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WW2 Airmen defecting/deserting to Switzerland?

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I am reading Rick Atkinson's great book The Day of Battle, part of his "Liberation Trilogy" about the US in MTO/ETO.  It's definitely focused primarily on the experiences of the ground forces, but in one chapter about the air force, there's a throwaway one sentence reference to 90 aircrews from the 8th AF (and RAF? unclear) landing their planes in neutral Sweden or Switzerland intentionally as an act of desertion.  They were of course detained for the duration of the war.  Now, from other things I've read, those Swiss detention camps were pretty rough actually, but I'd never heard about this phenomenon and I wonder if anyone can recommend a resource to learn more about it? 

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Through pictures i found in an old aviation magazine, i understood that sometimes luftwaffe pilots defected to Switserland, but never heard about allied airmen going for the same, ...interesting story!

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I’ve read of this in a few articles. At the height of bomber losses, more than a few crews decided they had enough and opted to land in neutral countries and sit out the war. Never heard if any of these guys were held accountable for their actions after the war.

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There were certainly USAAF bombers which landed in Switzerland and which, when examined by Swiss personnel, were discovered to have no detectable damage and some considerable fuel still in the tanks.

 

 

After the end of the war, some 30 B-17 and 41 B-24s were found to be in

good enough condition to be flown out of Switzerland - although some,

obviously, required some repairs before that.

 

no one was ever formally charged with diverting to Switzerland unnecessarily however.

 

 

There were fairly large numbers of USAAF aircraft that crashed or made other

sorts of emergency landings due to battle damage in Switzerland and other

neutral nations in Europe during WWII, but I don't think there were any reports of

voluntary aircrew defections.

 

 

It shouldn't be assumed that Allied air crews that landed undamaged planes

in Switzerland were deserters. Many had mistakenly strayed into Swiss

airspace en route to or from raids on Germany, and were forced to land by Swiss

fighters.

The Swiss would get the intruder's attention by radio, flares, or a shot

across the nose, then escort them down. Some Americans fired back, mistaking the Swiss messerschmitts for Luftwaffe fighters.

 

 

 

During the Second World War, a total of 166 American aircraft came to land in Switzerland by mistake or when their aircraft's were damaged.

 

Not because THEY were defecting. Oftentimes the Swiss allowed them to return to their own countries.

 

However there is One { in}famous USSAF defector that those old enough to remember will recall .....

 

 

Martin James Monti - Wikipedia

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_James_Monti

 

 

Monti was sentenced to 25 years on prison and paroled in 1960. :huh:

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Posted (edited)

I am reading Rick Atkinson's great book The Day of Battle, part of his "Liberation Trilogy" about the US in MTO/ETO.  It's definitely focused primarily on the experiences of the ground forces, but in one chapter about the air force, there's a throwaway one sentence reference to 90 aircrews from the 8th AF (and RAF? unclear) landing their planes in neutral Sweden or Switzerland intentionally as an act of desertion.  They were of course detained for the duration of the war.  Now, from other things I've read, those Swiss detention camps were pretty rough actually, but I'd never heard about this phenomenon and I wonder if anyone can recommend a resource to learn more about it? 

 

I had once read a fiction article to that effect, but here is a recent article that seems to dispute Atkinson's allegation of numerous "desertions":

 

https://www.cbsnews....lly-recognized/

 

Edit:

 

BTW, Martin James Monti was not  defector, but in fact an admitted deserter and traitor.

Edited by Gigant

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I had once read a fiction article to that effect, but here is a recent article that seems to dispute Atkinson's allegation of numerous "desertions":

 

https://www.cbsnews....lly-recognized/

 

he didn't go so far as to allege the crime of desertion, per se.  He simply implied that some crews had had enough of the war and ended up sitting out in neutral countries for the remainder. Thinking of a bomber crew in particular, I was especially wondering about the mutiny-like dynamic of the planes officers deciding together that they were going to do this, whether the enlisted men were given a vote as well, whether there was a cover up attempt to make it seem plausible that they hadn't done it on purpose.  

 

Again, I'm not accusing anybody of anything.  But I feel like if there were indeed more than a few undamaged bombers that ended up in neutral countries, perhaps some of them were there because it was better to them than the alternative. 

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Posted (edited)

Yes MY apologies... he defected and was a traitor.

 

MY BAD.

 

:oops:

 

Edit...from the link I posted.

 

Martin James Monti (October 24, 1921 – September 11, 2000) was a United States Army Air Force pilot who defected to the Axis powers in October 1944 and worked as a propaganda broadcaster and writer. After the end of World War II, he was tried and sentenced for desertion; he was then pardoned but subsequently tried for treason and sentenced to 25 years.

Edited by MARU5137

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I think it was just human nature for some people to take advantage of their circumstances and get out of the line of fire in Switzerland or other neutrals.  Then there were navigational errors and damage from combat.

 

Anyway...  a long time ago.  Who are we armchair historians to judge?

 

Gaz

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I think it was just human nature for some people to take advantage of their circumstances and get out of the line of fire in Switzerland or other neutrals.  Then there were navigational errors and damage from combat.

 

Anyway...  a long time ago.  Who are we armchair historians to judge?

 

Gaz

Yeah, I have no judgment on the matter.  I just find the human drama of mutiny/desertion really fascinating psychologically.  In the same section of the book where he mentioned that, he was also writing of the way the USAAF changed the quota for number of missions to go home.  Apparently, some medium crews had it "easier" than the B-17 and B-24 crews, at least according to the brass, so they were told that 25 missions didn't mean a ticket home any more.  I can understand the desperation to get out of a circumstance like that.  And the conspiracy aspect of deciding to do something like desert - I think of the scene in Hunt for Red October in the officer's mess when Ramius is talking to all of them about the plan to defect.  It's just interesting to me. 

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I think if anyone ever wrote about this it would make some interesting reading.

 

Gaz

I agree.  Which is why I asked the brain trust here for a book about it.  Sadly, it doesn't seem like there is one.  

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I agree.  Which is why I asked the brain trust here for a book about it.  Sadly, it doesn't seem like there is one.  

 

Hey, we've only had five hours at this topic so far. I've already learned loads

 

Richard

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Not quite desertion here, but in the Air Battles series of books by Tomasz Szlagor titled Mustangs over the Third Reich, a chapter titled Two Pronged Thrust begins with an errant bombing run by the 8th Air Force in to Swiss territory resulted in the U.S. government paying the Swiss 1 million dollars for that mistake.  

 

Also, some time back I was viewing a WW2 special on the history channel that mentioned up to a thousand U.S. soldiers deserted during the Battle of the Bulge.  Don't know how true that was but I remember the story mentioned the deserting soldiers did not get alot of grief from their fellow soldiers who chose to stay.

 

Jerry 

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