Tag Archives: swiss army

Cold War Swiss Army Tactics

For fans of vintage military videos, here is something special, a series of three short but very informative period docs on Swiss Army infantry tactics and methodology spanning the chilliest part of the Cold War. Subtitled, they are a great and very detailed look inside the Alpine Neutral’s citizen-soldier military machine. They have all been lovingly preserved courtesy of  Dale the Stgw Dude.

SWISS ARMS INDUSTRIES: 1968 Vintage Film (w/ EN Subs)

This interesting film, most likely created to promote the new DTPG/GDR/GDA, explains the rational and systematic process of Swiss military equipment development, testing, acquisition and production. Overall, these images reinforce the doctrine of “total defense”, showing the close cooperation of Swiss industry, artisans and civilians with government agencies.

Swiss Army film F 665 “le Combat de l’Infanterie

This one shows lots of fieldcraft, artillery at play, subguns of aaalll sorts, defending trenches, and bunkers, –just all good stuff. 

Plus, there are all those beautiful Stgw 57s (aka SIG SG 510 or Sturmgewehr 57).

And a 1985 reshoot of the previous, including new weapons such as the BB77 Dragon ATGM (who knew the Swiss would use such crummy weapons!) and “Alpenflage” or “pizza camouflage” Kampfanzug 57/70.

Enjoy!

Tempering a Swiss sword

Via the Tank Museum

One of the most magnificent images of a tank in production – a glowing hot Swiss Army Panzer 68 hull being heat treated in an oil bath, at an Eidgenoessische Konstruktionswerkstaette facility in Thun, Switzerland, 1977. The hull would have previously been cast, fettled (cleaned of any sprues/risers/runners/ etc.), and descaled (cleaned of oxide scales on the surface).

The cleaned hull would then be reheated, and kept at high temperature for many hours, to homogenize the metal. Homogenization allows additives and impurities dissolved in the steel alloy to diffuse more uniformly into the grains within the resultant component – since during the cooling of the initial cast, a high fraction of additives is segregated out to the grain boundaries, which weakens the metal. Once the alloy is sufficiently homogenized, the hull is tempered in an oil bath, to decrease its hardness (resistance to permanent deformation under compressive force), but increase its toughness (ability to absorb energy before fracturing).

Finally, following the oil bath tempering, the hull is face-hardened by quenching (rapid cooling). Face hardening produces a metal component with a hard surface, but a tough interior, so that the resultant armor has a higher probability of preventing an incoming projectile from penetrating the hard face (either by deflecting or shattering the projectile), but also will be more difficult to fracture entirely in case the projectile does penetrate the hardened surface. (Text credit Oleg Sapunkov)

The finished product:

Preserved Swiss Army Panzer 68 at Hinterrhein

Some 390 Panzer 68s were made in the 1970s and remained in service with the Swiss until they were replaced by the new Panzer 87 (license-built Leopard 2) in 2003.

Is that a 105mm cannon under your roof, or are you just happy to see me?

The Atlantic has a really interesting photo essay by Arnd Wiegmann of Reuters of re-purposed Swiss Army bunkers.

Cows stand in a meadow in front of a 10.5cm gun at the former artillery fort of the Swiss Army in the town of Faulensee, Switzerland October 19, 2015. Artillery fort Faulensee was in military use from 1943 to 1993 and is now open to the public as a museum. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Cows stand in a meadow in front of a 10.5cm gun at the former artillery fort of the Swiss Army in the town of Faulensee, Switzerland October 19, 2015. Artillery fort Faulensee was in military use from 1943 to 1993 and is now open to the public as a museum. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

A machine-gun bunker, part of a former Swiss artillery fortress called Fuchsegg, is camouflaged as a stable beside the Furka mountain-pass road near the village of Realp, Switzerland August 6, 2015. Fuchsegg fortress, located in the central Swiss Alps, was built in 1943 and remained in military use until 1993. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann  PICTURE 2 OF 27 - SEARCH "SWISS BUNKER" FOR ALL IMAGES  - RTX21EV2

A machine-gun bunker, part of a former Swiss artillery fortress called Fuchsegg, is camouflaged as a stable beside the Furka mountain-pass road near the village of Realp, Switzerland August 6, 2015. Fuchsegg fortress, located in the central Swiss Alps, was built in 1943 and remained in military use until 1993. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

A camouflaged 10.5cm gun at the former artillery fort Furggels of the Swiss Army is seen near the village of St. Magrethenberg, Switzerland January 6, 2016. Artillery fort Furggels was in military use from 1946 to 1998 and is now open to the public as a museum. With the threat of foreign invasion a thing of the past, thousands of military bunkers and fortresses in Switzerland have been put to commercial use, from hotels to data centres, museums to cheese factories. The Swiss army has sold most of these decommissioned strongholds, but about a thousand unused bunkers remain, many still disguised as houses and barns.  REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

A camouflaged 10.5cm gun at the former artillery fort Furggels of the Swiss Army is seen near the village of St. Magrethenberg, Switzerland January 6, 2016. Artillery fort Furggels was in military use from 1946 to 1998 and is now open to the public as a museum. With the threat of foreign invasion a thing of the past, thousands of military bunkers and fortresses in Switzerland have been put to commercial use, from hotels to data centres, museums to cheese factories. The Swiss army has sold most of these decommissioned strongholds, but about a thousand unused bunkers remain, many still disguised as houses and barns. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Chains camouflage a bunker containing a 15cm gun in the former artillery fort Furggels of the Swiss Army near the village of St. Magrethenberg, Switzerland January 6, 2016. Artillery fort Furggels was in military use from 1946 to 1998 and is now open to the public as a museum. With the threat of foreign invasion a thing of the past, thousands of military bunkers and fortresses in Switzerland have been put to commercial use, from hotels to data centres, museums to cheese factories. The Swiss army has sold most of these decommissioned strongholds, but about a thousand unused bunkers remain, many still disguised as houses and barns.  REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Chains camouflage a bunker containing a 15cm gun in the former artillery fort Furggels of the Swiss Army near the village of St. Magrethenberg, Switzerland January 6, 2016. Artillery fort Furggels was in military use from 1946 to 1998 and is now open to the public as a museum. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

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Feel like running a 43K with a rifle on your back? The Swiss call it Waffenlauf

The tiny central European country of Switzerland was renowned for centuries for the quality of their fighting men and was one of the few countries on that continent that was never attacked in either of the great World Wars. One reason may be the grueling armed marathon that they call the Waffenlauf.

Swiss martial tradition

Long a country known for their belief in freedom, the Swiss have kept that notion alive through force of arms. During the Renaissance, citizen sportsmen such as the legendary William Tell kept his crossbow skills sharp– just in case. At a small mountain valley named Sempach in 1386, an Austrian army of professional soldiers attempted to invade Switzerland.

A small militia force of a few farmers led by a man named Arnold Winkelreid met them in battle.  The farmers were outnumbered 6:1 and trapped. The only sane thing to do was for them to surrender and submit to the invader.

But they didn’t.

Arnold ran forward alone and yelled, “Make way for liberty.” The farmers followed him and the stunned professional solders of the Austrian army broke and retreated, with the farmers harassing them all the way back to the border.

 19th-century painting of Winkelried's deed by Konrad Grob.


19th-century painting of Winkelried’s deed by Konrad Grob.

That 1386 battle was the last time Switzerland was invaded.

Sometime after this, Swiss mercenaries (Reisläufer) became the toast of military service for over four centuries. To this day, the Pontifical Swiss Guards– all highly trained veterans of the Swiss Army– ensure that the Vatican is secure from invasion.

Speaking of which, the “Swiss model,” that of requiring all fit males of military age to serve in the armed forces or civil defense, even going so far as to keep all of their arms and equipment at home, ready to go when needed, has been largely cited as a reason that Hitler never came across the Alps during WWII. The prospect of fighting 850,000 Winkelreids on their own turf Wolverines-style likely kept it that way.

Enter the Waffenlauf

In 1916, with Europe at war on all sides of Switzerland’s borders during the First World War, an event called the “Gun Barrel” (Waffenlauf) was run to help showcase military skills and provide a bit of sport. This run, a marathon run in military uniform with marching shoes, full pack, and rifle at distances up to 43 kilometers (26 miles), sounds about as fun as slip and slide made out of cactus, but hey, it’s Switzerland!

62-kilogramm-schwer-muss-der-rucksack-sein-wie-hier-beim-lenzburger-waffenlauf-der-jeweils-ende-mai-stattfindet-

Read the rest in my column at Firearms Talk