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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 | Communication Defence

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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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25.07.2019

Henri Guisan
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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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