The Second World War
No air supremacy, no success! The Battle of Britain in 1940 and the Allied invasion of Normandy against Hitler Germany in 1944 are remarkable examples of this.
- Observer position: women in action
The Swiss Air Force and Anti-Aircraft Defence Force were mobilised on August 28, 1939 - three days before the war broke out. With a total of 86 fighters and 121 reconnaissance and ground support aircraft at their disposal, only three of the 21 Air Force units were actually considered fit for active service; five did not even have any aircraft. This deficiency was gradually made good by the procurement of further Messerschmitt fighters as well as several Morane-D-3800 fighters manufactured under license. 1943 was the year when the Federal Aircraft Factory in Emmen was founded.
- AA searchlights scan the skies for intruders
The Air Force soon withdrew into the Alpine redoubt. Defended airfields were established, e.g. at Alpnach, Meiringen and Turtmann. In 1942/43 the Air Force firing range at Ebenfluh/Axalp was put into service. Established in 1941, the Air Surveillance Wing was ready for service from 1943 onwards. A night fighter wing, formed on a trial basis in 1944, was disbanded again in 1950.
- Ground radio station
Together with Anti-Aircraft Defence - then still in the process of formation - the Air Force did active service partly as a whole, and partly on a rotational basis. During the first months of the war, the Air Force and Anti-Aircraft Defence Force saw action only sporadically. But after May 10, 1940, when Germany launched its offensive against the West, triggering the second general mobilisation of the Army, violations of Swiss airspace by German aircraft multiplied.
- 2 June 1940: German bomber Heinkel He 111P-2 forced to land near Ursins by Messerschmitt Me-109 fighter.
The resolute fighting spirit of the Swiss pilots and gun crews, who saw the fiercest action at the beginning of June, was to become the impressive symbol of Switzerland's spirit of resistance. They shot down several aircraft of Göring's Luftwaffe in aerial combat, albeit at the cost of three airmen's lives. On June 20, effective until the end of October, 1943, the Swiss Supreme Commander, General Henri Guisan issued a ban on air combat activity above Swiss territory, for political reasons. In September 1944 a fatality occurred when a Swiss aircraft was shot down by a US crew.
Anti-Aircraft Defence was entrusted with the protection of Swiss neutrality. During the first months of the war it was only sporadically in action as the majority of frontier violations took place along the Swiss frontier. Later, the heavy anti-aircraft brigades were often in action and nearly all the batteries went into action at some point. The simple fact of their existence and their constant readiness for action played an important deterrent role.
- Messerschmitt Me 109G-6. For easier recognition Swiss aircraft had «neutrality stripes».
The Aerial Reconnaissance and Observer Corps played a particularly important part as it was the only source of information for the Air Force as well as for meteorological and ground observers.
- Bomber park - 198 foreign aircraft landed and were interned
During the war there were 6,501 instances of border violation; 244 foreign aircraft landed or crashed on, or were shot down over Swiss territory; 1,620 aircrew were interned.
As the war progressed, so did the mission of the Air Force and Anti-Aircraft Defence Force. Collaboration with the ground forces and inflexible organisation were among the areas most in need of improvement.