Switzerland is the most fortified region of the world.  Surprised? Up until recently, all Swiss houses had a nuclear shelter complete with air filtration system, food supplies, chemical toilets and bunks. Apartment buildings had communal shelters large enough to accommodate all residents.The Swiss didn’t stop there; they built thousands of bunkers and fortifications – 26,000 still in service according to one count – throughout the country. Some these were field fortifications but the Swiss do like their underground construction and there are are dozens of large underground fortresses large enough house hundreds of soldiers, all cunningly camouflaged. Here’s a typical example: looks like your average quaint Swiss chalet, right?

Wrong: it is underground fortress – Fort Pré-Giroud – defending a pass over the Jura Mountains.

The chalet is actually the main block house. The upper windows are painted on. The lower windows open to reveal machine guns and a 75mm cannon. Rather than protect the rear of the bunker with barbed wire (a dead giveaway), they made a thicket of trees from sheet steel.

The main bunker is defended by a number of outworks camouflaged as rock outcroppings and barns.

Or you might be tooling along the road by picturesque Lake Geneva when you spy a distinctive house:

It’s not a house, it’s a bunker defending the tail end of the Toblerone Line

That alpine barn may be concealing an artillery bunker:

That mountain crag may really be an observation post and gun platform:

Here are some of the many  posted comments following the original article:

Switzerland is not the most fortified region of the world anymore, if it ever was!
Fortress guns and mortars have been disactivated, and dismantled for the most part, although some may have been ‘mothballed’ only.
And the smaller campaign bunkers scattered in the Plateau and Jura area have all undergone the same destiny in the 1990’s.
The Swiss army has also undergone changes: while it was able, up to 1995, to mobilise up to 600,000 men in under 48 hours (I know, I was supposed to go 😉 ), it brought that number down to about 400,000 from 1995 to about 2005. The new ‘Armée 21’ does not have quick mobilization plans and is about 120,000 strong with an 80,000-strong reserve, although of course the distinction is somewhat artificial, a good number of the aforementioned 120,000 being already in a reserve of sort and not ‘active’.
It’s also important to consider that most of the bunkers and fortresses were not able to whitstand modern weapons such as guided missiles: one helicopter with Hellfire-like missiles, hiding behind the crest of a mountain, could have easily defeated even an artillery fortress, let alone an infantry bunker.
There is also a continuous debate about whether soldiers should be allowed to keep their service assault rifle and/or pistol at home between service periods. The ‘pocket munition’ has already gone under the pressure of the opinion, after there were too many people killed with service weapons. So as you see, Switzerland is not what it once was – the good news being that you can now easily find info on the famed alpine bunkers, and indeed the legend was not too exaggerated!

Note to self: cancel planned invasion of Switzerland.

Hundreds of key roads and bridges across Switzerland hold stores of explosives for use in the event of invasion.  The policy was developed during the cold war, because of fears of an attack by Warsaw Pact countries.  Although some devices are now being removed, hundreds will remain, particularly in the border regions.  The fuses required for detonation are stored separately from the explosives.

It’s not correct that all Swiss buildings needed their own bomb shelter. If a building doesn’t have one the occupants only need to pay a fee of 800 francs for a place in a communal shelter (the fee used to be 1,500 francs). The Swiss do have an unusually high number of shelters however – 300,000 in a country of 7.6 million, with total space for 8.6 million. The largest shelter (now decommissioned) was a complex around the Sonnenberg tunnel that could house 20,000 people over 7 floors and included a hospital and even a theatre.

I think the most important thing to remember about Switzerland is that it could still withstand a conventional infantry attack, meaning no close in air support or a large amount of armored vehicles.  However, the country also remained neutral in World War 2 in part because its defenses were so well developed that the Nazis knew that to win would have cost them dearly.  A country that managed to withstand one of the best developed armed forces of that time shows that the country is very well fortified against conventional ground forces.

In spite of it being such a small country even Hitler was afraid of invading it. In fact they have not been  foreign troops on their soil in over 500 years. Every male is a fully trained and armed soldier at all times. They have 15 day refreshers every year. I once met one such young man some 50 years ago. His family was a family of soldiers for more than 7 generations. The stories he told me were absolutely awesome. Switzerland may not be the most fortified but is most probably the most and best defended.

If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more about the Vietnam War – subscribe to this blog and get each new post delivered to your email or feed reader.   A directory to the right of each article, lists my published posts in chronological – links are live – click and read.  If you’d rather sample every post by scrolling through the many pages, then click on the Cherries title at the top of this page and be redirected to the blog’s main page…most recent posts are first – a navigation bar at the bottom helps move between pages.