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Henri Guisan (1874 – 1960)

On 25 July 1940 General Henri Guisan summoned all Switzerland's military commanders with the rank of major or higher to the Rutli meadow, where he informed them about the military's National Redoubt strategy. France had been defeated in June and Switzerland was surrounded by the Axis powers. In his radio address on 25 June, Marcel Pilet-Golaz, the President of the Confederation at the time, caused confusion among the population by mentioning the New European Order. General Guisan emphasised in his speech the army's willingness to offer unconditional resistance.

25.07.2019 | Defence Communication



Henri Guisan was born in Mézière in the Canton of Vaud on 21 October 1874. The son of wealthy parents, Charles Ernest Guisan, a doctor and major in the military and Louise-Jeanne Bérengier, Guisan obtained his baccalaureate in Lausanne. Later he studied agriculture in Écully, France, and Hohenheim, Germany. In 1896 he bought the Bellevue estate in Chesalles-sur-Ollon, and in 1903 he moved to Verte Rive, where he lived as a gentleman farmer.

Assigned to the field artillery, Henri Guisan was promoted to lieutenant in 1894, to captain in 1904, to general staff captain in 1908 and three years later to general staff major. At the request of General Theophil Sprecher von Bernegg, the Chief of the General Staff, he transferred to the infantry in 1911. In the Great War, he served as lieutenant colonel in the operations section of the General Staff in Bern (1916), Chief of Staff of Division 2 and, at the same time, commanded Infantry Regiment 9, with which he served in the city of Zurich (1919). In 1921, he was promoted to brigadier general, in 1927 to major general, and in 1932 to lieutenant general. On 3 August 1939, on the eve of World War II, the Federal Assembly elected him General of the Armed Forces, with 204 of 231 votes.

A conscript officer until 1927, Henri Guisan took a different approach to commanding from career officers. He rejected certain aspects of protocol and often inspected the soldiers in the field. During the war, he did not distinguish himself as being a great strategist but he listened to advisers, took decisions and risks, and defended his opinions firmly against political authorities and his subordinates. Above all, he was able to instil a spirit of resistance in both the military and the population by creating a symbiosis between these entities of Swiss society.

General Guisan was discharged from active military service on 20 August 1945. As an ordinary citizen he served on the boards of important organisations, such as the National Donation Foundation, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other charitable organisations. Henri Guisan died in Pully on 7 April 1960. During the war, General Guisan was unanimously supported throughout the country, and on the day of his funeral on 12 April 1960, more than 300,000 people, many of them veterans in uniform, took part in the funeral procession.



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On the battlefield of Neuenegg, on 5 March 1798, Major and Adjutant-General Johann Weber made a decisive contribution to the victory of the Bernese troops over the troops of the newly founded French Republic. It was only the announcement of the Bernese defeat at Grauholz on the same day that forced him to retreat. The war was lost, but the honour of the troops remained intact.


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Niklaus Rudolf von Wattenwyl

Niklaus Rudolf von Wattenwyl was born on 3 January 1760 in Bern. His family was one of Bern's largest patrician families and represented in the city's government. Niklaus Rudolf von Wattenwyl was an officer in the foreign service, a member of the provisional government and of the Consulta in Paris, president of the Cantonal Council of Bern, Landammann (chief political officer) of Switzerland and President of the Federal Diet that appointed him Supreme Commander of the Army in 1805, 1809 and 1816.


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Joseph Leonz Andermatt

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Henri Guisan

On 25 July 1940 General Henri Guisan summoned all Switzerland's military commanders with the rank of major or higher to the Rutli meadow, where he informed them about the military's National Redoubt strategy. France had been defeated in June and Switzerland was surrounded by the Axis powers. In his radio address on 25 June, Marcel Pilet-Golaz, the President of the Confederation at the time, caused confusion among the population by mentioning the New European Order. General Guisan emphasised in his speech the army's willingness to offer unconditional resistance.


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Johann Ulrich von Salis Soglio

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