were forced by England and France to make concessions to the German Community in Czechso-Slovakia (nearly 4 million strong, more than there were Slovakians). The Czechs were unwilling to respect the Germans’ rights, after the Czechs had forcibly incorporated them in their newly defined country “Czecho-Slovakia” in 1919. Democracy in action, isn’t it? In addition, neither the Slovaks, the Poles, the Hungarians nor the Ruthenians under the Czechs’ rule were happy under these chauvinists’ rule, hence they split one way or another as soon as they could.

    Margolis: That’s a bad comparison.

    Likewise Austria: Austria has repeatedly expressed the wish to be re-united with the other German lands, most of which were united in the German Reich. Yet such an expression of democratic will is consistently being ignored by such democrats as tyrannize the world with their backstage decisions, even now (just think of the referendum on the Crimea).
    Perhaps it would be good to recall that the German Emperor resided in Vienna for 600 years until Napoleon forced dissolution of the 1000-year Empire in 1806.

    Eric Margolis: Don’t scribble insincere stuff.

    Finally the Poles: It is possible that Germany put an end to their terrorizing of the Germans living there by setting the Wehrmacht in motion before the Poles attacked, but there were numerous border violations by Poland, raids into Germany, murders of Germans in Germany near the border and of Germans in Poland before September 1, 1939. And Poland was not willing to end these practices, or discuss the fate of the German city of Danzig, or even the treatment of its minorities within its borders. To defend the actions or bemoan the fate of such a country is questionable and casts doubt on the sincerity of the author of such journalistic writings or the degree to which he understands historical events.
    Switzerland was last threatened, then occupied by Napoleon. There was no hostile action of Germany against Switzerland ever. In fact, the Southern Germans are tribal siblings of the German Swiss and the Alsatians, they are all members of the Germanic Aleman Tribe, and they lived once in the same land.
    The overthrow of the Hapsburg rule in Switzerland is given in Schiller’s drama Wilhelm Tell. This drama expresses the admiration of the fight for freedom from feudal overlordship. Still, the German Swiss are German by blood, even if they have their own country. German Switzerland is the home of the Hapsburg dynasty ….it’s all quite complicated, so did they invade their own country in 1315? If not-so-smart but covetous, envious and rapacious people such as Churchill or Roosevelt or copyists of Allied War Propaganda think they understand German history and allow themselves to mingle in it, a catastrophe is in the making. The last century has quite proven that.

  32. @Vinnie O

    It would be easy and quick for USA, China or Russia or any other major military power to obliterate Switzerland’s fortifications and its people. Unfortunately.

  33. The Russians know the history of the French and French invasions. You think maybe they didn’t learn that an invasion in the opposite direction would produce the same results???

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